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Peach Leaf

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  • Peach Leaf

    In my inadvertent attempt to apparently have my name on as many threads as possible, here's the next installment.

    This local area where I live in Northern/Northwestern South Carolina was renowned for peaches. A long-presented fact from some point in the past is that our county produced more peaches than the entire state of Georgia, which is formally known as "the Peach State." IN 1947, the local Peach Growers Association erected a monument to their achievements featuring a Pink Marble Peach with bronze stem, branch segment and leaf, atop a domestic marble feature. Cost in 1947 was reported to be $50,000.00 (!!) It eventually stood in a recreational facility called Cleveland Park on the then-edge of the city, somewhat as a marker of the entrance to Spartanburg. Since being installed there, the city has grown in a different direction and the Peach slipped into ever greater obscurity. No matter- Being a marble sculpture approx 5 miles from my studio, I had studied it and found it quite interesting.

    Over the years, there had been some discussions about somehow making this old sculpture more relevant. This included asking my opinion about painting the original peach to make it more "peach" colored instead of the natural pink marble and about having me sculpt a new peach to take its place. About 3-4 years ago, I was contacted again. Now there were plans to move the installation, possibly disassemble & re-purpose the elements, etc. etc. Ultimately, it was moved to the campus of the fairly new Spartanburg Public Library Main Headquarters where it can be more readily viewed by the public.

    During this process, it became better known that the Peach had originally had not only a bronze stem, but a large 30" long bronze leaf. I regularly field concepts and have to make it clear that just because something CAN be done doesn't mean that it SHOULD be done.. The original sculptor didn't seem to have a similar philosophy or diligence. At some point at least 40 years ago (early 1970's), his original leaf disappeared... Upon closer inspection, the cuticle scar modeled into the branch segment still held to stem of the leaf. It had apparently been modeled and cast in bronze but only secured to the feature via this 1/2" diameter stem and approx 1/4" diameter 1" long pin that entered the corner of the stone riser at a 45 degree angle. The adhesive used quickly failed, the stem could not support the weight and the leaf disappeared. Maybe it still exists somewhere as a trophy, but it probably went to the scrapyard to be recycled into beer and cigarettes.

    Discussions were had with another artist who offered to hammer a new leaf out of copper sheet. When I was asked, I reminded the patrons about a similar copper-leafed Palmetto tree sculpture that suffered significant every time we had an ice storm. It had to be covered to prevent serious damage and was finally removed entirely as a nuisance. Since it was now a restoration effort to honor a past effort, I offered to do a new leaf in bronze. Once we got past the preliminary "I didn't know you could make things out of clay or metal- I thought you could only carve granite.." my appeal was well-received and I secured the commission.

    Aside from the existing feature, there was very little information available. I was not even able to learn anything significant about the original sculptor. He was not from the area or even clearly knowledgeable about taxonomy regarding peach leaves. these four old photograph scans were all I had for reference-

    one from the 40's,

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    one from the 50's

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    and the last two from the early 70's-

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    More to follow-

  • #2
    After the feature was moved and things settled down, It was time to climb the ladder and start the maquette. Initially, a vantage point was established in the parking lot in front of the installation for reference. This helped me scale a cardboard leaf to the peach, based upon the original sculptor's work. It also helped guide me towards what the original sculptor thought a peach leaf looked like.

    My conclusion was that he lived far away from any actual peach trees (probably a damn yankee..) and probably sculpted the job when they were not in season. In contrast, our home & studio is built in what used to be a peach orchard. We have our own small orchard of 5 peach trees growing on our small front lawn. In full disclosure, I am also a damn yankee but try not to make it a liability or excuse for ignorance. Peach leaves are typically about 2x as long as a peach is tall and very narrow in cross section. Right now I forget but think it was something like 1/4 or 1/5 as wide as long. Serrations are very fine and the leaf curves dramatically, with some curving back upon themselves approx 180 degrees. None of this mattered to whomever he was, so this is one of those jobs that will be ugly or wrong on purpose.

    After some onsite up & down time on the ladder, I came back to the shop with a cardboard leaf in hand. Foundry requirement for a solid piece was for me to produce a piece with average cross section of approx 1/4". The only way to do a clay model this thin was to use an aluminum armature to support the clay. So the cardboard was laid out on some .063 aluminum (brand new sheet of 3003 or 5000 series- not sure which) and a blank was cut.

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    Then it was time to begin bending, shaping and blocking out the leaf-

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    Last edited by cliffrod; 12-12-19, 08:37 PM.


    • #3
      As the shape developed, I smoothed things up on the wheel and developed the shape further-.

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      With no bead roller here, the upper wheel was used to develop the central trough of the leaf.

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      It didn't take very long to have a nice stylized leaf blank. Very cool.

