A Japanese lantern for Clingendael Estate

An old Japanese lantern

Japanese Garden Clingendael

Japanese Garden of Park Clingendael. Photo by Takeaway – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

You'll probably know them: the granite lanterns adorning Japanese gardens. I didn't know this, but even in the Netherlands, we have wonderful Japanese-styled gardens. Actually you can't really call them Japanese Gardens, because the criteria for these are apparently very strict. Rule no. 1 is as I believe that it should be located in Japan, and that just won't fit inside The Netherlands. Anyway, in The Hague, specifically in the grounds of ​​Clingendael Estate in Wassenaar, there is also a Japanese garden. A very beautiful one, that was created around 1915 and only opens for 8 weeks per year. To save the moss.

Copying in Bavarian granite

blocks of Flossenburger granite gray-yellowAround the time of the construction of the garden, its owner imported a number of granite lanterns for her garden. Among them was a seemingly primitive Japanese lantern, made in Shirakawa-granite. It weathered rather quickly however, and was restored a number of times over the years. And then in May 2017 I was approached by Raymund Bervoets of Restauratie Breda, who asked me what it would cost to have a copy carved in Bavarian granite.

The lantern consists of five parts: the base, the shank, the fire chamber, the roof, and the cap. Typically, all the parts are loosely stacked onto each other, but in this one, because of all the repairs, several parts were glued together. Its base had gotten lost over time, perhaps it had weathered and been done away with, so at one time a composite cast piece was made.

Chrysanthemum themed

reconstruction of the shank and fire chamber of the lantern on the sawing machineUsually Japanese lanterns look very different. For starters they haven't got 20 but 16 lobes, and thus get to bear the title 'Imperial'. Also, base and shank will be carved much more clearly. But the common element was that the roof of the lantern consisted of chrysanthemum petals. Perhaps this was a somewhat more rustic version of an official lantern?

Raymund had done a lot of research into the right shapes for this lantern. On this basis, a plan was drawn up for copying. We needed a new design for the base, with, just as the roof and the shank, has 20 lobes. The shank was supposed to get a bit of a tummy. The fire chamber had deepened 'edges’ so that a small window frame with rice paper could be put in. The roof had to get 20 chrysanthemum leaves just as the original had, but sharper and fuller, and the cap had to go get a tip. And everything was supposed to get a hand-carved character.

Of course, no problem! You ask, we run.

Getting to work

presawing granite shank piece on sawing machineBureaucratic mills never grind very quickly and certainly not in The Hague, but at the end of 2019 I got the green light and I could start reconstructing the lantern and then copying it in Flossenburger yellow-gray granite. With plaster I completed the five components, cut out the major shapes on my presawing machine, and carved the copy just as irregular as its original. Many details were deteriorated quite badly, so I had to bring them back a lot sharper in the copy.

Carving the base of the lantern

Lantern base in granite completedThe base was supposed to be partly covered in earth, and a layer of soil was to cover it. I thought it best to also shape the underground part with a hand carved finish. Of that, I made a short film. Carving granite with a chrome vanadium chisel is not easy! Only at the end I realized that I had a carbide (tungsten) point chisel lying around somewhere. That proved to go remarkably easier. In the first chisel, its tip was blunt after just a few hits, but with the carbide chisel, I could keep carving for a long time. I was afraid that the tip of the chisel would shatter at the first blows, but it all went without any problem.

A special way of experiencing a Japanese lantern

The Japanese garden in Wassenaar is actually too popular to let everyone experience it in peace. If there would have been access to the garden all year round, the moss would not survive the many photo sessions. Therefore, it is only accessible to the public for eight weeks a year. But not everyone keeps to that rule! It has happened a number of times that uninvited visitors entered the garden at night and went frolicking about with lanterns. Since all the parts are stacked loose, several times, parts have ended up in the pond.

Jam jar and cap

lantern in Japanese gardenFor that reason, we discussed how we could make the copy more stable. The result was that I was to make a kind of jam jar structure for each component. On top of the lower part, I would make a raised edge, and the portion above that was to receive a cavity that just fits over the lip. Like the cap of a jar.

As a result, the stack will no longer be easy to shift, but can still be lifted. That's why we've also applied a flexible adhesive between the parts during installation. In this way the components can always be removed someday, with some precaution, but they are anchored better in case someone wants to throw the thing over.


