Just for sharing/education I thought I would describe how I usually find the scales of things from photos, which I do a lot for my sculptures.

Here’s one wall of the map room in the NY Public Library, I already know it’s 34 feet wide because I found that fact in an article, so I would first look around for something of known size, if an adult person is standing there you can use a rounded out 6 feet for the scale, in this case the only known size is the width of the room.

Now I want to find out the size of the corbels in that cornice or entablature at the top of the wall, but notice the round top pseudo window in the center means that cornice is broken and there are none across that space to count, so I made a red box across 6 adjacent corbels, briefly moved it over to the pseudo window and could tell that space would have had 6 corbels across it.

I counted 9 corbels on each side, plus the 6 comes to 24 total spanning 34 feet, 34 ft x 12 inches = 408 inches, divided by 24 corbels means each is spaced 17-1/2 inches center to center, now we’re cooking because we have a measurement to use for all the rest:

Now I imported a cropped, lightened up and slightly desaturated to reduce the shin of the gold- enlarged version of the picture into CAD software, and after scaling the picture properly using that 17-1/2″ measurement I was able to begin making measurements of landmarks to start with:

The good thing is the original picture was taken pretty straight-on, and with a minimum of paralax angles caused by taking a photo looking up at something tall, there is a little here because of the height of the ceiling, but one can get reasonably close enough measurements with this that using a little fudging will get it accurate enough for this use.

If I lacked the room width to begin with, that EXIT sign and that wall clock would be the second choice for scaling off in CAD, because those exit signs are a pretty standard size and can be determined with a search, the wall clock too but it’s a little less likely to be any standard size, but most of them around this size would be around 16″ across- it would be my last choice to scale from if I have other choices.

We see the wood cornice with the corbels is 3 feet 3″ high, the coffers in the photo due to the angle of view give us the illusion they have height we can measure just like the cornice- they do have heigh, but if we were to measure that coffer from this photo going from the top of the dark cornice up it would be wrong due to the angle- the measurement that way is actually from the projection of the cornice’s edge towards you at the camera which is measuring the room length not the coffer’s depth- thats the optical illusion one has to be careful of when scaling off photos!

I was able to extract 4 more measurements above the coffers and if one looks carefully there is another optical illusion between the two 6-1/2″ measurements because that section of the ceiling projects horizontally towards the camera just like the coffers are.

The top measurement of 1 foot 11 inches is another major molding, a concave repeating molding with beed and fluting designs, it sits on top of a 6-1/” tall egg & dart molding, the other 6-1/2″ molding is a Greek styled leaf design.

We also can see the green painted wall is 7 feet 1 inch from the wainscot to the cornice bottom, the pseudo window is 8 feet wide, and the shield over it is 2 foot 9-1/2″ wide.

So in just a few minutes we have the majority of the measurements needed, the rest can be found with other photos, and whatever is missing can be guessed at with reasonable accuracy.

This photo would provide the square coffer’s width, we can assume that one IS square and determine it’s other measurement front to back, the one to the left of it would be the same front to back, it’s width can also be found in this photo and it’s rounded corner approximated easily although very hard to see here- there is a quarter round DOME above the pseudo window and that shield is not directly over that pseudo window as it appears- another optical illusion- it’s actually several feet closer to the camera, this also tends to make the measurement of that ( 2 foot 9-1/2″ ) a little incorrect because it is closer to the camera/viewer than the wall where the cornice is, but the camera is far enough away the error is really minimal here.

I also discovered when I lightened up another photo of that cornice- between each corbel there is a lion’s head carving, and each one is holding the end of a swag which curves along the bottom of each corbel which can be seen in the above photo.

So that is the method I came up with years ago.

The Woolworth Building

I was reading a number of articles on this gothic styled 60 story building which is now 100 Years old, the whole of the facade is made up of over 16 MILLION pounds of terracotta made by the Atlantic TC Co.

The building’s facade has more than 400,000 units of terra cotta. Due to the lack of maintenance, the anchors attaching the terra cotta to the steel frame rusted and caused widespread damage to the terracotta panels. Many broken pieces have had to be replaced with new terracotta, or in some cases, an alternative material which these days is usually cheap fiberglass replicas or fiberglass reinforced concrete.