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      Now it was time to go to school...


      • #4
        So far, so good. The leaf blank came together pretty easily. Now I had to weld on the stem. This was my first attempt to gas weld something like a 1/2" diameter aluminum rod directly to .063 sheet. It was instructive and a good lesson.

        Formed the aluminum over the horn of my anvil, using original broken stem remnant as a general guide-

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        I did work the stem thinner in the area to be welded to benefit the welding effort

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        Then the welding began.

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        In the end, it was a good experience to learn more about heat soak, jigging larger pieces like this, watching it all fall apart, cutting away failed portions, making new repair sections, cutting away failed portions again. repeating the process again. And again and maybe again iirc....

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        I was quite happy by the time I finished. the welded area was adequately sound and took all the effort I applied to bring the piece to the needed level. No critical problems beyond this point were experienced.

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        Now it was back to town for some fitting work.


        • #5
          Thankfully, the installation is only a few miles from my studio. The armature looked good installed on the peach-

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          During the process, numerous curious & helpful bystanders were glad to ask what was being done. They were generous in sharing their opinions about what a peach leaf actually looks like. I was not surprised.

          The previous failure of a bronze leaf was discussed with the patrons. it was agreed that a more substantial means of installation & support was needed. Ultimately, two receivers were developed on the back of the leaf. One will attach to a larger foot, which will be attached to the stone by a large pin and epoxy. The other receiver is for an adjustable vertical support that will carry the majority of the weight of the leaf. these are hard to see from most vantage points on the ground, so not much for photographs of them.

          This shows the lower foot, as viewed from the ground. Once finalized, the visible upper portion of the vertical rod will be appropriately shortened-

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          Skipping ahead, but this shows development of the vertical support

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          Ultimately, these mounting components will be fabricated from stainless steel once all dimensions are clarified after the final bronze leaf returns from the foundry.
          Last edited by cliffrod; 12-12-19, 09:37 PM.


          • #6
            Now it was time to develop detail on the leaf. The blank width aspect was left larger to accommodate serrations. Again, the original piece was art, not reality. Some time with a magnifying glass helped quantify how many serrations were present on the original leaf, as well as how large they were. Real peach leaves have very fine serrations and are far more numerous than these interpreted ones. But, that's why it's a restoration project...

            Back at the shop, serrations were marked,

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            then cut and trimmed-

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            Then back to town for another fit/check/adjustment and approval from the patron before continuing. It was also time for a little more "that's not what a peach leaf looks like..." free advice from the peanut gallery

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            And back to the shop...


            • #7
              With fitment and serrations good, it was time for veining the armature. Once again, a magnifying glass and some studying helped replicate the lost original. This was done with corking & chasing tools and hammer to first develop and then finalize the valleys.

              Lines drawn with sharpie on front, references transferred to the back and it was all worked accordlingly-

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              blue tape shows location of one of the supports-

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              • #8
                Nice work Cliff, keep those posts coming 👍


                • #9
                  Once the metal work that we like was done, I skinned the armature with a uniform layer of sulfur-free plastilina to finalize the detail. The foundry I use prefers sulfur-free product be used, as the sulfur can interfere with curing of some silicone molding products and cause failures. I keep special clay/plastilina on hand for such work. Normally, I use old Roma Plastilina for my models for all stone & plaster projects. Using the proper products, I don't experience such failures but that's why I use them.

                  Plastilina was only applied to the front, with minor application on the back around the mounting receivers to smooth their appearance-

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                  I did check fit and get approval once again before taking this to the foundry in Sept(?). Fast forward to December. They called yesterday and said it was ready to pick up. Right now I'm doing clay while waiting for the next stone to arrive in a few days. So I hit the road & picked it up.

                  Please don't misunderstand my above statements. They are relevant to the variety of molding products & methods- as are often discussed in this work- and not meant as criticism. The foundry does excellent mold work. Above is the model before foundry work. Below are two pics from today, after the mold was pulled from the model and job was cast. They're good, but such a mold costs $400.00/sf for them to produce. For this 3 square foot leaf, the molding charge was $1,200.00.

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                  And now, the 30" long finished bronze leaf. It came out well imho because it looks like a plain little leaf & does not look to be 30" long.

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                  And the back, with mounting receivers visible

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                  Now it needs final fitment. With the holidays and sketchy weather at hand, it will probably be a few weeks before all is done. I'll post a few more pics when I have them. I can say that producing this model & doing the job would have been far more difficult without equipment like Peter's English Wheel and what I've learned from my friends and mentors in the metal shaping community. I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks for taking me to new levels of capacity and productivity. It's one thing to say "I can do that". It's another to have the right gear and knowledge to make it happen when it counts. This project used only an English wheel and hand tools to do the basic leaf. In return, this project basically paid for my HandBuilt English wheel. Very cool

                  Thanks for what y'all have done for me, especially men like RockHillWill, Jim Hery, Peter Tommasini, Robert McCartney & Bill Tromblay. You've all had a part in this project.
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    Fantastic work Cliffy!

