Stone keystone on school, saved but destroyed

Here’s a good example I happened to find where an architectural sculpture was saved from an 1898 Denver school that was demolished in 1925, the keystone which was made from carved sandstone was dumped out in the garden of the new school where it languished for about 30 years exposed to the rain and ice and was completely destroyed.
The nose was broken off probably during the removal and handling of the stone.
The actual carving depicted a 5 year old girl who was a student at the original scholl and was chosen out of 1,000 entries to be the one to sit for the model for the carver to replicate her face.

Up over the doorway the stone was protected by an overhanging cornice, it would have easily lasted 100+ years there with little to no damage, but out in the garden exposed to the direct rain and freezing ice it didn’t even last 30 years before the entire face was gone:

a a

Have to love how much “care” was used moving this, the nose- the most important, visible part of the human face on a sculpture was smashed.


Completely destroyed in less than 30 years when dumped out in the garden exposed to the weather.

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I bought this carved oak table leg in the form of a dog, same seller I bought the pair of foxes from in France. It’s a little different style and looks like it might be a little newer than the foxes, but very cute!
There is a deer and a boar but I don’t like either of those, it must have been a 3 leg table these came from since the seller has just the 3 legs.


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Not much new lately

I haven’t posted much here since October as there’s been very little happening sculpture wise, plenty of other non-sculpture stuff I’ve been very busy with though. I bought a few other French wood carvings.

I took a break from doing any further new models since I have a bunch of completed clay models sitting all over and not even one inquiry on any of those, so I have not  made rubber molds of them and have no plans to do so in the foreseeable future. There’s not a lot of point in continuing to create large, fragile clay models and having them sit stored around the house where they are in the way and easily damaged.

We’ll see what happens this year.

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Recent purchases: wood carvings from France

Here are a couple of photos of the  oak fox table legs I bought from a seller in France, they are just so nicely carved, even the areas under the belly and front paws the wood is removed, and that rich patina can’t be beat! I found a few photos of French tables which have such carved foxes on them,  they were all “hunt” style, so each leg had a different animal- fox, deer, dog and wild boar usually, but the table these two foxes came from had had two foxes and two dogs. So far I have not found pictures of the same identical fox carvings, in fact a few were pretty poorly carved on the heads, so it would seem the basic theme/style was done by a number of different furniture makers and each had their own patterns to go by. These two may be fairly rare, I can’t imagine each furniture shop made hundreds of these tables, the amount of hours of carving alone would be considerable.

The two dogs were already sold unfortunately.

fox1 fox2The foxes are slightly different from one another which pretty much proves they were carved not duplicated on a machine, even the ears are posed uniquely from each other as is the fur patterning, they are very alike according to some master pattern but different enough to show they were hand carved by eye and measurements.
One is higher in the picture than the other making it seem larger, it’s because I removed an added-on block of wood from the other one, seems the original casters were removed and replaced with blocks of wood for height, I need to remove the other one as well.

fox compared

I also bought this walnut door that came from a ca 1910 French piece of furniture after thinking about it, so I decided to purchase it with plans to make a mold of it. It’s a really attractive old-world design plus the fact that it has a “frame” around it which creates a framed picture effect that I think will sell. It’s 19″ x 13″ which is a nice size that isn’t too large which makes it more attractive to those who don’t have a lot of wall space.

It was from a 19th century piece of furniture from France, it has four putti and a goat, with one putto holding a grotesque mask in front of him displaying it to the goat



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Horni Signal Restoration

Some time ago I purchased a so called “professionally restored” Horni Signal mechanism/inner box from a guy who bought it at an estate sale that way.

I have started reversing that so called “professional restoration” which had included sandblasting, electro static repainting using  a very heavy amount of super high gloss paint, replacing original machine screws with screws that are too long.
I started by removing and discarding the numerous brass flat washers used  to partially compensate for the excess screw length, and really  restoring the two small door rivets that had been drilled out and discarded to dissasemble for that sandblasting/painting. The two rivets had been replaced with smaller round head screws and self threading nuts, they were so loose the door wobbled up and down easily.
The sand cast brass hinges and screw heads were also polished.

