A bluestone coat of arms with two falcons

Bluestone stone coat of arms

I merrily went on to the next commission, another stone coat of arms this time. The previous one was a smaller relief with only the shield. That required a little more attention to the shape of the shield, to make the design a bit more interesting. But this coat of arms is quite extensive in itself because of the helmet, the mantling and the crest. I prefer deeply carved coats of arms, and this is no exception: the total depth of the relief is eight centimeters.

The customer lives in Belgium and has renovated a house that already had a plaque of Belgian bluestone in its façade. Hence, this plaque will have the same size, 41 x 66 cms. It's obviously a fairly elongated size, whereas the actual coat of arms occupies a more or less square space. So this leaves some space for a Latin text underneath the emblem. I'll get to carve that next week.

The rough shape

family crest transferring the drawing on bluestoneI first started with transferring the drawing onto the stone. I never fuss about that: I just stick the print onto the stone and carve the lines into the stone, right through the paper. Hoopla.

From woodcarvers I learned to first jigsaw out the contours. That way, you'll have these parts defined already and you can continue to trust in them. Now doing that in stone, and certainly in Belgian bluestone or arduin as the Flemish say, is a bit harder to do, but it remains a good plan. Using the drill, I could define the shapes and also the depth of the background plane for a number of spots (quick and easy) in one go.

To keep margin for errors, or not?

bluestone coat of arms-drilling the contoursThe rough carving of a relief is quite a bit different than that of a freestanding sculpture. When carving a sculpture, it'll be useful to have some margins in case you'll make a mistake. That is, you'd make sure you don't make anything definitive yet during the rough carving phase, so for example you'll still be able to move the limbs a little in case it is not quite to your liking. In relief carving that would not be convenient. You'd keep searching over and over again where all these frills should go if you wouldn't set any hard borders. By carving the parts straight down at right angles to the background plane from the beginning, the exact location of each component remains defined right up to the end, even if you start shaping its height with a coarse tooth chisel. The margins that you always need as a sculptor lie in the depth in this case. For you could always encounter a bad piece of stone, or you could make a mistake. In relief carving, parts can often be placed a bit deeper without too much damage.

Assigning the volumes

bluestone family crest: defining the volumesI have previously written about it: the next step is determining the heights of the various parts. In this case the helmet will be the most protruding part. I wanted to keep the mantling at the left and right below the level of the helmet, the shield should be covered by the helmet and consequently end up lower as well, and the lowest point are the tips of the mantling and especially the crest.

I just make those decisions by eye. I picked up the grinder and quickly cut down the planes of the mantling to a lower level. Then I once again drew on the lines of the shield , took into account the depiction on the shield, and carved it into the right curve.

Luckily I had made just such a little helmet before, in dolomite stone, and that one was still on the wall. With that piece next to it, it was quite easy to shape the helmet.

Playing

family crest rough carvingOnce I had rough carved all of these parts to their proper height, the best part came. This is why I love carving coats of arms so much. I'm sorry for the customers, but I'm not really into heraldry all that much or coats of arms as such. To me, family sure is important, but I'm not so concerned with ancestors and descendants. Other than gratitude for what they have given and for what beautiful things they'll be going to bring after I'm gone, it actually doesn't go any deeper for me.

bluestone coat of arms detailingBut the cárving of these crest reliefs is what I love to do! And that is because of all the lines and movement in the design. The clear shapes of the helmet and shield, in contrast to the elegant curves of the mantling… for me it's a each time again a play with lines and volumes. That's why I never make a maquette of these things. I just start, and let the lines lead me to the shape. It should of course end up looking somewhat symmetrical, so I usually first carve one side and then do the same thing mirrored on the other side.

