The difference between the six finished wax trout I dropped off, and what I was handed back is like working forensics from a recognizable corpse; true Frankenfish that I have to reanimate to their original quality. The problem isn’t piecing in random remains to cover the parts lost in casting, but they too may be traced back to The Crime Scene: the foundry wax room. They did 10 trout for me on the last big commission and they were all fine, this time we are 1 of 3 so far, or in actuality, 1 of 6.
First of the Frankenfish. If this is an indication of what is to come, then there may have been a big fubar in the foundry wax room; letting the wax fish get too hot and slump/collapse. Which I warned them about, and only annoyed the wax personnel- this could also be partly why so many failed in pour. Four of the fish should be swishing their tails and two should be straight. So far I have either finished out the two straight fish, or, all or some of the four swishing tails slumped in the too hot wax room. The big foundry I worked in back in the day kept their wax room air conditioned year round, as a hot wax room is a recipe for disaster.
The fish halves aligned well enough, but had no sense of volume when it came together. The other side needed pushing out, so nothing to do but drill a hole and bust out the sledges. Any missed hit will collapse this side, but any amount of hitting the pin seems to amount to nothing. Upping the sledge size also ups the chance of disaster. Slowly and with just a few hits to the hand, the metal grudgingly moved just enough to match this side. A skinny fish, but not a gaunt one.
Today was a fun-weld day, following many hohum-weld days coupled with doldrum days of chasing fins and grasses. Once all the bits and parts of major sections are perfect, then the parts are welded together, and though the welds are long, they just need smoothed out.
The only tackle needed is a hammer. He was biting on the medium ball pein today.
Welding the windows and chasing out the grasses to match is a bit of a chore. The two nearest hoops are new, the one behind is a left over from years ago (still needs some chasing). The new halves were joined along the midline in the rocks, which still need chased. I’ve been limiting my time-on-tool and wearing my new vibration deadening gloves, and things are going swimmingly.
The trout suffered a version of whirling disease while at the foundry and only half of them and two hoops could be salvaged. My meticulously formed wax trout made it through wax sprew, ceramic shell, burnout, but bronze pour blew out the sides of the ceramic shell (one of the rare places where Total Fail can occur). My last run of 10 trout and 7 hoops had no issues, this time around saw 50% mortality.
So last Friday I drove out to the foundry and we sorted through the parts that survived and grouped them out into parts that match and parts that almost match. We came up with three workable trout, and two spare heads and a tail fin. I brought the mold along and the foundry will create the wax bodies to match the heads, as well as making one entire trout. This is not the normal easy process of making identical forms by slurrying wax into a mold. The trout are all different and have to be done half by half all by hand, painting in layer by layer, with the mold slung over the curving/recurving platform, then the halves are joined. The process is posted three blogs back, or just tap the Cutthroat link on the sidebar.
OSHA has noted that vibrating tools cause irreparable nerve damage, and glove mnfctr has not really moved beyond impact protection: except for Cestus gloves. My hands go dead (can’t even ride my bicycle as my hands catch fire then go dead from road vibration) and I am on my way “white finger”. Limiting my time on-tool and these gloves should go a long way to keeping my hands alive. Handses: the key tool.
It snowed last night, and has been spitting snow all morning. This makes for a cold shop and my motivation level reached “blogging update”. Plus, chasing is the worst…
Bonneville Trout are schooling again! I ramped the studio into wax production and pulled 6 new trout and delivered them to the foundry for rough-casting. They will eventually swim in the new Wilmington Courtyard in Sugarhouse, connecting the street of Wilmington to the Hidden Hollow riparian nature trail. This was greenlit by Salt Lake City, generously allowing City-owned reproduction rights to a private company to fulfill their public art requirement for new construction. It was a great example of public/private coordination to expand public art.
All six fish combined will require at least 40# of wax. Wax costs five times more than when last I ordered, as the manufacturer no longer sells directly (which adds a 50 mile drive just for wax). This set me to gather every broken bit of old sculptures and test-wax forms and in my hunting I discovered twenty-five pounds of wax slab & pouring foundations from creating Orpheus & Eurydice back in 2002. With everything going into the pot I just just just managed to form all 6 fish.
Christmas Elves sent me gift cards for more power tools and one of them turned out to be the best wax cutting tool ever. It trembles at 26,000 vibrations per minute, and it moves through wax like a cold laser- no more molten wax drips burning a path across the sculpture or over my hands and clothes, no more jamming hot sharp steel into myself for hours on end. Just a few minutes of hornets-nest buzzing and both sides are smooth-seamed and ready to join.
The halo of wax around the fish keeps the form tight to the mold so it doesn’t shrink and curl. It is that halo that the new tool removes so well. As the side of the mold that forms the outside curve cannot account for the amount of curve variance, I also have to bisect that fish half and shoe-horn in a custom section to take up the gap. In other words, I cut the head off just ahead of the dorsal fin and surgically insert a graft of new fish. This surgery is much easier with the new tool, and the fish hardly even feels it.
It could be argued that each fish is an original sculpture, rather than an identical version pulled from a common mold. The fish on the floor displays the surgical graft to the midsection, and thumb clamps helping hold the form in place as the hot seams cool.
He guarded his secret cache of wax for 15 years, but his cache and himself went the way of his mythic being, and shared the tragic fate of his public art twin.
Marble arm prosthetic for the bronze figure. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but he says it feels almost normal. He is contemplating whether he wants a Marble foot as well.
The resin casting came out pretty well. I blended marble powder at nearly 1:1 with the resin, making these figures poly-marble. I have yet to clean them up; the heat from the resin kicking off in the mold found and bound every bit of clay that hadn’t been scrubbed from the silicon mold, and there is some chasing necessary as there are some areas that picked up air bubbles and etc- but nary a seam line anywhere. At some point I’ll switch up my media and do a set in cold-cast bronze. Now I wish I’d taken these little sketches just a bit further along and resolved some the proportional gaffes / refinement of features / extension of gesture. So I may remake them, to push them further toward Rodin’s use of torsion and collapsing v enervation.