• Butterfly child first cast

    I now have the first cast out of the new mold, I gave it the tint base used for the Buff Yellow finish, though I also have this as a non official finish, it’s a pleasing warm color that reminds me of South Western adobe for some reason even though adobe clay and bricks are more of a pale red to pinkish color. Given an application of satin clear sealer it would look very nice.

    Here’s another one with a little aging wash added:

    It is 22-3/4″ x 19-1/4″ and 5″ deep, weighing about 40#

  • Winged dog cast


    Here’s a concrete cast fresh out of the mold for a client in Nashville that is going on his building.
    I need to drill a hole in the bottom for a stainless steel rod, and after it cures a few days wrapped in plastic he will get an acid stain.

    The cast weighs 150# so this one has to ship by truck!

    The cast was acid stained and then a high quality oil based concrete sealer applied quite heavily as this will be installed in a very exposed location, so it’s a good idea to start it off with the maximum protection. The sealer does darken the color considerably but it will lighten up over time. The sealer and stain gave this a good antique look which will make it look as though it has been up on the building since it was built.


  • Metal casting

    I decided to order a small amount of Brittania metal from Rotocast metals to do some metal casting, so  here’s five pounds of ingots to stockpile for now:I need to order another 5-10# worth yet. The brittania metal is 98% pure tin, the remaining 2% is comprised of antimony and copper, they were just about $100 for the five ingots, a tad bit less than $20 a pound.

    So what am I going to make out of this?

    Way back in the early 1990s I experimented with a few dog models, most were cast by a foundry for me in bronze, but one I had decided to try casting in Brittania metal for a set of bookends, this one pictured  below was one of them.


    Making them was a real chore due to the processes I came up with at the time to do it, I had to first make a plaster/sand piece mold from the rubber molds I made to cast wax in for the bronzes, then I had to make a plaster/sand core for the inside to make the cast hollow assemble it all using brass pins to keep the core in position inside, and dry that out in the kitchen stove. Once I melted the metal in a deep fry pan on the gas stove I set the plaster/sand mold in a bucket full of sand and poured the metal into the mold. after it cooled I had to break the plaster/sand mold apart to remove the cast, the core remained inside the cast.

    I had made two of them that way. I never made one for myself but I still have the original master rubber molds, so I want to have a bronze of each cast, and I also want to cast at least one in the Brittania metal again.

    Somewhere I think I have notes on what I did, I seem to remember it took about 10# of metal, it was a lot cheaper back then too!

  • Butterfly child panel mold

    Now I have the Butterfly child panel sealed with lacquer and release brushed on it’s ready for the Rubber. The model is moist clay in the leather hard stage.

    The first detail coat of rubber has been applied to the model.


  • Art Deco D5 terracotta




    I took the panel out of the kiln now, still hot enough to need gloves to handle, but it came out very good. I made one small error in the final temperature 2079º I should have set it to 2060º, that 19º difference seems minute in a kiln over 2000º but it makes the difference between the clay turning slightly brown and staying the red color I am aiming for.I had forgotten the higher temperature gave me the browner color a year ago when I fired  another piece to that temperature as a test, and then lowered it to 2060º and the red color remained.

    The photo doesn’t show the color all that accurately, so I placed another piece fired at 2060º previously in front of it for comparison. The lion is a redder/orange while the panel is in real life slightly red/brown. This clay will turn a darker chocolate brown at a higher temperature but I that’s not the color I want. So on Thursday morning I’m going to fire the second panel since it’s dry now enough to fire, and fire it at 2060º

    The panel as fired measures 19-3/4″ x 12-1/8″ and weighs 29#

  • Art Deco D5 firing

    The panel is still in the kiln since Sunday at noon, it should shut off in about 4 hours. It looks like the panel has survived so far through the critical stages, it could still have a crack or something but we’ll see.

    Here’s what 1755º looks like through the peephole on the kiln, now imagine 320º hotter still:


    My Olympic kiln, model 1823HE cone 10 (2350º) is not as large as I wanted, this was $2300 and the next larger size was only a few inches wider and a couple of inches taller inside and it was $3100 which was quite  a jump! For about $3200 they have an oval 42″x 30″ inside that would accomodate larger pieces than this panel and laid flat, but I would also have to  change my breaker box and the wiring to the meter since that kiln needs a dual 70 amp breaker. All my breaker slots are filled, and the main breaker itself is only 100 amp anyway, a 200 amp would be much better.