Halfway through: finishing

bluestone family crest: halfway carving process

Once all the shapes are just about right, the detailing and finishing of the stone coat of arms starts. That is usually what takes the most time. I tapered the shield a little bit to make it all a bit more playful, and also gave it a good bulge, in order to give it some tension. But everything needs to be crisp in the end, otherwise it will end up as a complete mess and not easy to read. So next week I'll still be working a long time making it all crisp and sharp, and with carving the letters. And the edge still needs to be carved straight.

Read more in the following report ↑

family crest stone halfway  carving process
-below is a time lapse in slides. Click on a photo for the gallery-
Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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copy of Thomas Aquinas completed

-Click on the pictures for more details-

the two parts of the sculpture are glued together

7. The parts are glued together

beginning with carving the head

8. starting to carve the face and bird

Thomas in two parts

After long interruptions (carving finials for St. Eusebius's Church and large crockets for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral this summer) the statue of Thomas Aquinas is finally finished. In my previous blog posts you can read who this man was and how I reconstructed the sculpture, and how I started the copying of the statue with a lot of sawing.

When I got started again,I had already anchored the two parts together with two thick stainless steel threaded rods of 20mm thick and about 50 or 60 cms long. That won't come off so easily. I made it so that the top part fits onto the lower part a bit like a bottle cap. But I still needed to connect the jointing plane with a restoration mortar, because carving this plane to fit 100% is unnecessarily difficult. I can't glue it entirely, because a horizontal glue layer is like asking for trouble. The water won't seep through the material and the stone above the line will rot and break by freezing. Of course I did attach the pins firmly with epoxy adhesive. With the mortar I grouted the seam in the same colour and now it's hard to tell the spot.

carving of the face and the bird on the copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas

9. detailing bird and head

hoisting the statue of Thomas Aquinas

10. hoisting

Feathers and feet

This was followed by the wellknown steps of carving the details. With some measuring work and gradually detailing, a proper copy of the weathered sculpture emerged. I didn't use the pointing machine for this, because my presawing machine had already given me so much references that I could transfer the intermediate points much more easily with compasses and templates.

I had reconstructed the missing pieces with plastiline clay in the old statue. This clay will not harden and can easily be removed again later. The clay coloured remarkably well with the rest of the statue, so it did not interfere while copying.

The pigeon on Thomas’ s shoulder was carved with great detail, with tiny legs and feathers. This kind of thing is not really hard to make in this stone, it just requires a little more patience.

copy of statue of Thomas Aquinas put higher for the carving of the folds

11. carving of the lower half

finishing the lower side of the statue of Thomas Aquinas

12. carving the folds and finish sanding

At working height and easy to turn

I then placed the statue a level higher, in order to tackle its lower half. I always set them up close together and preferably on a turntable, so I can always put them in the best position and easily oversee everything.

I had these stands made so they fit on small pallets, so I can easily wheel them around with a pallet truck. They are stackable too, so I can build them up to a good height. But the stands are just for the larger statues; for smaller ones I'll use my yellow scissor tables. I can use the turntables on these as well.
In case that's still too low, I can add an extra platform to it.

sanding the habit of the sandstone sculpture

13. sanding the habit

copy of statue of Thomas Aquinas beside reconstructed original

14. statue finished; the original, here still with the clay repairs

Buffing and sanding

Once all the details were to my taste, the sanding started. With diamond files and abrasive stones, I sanded the entire statue. Later on it still didn't look good enough to me. I discovered that in this Udelfanger sandstone it works quite well if you finish it with sandpaper or emery cloth by hand. It gives a kind of velvety finish that suits the sculpture quite well, and all the scratches of the chisel and abrasive stones will quite easily disappear. However, it is again just another of those jobs that take a bit of patience. I've been sanding on his habit for days, and started to feel it in my fingertips.

copy and original side by side. Original now without clay

15. The finished copy and the original, here without clay

the original statue of Thomas Aquinas, damaged.

