A little more cleanup on her and she can sit around air drying for the next 4 weeks before firing in the kiln
Getting ready to fire my Nr 294 keystone, she weighs 30# dry and has been drying for almost 3 weeks since I pressed her, so I’m going to wait until Friday to turn the kiln on, meanwhile I have her set up in the kiln ready to go.
I can only fit one piece this size in my kiln, another dry panel I have ready to fire won’t fit in with this too.
I have my full shelf on the floor raised off the floor with the 1″ posts, and the sculpture is raised up further on 3 large posts laid horizontally to let the heat/air circulate and to raise the sculpture up a bit higher off the “cooler” bottom of the kiln.
The 3 large posts are set under the 2 side walls and the center of the sculpture which has a web in the center of the upper compartment, so this will give support to these areas to avoid any sagging.
I’d prefer firing this laid on her back as per the first photo, but the kiln is not large enough.
I decided to see if I could get a cone high enough to view through the peephole, and there is one on top of one of the large posts at the bottom, which is actually the top of the sculpture so I can see if that part gets the full heat.
This Continental clay course red with grog and sand will get fired to ^1 which is almost about the edge of where the red starts to turn towards brown.
I did some more work on the West side highway model. It has plastic behind it and it’s covered with plastic when not being worked on so it keeps the moisture in as much as possible so it doesn’t dry too fast. Even with spritzing it with water and covering it with plastic the clay still dries out, just slower, so the working time window is somewhat short, but as the clay goes from really soft to firming up, various stages in the modelling process can be done.
Roughing out is done first, leaving more clay than needed so it’s mostly removing clay instead of adding on, and then as it get firmer and keeps it’s shape better, finer details can be applied.
I’m almost tempted to made the vertical “bars” in the parapet out of scraps of wood once the clay is dry instead of hand forming every one of them, but then the texture would be different, and the wood strips too square and perfect to match the modelled clay, so it would stand out in not a good way.
I could have made the horizontal pieces out of wood too, but the same issues apply there.
The 2 gallons of Vytaflex came today so I mixed it up and filled th 294 mold with it, the 2 gallons wasn’t quite anough to completely fill the mold, but as long as all the detail is covered it won’t matter as I have to add a 3-1/2″ deep plaster backer to the rubber when it’s cured anyway. Now it will need to sit and cure overnight before it can be removed from the mold.
The rubber positive with it’s new plaster backing block is out of the mold, now the keystone is approximately the same depth the original 1895 sculpture was before I made a shallow mold of her way back around 1980 to eliminate the back that was normally embedded into the brick wall, so the casts could hang ON the wall.
But now with wanting to make her in terracotta she will need the full depth.
I have some final patching and texturing of the plaster to do yet, but I expect I‘ll be working on the plaster piece mold of her this weekend.
The rubber cast is so I can take a plaster mold off this and not have any concernes about it getting locked together by slight undercuts and opposing surface angles, the soft rubber will “give” and the plaster doesn’t adhere to it
The first plaster piece mold section is made for the 294 keystone after I applied a layer of clay to the plaster backer block so I could square the side up and give it some texture. The clay used that way works nicely since the plaster block is still wet so it won’t absorb much water out of the thin layer of applied clay before I poured plaster over it. Now that the plaster section is hard that thin clay under it is no longer needed and it will be scraped off when the plaster mold is done.
3 more sides to do the same treatment with and then a few more sections for the face and base to be done yet too.
Two more side pieces done now, leaving the last side section for to-morrow which is actually the top of the sculpture, I need to do a fairly thick layer of clay on that as the top of the rubber portion angles in a little due to how the mold made of the original was set up back in 1980 to make casts as thin as possible, so now that angle needs to be corrected so the top of the sculpture is 90 degrees to it’s back and nice and flat as well.
I might go and make blocks molds off these plaster pieces so I can make more molds as needed as easily as pouring the plaster rather than having to set up and mold all these sections one by one like I am here.
The block molds would be individual rubber molds of each plaster section, taken off them before this plaster mold gets any wear or damage.