-Click on a picture for an enlarged view-

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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Statue of Pope Leo the Great, part two

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the Great

1 Statue in two parts

the top- and lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great are presawnWork on the statue of Pope Leo the Great proceeds much more smoothly than I expected. When I explained to the committee and to my colleagues about my plan for carving of the statue out of two parts, most of them thought it was quite a bold approach. Because the statue needs to be carved from two parts, as I explained before in the previous article and the article on the similar statue of Thomas Aquinas.

In the original statue, the layers were used vertically, but for the copy it's desired that the layers run through the statue horizontally. Since there are no blocks of Udelfanger sandstone available that are tall enough, it has to be made out of two pieces. Where would you put the seam? An initial proposal was to split it at the top and bottom of the statue, below the line of tufts of its outer garment, plus another one in the crown. I myself proposed to follow the seam of the garment, along the bottom line of the cross on his chasuble.

Finding out the way the statue sits first

The rough carving of the torso of the statue of Pope Leo the GreatNow I can't just stick the two pieces together after the presawing. Firstly, there is a lot of surplus material on both parts at the spot of the joint plane. Secondly, there would be two versions of a hand holding a book. The book needed to be removed on the upper part, because that piece sits behind the book. I also couldn't reach all parts with my presawing machine such as behind the book. So I had to partly carve both parts just to see how it all fits.

Determining the joint plane

upper- and lower body carved far enough to fit the two parts togetherThe seam doesn't run through the statue in a straight line, but is rather curved. The difficult part is on the one hand to get the bend the same in both parts. It has to fit exactly and the lines of the robe should connect nicely. On the other hand, there is a fragile point near both shoulders, where the stone is not perpendicular to the outside, but will form a thin wedge. In this place I had to be extra careful that I don't break anything off by accident.

Lifting and lowering

First fit of the state is promising.Once I had determined the line of the chasuble on both parts I could start chiselling away the excess stone. I suspended the head from the hoist with two thin straps that I had tied in the correct position. Then it became a matter of lowering, looking where it didn't fit, hoisting, adjusting, and back down again, and repeat, until it was just right. I had made the lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great a bit narrower at the top, so that the upper body fitted over it as a lid. The picture shows an early stage; it doesn't fit properly yet here, because there are still slits at the shoulders.

Putting in the anchoring

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the GreatFor a really strong connection between the two parts to I inserted two anchor rods of 20 mm thick stainless steel wire ends. Now the two bars have to fit very well inside the two parts and cannot disturb their alignment. It is therefore important that they are exactly parallel. Also, the holes in the two parts should be perfectly superimposed and aligned. You always need to be careful when drilling! When the four holes were to my liking and Ifound that the alignment was still the same, I bonded the two pins with epoxy . Then the two pieces were stuck tightly together, but there was still some space in the joint plane. It is almost impossible to make it so that these are less than a millimeter away from each other.

Pouring the mortar

two part statue of Pope Leo the Great in Udelfanger sandstone: pouring the seam with restoration mortar

But in this case that space worked in my favor. Besides the four holes for the pins I had drilled an extra hole, which ended up in the neck of the statue of Pope Leo the Great. I still had a bucket with Jahn grout that I could use for this case. First I thoroughly soaked the statue and especially the joint, so that it wouldn't dry out the mortar too soon and then not fill the entire cavity.

the white grout in the pouring bowlThen I took some modeling clay and closed up the seam almost completely . Only at the shoulders, I left a small hole. These were the highest points, so that was where air could become trapped. Then I modeled a bowl for pouring in the neck of the Pope. The final steps were simple: mixing up the grout, casting until the shoulders began to leak, closing up the shoulders and continuing to pour until that bowl was full. After a few days, the seam was closed perfectly: porous enough, but sturdy and well connected. Finally, I sealed up the edge of the tiny seam with restoration mortar for Udelfanger sandstone, so you can't see anything of it anymore.


beginning with detailing the head and the crownAnd the rest is simple enough: just carving a copy of how the original looks. I work from top to bottom and have now reached the beard. I've had a lot of work on the crown and the cross, in getting it all nice and tight. Yet there is still a lot of work left, but that all comes later. For now I am very happy anyway that everything fits beautifully and that it worked out fine without any damages.



detailing the beard and face

detailing beard and face

Read the work of this In the next article.

