New hosting

After a fair amount of work I finally completed moving two domains and their associated web contents to different hosting that will save about $100 a year.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much to update, I’ve become busy with other projects and I’ve taken a break from making further models so I haven’t started the West Side Highway model beyond making the wood form for it. I might get started on that in a couple of weeks, we’ll see.

I’ve discontinued my mailing list which had only about 32 subscribers to it all these years anyway, other than Rick and maybe one other client, I never heard a peep from the others in years, so I figured most of the mails were going in the junk folders or they were no longer interested.

That’s about all that’s new for now!

West Side Highway model

I decided on the width of the model and I took the old photo I have and sized it proportionally in CAD, then I decided to experiment with making the sides “torn” so I could get a better idea the effect. I think with the right amount of “tear” texture it will be just what I had in mind.
Maybe adding about 50% more raggedness and rounding/curving the tear here and there on the clay model will do it, the CAD version is just a real quick/easy use of polygon hiding.

Oh and if anyone is wondering about the street name “Desbrosses” street and how it might be pronounced, this explanation from an 1880 book should do the trick:

In the city of New York there has been of very late years a remarkable change of name effected by this rule of spelling-book. “What,” said to me an elderly gentleman, a member of a highly respected old New York family, “what do these people mean by Dezbros-sez Street? There’s no such street. The name is De Broose Street.” He then informed me that the street was named after a family whose name was spelled ” Desbrosses,” but pronounced De Broose, and that until it appeared on the street cars it was always so pronounced. I myself have been astonished to hear the family name of an old friend and college classmate of mine—Van Schaick, which time out of mind was pronounced Von Scoik — lately spellingbooked into Van Shake. This solicitude to conform sound to letter has become a disease among us. It exists in no other country; and here it is due chiefly to common school teaching.


West Side Highway model

I scaled off a large format B&W .tif image obtained from the Library of Congress’ historic American building survey to find the dimensions. The technique is easy with this photo since not only is it a straight-on shot with no distorsion, but I have one known measurement to use to calculate the scale of the objects in the photo with.

Using the ruler in an image editor I found the measurement of one of the medallions I own (not shown in the view) which is 18″ to come up with a pixel measurement of the section where the yellow line is. I found that yellow line compared to the size of the line for one of the medallions that was cropped out of this view makes it 470 px  which came to 34,” so using those two values I came up with a divisor of 13.8 px per inch.

Now it’s simply a matter of  taking pixel measurements and dividing by 13.8 to get inches, and then by 12 to get feet.

The pixel value and pixels per inch will of course change with every photo, it is not a constant number.

Using that method I found the white line is 23″ the blue line should have stopped above the street name to show that upper section’s measurement, but from the name to the yellow line is 48″ and the long blue line is 81.”

The long red line is 15 feet 6″ while the “wingspan” above which is not color lined is 11 feet 8,” so it should be obvious how massive this ironwork was.

The smaller winged piece on top the white and yellow line measure was made separately and it was 500#.

So to make a model of this, probably 36″ is going to be about the maximum width I’d want to go and would include everything in the photo, including the riveted railing which in this photo is 9 feet 4″ high.

That would mean a model scaled down to represent 16 feet of width, if it is 36″ wide (X,Y)  then that scales to about 32″ high (Z) in CAD software rounded out to the nearest whole inch.

I’ll have to play around with the scaling to come up with the best size.

Next model

I think I want to do some kind of model of one of the historic West Side Highway street/pier markers, these were extremely heavy cast-iron and as far as I know only one was saved when the highway was demolished in the 70s/80s, the rest were scrapped.
The designs were made by renowned sculptor Rene Chambelain and I have seen photos of his original plaster mockups or models for these in his studio.

I’m thinking of doing a “section” of this elevated highway side, not just the sculptures but to include the interesting riveted background and the partially pierced railing section above too.

The smaller “eagle” on top was made in two styles, one with the hour glass and one with a propellor, I managed to remove one of each when one of these massive sections was dropped on the street below and left there for the weekend. They were held on with four large bolts which amazingly I was able to get loose.

These small pieces weighed 500# each so it’s easy to imagine how much the rest of this ornament must have weighed.

I also found a fragment of the lower section in the form of a gear, one of which is just above the number 3  and another just above the letter I, it weighed around 90#

I had tried to hacksaw off one of the eagle heads, one on the left and one on the right projecting laterally near the bottom, but the cast-iron of their neck area was completely SOLID and it was around 5″ thick, I wound up walking away from that since the eagle heads were so minimally done, more of a suggested head from the shape really, not  a lot of detail to them.

I think this model will pretty much use up most of the clay I have on-hand and I think until things change on the economics side I’m going to take a break from making further models at random since I have quite a few finished models still sitting around with no interested clients inquiring about purchasing casts of them. Off the top of my head I have that “Roman Ruins” panel, the horse head keystone and a number of others which haven’t generated any interest so I’m going to focus on other things and also work on pushing custom commissions.


“Break glass” Fire alarm box HAMMER for ADT, Faraday, Automatic, Gamewell &tc.

NEW: hand made, solid steel fire alarm box HAMMER

Those who collect both “local” and municipal fire alarm boxes such as the older Gamewell models which used a small piece of glass covering the activator lever, hook, or key will usually lack the little steel or cast-iron hammers most of the boxes had originally.

This includes Faraday, ADT, Edwards and a number of other makes.