By 1978, just 65 years old- the building’s four smaller towers were badly disintegrated due to constant exposure to the elements and faced structural issues. The cost of terra cotta replacements was described as “shocking” at the time. Budget constraints led the architects to instead stabilize the towers and cover them with pressed aluminum sheaths that loosely resembled the original silhouette and color scheme.

That has me thinking again about this scenario which I’m seeing a lot of- extensive (translate that into costly) restorations and replacements of damaged or destroyed elements, all of this costly work had to be done on this building that is only now 100 years old, logic and common sense tells us that if the building needed all this work in the first 100 years, it will need it again within the next 100 years! But if the architects and all thought the replacement terracotta costs was “shocking” now, imagine what the cost will be 100 years from now!
So THEN what happens? just keep replacing, and replacing and replacing? at some point there will be so much replaced with cheap fiberglass and other materials there won’t be a lot of the original left, and by 100 years from now the elements put in today will themselves be 100 years old and deteriorated to the point they have to be replaced too, with the original elements now 200 years old.
If the building was damaged by years of poor maintenance who can say we won’t see a repeat of that?

Model ideas

Unfortunately only two people on my mailing list responded to the last newsletter asking for input on interest in any of the 10 or so photos of possible designs for the next model.

I’m leaning a lot towards this Assyrian themed Art Deco on the 1928 Ageloff Tower building, I remember seeing this in person years ago.
It measures over 9-1/2 feet wide on the building, if I did one half of it as shown by the red box and reduced it’s scale a little a 19-7/8″ x 30-3/4″ model would retain the same proportions and be a more practical size.

It would be a pretty easy model to make really.

Roombox continued

I decided to stain the floor, door and wainscot to see how they look using Cabot Walnut stain, the mahogany floor looks very good in person, a bit red in the photos, but the color in person looks nice, as well as aged, the basswood doesn’t stain really evenly but gee, in the future there’s no reason I couldn’t make the wainscot out of mahogany, ditto for the stairs, the only issue would be the moldings, I’m not thrilled by the design of the Northern scale lumber’s baseboard profile I could come up with a much better one if I research what machine it could be cut on and have a custom cutter or router bit made for it (thinking of the possibility of selling them as well)

I would think the baseboard, door case frames and crown molding would not be difficult, the tiny moldings such as the 1/8″ quarter round probably won’t look any different when stained whether they are basswood or mahogany.

I need some more stair tread wood now I ran out, think I’ll make what I need since it’s just flat strips anyway.
A couple of photos from today, one with the chair and table set in place to see how they look, I pencil marked the primed wall, down and around to give me some idea where the wainscot or similar will go, above that line will be wallpaper, under the stairs behind the table will be filled in with panelling. The window in the “dead space” can be seen through the doorway, it will need interior trim, it is primed and the visible part of that room will have a different treatment on the wall, likely wallpaper to the baseboard.
I find that I’m not as happy with the Houseworks door as I was but it’ll do for this, I sanded down the too thick threshhold to about half it’s thickness and rounded the two edges. The door itself is only hinged with a couple of pins from the top and bottom, it’s hinge side was rounded out in an unrealistic way- done to allow the door to open without hitting the frame, I’d rather have real hinges and hardware, and squared edge.

Also the face boards of the HouseWorks door frame are somewhat crude- two vertical grooves, but given the bulk of the market these are geared for – dollhouses, they are very nice little works of craftsmanship, but for something aimed towards higher quality they are on the crude side.

These certainly could be given a much nicer, realistic profile with an appropriate cutter or router bit.

Pool model

For those interested, here’s an updated photo from tonight of the model in progress.
I was busy today but I managed to work on it abut an hour this evening.
I raised the concrete walkway surround up and angled it to add some additional depth illusion as I had planned to do, I like the effect and it also makes the pool water look lower.

And Sunday some more progress after an hour and a half or so:

Sarah Bernhardt panel

I finished the mold this morning and pulled two casts from it so far, I will be heading downstairs to cast a master cast for storage in a few minutes.
A client wanted a red terracotta color, I cast one with the tint base for the Buff Yellow and one with the Red Terra Cotta tint base and sent him the photo to decide better.

