Installation day started off raining and chilly, just how the fish like it. With two handy fellows helping (Jed, who helped install the last group, and Mike) things got started at 8am and finished by 3pm with time off for lunch at one of the restaurants on the plaza. A solid day of digging and lifting heavy things, but all are in the ground and everyone is happy.
Chemlab for fishies. The fish enter the sandblast tent and are stripped of all contaminants and oxidation. With the surface sand-scoured, all imperfections show up and I put in some last fidgets with welding and chasing- then back in the tent for a follow up visit from Dr.Sanders. The surface glows a muted gold, but is as vulnerable to the air as a ginger to the high desert sun. Like a base-tan with sunscreen, they need a chemical etching that bites into the bronze then goes inert allowing a skin of protection. The fish go black with this initial etching layer, but it allows other chemicals to safely react to the surface and bring out other colors. The fish will go blue-green (Cupric Nitrate and Zinc Nitrate) with hints of dun yellow and yellow-green (a few drops of Ferric in the solution), while the hoops will turn a rich brown with white in all the recesses.
Patina builds up with chemicals and heat, layer after layer. Control of the process is partly knowing when you haven’t gotten there yet with knowing when to stop, all the while blending out areas that come on too fast and bringing up areas that seem to never get there. There is quite a bit of alchemy to it, as it is a mad science.
I cleared the only chem shop in the valley of their Cupric Nitrate, a trace of 100g- or about not enough for one fish. They ordered more, it should have been in last Thurs/Fri, it wasn’t. I’ve used my reserve stash for the first 4, and have just the 100g left for this last pair which will never make it. The fish will have to set overnight and see if the order arrives tomorrow- not a hardship on the human to wait as temps peaked out at 98 degrees.
Ditto yesterday, in half the time; final fish poling.
200# of top-heavy trout need a way to travel safely. The wheeled frame is my DIY studio worktable sans top and low shelf, it pulls double duty as my sandblast and patina platform for big sculpture. I thought of this welded footing back in 2014 for the last group, but didn’t make it because I was too far down the production rabbit hole. Poling out the last pair didn’t even take the morning, so I scrounged through my steel scrap, planned the unit out and cut and ground the metal, and switched out the welders. E made me a quick lunch, and I was back out in the shop and it was welded out in no time. Two runs of channel iron make the platform, connected to a drop bar of rectangular “square” tubing. The platform floats just off the ground. I’ll build out my plastic tent for sandblast, and this can roll in and out. Key to the low footing is allowing transport out onto the parking pad for patina with good clearance for the garage door.
With the footing welded in, clamps and steel tubing hold the sculpture in place. 60# of weights on the far side of the sledge keeps all the wheels on the ground.
One pair grew poles today, and the last pair will sprout poles tomorrow. It takes a few fish biscuits to get the pair to fly sideways and perfectly level to the ground, plus two hoists and the forgotten magics of the Masons for establishing level as vertical as horizontal as plumb. Once the last pair has legs, then everyone gets a last once-over for fine tuning; then the shop is flipped over for sandblast and patina.
All the fish are chased out, the singles are affixed to their poles, and the pairs are joined in their hoops awaiting their poles. It is nice to have some creative choices that need choosing; which fish be single, which will be paired, and who makes the best pairs. Once the relationships between the 4 pair-able fish are explored by hefting them amongst each other, I start writing on them in marker of who goes with who, then change my mind and zip off the marker and have a few more go arounds and marker notes of who is on what side, who is forward or back, or higher or lower. Then making the pairs of hoops farther(20″)/nearer (12″), which establishes a governing rule of how the fish can be welded, yet still staggered. This regularity helps unify each pair while giving each pair a unique aesthetic. The curvier pair goes with the shorter hoops measure, and the straighter pair has the longer hoops.
One fish is set in first and tacked in place, then the next fish is placed and marked then removed. Then I beef up the welds on the first fish, unless I need to snap them and reposition- in this case they were fine. Then the second fish is put back in aligned with its marks, reassessed, then tacked and welded. Next the pair is hoisted aloft and rolled side to side in midair for better welding angles (sorry no picts of the flying fish this time around).
It was a rainy Sunday morning and nothing was biting on any of my flies. I waited out the storm anticipating a new hatch of midges, and the trout started hitting on skimming midges. This big beauty came in on a roll cast where I was flanked by dense willow scrub. -or- replace that with heavy industrial scenario.
Pinholes filled. Cap on. Tail pockmarks filled.
This one curves enough to need a brace to stand up alone.
I left metal chase for tomorrow, as the neighbors were having a children’s birthday party in their back yard, with a big tent by our yard to hear our pond waterfall. Welding doesn’t make any noise, but chasing runs the big air compressor and nothing pierces kid fun like the sound of dentist drills tearing through metal.
Yesterday (Friday) I drove to the foundry for the final / finally / finale of fins. I pile them all to the front in case highway traffic screeches to a halt in the classic “crack the whip” of a random slight speed drop leading to near/complete stoppage for those behind. Since speed limits were raised to 70 this happens exponentially more often.
This is the first of the three trout that had parts blow out during metal pour, and needed new midsections / heads / tails fitted in wax and recast in bronze. The foundry’s production manager wasn’t satisfied with the fit of the cast sections, so he fit and welded the big sections of the body/head himself. The only structural welding for me is the window into the head, filling all the pinholes, and putting the tail on.
Second from the L is today’s trout; one of the best so far. The far L trout is different than last we saw. This was the skinny fish of a few posts back, and he is all figured out now. He had his side cut off via plasma-cutter, the other side stretched with hammers, the cut off side stretched with hammers, and then all welded back up. This is an aspect of why the remaining 3 fish came back with the volume issue fixed by the production mngr.
Sunday’s fishing will see a tail swish opposite to these. None of these four are finished, but they have all major processes handled.