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For Kiwi John- current stone sculpture project

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  • #46
    looks amazing, thank you for showing your work it says a lot about your character, which is nice to see
    thanks neil


    • #47
      Thanks again for the good words, everybody. Good stones are hard to comprehend, especially the ones that I look back on at a later date and still find them enthralling. I know I was there when it happened, but can only take credit for not screwing them up. It's a gift from God and I do this because I have this gift so I must use it. Faith plays a huge role in why this is the life I live. Keeping a traditional craft alive is the other big part of it. Seeing this entire lifestyle and craft disappearing is really tough. I grew up dairy farming & watched that way of life diminish. Now granite craft is doing the same thing. Not cool.

      Never imagined I would be doing this for a living. I really never imagined I would find a wife who would tolerate this lifestyle. Without her and her willingness to be happy without, this wouldn't be possible.

      Aug 2020 will be 20 years of being a full-time sculptor. Right now I'm shooting for being one of those 20-year-overnight-success stories. We'll see what happens. Thanks for letting me share this while I could.


      • #48
        Nice work Cliff, thanks for showing us.


        • #49
          Fantastic work Cliffy!

          Scares the crap out of me just thinking what could go wrong!

          Cheers Charlie


          • #50
            Originally posted by Chazza View Post
            Fantastic work Cliffy!

            Scares the crap out of me just thinking what could go wrong!

            Cheers Charlie
            Thanks, guys.

            I can usually manage the stone part, even when I'm carving a thinner portion that just rings like a bell the whole time you're hitting it. You just keep waiting for the sound to change from a a clear ring to a dull thunk when the stone cracks... Never done it but have heard happen to others do it working near me. Not cool. Listening nonstop for the ring to keep happening for hours, days or even weeks is really stressful.

            the scariest part is working for weeks or months on a stone and then waiting for the customer to approve it. If they don't accept the job, I don't get paid but can still be on the hook to deliver the job as priced/quoted. Gotta be very careful about what you quote, who you quote it for and how you quote it.

            Some unhappy customers have legitimate issues, others are just impossible. I've never had a job refused yet, but have re-cut quite a few that other sculptors carved but were refused. We serviced a lot of those recut projects during my apprenticeship. Usually they went with a cheaper option,,then came to us when our higher price (and accompanying higher quality) now seemed more valid. The boss gave a lot of them to me & said if my work on them wasn't accepted, I was all done. Some recuts had lots of tangent legal issues, lawyers from multiple sides, threats, etc.

            A few years ago, I returned a nearly five$$figure deposit to a know-it-all dealer before I started work. he kept changing the details and it became clear he could not be satisfied. Two other sculptors ended up working on the job and he refused the three stones they carved. One told me I was smart to send him packing. It was good to hear because sending back a big deposit on an even bigger paycheck wasn't fun. Good thing my wife is willing to live poor indefinitely when things like that happen in this business. Doesn't make for a very extravagant lifestyle

            Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done. My sculptor taught me to be careful what you quote because you might get it. Definitely good words to live by.


            • #51
              Originally posted by cliffrod View Post
              Carving indefinite things like water, fire, smoke or clouds and hair are always a bugger. Hard to make things spontaneous on purpose and any overt definition usually spoils these details.

              Some carve hair with deliberately incised lines (chisel, sandblast or die grinder) and imho the head of hair ends up looking like a string mop. I was trained to axe the hair.

              Hand axing (or simply axing) is using a chisel to smooth the surface of granite and is somewhat analogous to planishing. Hand axing is the old way. Very laborious but it produces fine straight lines all over the surface. These are generally imperceptible to a causal viewer but become obvious when a light source is moved or manipulated. Usually lots of methodical cross hatching is done first to smooth the contours, with the final orientation of chisel cuts made to handle light as desired- perpendicular to light create shadow & roughness, parallel to light to demonstrate flow or movement or fully cross hatched to minimize any shadow or definition.

              To do hair, the final lines are oriented as the hair will flow. Some contouring work including cocave & convex shape development is done first. Then much of that is axed away to soften the shape, with final lines oriented as the hair would flow. Hard obvious detail blatantly suggests movement of hair. Although they're largely invisible to the naked eye, Fine lines then direct light as hair would naturally move. Customers unfamiliar with the process will complain that a head of hair looks bald & smooth in pics. But when it is seen in person, they're amazed that you can see every single hair.
              this isn't my first rodeo...

              Like stated above (actually corrected- man, I hate autocorrect...), an email came this morning with concerns that the hair didn't have enough detail and specifically not as much detail as the clay. So I explained again and sent more pics, better camera and bigger files. Maybe they'll be good enough to see detail here as well. If they approve, it will ship like it is. If not, I'll carve more detail until they're happy or it looks like a string mop....