I think a dirty bronze would be stunning.

Pool sculpture

I have started on the pool sculpture today, this is a large model, several inches wider than others I have made.
There’s 160 pounds of clay in the box form and the initial roughed out concept for the design is just lightly incized on the surface to see how it might look.

Some possible changes might include enlarging the lettering though this will require the three words to be creatively staggered on a couple of lines to fit rather than horizontally across in one line as shown. They may also move down a little and the sun disk made a little smaller.

The lettering on the finished panel will be raised about 1/4″ high from the background, I just sketched in a few letters to test fit the elements.

I spent about two hours today getting it started and another half hour later.

The second photo shows a little more development, the water in the pool will either be lowered or the cement walk around it will be raised to give it a more three dimentional illusion. The horizontal line under “LAKE C” is just a guide-line that will go away.
I might very well move the pool and cement walkway down a little further.

Younkers dept store fire Des Moines, IA

What a shame the 1899 building was totally destroyed by fire during renovations!
The exterior facade was nothing special, a little bit of somewhat plain ornaments in terracotta, but in an interior shot of a video taken a year ago I noticed this interesting design in the plaster capitals:

I might be interested in doing a model after that design, I’ll have to think it over!


I finally got around to replacing the deteriorating D4 Art Deco panel mold with a new one, it really needed replacing.
I also finished the new mold of the Nr715 St Vincent’s Hospital , Leon Lowensteinic clinic “Sun worshipper” panel, so casts of this model are now available for the first time.

Cunard building ship roundel

I found the 22 story 1921 Cunard building 25 Broadway in NYC has a number of interesting nautical related keystones and carvings as well as ceilings since it was occupied by the Cunard ship owners. It’s interior is stunningly and it’s a designated landmark. The keystones and decorations include a figure blowing wind, snails and shells, but one thing that caught my eye was this roundel of a sailing ship, and it’s difficult to tell but the lower floors where this is located are carved stone, hard to imagine the detail on this being carved in stone which is why I think it may be terracotta with a matt granite glaze.

Of curiosity is the object the figure is holding in his hands off the side of the ship, it sort of looked at first like an oar but it’s not that shape, it also resembles a rudder but it’s not in the right location for one, maybe someone who knows ships can identify what it is.

A fellow on a sailing ship site says:

Its a Medieval Merchant ship with a ‘Steer Oar/Board’ which gave its name to the side of the ship it was hung(Right). Hence ‘STARBOARD’ side in order not to damage it along side,it would tie up on the other side ,Hence ‘PORT’ side(Left)

The three lions on the flag is the heraldic symbol of the Plantagenets in the United Kingdom.
Fore and aft castles are depicted with a gothic style

Letter R endures 40 years

I was very surprised when I did a google street view walk around Washington Sq Park in NYC and looking at the apartment building I lived in as a teen, amazingly not only could I see it, but the foot tall letter “R” I mortared onto the bricks outside our kitchen window around 1974 is still there 40 years later!
I remember mixing the cement and troweling on with my arm snaked around the window which opened out, and forming the letter backwards to me and somewhat “blind” as I couldn’t reach far enough out to see what I was doing very well.
This is pretty cool.


New gallery sign

I made this new hanging sign for the gallery building entrance today using wood letters from signlettersource.com
When I figured out after making one letter out of plywood- how much time I would have to spend dinking around with cutting out 15 letters, sanding them etc., and the fact these purchased on line were a little over $4 each, it was a no-brainer, I could have spent the better part of an afternoon printing out paper letters to carbon paper trace onto plywood, then scroll cut them all out and I’d never the nice shark clear edges and corners they do with a commercial CNC router.
It took me exactly one hour to put this together, fill the little micro pinner pin holes and call it completed.

The letters are both glued and micro pinned to the plywood backer while solid oak finishes the edges with an attractive raised border as well.

Once I decide on either paint or stain it will be installed over the door.
I was thinking of the dark forest green I used on the cornice- for the background, and white for the face of the letters, but that was before I added the border framework which really needs a contrasting color.

