Monday, April 2, 2007


I was commissioned to make 150 corbels for a restoration project of a turn of the century "landmark" mansion that is being converted into an upscale bed and breakfast. The original corbels have almost completely degraded over their 100 year life due to the instability of their terra-cotta & horse hair make up. My job was to make exact (or close to exact) replicas of the original corbels in a more durable material & make them look like the new versions of the handmade antique architectural details.
Every child has fantasies of being a lab technician that concocts potions that steam, bubble & foam out of control. The tools of making corbels- an apron, giant gloves, measuring cups, beakers, trays, buckets and strangely enough, cake mixing spatulas-are closer to the world of a mad scientist than a carpenter.
After several pseudo-scientific experiments with various foams and resins, I decided to use an exterior grade UV rated polyurethane that was recommended to me by one of the well informed & helpful salespeople at Polytek. Polytek is a supplier of different casting materials and they also supplied me the silicone I used for the negative molds.

After sculpting a crisp new plaster prototype of the 100 year old corbel, I made 3 silicone molds and began a long gooey plastic making journey. I became fully consumed in mix ratios, room temperatures, release agents, solvents and de-molding times.
The first 10 corbels were fun & interesting. The following 140 were a bit more work. But when I saw my little army of architectural soldiers in formation I was a proud general. I then packed them all off to battle the elements of extreme heat, cold wind & rain and hoped they would make it past the infantry line of construction workers.
It was a pleasure to be presented with the challenge of learning about space age materials and using them in an historical pre-industrial age application. I hope those corbels hang on that landmark building for hundreds of years to come.



© 3 Column XML Blogger Templates | Web Toolz