The coils on the mechanism may be ruined due to all the OIL someone soaked the mechanism with, they used so much oil there are still a couple of drips, the mechanism itself is all oily, and the whole thing reeks of oil.
The local bell inside shows obvious signs of having had a mechanical tool used on it to remove the nickel plating to shine the brass base metal. There are scores and scratches in the metal from this “restoration” almost as though sandpaper or a wire wheel on a grinder was used,  I have not decided how to deal with that just yet.

To begin with, this is what one of these boxes should normally look like as-found condition:

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Here’s a view of the box I have:

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under the red arrow, all of the hinge screws had flat washers under them, shown removed in the photo back to the correct assembly.
The blue arrow points to the  handle which originally had a tapered steel pin in it, this was removed and replaced with a cut off flat head nail so the previous owner could remove the lever for painting, the steel pin will be replaced when I determine the correct size.

The raised letters are so clogged with this gloss paint it’s unreadable.

I found exact replacement rivets for the door hinges, and they are nice and snug. Cut to length and ends flattened enough to hold them in place the small door operates smooth and snug now instead of loose and wobbly. The contact engages properly now as well when the door is shut.

The near plastic-like electro static paint was sanded and the box  has been primed in this photo which also shows the replaced rivets:

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All of the too long screws were replaced with the correct length screws and the incorrect flat washers eliminated.

I have to remove the brass mechanism and a couple of wires to prime and prime the inside of the door next, then it will be just about ready to paint.

I have not tested the coils yet but they are soaked with oil so i would be surprised if they work at all.

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The fire alarm post arrived today a day early which is pretty cool, and it did come via Panama Transit for the last leg of the trip.
Here’s some photos, and the top half IS cast-iron as I thought, despite the shipping weight being 200# lower than expected it’s all cast iron, I’m betting the scale weight is off, but then again the specific thickness of the castings could vary it possibly about that much.
It looks at first glance as though the guarded spade handle door I have that I like best might not fit the hinge pattern, but that’s just going by the fact it has 2 holes per hinge and the door the seller included as an extra has a 3 hole pattern. I have to remove the Norelco electronic faceplate and frame which the seller wants to buy back, and I’ll know then if the box cast itself has a 2 hole or a 3 hole machine screw pattern for the original door.

It arrived in perfect condition and was well packed by Bill at the UPSstore.

IMG_3405 IMG_3408 IMG_3404 IMG_3407 IMG_3406

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FDNY post

It looks like I  am able to acquire one of the large fire alarm posts I’ve been looking for. This one is pretty cool in that it actually has “Property of the city of New York 1929” in the casting of the base, I have not seen but a couple of these that had this so it must have been a small contract run that year. This one has the 1973 era EMS door but the seller has an original cast iron door for one of these that is included.
The city replaced pretty much all of the original spring wound guts on these in Manhattan with the police/fire intercoms starting in 1973. To do that they removed the guts and the doors, most of the doors were likely scrapped, so finding one is tough.
This is very thick walled cast-iron and weighs around 900# but depends on the specific castings. The one I owned in 1980 was 901#, the base as shown in the 2nd photo was 450# of that.
I’d rather retain the as-found paint on one of these, but unfortunately this one has been repainted black, and there’s a lot of handling scrapes and chips to the paint, so it’s not a candidate to leave this way, it will need to be stripped and repainted.
The last photo is split, the post on the left is the type I am looking at, when repainted it would look somewhat like the one on the right which has a different style door.
There’s quite a few of these left on the streets but many of htem are missing parts as the missing side access doors indicate, many others are missing the top half, still others are missing the torch finial and doors.

There’s not a whole lot of these left on the streets that are in complete, good condition any more. The One I am looking at is located in North Carolina, a UPSstore said they could go out to the seller’s place and pick this up and ship it. Their pickup fee would be $100 and that’s quite reasonable. The freight shipping on a pallet might run about $400


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Westside 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.

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Westside 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.

Here’s some pictures of the old West side Miller Highway:







West Side Highway at 23rd

west side highway at 79th postcard

West Side Highway collapsed at 14th

west side highway entrance 1932

west side highway postcard

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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.

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