  • Art Deco D5 kiln firing

    I just put the first hand-pressed clay pressing of the Art Deco panel D5 into the kiln about 5 minutes ago, here it is before closing the lid:

    PICT3059smI adjusted the kiln firing schedule  for “User 4” a little from the previous test firing, I kept the same 5 segment program and holding for 9 hours @ 200º F, but since I want to fire these at a higher temperature- 129º F than I did on the tests I needed to adjust the ramps a bit. Here is what I came up with for this firing on this sculpture, we’ll see how it works:


    1. R1: 80º/H to 200º HOLD for 9 hours @ 200º
    2. R2: 60º/H to 1200º
    3. R3: 90º/H to 1700º
    4. R4: 80º/H to 1950º
    5. R5: 60º/H to 2079º

    At the end of ramp 5 and reaching 2079º it has a 10 minute hold to let that heat do it’s work and soak in, much like baking a cake the heat has to get all the way into the center otherwise only the outside is “done” and the inside is not yet at the set final temperature.

    2079º is what we would consider cone 0  (zero)  if they made one, they make cone 01 and cone 1 so the temperature I found seems to have the best color red in this clay that I like would be between those two cones.

    They are properly called “pyrometric cones” and they are little more than a slightly offset pyramidial shaped piece of clay that bends when the heat range it’s made for is reached, it doesn’t measure temperature but it visually shows thta a certain temperature was reached by how far over it bends.

    They are made in about 40 heat ranges, from 022  (1087º) coolest, usually used for decals and glazes,  all the way up to at least cone 14 (2523º) which is the hottest, used for porcellains and high fire clay. 2523º is about 600º hotter than it takes to melt  copper, it’s hot enough to melt aluminum, lead, tin, copper, and it’s more than hot enough to melt cast-iron!

    Here’s an illustration of cones and how they are often used:cones

    Usually used in groups of three, one shows the temperature definitely reached it’s temperature and exceeded it, the center one bends over as shown and that’s just about perfect for showing it reached the desired final temperature without going over it, if the temperature had gone higher than desired (due to  a malfunction or miscalibration  etc) the guard cone would have started to bend too.

    These remarkably simple devices were invented in the late 1700s and are extremely accurate, albeit how far they bend over depends on proper level placement in the kiln, and how the operator interprets how far is “far.”

    I needed to calculate how many hours it will take the kiln to go through the program and shut off, last time with the slightly different schedule it took  36 hours and 39 minutes, now it looks to be 38-1/2 hours give or take a few minutes. It also takes about  a full day to cool down enough to open the lid and remove either the shattered remains,  or a nicely fired sculpture.



  • Winged dog cast

    90PICT3053The first cast from the new mold

    It took 100# of cast stone and almost 5 gallons of water to fill the mold, after the cast was hollowed out and dried he weighs 90#  The first cast is for myself, I also need to cast one solid, and with the “shims” left intact, as a “master” for future mold making since the original clay model has been damaged.

    I cast a concrete cast today for a client in Nashville for his building restoration/renovation, that one is to sit on top of a now closed off chimney. It took 100# of sand and about 40# of Portland cement to cast that one, unfortunately at 140# give or take, plus about 40# for the wood crate, he will exceed the weight limit for FedEx ground and will have to ship by truck.

    After he sits in the mold for a couple of days, on Monday I can take him out and see how the cast turned out. I also need to drill a hole up into the base for a stainless steel rod which will be used to help secure the sculpture to the top of the chimney through a hole for the rod to slide into.

    I almost finished the model for the “Butterfly child” today, only the face needs to be worked on now to finish it (other than some minor cleanup and the like) I plan to have the model finished if not tomorrow, then this week so I can make the mold before next weekend, probably Thursday I’ll be working on that since I plan to not let the model dry out before molding it, that will also retain the size a bit more but mostly it just needs to get done!

    The toes on the original 1906 sculpture number and odd three per paw as my model does too, why three toes? I have a theory that the original artist decided to accentuate the strength of the claws and toes to give it strength and power, that’s supported in part too by the muscles in the forelegs, the massive power of the paws are the first thing that draws the eye on this, to fit four toes on each paw they would have had to have been modelled smaller, and closer together, the impact of that would have been significantly reduced.

    I searched for what the design might be called in mythology, closest I could find to this is a winged dog in Armenian mythology called an Aralez. It’s almost certain with the waves of immigrants from Europe, Ukraine, Armenia etc in the 19th century that they would have worked in a terracotta factory such as the one that made these and influenced the designs.
    It’s not a griffin or a winged lion, a winged lioness would be doubtfull.

    Here’s a drawing of such an Aralez, of course this is an artist interpretation, but following the mythology it’s a large, strong  dog with wings depicted on the battlefield:



  • Winged dog cast

    I finished the mold for the seated winged dog, it took 3 gallons of Rebound 25 rubber and 125# or so of pottery plaster for the shell. I cast the first plaster cast from it tonight, it took almost two 5 gallon pails to fill, and exactly 100# of the Densite plaster.
    After hollowing it out as much as I could while it was setting, the wet out of the mold weight is 100#
    So if I figure 19 quarts of water used is about 40#, less what was in the waste from hollowing him out, I’ve noticed about half the weight of water used in plaster casts evaporates, the other half stays chemically bound, so the cast pictured should wind up around 85# which means even crated it can ship FedEx ground.


