Saturday, August 20, 2011


Well I've had a busy but unproductive week. As good results refused to appear I did my usual step of working at double speed but those results weren't any good either and I've ended up with nothing.

So let's see what happened.

Last Friday I decided to spend a week making the box for my reliquary, an arched shaped box. I'd already cut one arch from a solid piece of wood and decided to cut two more. The edges were not level, and in fact too unlevel to be useful. My plan was to level up the sides with plaster, which would be easily sanded down later. For that I had to find a process or way to work out what WAS level in the first place because all three parts had to fit together. That was tricky and used square tubes of aluminium bolted together. I did that, and applied plaster to the inside. Here are the three arches which the white plaster inside...

That took three days. NOW, that was all well but the plaster wasn't level either, AND it didn't stick to the wood and began to flake off (I really should have used wood filler) and worse, the water soaked into the wood and made the edges swell. The arches were still too even to use and I'd wasted days of work and two big sheets of M.D.F. making some useless shapes. Back to the drawing board.

I had to restart from scratch. The key element of these was similarity. The exact curve of the arch wasn't that important but it had to be the same as the others so I decided to cast the edge, and for that needed one master arch, a shape that I could make a mould for an duplicate. I decided to get this by casting a solid block of plaster (3kg) and carving out the shape. Here it is so far...

The edges are rather rough. I'm letting it dry. This took the rest of the week. The thing is, even if this succeeds I'm not going to be able to screw hinges into a plaster wall, so I'll have to cast it in something tougher. Sigh, the wood option seems better for this reason. So far I've put 11 full days work into this and spent £167.75 on materials and have nothing at all to show for it but those objects. Still, this has to be done.

Amazingly, the week got worse. Four of the eight frames I spectacularly cut in one day ended up ruined through different means, as I tried to decorate them. Three were beautifully coated in epoxy resin, but in the wrong mix ratio, and one was spray painted in the most ugly way and it's plaster parts began to flake off. I might use it anyway because it's sorry state might suit the painting.

Today I began scanning the Lyceum painting, this my largest painting has taken 27 full days so far and is on a heavy solid surface. During the process I scratched it down the centre irreparably damaging it. The damage is fortunately slight, but will remain visible.

In these circumstances I can only list the things I've learned and move on.

1. Always measure epoxy resin by volume, even if equivalent weight ratios are supplied.
2. Don't scan a painting until it's several months dry. I'll have to develop a new method for something this large and heavy too.
3. The arches... where to begin! Don't use a hand jigsaw... but I have no other option. A table band saw would have been much better. Plaster doesn't adhere to wood (although it does sometimes!). Use wood filler to fill wood, although I don't know which sort would work best here or if it would have worked anyway.
4. Keep on trying new things. Although this is more a philosophy than a lesson. If there is a lesson from this week it's STOP trying new things!

My goal for August is to finish the reliquary cabinet. That is all. I have ten more days to work at it. I wonder if hinges will screw into an epoxy resin cast and hold firm? They'll need to take a lot of weight. I don't think they will. Oh for a band saw!


John Salmon said...

Sorry the week has been disapointing for you Mark.

Do you know a decent kitchen fitter who may be able to help? I know one who works with MDF and band saws and is always having to create things with odd curves and shapes to fit into kitchens.

They are always having to use the fiddle factor to make things fit with non-square walls and they have a number of cunning tricks to make things look good.

Just a thought.

Mark Sheeky said...

Things got better as I kept on going! I found some wood filler which worked much better than the plaster and mixed up some new epoxy which seems to have worked. I pretty much tipped the stuff on my ooey gluey frames so with many fingers crossed I hope it'll dry tomorrow!

I'll stick with a plaster arch but use solid wood for the straight parts, which should make everything a lot easier... the hinges only need to go into the straight parts after all.

The kitchen suggestion is a good idea. One problem I had with sawing anything is that making 4 identical bits is tricky, unless a machine cuts it for you... I'll try casting first.

The damage to the painting was the worst part of today. I'll be more careful next time. Bah.