Monthly Archives: October 2011

If this topknot survives the Halloween weekend I’ll assume it can withstand a concerted assault.

When we last saw the quail a few months back he had just had his topknot snapped off. Again. A few changes from feather #1 & #2: the feather has a stainless steel pin running its length and extending two inches into the sculpture; the feather stands upright (harder for kids to hang off of) and is supported by a thick sculptural weld blending plumply into the head.

I like the attitude he takes with the feather upright- a bit perkier.



Getting things moving with the second pooch. She had big adustments to gesture, anatomy, and portaiture today. Things moved a mite slow this week, as I tweaked my shoulder on a Monday morning workout and the shoulder seized up after sculpting for 5 hours, and was shot for all of Tuesday. Things were back on track today, and I finished listening to The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford- on the flow of Gengis Khan’s legacy through his daughters and the lost histories of the Mongols.

The first layer of clay goes on, skinning over the foam.


Both dogs get another full day each of layup, working toward matching their maquette.

She is pretty close, but her head has become a bit massive. I’ll pare that down when I get back to working from photos.

She is looking proportional, although aspects of gesture still need more emphasis before wratcheting down on details. This is the case with both dogs.

Pretty productive for 3 days of clay work. I have been limiting myself to 6 or 7 hours of layup per day, as I have been known to jack my hands up pushing too much clay too fast. The new clay oven does a nice job keeping the clay soft.

I have listened to most of Alfred Lansing’s The Endurance for this bit, following ol’ Shakleton’s adventures at the South Pole. Always an amazing story.

Sometimes you need to make things in order to make other things, and sometimes you don’t need the thing so you make do without one until it becomes apparent that it really is something you need: then you put off making it through entire commissions and realize how much you really need to get around to making it before the next commission, then the next commission rolls around and it still needs to made, so finally, it gets made.

The clay oven. For warming up the clay so it is soft and pliable for scultping. Finally.

Carving day! A long Ginsu Knife is the tool du jour for slicing the foam back. The trick is to carve back just a bit smaller, allowing for the layer of plastecine clay. The closer I get it now, the thinner the clay layer needs to be- which takes quite awhile to lay up. (I should really make myself another clay oven to preheat & soften the clay. My last little oven bit the dust on the move back from Kansas. Just a foam-core box with a heat lamp…)

It was quick paced day- got to keep moving and cutting and spinning the work, measuring with calipers & rulers. I also use bamboo skewers to establish key directions and anatomical points. I left a few in for the pictures- shishkadogs or acupoocher or just a corndog.

To scale up from the 1/2 size models I first drew an outline around the models in blue pencil (it is a bit hard to see) then made a simple X grid and transferred the footprint to a larger board. Next I created an armature form in plywood. Measuring just under the actual size of the largest interior line, like a layer of bisection, I can estabish the basic dimension. Once this form was established I cut other forms to add support and further dimension, then screwed the forms to the base boards with L-brackets. Once secured I shot them full of wood screws, to act as anchor points for the next layer- expanding foam. The forms have required eight 16oz cans of sprayfoam so far. I spray the foam with water as I go along to speed the set time, but it still takes about 20-30 minutes between layers. If worked too fast the deep layer of foam won’t set properly, or the entire thing will slump and fall into a sticky mess. I worked one side at time, tilting the form on edge and foaming it out, then wait, rotate, spray, wait, rotate, spray…It takes 12-24 hours to cure out completely, then I will cut back into the foam measuring with calipers from the 1/2 size models (I’ve just eyeballed it so far) and adding more foam as needed. Once finished with the foam the armatures will be complete and the forms will be ready to skin with clay.

Since waiting for the foam takes forever I pulled out an old axe head with a shattered handle that I had brought back from Montana (probably lay broken for more than 50 years) and set about giving it a new handle. The old handle was fused tight inside the head, but consistant pressure of power drills, hammers & cutting wedges won out. Once the head was re-set I warmed it up with a torch to drive out all the water in the steel (more than you would think) and sealed it with WD40, then tamped it down on its heel a bit more. While the metal was still hot I drove in a fat wooden wedge, cut the top of the handle sprouting above the head but leaving the wedge, and drove the wedge in again. As the metal cools it will contract a bit, and help seat the handle. Then I dressed the blade. It needed to be ground down to a hard blunt and reformed due to the dings and years of sharpening without reforming. One side was significantly larger than the other, so it must have seen long hard regular use (and cut a lot of rocks) of being dinged up and ground back for decades.  The shape is still a bit off, but to really reshape it would have reduced the blade too far.  I’ll bring it back to the ranch for delimbing after taking down trees with the chainsaw.

I brought back an old scythe with a broken handle earlier in the summer and “fixed” it a few months back (it holds together on the wall as a display, but its working days are done).