Just like a few years ago, I'm working on some parts for St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. At the time I carved, among other pieces, a canopy in my shop this year. This time I made a base block for a finial in the beginning. This is the lower part of a Gothic pinnacle. I got a new block of sandstone, and I first made the stonemasonry parts by following the printed templates: neatly carved out all profiled bits and wherever ornaments (crockets) will end up, I left a rectangular block.
A whole different way of working
Stonemasonry work is not something I do regularly; I think it was about 15 years ago I that made such a complex piece as this. During sculptural work you can afford yourself a few mistakes: no one will see it if a hand ends up a few centimeters lower. But in stonemasonry work, a few millimeters too deep sometimes is a big mistake. The point is that everything should be carved crisp and precise. So the challenge is to proceed very methodically, and therefore you'll always need to preserve a plane from which you can measure the next one.
With the new block in front of me, plus a whole lot of templates, I first took the time to figure it all out: what should I first remove and what should absolutely remain for later?
Working all sides
In sculptural work, I usually keep working the whole sculpture on all sides, so I'll know roughly where everything's going. First I'll carve the whole statue in the rough, and then I'd refine. If I would do that in this finial base, it would not end well. Discipline is key here.
Luckily I had some advice from my neighbor/colleague Stide, who has worked as a stonemason for years, and together we worked it out. A stonemason who's used to doing this daily would maybe laugh about this, but every profession has its own skills. However, it turned out allright. Nice project for once because of its challenge, but I was glad that I could continue carving the ornaments: the crockets on this block.
Another piece that I got in my yard was a block wih one sloping side: an inclined plane, in Udelfanger sandstone as well, on which three ornaments were to be carved. Below pictures of the starting block and the result.