  • Winged dog mold

    With the rubber portion completed, now is the time to start on the plaster support shell, herewith is the photo of the first section of the shell hand-formed in place. While this hardens up I need to shovel snow off my driveway unfortunately, but about the time I finish that it will be time to form the next section.


    Now with the first 2 sections done it’s time to add the rest needed for what will become a 12 piece shell. All the small pieces are required to deal with the multitude of deep undercuts and opposing surface angles. The smaller pieces also make it easier to dismantle and assemble:


    Now with the mold removed from the original clay model it is set up and ready to cast a test interior cast-stone cast from.


  • Butterfly child and winged dog mold continued

    I was able to spend some time working on this today while making the mold of the seated gargoyle.

    The butterfly photo doesn’t show a lot of difference from the one taken yesterday in the previous post, but that’s because the image sie is reduced and the small details are not easy to see. I spent the time working on cleaning up the border, wings, antennae, ribbons and hair, mostly refining, sharpening, straightening and smoothing as needed.

    Next session I will be working on the flowers and face, either-or,  or both, there’s a lot of petals that all have to be smoothed, refined and sharpened!




    The winged dog mold is in progress, I had to take him off the stand and stand him up on the floor in order to reach into the areas behind the head and wings with the mold rubber. There’s several more applications of it to go yet.




  • Mulcaster building “butterfly child” model

    A new client in Delaware purchased the first public cast of this panel which due to various other projects was not completed in Sept as I had planned!

    I really do need to get this model done as the clay does dry out even when kept moist and under plastic wrapping, especially now that the furnace is active and my modelling studio room  warms up fast when it kicks on since the room is small and there’s a good sized register in the wall near the modelling table that blows the hot air out pretty good.

    So here we have the current view of the panel, I’ll be working on this this weekend between the seated gargoyle mold and anything else that  might happen along this week!

    It won’t take a whole lot to get this finished now really, mostly I need to define and refine the flowers and details, and detail the face.


  • WInged dog Nr 90 mold

    Now the mold itself has been started, I had to order another two gallon kit of my usual compound as I determined the one two gallon kid I had ordered was not going to be quite enough, and ratehr than trying to stretch it I decided to go ahead earlier in the week to order another kit and that arrived yesterday. That’s $215 each with the shipping so  the decision to use a second kit is not made lightly since it doubles the costs for the mold which may or may never see more than the one cast that a Nashville client ordered.


    The first application of the compound does not have to cover every inch of the model, it’s use is mainly to fill in deep details, fine details, anything that has crevases or holes which can trap air pockets such as eyes and nostrils when applying an almost paste-like compound.

    Usually one application of the raw compound without the thickening chemical added is all that’s needed. In about an hour it will cure enough I can start building the thickness of the rubber compound up over the entire surface.


  • D5 Art Deco “conversion” continued

    Now that the plaster mold is mostly dry after two days in front of two box fans on “high” I decided to try pressing the first clay in it.
    It took about a half hour to carefully press the clay in, and it took about 35# of clay.
    I added the interior webbing that all of the architectural terracotta originals my work is based on- have for structural stength and integrity. My pieces don’t need the strength so much since they are not load bearing elements meant to support three stories of brickwork above them, so the webbing and wall thickness is between 5/8″ and 1″ thick, while the antique originals were typically specified to be 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ thick.

    Here’s a view of the back, I think in about  a couple of hours it should be firm enough from the plaster mold absorbing moisture from the clay that it will be firm enough to at least remove the sides of the mold. To remove the clay pressing it will have to stiffen further enough to support it’s own weight.


    I’m pleased to see that the first pressed clay came out better than expected, only a little minor defects need touching up, here’s a photo of it fresh out of the plaster mold, because it’s late I’ve wrapped it in plastic to mess with tomorrow night.

    About 3 hours later… I wound up simply standing the mold on edge, taking the band off, carefully removing the two sides and top and then removing the large base section leaving the clay model resting on it’s bottom side on the bottom plaster section. Then I placed a plywood sheet with 3 strips of plywood against the clay models’ back and just tilted the whole thing horizontally to leave the clay model supported on the 3 strips on the plywood. The strips act as spacers to allow air to circulate inside as it dries.


    I’m guessing a half hour or so of “cleanup” and re-detailing touchup will be what it takes, the small defects are mostly where one bit of pressed clay merged against another leaving a very tiny “line” or wrinkle. Some of that might be controllable by technique, or it might just be the nature of the beast with pressing clay- as you work some of the clay starts to dry and the edge of that leaves a little line when more damp clay is pressed next to it, something like that seems likely.
    The main defects can be seen on the upper left part of the smooth “V” and on the bottom edge where the face met the side, that 90 degree edge has some “lines” or wrinkles where the very surface of the clay didn’t quite merge 100%

    It took about a half hour to press the clay, it could take a couple of weeks to dry out slowly.

  • Seated winged dog

    Now I have the original clay model set up on a board to begin the mold making process.