A pine cone for a classic garden vase

An 18th century garden vase with pine cone

A small assignment I got last summer was to make a new sandstone pine cone for an 18th-century garden vase. This beautiful vase was made of Bentheimer sandstone, but the pinecone was made out of concrete and it was also very weathered, so now a new one was to be made for it. The lid of the vase also had two damages on its edge, which I would fix as well.

By hand or by lathe?

First I made a new pine cone from a new piece of sandstone, but I didn't get it as sleek as I wanted, and it took me way too long. Whenever you want to make something round by hand, it takes a lot of time, because you have to make a cube first, then you turn it into a cylinder in several steps by making facets, then you have to set up the outline of the ornament in facets, make all that tight, and then you still need to start detailing the ornaments and scales. I didn't like it and started over.

So I started with another piece of stone and turned a nicely detailed copy out of this block on my copy saw. It took some work to set it all up, making a contour tracing, aligning and sawing everything accurately, but it immediately looked much more crisp. After some sanding I was able to continue with drawing and carving the details.

making pine cone in sandstone


restoration garden vase lidOnce the pinecone was ready I was able to restore the lid of the vase and attach the cone to it. I started by removing the old concrete pine cone. It was secured with some copper pipes and polyester glue. Then I could glue the new one on top, repair the damage to the edge with restoration mortar and bring everything back to color. I also adjusted the new part to the old color scheme, so that it merges into the whole and doesn't contrast with it.restoration garden vase lid restoration garden vase lid with pine cone

Gallery with pictures of the making step by step

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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The stepped gable of the Latin School in Nijmegen

ornaments in Baumberger stone for the Latin School in Nijmegen

A Hasty Rush and still doing a proper job

Suddenly we got an urgent phone call: can you find time to participate in carving work for the Latin School in Nijmegen? Actually that shouldn't have surprised me: lately everyone has been busy and there are always two delivery dates a year that have a really hard deadline: before the Christmas holidays and before the summer holidays. The first one is because they prefer not to leave the scaffolding up during New Year's eve, think of fireworks and strange actions, and the second one is because there is a long period when there is no one on the scaffolding. Besides, these are great moments to finish a year or a six months period.

Three sides per block

ornaments in Baumberger stone for the Latin School in NijmegenThis was another such case of 'it has to be ready before Christmas'. Only those who took on the job were already terribly busy with all kinds of other projects and they actually couldn't find anyone other than Jelle and I to help out. And so ten blocks of ornamental work from the Latin School came our way. Fortunately, our colleague Serge also managed to find the time for carving a few of these blocks, otherwise we would not have made it all. Each block has three carved sides so just check, 30 processed sides that is a good number of weeks of work.

Dutch Renaissance

ornaments in Baumberger stone for the Latin School in NijmegenIt is interesting to carve these things, because much of it has disappeared through weathering and then you just need to reconstruct what was there. Fortunately, one can usually trace a part over from other blocks, and as this is made in the style of the Dutch Renaissance, some examples of it were still in my head. Flowers, leaves, stems and ribbons and a few fruits. Botanically it's really a mess, for a plant with oak leaves bears chrysanthemum flowers and pomegranates, but it is a lot of fun to make. If only there wasn't that much pressure on it!

block numbering Latin SchoolBut we got it done in time. As it always goes with these things you get the hang of it over time and then the second one goes a lot faster than the first, the third even more quickly, and that's how you get the knack for it. Jelle and Serge, in addition to their other duties, could complete two blocks each and I did the other six.

Latin School

ornaments in Baumberger stone for the Latin School in NijmegenThese blocks are intended for the stepped gable of the Latin School in Nijmegen. They flank the stepped facade, and are covered by horizontal parts, some of which also contain ornamental work. This Latin School is not unknown to me. In 2015 Stide and I spent several months working on the South Portal of St. Steven's Church, which is opposite it. Then we also made a quote for copying the statues of the Latin School, but another company with a robotic milling machine had submitted a lower price. Because they didn't have enough sculptors to do the end carving, Serge and Stide have been finish carving those statues in Obernkirchener sandstone. In the video below you can see Stide cutting away a block of sandstone from under Apostle Thaddeus with my chainsaw . He still had to get to know the saw a bit, but it was a handy way to get rid of a large block.

Baumberger stone

ornaments in Baumberger stone for the Latin School in NijmegenThese sculptures were carved in Baumberger stone in the 1960s by sculptor Giuseppe Roverso from Nijmegen. He probably also provided this ornamental work. The copies of the sculptures from 2016 were made in the much stronger Obernkirchener sandstone, because Baumberger only lasts for about 70 years. Why a different type of stone was not chosen for these blocks as well is a mystery to me. Yes, it does fit with the historical use of materials, but unfortunately it doesn't last very long outside if you don't paint it. We'll see how they will keep up. Despite all the haste, it was a very nice assignment to make.

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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