                    Your talents know no bounds,

                    Cheers Charlie


                    • cliffrod
                      cliffrod commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thanks, Charlie. I'm increasingly happy with how the bronze looks alone in the pics. Gauging how things will look when color, shading/value and sheen vary so much throughout the process is a challenge.

                      Stone is always the same. Until it gets dirty, only surface, light & shadow need to be understood. Bronze allows cheating, because the specific patina products used (in this case, liver of sulfur) create a specific determinant color and varying amounts of permanent darkness depending upon how they are applied. Shadows may be light dependent or permanent dark areas, no matter what the shape or surface is. That a major reason why I'm not a big fan of bronze.

                      At least this casting is monolithic, which is the only type of bronze casting that I respect as having legitimate artistic integrity. Most wax models are cut into many pieces before casting, then welded back together with lots of metal finishing to camouflage the joints & present the completed job as monolithic. The excuse offered for this approach is how difficult and expensive it is to produce a large, complicated work in one piece. But I guess that's why those artists and sculptors don't carve granite....

                      Monolithic work is the great artistic achievement.

                  • #11
                    Well done Clint!


                    • cliffrod
                      cliffrod commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thanks, Robert.

                  • #12
                    great work cliffy

                    i'm glad this general chit chat section is here, it may not be all about metal shaping but it shows other skills which can be just as interesting if not more so. great work!
                    thanks neil


                    • #13
                      Very Well done Cliff , looks really good
                      Peter T.


                      • cliffrod
                        cliffrod commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thank you very much, sirs. Much appreciated.

                    • #14
                      Nice work, thanks for the mini-documentary. Wish I had had known you needed a bead roller, I have a Horrible Freight one you could borrow, ( hey I didnt know any better at the time ).
                      Looks like you made out fine without it. Now when I go to the Library, I can say, " Hey, I know the guy that made that leaf".


                      • cliffrod
                        cliffrod commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thanks, Barry. We need to get together and do something, even if it's just getting together. Maybe after the holidays settle down?

                    • #15
                      Final installation of the thread, figuratively and literally...

                      After months of rain and cold weather, we finally got enough of a break to install the leaf. So we put it up and are now waiting for the epoxy to dry before making the final adjustments to the mounting fixture. The original leaf had only a small pin through the stem connecting it to the branch and another equally small pin inserted diagonally into the edge/corner of the primary white marble element. The new fixture is 3/8" stainless steel plate with two threaded pins inserted into the marble and two 1/2" diameter stainless steel threaded jackshafts that affix into receivers cast into the leaf. These jackshafts will be adjusted to carry the actual vertical load of the leaf to hopefully remove strain from the cast bronze stem. When installed, they are not easily seen from most vantage points.

                      One small detail that may be a help to others. This is a simple and effective way to align and properly drill a hole without complicated tooling. No pics of the process, but the explanation is fairly simple-

                      Before installation, I had to drill a hole through the new stem that matched the existing hole in the bronze branch mounted to the peach. I inserted the new leaf stem into the existing hole. I scribed the stem one each side through this existing hole. Of course & as expected, it was not perfectly centered.

                      Back at the shop, I used a center punch to mark very well the center of each scribed mark. A small drill bit in a hand drill was used to better define each center punch mark. Then I took a short piece of scrap lumber (2x4) and drove a screw through it so the tip was protruding from the other side. I placed this 2x4, screw tip up, on the table of my drill press and aligned the point of this screw to the exact point of the appropriate installed drill bit. Once aligned, the 2x4 was clamped into position so it would not move.

                      Then it was simply a matter of placing the underside mark on stem on this screw point, aligning the top mark on stem with the drill bit, holding all well in place and drilling the hole. Perfectly aligned hole! All fit as planned on site. Very cool.

                      The light was wrong (strong sun behind subject) for these new installation pics, but not sure when I'll get back into town to take proper ones. Figured no one here would complain

                      The new installation-

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                      The original installation, circa 1972

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                      Detail of newly-installed bronze peach leaf-

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                      Just to recap- this project employed my fabulous Peter Tommasini HandBuilt English Wheel for producing the aluminum armature for the leaf model. The proceeds from the job paid for the wheel. plus a little extra. Very cool...

                      Next project is under way. I'm doing clay & plaster model for a 0-4" bas relief of a resting Lamb with cross and Lily of the Valley in the background for a granite memorial. Time to sell some more work.

                      Thanks for watching, guys.