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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Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Two large sandstone blocks

1. Two large sandstone blocks of Udelfanger sandstone: 1 for the statue of Thomas Aquinas, 1 for Serge's angel

Two large blocks

The work on the on copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas has finally started. I had received two large blocks of Udelfanger sandstone some time earlier: one destined to make two angels out of it and one block from which I had to carve the two parts of the statue of St. Thomas from St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands and fit them together. So the first step was to divide both blocks into two with the diamond chainsaw.

Thomas. Aquinas, part 2: sawing.  I halved the block with the diamond chainsaw

2. The block is cut in half with the chainsaw

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Presawing the lower body

3. Sawing the lower body

Presawing Thomas

After that I put one block on my copying saw and started presawing Thomas' lower half. The dividing line of the two parts was meant to be near the line of his hood, so that …Read the whole article…

Which diamond chainsaw for which job?

My diamond chainsaw

I recently cut up a blue block of sodalite with my diamond chainsaw. Because it's quite an expensive material, I could save quite a large chunk by this method. If I'd made this sculpture in the normal way with the angle grinder, lump hammer and point chisel, I would have had some wheelbarrows full of expensive rubble for the dumpster. So in this case my chainsaw came in handy. But I actually rarely cut up or spalt large stone blocks. I actually bought this saw for removing blocks from historic buildings, or cutting loose heavily anchored statues from their foundation.

The diamond saw I chose in 2015 chose was a Cardi Coccodrillo35. But what types are there actually, what kind of job do you use them for, and which one is the best for which job? …Read the whole article…

Sculpture 'The Night’ for St. Eusebius Church Tower

Last phase of the tower

Work on the tower of St. Eusebius's Church is nearing completion. Actually, the sculptres of The Day and The Night are the last two pieces that the builders are urgently waiting for. So I think a deep sigh of relief must have come from the scaffolds of the church when I completed The Night this week. For the tower, and part of the church, need to be free of scaffolding when a commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem is held this autumn, looking back to, 75 years ago. But this is not the only thing …Read the whole article…

Flying buttress figurine: A Wise Maiden

flying buttress statue Wise Maiden

After the 26 flying buttress scupltures from the north side of St. Eusebius's Church I (along with team member Jelle) started carving the 27 sculptures from the South Side. The themes of these four flying buttresses are the Trumpeting angels (that I carved in September 2016 already), the Wise Maidens, the Foolish Maidens and the represent the Beatitudes. So the trumpet angels have already been completed, as are two of the Wise Maidens, the Beatitudes are almost done, apart from the top block on which the Supreme Commander In Chief is depicted, so we only have a few of these girls to go. This sculpture was a …Read the whole article…

Corbel for the Eusebius Tower: a bird-like beast?

Bird beast: a copy of a tufa stone corbel by John Grosman in new Muschelkalk limestone for the Eusebius Tower in Arnhem
One of the last of the 10 corbels for the South- and North side of the tower of the Eusebius Church at 23 meters high was this winged bird-like beast. It sits somewhat cramped in its corner and there spreads its claws and wings. This piece was originally …Read the whole article…

Corbel: a cat with wings

copy of Corbel for Eusebius Tower: cat with wings after a tufa original, new in muschelkalk limestone
copy of Corbel for Eusebius Tower: cat with wings after a tufa original, new in muschelkalk limestoneThis next corbel for the Eusebius Tower is destined for the north side at 22 meters up, and is part of a group chimeras or a kind of winged cats.
The cat with wings on the corbel is holding …Read the whole article…

Pan in porphyry 2: starting with rough carving (video)

Pan in porphyry. The precutand not yet carved piece of stone It is very busy at present, and then it sometimes happens that there is a hitch. After first having a deep cut on my thumb keep me two weeks at home, I am now at home with an tennis elbow that keeps me lying low for a while. Not because of all the sculpting however, neither of those. But that gave me the opportunity to make the video below about the first caving of the sculpture of Pan in porphyry.

Pan will have to wait a little longer anyway, for a coat of arms and seven pinnacles and finials in Irish bluestone for Aachen Cathedral wil have to go first… more on that later.

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

Pan in Red Porphyry (1) (video)

block of porphyry for plaster image of Panwooden frame for plaster model. for Pan sculpture in porphyry


I finally continued with my plaster statue of Pan (read here more about it). After much doubt about a beautiful red block of granite it ultimately became a piece of Chinese Porphyry. It is not too expensive, it's easier to carve and looks stunning.

I thought I could take the opportunity to …Read the whole article…