The trout are all finished out. When last we saw them, they were undergoing reconstructive surgery from their car attack. Since then I set a new cold patina to etch and seal the naked bronze, then went about color matching. They are all dolled up with patina renewed, and the entire form cleaned and waxed. When their sister pair is released from police evidence, I’ll finish out that set, then add new stainless steel mounting poles to both sets.
Triple digit heat finally let off today, allowing triple trout triage. The double trout set is still held as evidence in the City’s court proceedings with the driver that smashed into them, but I thought I’d get started on the big triple group. The car had slid up and over the front fish of the group, gouging in many deep lines along both sides of the fish and worse, pushing a big running dent.
The busy intersection the fish reside at has a street fully closed for construction, and so the turn lane adjacent to the sculpture is blocked off. E and I headed up to have a look, parking in the closed turn lane. One of two poles held the group of fish, the other having sheared at the weld line, and of the missing pair one pole still held a battered/torn hoop. Two cuts and it could all be gone. E worked her way along the City phone tree ’til we connected with the new director of the city’s arts council. She told me the accident happened Monday-ish, the missing fish were recovered by a witness to the accident. She has been waiting to call me, as there are many plates in the air on how to handle this one. I was concerned it would be easy pickings for metal thieves, and she gave me the green light to remove it. My pal Jed said he would help, as did my neighbor- who also offered up his work van, as it has a much lower gate than the truck and those fish are heavy. E watched his two kids and brought Nora over to his house (our week of storms was beginning and Nora has her issues with weather).
We parked the big van in the closed turn lane as Jed arrived. The group of three fish was my primary concern, and one pole needed to be cut away. I’d put a battery on the charger as soon as E & I had returned from our recon mission, by the time I had permission and a crew together it had charged and I snapped it onto the sawzall while popping on a used blade and bringing my spare (also used) and my second battery. And the most important tool that I can’t ever stress enough: Cestus Vibrex gloves (if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be able to type this). The first blade made it about half way before glowing red as its teeth smoothed off. The second blade nearly made it through before the battery was spent (a new blade would have taken off both posts on the one battery in half the time…). Not enough blade or battery to take off the remaining hoop, but it isn’t much of a temptation to thieves, and I’ll recover it soon enough.
It’s always surprising how heavy big heavy things are. We muscled the group of three fish and hoops into the back of the van, drove the few blocks home, and unloaded it into the shop. The guys went home and I called the arts director to let her know how we had faired. Just then there was knock at the door, and it was my neighbor and his young daughter with two police officers. The police had been flooded with calls from people waiting at the light as we pulled the piece, and a citizen had subtly followed us back home and given the police all the deets. This really cheered me up. I’ve had my work trashed 4 times now including my best and favorite work, Orpheus and Eurydice, stolen by metal thieves and shredded for scrap. This is the only time a sculpture has been damaged by accident. I handed the phone over to an officer and he spoke with the director briefly, and everything checked out.
I’ll recover the remaining hoop on my own today, and hold them all for the City while the process of how to proceed shakes itself out. (I used a new-to-me type of sawzall blade, $10 for a single blade; it took about 10 seconds to light-saber through the 2 inch stainless steel sch40 pole. Faster than a cutoff wheel.)
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.