Service Dog



Maharaja in his tent. The tent was my father’s base camp tent for hunting, and family weekender for water skiing. It spent the last 43 years on top of an old water tank in the back of a shop on the Montana ranch. I brought it down last summer to use as my sandblast room, and set eye bolts in the shop for quick set-up and take-down. This was the first time for the tent to act as sand blast booth, and it worked great, making cleanup of all that fine sand a snap.  IMG_0003

Sandblasting removes all tool oil, finger oils, and oxidized impurities.IMG_0004

Next is a blackened cold patina of Liver of Sulphur. This etches the bronze.IMG_0005

The black is scrubbed back with pads and brushes to allow the next patina layer of Ferric to do its thing. The Ferric goes on hot, with a fat mouthed blow-torch attached to the BBQ gas tank.IMG_0006

The jersey is polished to take color evenly.


Ferric layer applied, highlights scrubbed back, more Ferric, more scrubbing back highlights.


Wax is applied to the hot metal, left to sit for an hour, then buffed in. Here the wax is hot and shiny.


This patina is called French Brown. It is one of my favorites, as it allows a lot of variety in tone and responds to the surface of the metal allowing subtle transparency. It is also a very stable patina, and one of the best for outdoor works.

IMG_0006 IMG_0021 IMG_0017 IMG_0024

IMG_0001 IMG_0002

After chasing out the body and adding four big stainless steel nuts to the underside (for installation), it was finally time for the head. I positioned it and was ready to tack it in place, when I realized I hadn’t chased it yet. It had a few areas that had trapped air in ceramic shell, and these were now solid bronze- under the lip, under the ear- and a few flash lines. Plus the nose and ears needed to be polished out. With all that done the head was repositioned, tacked on all sides, then welded in place.

Chasing is the next step, or making the weld disappear. This is done in stages with multiple tools, ending with some bits of finess here, and some consternation there.

The next step is sandblast / patina. Tomorrow?

IMG_0008IMG_0004 IMG_0005   IMG_0009 IMG_0010IMG_0006

Labrador middle weld

The length of the Labrador makes a bit of tough going in bronze. The two halves of the body had each flexed a bit as they cooled after casting / or the wax room had flexed them when sectioning the sculpture for ceramic shell. The head doesn’t have this problem as it is a full ring, however the open bottom of the body allows edges to curl in / flex out, as well as a bit of cupping from the front paws on back to the tail. Overall this means the two sides will not fit together easily. Strategy and experimentation are a must before any welding. It is best to try to start with a few solid tack-welds- but where to put them? A weld in the wrong spot will only exacerbate the mismatch. Eventually I can see where it can fit, where it slides apart, why it won’t fit, and where I can make a weld so that I can apply the hammer and clamps, and spot weld again, and hammer and clamp, and spot weld. The weld pulls the form together, and the hammer brings the bottom edge back under from where it had flexed outward. Once the seam was gathered back together I gave a clean weld along its entire length, then flipped the dog over and welded the seam from the inside as well. The seam process took about 3 hours while the day sat at 95 degrees- in leathers/boots/cap/gloves . The cool of the day had been spent prepping the form, then welding closed all the pin holes from ceramic shell and grinding/welding a few spots of shell inclusion. At 3:30 I broke for lunch, and realized forming the seam with the hammer had zoinked my arm more than I had known. With my hand stiffening up, I decided to call it a day so that I could return tomorrow morning in the cool and set a few of the remaining problems before welding the head in place.

Lab Rough Cast

The lab was ready to come home yesterday morning. I jumped down to the foundry, brought the sculpture back to the studio and switched out my wood tool making over to TIG welding and bronze chase- with no time to get started. It was up to the university to teach my figure class. The figure class was followed by another section of 3D Design, lasting til 10pm, but the art gods showed mercy and another adjunct was given my 3D night class when one of his classes was cancelled for low enrollment. This morning was my early a.m. 3D Design class, quite full and a fun group. I’d cut my thumb on a sharp bit of metal in the wood shop, almost stitch-worthy; so I let the dog lay as it is for the afternoon for a bit more time for the thumb to heal up.


Service dogs have many different types of jerseys and harnesses. I went for the clean 3-panel jersey with a strap across the chest and another behind the legs/barrel of the ribs. IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMG_0006 IMG_0005 IMG_0007 IMG_0009 IMG_0011The Labrador has spent the past week of triple digit temperature hiding down in the cool basement of the house. Other wax forms out in the studio are fine, but better safe than do-over.

Labrador in Wax Labrador in Wax 2

There is a new edition of the Labrador under way. I will be adding a Service Dog vest and a quote (TBD) on the vest. This will be a memorial for Randall Storms Jr., whose father was the headmaster of Wichita Collegiate School (WCS) in Wichita, KS from its inception til the 1980’s. Randall attended WCS and remained active with the school throughout his life, serving as the Alumni Chair among other duties. He was injured in a diving accident while a summer camp counselor and never walked again. He and his wife and his service dog all died in a single auto crash at low speed in Wichita, KS in early 2013. This is WCS’ 50th Anniversary, and his loss is deeply felt by students and alumni. The memorial sculpture will be finished and installed on school grounds for WCS’ 50th Anniversary this October.

I drove the mold over to the foundry yesterday and they poured a wax, which I drove back down and picked up this afternoon. I spent part of the morning prepping the studio for wax work, then spent the afternoon chasing out the seam lines of the mold and layering more wax over thin spots on the inside. The can-light in the first picture is used to illuminate thin areas, as the light will shine through the wax if it is too thin. A bit longer on these steps and the Lab will be ready for me to add the Service Dog vest.