16. The original before repairs

Making history for posterity

At the rear of the original statue, there were all kinds of different chisel marks. I reproduced them in the copy. But to make things clear for future generations, I also carved in the following text:: copy 2019 k. van velzen

This should make it easier for future historians what happened to this statue in the present year. For I don't dare trust that this blog will survive the centuries. Perhaps not even the Internet will. It is said that one good solar eruption is enough to fry all of our electronics and even the electrical equipment and facilities. We'll see, but this way, Thomas will remain, at least a little, a guardian of history.

Gallery with a timelapse of carving the sculpture

-Click on a photo to view the larger image-

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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Small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone

Small coat-of-arms in a baroque shape

For a customer I made a small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone. Since this time no mantling and helmet were added, I chose a somewhat more baroque shield shape to make it a lively relief. I also tried to give the shield a nice bulge, to create an interesting shape with curled edges as if it were a scroll.

Finishing

Because of the small size of the crest stone, it took a lot of care to get all the details clear cut. It is designed to stand out by strong shadows. This small stone crest will end up in the top of a facade, so the shadows will be important in order to recognize the picture. To enhance the contrast I therefore 'pointed' the background of the coat of arms, ie I've beaten small pits with hammer and point chisel in the background. The rough surface makes the smooth shield stand out well.

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

Follow me on Instagram↑
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and on YouTube↑

Two griffins with a large shield

griffins with shield castle entrance plastiline maquetteThe next project has taken a very long time to get properly going. More than a year ago I received this request, and only now there is the peace and time to address this well. It is not a simple little project for doing between other things. …Read the whole article…

A Bear with a honeypot (flying buttress figurine)

The bear that didn't look like a bear

flying buttress statuette of bear with honeypot - old original tuff

flying buttress statuette bear with honey -new copy in muschelkalk limestone

And then the bear came with its long snout and blew out… no, he ate all the honey. This 'bear’ was the next flying buttress figurine for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem which was to be copied into new stone. You just need to look very carefully …Read the whole article…

Noah fleeing the rising waters (flying buttress figurine)

Old tuff flying buttress figurine. Noah fleeing the water that is rising up around the arkIn the nearly endless series of flying buttress figurines for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem, I again arrived at carving one of the topmost pieces, on which always Noah's Ark is depicted. On this one, this time the ark is shown with swirling waves around it, and Noah climbing into the boat before everything …Read the whole article…

House Sign Blue Tram Street Haarlem finished!

to the first post about this House Sign↑

Gevelsteen Blue Tramstraat polychromedRómulo Döderlein Win painting the gable stone of the Blue Tram street

The House Sign in Udelfanger sandstone for the Blue Tram Street about which I reported on last time is finished. A little summary: the picture was designed and drawn by cartoonist Toon van Driel, after an initiative by the Foundation for House Signs Association Haerlem. It is one of a series of ten different House Signs by ten artists and ten sculptors. …Read the whole article…

Noah and his ark: from tuff to limestone

…to the first post about this project↑

Noah new in MuschelkalkAfter the previous series of flying buttress statues for the Eusebius Church in Arnhem (read here more) it has been quiet at my studio for a long time -with regards to the work on the Eusebius church at least. Funding had been allocated for its restoration, but before it's finally on the bank account of the church, apparently a lot of water first needs to pass under the bridge. But now that all suffering is over with, I can speed along with the work on a series of flying buttresses on the north side of the church. …Read the whole article…

Noah's Ark, up in the air

flying buttress figurines with theme Noah's Ark-1

flying buttress figurines with theme Noah's Ark-new blocks ofMuschelkalk limestone

new blocks of Muschelkalk limestone

Yesterday I received a new batch of stone again: seven new blocks of Muschelkalk limestone and seven old flying buttress figurines from St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). This series has Noah's Ark as its theme. …Read the whole article…

Four grotesques in Amsterdam-1

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Reconstructing and copying

Four grotesques in Amsterdam, lion's head 1, weather-beatenFor a building in Amsterdam, I am currently carving four grotesques: ferocious sandstone heads. All four are severely damaged, which was the reason for choosing to replace them. …Read the whole article…