Back in the 70s and 80s when I had a collection of of over 100 local fire alarm boxes salvaged from numerous buildings in NYC, a few of them still had their “break glass” hammers attached with a chain. These hammers were often stolen or just missing from boxes in service.
Of the several styles of hammers there were I have two that I like the best, one is steel, and the other is solid brass and a little smaller, I decided to offer hand-made replicas of the larger hammer, made after the original.

This is made from two pieces of solid steel rod,  the handle hole is drilled on a Bridgeport milling machine and the handle is pressed in tight with an interference fit, no ugly welds, brazing or crappy epoxy stuff used.

The hammer is patterned after the antique original, and it has a hole drilled to accept a chain of your choice (available at any hardware store) Most of the chains were sash chain, some used other styles but the sash chain was very common and it’s easy to find today in any length you desire in both steel and brass.

The hammer is nominally 4-1/2″ long like the original and it is primed and ready for you to paint in your choice of appropriate paint for your project.

The hammer is just shown hanging by a Gamewell and a local fire alarm box that would or could use this item, no box is included of course.

The hammer hanging on a hook and chain by your fire alarm box display would be a perfect finishing touch that adds an authentic look.
Currently one is available, I will make a few more to have on hand,  but for the most part they will be a made-to-order item if you wanted more than one, or I run out.

These are $19.95 each and $5.95 for flat rate box postage USPS

New model 8B continued

Here’s the 3 section plaster master to be worked on for the larger panel once it’s dry.
All 3 sections and the narrow strip need to be assembled together in a nice  squared shape and molds made then  of it. The narrow strip on the right needs to be trimmed and cleaned up yet.


The new Art Deco model 8B plaster masters are now laid out on a board and being prepared for the mold making process.The gaps on the bottom (at at the top out of view) between the four sections will all need to be filled and then smoothed and the texture blended in so it all forms one cohesive panel.

I just ordered the materials I need for making the 1st mold of this which will enable casting the panels in interior cast-stone and concrete. I will also be making the negative mold from the 1st rubber mold for use in making the plaster piece mold required for pressing terra cotta. Sounds complicated but it all involves making 3 molds!

The 2nd mold with is a rubber positive of the design that looks just like the plaster version only it’s made of rubber is used to easily deal with undercuts and the like when making a rigid plaster piece mold from it,the rubber is soft and flexes and the plaster mold can easily be pulled off it even when there’s undercuts.

That 3rd mold- the plaster mold is the one that will be used to hand-press the clay into, if this wound up selling a lot I would make a 4th mold- of the plaster piece mold so that I can pour new molds as easy as pouring plaster. Without the 4th mold if the 3rd plaster piece mold gets broken or wears out from use, it’s more work  and time to make a new one from the second mold.

New Art Deco model 8B finished

I now have the modelling finished on this master clay model, once it dries a bit I’ll be going over the surface and cleaning it up more. Once it’s dry the first mold will be made and then I’ll be combining 3 plaster casts of this to make one larger panel shape, then two molds will be made of that- one for casting interior cast-stone and the other for pressing clay for the terracotta version.


New model 8b almost done

I have to finish the lower 1/3rd of this yet, I hope to get it done this weekend, but it is progressing nicely and I’m excited about seeing the eventual pressed terracotta version using 3 of these together to form a repeated design panel.

On the left is an original 1930 bronze from the Women’s House of Detention, 6th Ave, Greenwich Village,  NYC demolished 1973.


Commodore Hotel cornice mask done


NOTE: This post never made it to the blog originally, it sat in cueue a long time, this model was finished a good year ago.

Here’s today’s model progress, mostly working on the right half:

The major modelling is now finished and he’s hollowed out, soon as the clay gets drier I will be cleaning up the surfaces and details.

Side view

New model 8B progress

Now that the clay is just about right for working with it I did some refining and cleanup on the upper 2/3rds of the model today. I’ll be doing work on the lower 1/3rd tomorrow. The “window” of workability of the clay is fairly short once it reaches this point of firming up, made shorter too by the fact there isn’t a lot of mass in this relatively small model and the humidity in the house is very low. Even wrapped in plastic and kept sprayed periodically with water it still progresses towards dry so I need to finish this up more or less by next weekend.


Model 8B continued

I hollowed out the back of the model today which will help let the clay start to firm up a bit, I also did a little minor work on it as well.
The sculptor has to work around and with the materials and the “mood” of the materials, clay definitely has a “Mood” that depends on the humidity in the room, how moist the clay is, how thick the clay piece is and what is being made with it.
When the clay is fresh it’s very pliable and soft, it can also be sticky which makes using tools difficult as the clay wants to stick to the tool.
I usually use just fingertips initially for those reasons, then as the clay starts to lose some of the moisture and become firmer and less sticky, then shaping with tools comes in. It’s a process that the clay won’t allow to be rushed, the degree of this also depends on the exact clay being used.
I find this red clay seems to be “stickier” and needs more time to dry to firm up than other clays, but the beauty of this red clay is that it has absolutely no tendency to warp or crack, that’s not to say it can’t or won’t but it’s been my experience with it that it’s been extremely stable, so that aspect tends to override the slight negative of stickiness or having to wait longer for it to firm up.


Here’s a newer photo:


New 8B model progress.

I cut out a template tool to use to shape the convex holes on the left strip so they are all the same curvature and size, of course they all need cleaning up and refining, but that has to wait for the clay to get firmer as the moisture dries out of it. Right now the clay is still very soft and will be until I hollow out the back.