Supposedly plaster molds wear down fairly quickly from the highly abrasive course terracotta being pressed and rammed into them, but in the old days it was of little consequence as almost every building had custom made ornaments on them, so they might only have made 4 or 8 identical keystones for the building anyway- not hundreds of them. More common ornaments like cornices they would have used a lot of and on multiple buildings, so they had to constantly replace the molds of those as they wore out.
With a clay dam in place, the first section over the lower half, including the face is ready to pour plaster into. There are 2 more sections to do now after this one.
The mold is done, it’s big, now it has to all dry out before I can use it.
I found some time to do a little work on this West Side Highway model. The screw heads are just the right size for the rivets and much easier to use than hand forming every one of them by hand in the clay. The slots in the screws will get filled in before the panel is molded.
I also roughed out the first eagle head a little bit.
I also just ordered another 2 gallon kit of the rubber I need to cast a positive in the new mold for the 294 girl keystone, so next Friday I should be able to cast her, it will take the whole 2 gallons to fill the mold, and then I need to make a form to pour the molding plaster backer block for it, then I can start making the plaster piece mold off that to press the terracotta in.
I decided to put the first set of two clay sculptures in the kiln now, with the 137 grotesque on the bottom resting on it’s top, and with the shelf furniture I had to stack some posts to get the height above the sculpture so the shelf can be laid on top of them and not touch it. Once the shelf was in, 22-D was laid on her back on some posts to let the heat and air circulate inside from underneath- ditto for the 137 on the bottom which was raised up so it’s top gets the full heat and red color evens out over the whole piece.
Pretty close! the metal rod has only 3/8″ space between it and the nose- showing how close the kiln lid will wind up to her nose when closed!
If it didn’t fit I’d have to fire one 137 at a time, luckily it was just short enough I was able to fit the shelf and a 22-D on top.
Wish I had a larger kiln, as it is I COULD add a blank spacer ring to gain 4″ more height but since it’s blank and doesn’t have any heating elements, adding one in can change how long the firing cycle takes as well as the color of pieces sitting in that zone.
To upgrade to a larger kiln I’d have to have all new electrical supply installed from the weatherhead on down to the breaker box itself, even the meter socket would have to be changed out, and all that would run around $3,000 which I can’t justify right now.
I only have a 100 amp breaker box and the incoming line is less than that I discovered.
A workaround would be having the wire from the weatherhead to the meter, and the meter socket replaced, and a disconnect box installed, THEN I could shut the disconnect off and easily replace the cable from it to the breaker box and the breaker box itself myself, but even that would run around $2,000.
I now have 3 of the 137’s and 2 of the 22-D’s in pressed red terracotta almost dry, I think I’ll fire one of each in two weeks they should just fit the kiln together, and then repeat the same loading of two each weekend until they are all done.
I still want to make one more of the little 22-D keystones so she can go in with the third 137 and I can get two pieces done together for the same cost.
Think I’ll do the 22-D to-morrow so it can start drying out.
Those 137’s are pretty thick and weigh 30# each.
I decided this stunning keystone- a cast I made of the original 1895 one I had years ago, is small enough it can be done in pressed terracotta too, but I have to make a new mold of her first, as the old rubber mold I have which was made with a brand of silicone rubber I stopped buying a decade ago when it started tearing real easily is pretty well on it’s last leg, one more cast out of that and I’m sure by now just removing the rubber from the cast will just tear into pieces.
So I need a new mold, and then I’ll need to make a soft rubber cast and a plaster backer section. So it will take a a few steps to do it, but it’s such a well done face it really needs to be put out there again.
She came from over the window by the blue arrow in the 2nd photo, there were only 2 of them, the other one had been cracked and the face was gone.
Well shoot, no point thinking about it, I went ahead and just ordered the $205 worth of mold rubber I need to make the new mold so I can do it next weekend, I have the molding plaster on hand too.
I’ll still need to get the cheaper rubber to cast one positive with in the new mold so I can make the plaster mold off that, at least that cheaper rubber is about $80 less.
It took some doing but I managed to print a full sized image of the model to be done, I had scaled the design out a couple of years ago in CAD software but now that software version I used will not run on my newer machine and I could not longer read the existing files. SO I wound going back to an older machine that was archived, that has the software on it AND works with my printer. SO I was able to scale the image 1:1 with the page layout and print it in multiple 8-1/2 x 11 sheets.