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              One time when I was an apprentice, I carved a Pieta (Mary kneeling with the corpus of Christ on ground, not Michelangelo composition) just like the approved fullsize drawing. My sculptor hates carving a Pieta so he would let me do the whole thing. Got finsihed and my cousin says "Omigod- you're not gonna leave it like that?!? Jesus has got two left feet!" Sure enough, the legs were crossed and Charlie had drawn Christ with two left feet.... (parallel toes, not opposite order) and I had just blindly carved it because that's what the customer had approved. Well, he said no way and changed the feet/toes as needed. No matter, after that, anytime there was a question or issue, he would (and still does) ask me "how many left feet does Jesus have?"

              Hopefully this will all resolve soon. Until then, more hurry up and wait....
              Attached Files


              • #52
                While waiting for a response from the patron, I did get some unexpected pr yesterday.About 18 months ago, while promoting our annual Antique Bikes on Main motorcycle rally ( video here that we did in 2014- ) one outlet called to add us to their calendar. After that, they asked about me and said they would like to do a one page feature about me & my work. Basically a single large photo with a brief text overview. The magazine sent a professional photographer named Milton Morris, who took most of the day to treat like I was something special. Just did or didn't do what he said and all went well. I've worked with pros in the past, but never as the subject.

                Article was great. Photos were great. Great guy and real professional, no pt like some of the big attitude ones I had encountered in the past. Very cool.

                a couple of months ago, Milton called. He was quite pleased with the photographs he took of me and wanted to use at least one to feature in his portfolio & pending ad campaign. Again, very cool. I've had lots of coverage over the years, but never like this. Check out his website to see what I mean. He sent out this pic in an email blast yesterday-

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                then I showed it to my mother. She says '"why didn't you smile? Would've looked a lot bette if you had smiled...." Thanks, mom.
                Attached Files


                • #53
                  Originally posted by cliffrod View Post

                  ...then I showed it to my mother. She says '"why didn't you smile? Would've looked a lot bette if you had smiled...." Thanks, mom.
                  At least she didn't ask you what you wanted for dinner. That was a common response from my Mum, after a triumph in the workshop.


                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Chazza View Post

                    At least she didn't ask you what you wanted for dinner. That was a common response from my Mum, after a triumph in the workshop.
                    After all my years as a chef, seems like the only time anyone cooks for me anymore is when we're doing an extended visit at their house. Ma hasn't cooked for me for a year or two. We're taking care of her and her 90 yr old brother, who now live together next door so we can keep them out of the nursing home. They're both challenging, but in different ways.

                    Makes me very thankful that my wife is so understanding and supportive. My other wives probably wouldn't have put up with this stuff.


                    • #55
                      After a request yesterday afternoon to add more lines to the hair, I added the fewest and most shallow ones I could to help keep the job from looking like an amateur's work or a chinese job. Today the job was approved. Very cool.

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                      Now I'll wash the stone before it ships. Usually i will use a solvent (citrus based is what I prefer) to help loosen and soften any adhesives and emulsify any present oils. Then I'll use some dish detergent to clean off all of the solvent and emulsified materials. Sometimes this takes 2-3 rounds. Any oils can stain the stone. After the stone is very clean, I'll clean it again with a stone acid that we use to make sure nothing remains on the stone. Granite is very resilient to chemical action. But if I have rubbed a steel chisel shank against the stone while carving, any steel left on/in the stone will rust and permanently stain the stone. Let it dry, wrap in plastic to keep it clean, put it back in the crate, band it and get paid.

                      When a new granite memorial is first installed, especially one with a tooled or sandblasted surface, it's very "hot" in terms of value/color/brightness in comparison to other nearby work. It takes a while for it to get dirty and calm down. That dirt is part of the issue about the extra detail added to the hair. When it gets dirty, these extra lines will be too much detail and look fake. The proper and simple axed lines that I did first would have been easily visible once the stone aged a little. It's very hard to explain this to non-professionals. Some trust me and they get the best results. Others simply want it their way because they know better than me. It's always a bummer to have to do the wrong things on purpose...

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                      In case anyone is wondering- for this project, I removed approx enough granite to fill less tha than two 5 gallon buckets. Some jobs make a big pile of scrap. Others don't. Often times, the less stone removed the more risky a job can be to produce because there's so little room for error.

                      Hopefully more work will be here soon. So far, I've never finished a stone without more work sold. It looked pretty bleak this time until I unexpectedly fielded & sold that small daffodil job (previously mentioned) last week. Then I've quoted two more jobs since then. Both are plain jobs so priced very competitively. Another project is back in the loop that has been under discussion and deposit for more than a decade. Young child memorials like that can be really difficult for family to address, so I just have to be patient. This one is on track to be my longest project and beat the previous 11 yr record. Maybe it will finally get done this winter. Last time they called was 18 months ago. Before that, it was a five-year gap after giving me a deposit a few years before that.

                      thanks again for the interest and support. A 35mm knockout punch and NOS nuts and bolts arrived for my Guzzi headlight ears yesterday and the day before while I was waiting for approval from the patron. Maybe now I can do and post more about metalwork than stone...
                      Attached Files


                      • #56
                        Not much time for metal work lately. My big jiggly machine is still sitting on the lawn, under a tent, waiting for the 4+ inches of rain that soaked the yard into goo since Jan 1 to be resolved enough to support a boom truck. I got a compact bender at Christmas with gift money and am planning towards adding a leverage multiplier to bend larger diameter pipe/tubing. I did some trading & got a pair of Bader Space Saver 132" belt sanders a week ago, not sure if one or both will stay or go. Trying to put a move on getting the mythical lathe & mill I've chased for too long. If they don't work out, the Baders will probably become either a lthe or mill.