I used the same fonts I used in my book- Goudy Old Style, but 3″ tall, it’s a nice style font that has an old classic look to it while still being easy to read.

Now it is installed over the doorway, I have plans to redo the entrance and replacing the single aluminum door with a pair of wood doors I already built, so this will come back down at some point this year or next year to re-do the doorway and under the display windows with something more appropriate to the 1910 style of the building.
In the end I decided to use the dark forest green for the background and sides of the letters, and a very shiny gold leaf paint for the letters’ faces and the face of the oak border, the photo is not very good and the sun was at a bad angle leaving a shadow in the doorway but the photo gives an idea what it looks like.

The dark green horizontal board in front is where some kind of projecting cornice once lived, it was removed back in the 70s when the entire facade was sheathed with ugly contemporary vertical redwood siding, I also have plans to re-install something appropriate there as well, for now the bare pine board has been painted to keep the weather away.

Copper lion

I purchased this circa 1895 stunning 15″ x 15″ copper cornice lion this week, it arrived today in fact.
It came from a NYC building demolished in the 1980s, probably a building that would likely have been 7-12 stories in height given the size of the lion.
There’s not a whole of of copper cornices in the city, painted hot zinc dipped sheet metal was the most commonly used. Copper was used on more expensive buildings- hotels, municipal/city buildings, schools etc. usually the copper gets scrapped if the building is abandoend any length of time or demolished, so plenty of these fine examples of American 19th century die-pressed copper cornices have been destroyed for the few dollars worth of copper in a section of it.
This lion weighs about 5 pounds, in today’s copper scrap terms that’s about $10 or $15, as the art it is, it’s worth more than the $850 pricetag.
People today have no idea how much labor and time went into making something like this!

If you notice, it was made in several pieces- I count 7 pieces plus the shaped backer it’s riveted and soldered to. With the number 7 in mind, the way these were made I shall describe:

First, a master model had to be made, likely it was made of carved wood, undercuts have to be dealt with later by creating more mold sections, or on the wood master by eliminating or minimizing them.
I don’t know what process they used exactly, but that wood master needs a mold made of it and then 7 molds are made of each piece, that’s 7 molds, these 7 molds were used to make 7 steel die sets, I say “sets” because when pressing sheet metal there has to be two steel dies- a positive and a negative of the design, and the sheet metal is pressed between the two in order to take the shape.
The die sets have a small gap between them for the sheet metal.
Each die set after all the machining they may need to work properly now has to be set up on a press, I don’t know what size machine they used, it could have been 20 or 50 tons. Each die set had to be set precisely in the press so each half mates perfectly, if they don’t one will ruin the other if they collide under the tons of pressure on them.

It goes without saying that today you don’t do this kind of thing to make half a dozen of something like these lions, the setup costs today would be extremely expensive, and multipled by 7 setups in this case.
Next you would have the actual stamping production costs, trimming the individual pieces to fit, soldering and riveting.

Unlike reproducing cast-iron, terracotta, wood carvings, plaster casts and even stone carvings-all of the steps and costs makes something like this lion mask essentially impossible to replicate today due to the costs involved, yet back around 1895 these could probably have been ordered by the dozen from the maker’s list of available in-house patterns!
I would guestimate the cost to tool and make steel dies for each of the 7 pieces comprising the lion’s face would be several thousand dollars each, it would not surprise or shock me in the least if a metal stamping outfit quoted $25,000 to $50,000 just to make the dies, and it would be a hell of a job at that.

Now one more item about this, notice he still has his green copper patina, SMART people have left it alone and resisted “cleaning” it! too many fools out there would take acids or a polishing wheel or something and try “shining up” the copper, or removing the “dirty green stuff”

In three words: NEVER DO THAT!

let me repeat that:


The copper oxide takes about 5 to 10 years to develop in the direct rain and weather, once it develops into the green patina- unlike rust on steel the patina PROTECTS the metal from further corrosion! Ancient Roman bronze and copper artifacts buried in the ground and unearthed have been preserved for centuries because of that patina.