A large gargoyle for the Dom Tower

Three Gargoyles in Portlandstone

large crocket for the Dom Tower of Utrecht in new Portland stoneWe have now been carving a lot of large finials, crockets and ornaments for the Utrecht Dom Tower. At the top of the tower, at about a hundred meters height, a ring of gargoyles are installed to spit out the rainwater that falls on the roof and the balustrade. At the end of last year we received three of these old limestone gargoyles: an eagle, a stone-cutting devil and a monster that sits on another devil's shoulders. We divided these three gargoyles among the three of us: colleague Serge got the eagle, Jelle got the stonemason and I would make the last one, all three from new blocks of Portlandstone. We just had to wait a little longer for the third gargoyle, because it hadn't arrived yet. If only I'd known what I'd gotten myself into!

ornaments for the Dom Tower in Utrecht

It doesn't fit!

gargoyle 'stone-cutting devil' is sawn from a block of new stone

Jelle's stone-cutting devil on the contour saw

Serge immediately started cutting out the eagle on the contour saw, then Jelle got to work. But when "my own"’ gargoyle arrived, it turned out that this one was 2 metres 60 tall, and I can only handle 195 cm on my contour sawing machine. So it became clear that I had to measure and copy this gargoyle by hand from the block of stone. The other two were just long enough to fit into the machine.

Copying technique

Koen van Velzen copies gargoyle for the Dom Tower in new stoneIf it all doesn't fit in the machine, it has to be done by hand. In this case I put the two pieces on top of each other, to simplify all measuring work. You can then very quickly see whether the shapes match, because they are put so close to each other. With compasses and contour templates it's easy to find the main shapes.

copying the gargoyle 2,6 m in steenOnce the three most important sides were defined, including the stonemasonry parts of the gutter on top of the gargoyle and the hole through the monster's mouth, I put the two blocks upright. And then it turned out that there was also another demon hiding at the bottom. But with each block on its own turntable I could easily compare and copy again, so that in the end a faithful copy emerged.

Video: inspection at the sculptor's studio

In November 2020 local broadcaster RTV Utrecht visited us for a video report of our work on the ornaments. The restoration committee came to judge our first results.

There is an article on the RTV-Utrecht website with a short report (see here the link↑), but if you wait until everything is loaded, the video will also appear, on which we can bee seen from minute 4:50 in the studio. Because I took this job together with my colleagues Serge van Druten and Jelle Steendam, can they also be seen in this video. By the way, the whole video is worth watching.

Video: Jelle is working on a gargoyle

In the meantime, Jelle was working on his own gargoyle, a stone-cutting demon. I made a short video of it.

 

Gallery: work progress on the two gargoyles

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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Saturdays project: two Kalasams in dolomite

one of two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

Strict Confidentiality!

reliefs in basaltic lavaIt has been a while since I shared a project, and that's because our current project is a big one. Not only do we need to make a lot of parts for it, but also a lot of this work is new and exciting. I can say that it concerns the façade reconstructions for the church of Veghel, but the details remain a surprise as it will become a gift to the city/village. We have been busy for more than a year with the preparations, reconstructions and the sculpting itself. Meanwhile the work on installing it all is progressing quickly and we're already working on carving the final parts, but we will keep the icing on the cake a secret for a while. This is also an exciting part for us, of which we very much look forward to the result.

Saturdays project

blocks for the two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

two blocks of dolomite

But in addition to all the hustle and bustle in Veghel, I still saw an opportunity to make good use of my Saturdays and carve two temple finials in the same green dolomite limestone from which the plinth for my father's statuette "Surrender’ was made, as well as his tombstone.

This was a venture that required some planning as it was going to be very thin and yet needed to remain strong. How did I do that? I didn't want this ornament to break in half after a few years outdoors, so I decided to glue in a stainless steel threaded rod. I drilled a hole in the middle of the 80cm tall stone with a diamond drill, well aligned, so that I would end up right about in the middle on the other side. It needed to be really sturdy right away, so I chose a threaded end of 20mm thick. This one need to stick out the bottom for 15 cm and at the top for 5 cm, so I thought to seal the stone with clay and pour some epoxy around the threaded rod. But it was still very cold outside and the epoxy would not flow properly.

Retry

gluing pens into the blocks for the two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

gluing the pins

The second attempt was with a much thinner cast epoxy. I poured this in from the other side, via a clay bowl, and this glue did flow all the way through. Success, I thought. But then it turned out in the following week that the epoxy wouldn't harden fully! To my disappointment, I had never read that you need to use this glue above 15 degrees Celsius, and it was only 5º Celsius. The stuff stayed a bit rubbery and although it hardened a bit more in the following month, it never really cured fully. But… actually that is better. These temple ornaments will be placed on the roof and will have to deal with considerable temperature differences. Then it is beneficial if the binding is not too rigid.

Kalasams

Kalasams are ornaments atop a Hindu temple, usually made out of brass but sometimes stone. Traditionally they were used to store rice, so that after a disaster it could always be resown. They are intended to protect the temple. Also see the English Wikipedia. In this case I was asked to make these Kalasams for the temple of Onderdijk. This hall got a new roof, and though first was thought of removing all three chimneys, later on was decided to keep the two little ones as a pedestal for these kalasams. They serve as the crown on top of the temple.

Drawing and sawing

3d sketch

side view and cross section of the two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

side view and cross section

I drew a model on the computer based on photos using Sketchup, from which, after some adjustments, I printed a profile. I used that for a full-size wooden profile template, that I could use on my sculpture sawing machine. With this copying saw I was able to cut out of the stone, just like a vertical lathe, the ornaments in several steps. However, sawing in dolomite is a very slow process, so I was kept busy for a few days sawing each kalasam.

Buffing and sanding

one of two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

first turning work

But just with this sawing work you're far from finished. The result is still not accurate enough and very striped because in fact it consists of lots of saw cuts that run horizontally around the ornament. I have been busy shaping for a few more days, sanding, grating and filing until it was to my liking. And because these are all difficult shapes, I just had to do a lot by hand. I finally sanded the two ornaments down to grain 200, so it wouldn't get too dark and shiny. A little bit matte light green, like a copper roof, seemed nice to me. Over time, this stone will weather to this color on its own.

Finial

crowning for one of two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

the first version of the capstone was much too pointed

As a last part I still had to make two separate cover knobs, which I also cut out with the lathe first. I had a very slender shape in mind, but when I put the parts together it all turned out to be out of proportion. The stem was still too long and the bud was too much Efteling theme park style. After I had adjusted all that, I was happy. I made it so that the button sits like a lid over the stainless steel threaded rod and the stem. It has become quite a slender ensemble, but the reinforcement in it makes it surprisingly strong.

Installing

first of the two Kalasams is installed

first one installed

I had thought beforehand that it would be useful if the two Kalasams each consisted of two parts: the actual ornament and a loose peak. Then I could screw on an eye bolt so that I could hoist the piece in the workshop and it could also be handy on the roof.

That turned out alright. I had prepared it all well and because many hands make light work, they were in their place on the chimneys in no time. With a long lifting strap onto the eye bolt, two men on top and two on the bottom, we could easily hoist them onto the roof. I suspect they weigh around 60 kilos, but it was doable this way. They are 80 x 40 x 40 cms. A little bit of adjusting, attaching the cap and filling the joints and it was done.

 

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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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

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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