I thought about this design and how I was going to get the different levels easiest, so I came up with two running templates to use to set the depth of the “background” which is the riveted plate steel, and the 3 horizontal structural beams top,bottom and near the top, and then the raised portion with the street name which uses the 2nd running template to form it’s parameters nice and neatly too.
The rest of the elements will need to be built up and shaped.
Stopped for today on the model now that it is set up and rough laid out.
As planned, I gave the sides a ragged torn look which will be worked on more when the clay is firmer.
Pressing #2. I still get defects that have to be hand worked over, tiny seam lines between adjacent portions of clay pressed in next to one another, I don’t know if in the old days they used a wetter clay or if it was just technique.
Another time-lapse video, hand pressing another 137 grotesque keystone, starting with 40# of red clay and ending up with 35# after cleaning it up.
I think I will go ahead and start this model I planned to do back in Dec 2015 but didn’t get past setting up the form for the shape.
The model was to depict one of the large cast-iron Art Deco styled ornaments once gracing the elevated West Side (Miller) Highway that ran along Manhattan’s West coast along the Hudson (North) River. The elevated highway was built starting at the end of the 1920s and construction of additional extensions continued into the 30s.
The city hired noted sculptor Rene Chambellain to model replicas of the 5 historic city charter seals as well as these ornamental pieces at the foor of each street to have the street name and shipping pier number. For this model I chose the Desbrosses St/ pier 29-31 because the Library of Congress has a set of high res tif photos of this detail taken around 1968 for the Historic American Building Survey program (HABS)
Chambellain made plaster models of these for approval and casting in iron. The “wings” of the piece span about 16 feet, so these were massive pieces!
Above the “wings” under the top railing is a separate ornament with “wings” and an hour glass motif, I owned 2 of those at one point and they weighed a little over 500# each!
The design symbolizes the machine age and air flight, which in the 20s was still fairly new. An alternated design to the hourglass on that were those having a set of 3 propellors.
The highway and it’s iron superstructure was so poorly maintained by the city that by 1973 a 100 foot long section of the roadway collapsed onto the streets below under the weight of an asphalt truck ironically on it’s way to a paving repair further up the highway. The cause was corrosion from poor maintenance, and the elevated highway was closed permanently and demolished in stages over 20 years.
My model will have “torn” ragged side edges symbolic of how the highway was cut up into sections, ripped apart and scrapped.
Only one of these large ornaments apparently survives installed on the facade of a city pier, all the others were scrapped.
“Desbrosses Street” was named after an influential local family by that name who oddly enough and despite contemporary attempts to pronounce it differently, according to the 1892 book “Everyday English” By Grant White- they pronounced their name “De’ broose”
The first red clay 22-D is almost dry, probably in 2 weeks I’ll fire this one and the white one that is already loaded in the bottom of the kiln. Meanwhile I’ll be calling in my order for more materials.
I have #137’s mold finished, it took the whole 50# bag of moulding plaster. it will be a couple of weeks before it’s dried out but it will be about 3 weeks before I order more clay and materials anyway.
The first pressed 22D is dry, so she is stuck down at the bottom of the kiln where she fits nicely and also an inch away from the kiln walls. I decided the best position to fire these is flat on their backs rather than standing upright on their tops where the center webbing and the bottom could possibly sag downwards a bit from gravity when the clay gets soft from the heat. I can fit two of these in laid flat.
So to do that I can use 5 of my nice tall posts to support the octagon shelf which in turn supports the 2nd sculpture. The 7 small posts laid flat on the shelf are there to raise the sculpture up off the shelf so heat and air can circulate inside it while at the same time supporting it well and evenly all around it’s back so it won’t likely warp.
I was going to put the 2nd beaver panel in with the one 22D but they won’t fit together with 22D laid flat, so now I have to change gears and press another 22D but using the remaining red clay I have which should be JUST enough, and that will be about 3 weeks before that one is dry enough to fire. So it’s going to be about 3 weeks wait until I can do another load.
All the posts and shelf, shelves since I have several half octagons as well- are called “kiln furniture” so a different meaning for an old word most people never knew!
This kiln came with a nice selection of included furniture in the package- a variety of posts, shelves, and wired stilts used under glazed pieces.