                        instead of metal stuff, I've been busy in studio and finished these small daffodils in bas relief today. Granite niche is 14" tall X 7" wide X 2" deep. Clay sketch model,is in background. Job was just carved as I liked, which is artisitcally liberating. Pretty stone. Floral work is very challenging. The old masters who did it best were long dead by the time I began working. Trying to emulate their good work is a goal of mine. This one will be installed about 20 minutes away from the studio.

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                        I've been invited to participate in a national granite industry expo next week, so am picking up another granite die tomorrow to carve another one of these before next Wed. Hopefully I can get it done in time.
                        Attached Files
                        Last edited by cliffrod; 22-01-20, 03:14 AM. Reason: forgotten words.


                        • #57
                          Fantastic work as always!


                          • cliffrod
                            cliffrod commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Thanks, Charlie. This patron is thrilled and really gets it. It's always great to connect with people like her & even better when they buy something.

                        • #58
                          No metal work recently. I've been working on my shops so doing metal and wood will hopefully be a more efficient process. There has been stone work. I'm working on a very different project right now, compared to my "normal" subjects.

                          A local customer requested a reproduction of a Carrara Marble memorial, likely cut in the 1870's. The uppermost detail of this installation is considered to be a dormered capital with a vaulted apex top. This type of work is traditionally done by a finisher, not a carver or sculptor. My cousin who trained me is a Master Finisher, so taught me finishing techniques as well. A friend once said/asked "basically, people send you a picture and you send them a statue, right? No fancy measurements or drawings, right?" That's partly how this came to me. It was too complicated to measure and communicate to an out-of-town specialist. So they called me. It was literally too complicated for me to even measure and document in person. So I took a few relevant dimensions and resolved the rest as needed.

                          The original family plot stone with early dates of 1874 and 1882 iirc.

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                          Overall dimensions of the capital (from the half round bead below the cove) are 1'-7" x 1'-7" x 1'-5" tall

                          Since dimensional Carrara Marble is not commercially available, I recommended Colorado Yule Marble. Very similar to Carrara.

                          Here is stone with initial layout-

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                          Last edited by cliffrod; 13-10-20, 03:18 AM.


                          • #59
                            I produced both a sheet metal pattern of 1/2 of one face of the dormer detail, as well as a 1/4 pattern (90 degrees) in 1:1 scale for reference. It is normal to produce the model or 3D pattern for a capital in 90 degrees, since it will be repeated 4 times.

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                            Showing the process of how this is cut might help some here think through making relevant shapes. Most people without specific training would just decide upon a path and start cutting without a practical overall strategy. This leads to interior edges and corners that are not square or plumb or level by themselves or in relationship to neighboring detail. Having the original square faces, it's straightforward (just very boring) to sequentially produce significant interior details as measured and squared from the existing true faces before those faces are removed.

                            First, the plane of the top ridge of each dormer is produced. Each is approximately in the center of these reliefs. The interior end of each relief represents the intersection of the dormer ridge with the respective face of the apex top.

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                            Then the raised blocks on corners are removed. The goal here is to produce the approx 1" of the bottom of the interior corner. This is actually the exterior edge of the step detail on the model. When it is further relieved on the right and left, this interior corner will become that interior edge. This is a relatively simple way to produce a straight, plumb and accurately located detail as measured from each respective face. If I had just started cutting and hoped to find this detail as I worked, it would be a big fail.

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                            • #60
                              Before more stone was removed from the top, it was time to flip the stone over and produce the detail around the bottom. Same strategy- produce accurate divisions of material removal and proceed with detail production.

                              a 1" band is produced to facilitate the 1/2" radius half round.

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                              Pics go kind of fast here. Two bevels are produced. First, a 1/2" deep cut it produced 1/2" above the placement of the upper 1/2" check placement. Then a bevel is produced to connect the two. A second bevel is then produced for the larger cove or scotia detail between the 1/2" check and 1/2" round at bottom (or joint, which is currently top in pic) ., These bevels are then evacuated to produce the 1/2" check and the approx 2" tall cove.

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                              Fast forward to finished check & cove with 1/2" round, stone right side up-

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                              For reference, 99% of this work is done with one of two pneumatic air hammers, two smooth straight chisels, one clawed chisel, a tri square and a few sanding blocks & rubbing stones. Nothing fancy.
                              Last edited by cliffrod; 13-10-20, 03:22 AM.