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Stone Sculpture Process

     Many of the stones I purchase are shipped in from New York and California. Each stone comes packed in its own box. The packing material is removed to expose the stone. This is a 98 lb. piece of gray alabaster, which will be used for a commission.

     A fabric-covered chain loop is wrapped around the stone and connected to a chain hoist. The loop cinches the stone, holding it firmly, while I lift the stone out of the box.

      When the stone is high enough, I swing it over the work table and then lower the stone. The table is a specially designed dust-collecting unit.

      Because I use power tools, which are loud and cause dust and chips of stone to fly, protective gear is essential. I don dust mask, goggles, ear protection, and specially designed gloves to protect my hands from the vibration of the tools.

      Using a pneumatic hammer and chisel, the bottom is first flattened so that the stone can stand correctly. Then I carefully chisel the entire stone to remove loose chips, even out gouges and irregularities, and create a uniform stone to work with. This process takes several hours.

      This is how the stone looks after removing all loose pieces. The red lines are crayon, which I drew on the stone to indicate what parts of the stone will be removed next.

      A circular saw is used to make horizontal cuts in the side of the stone where the stone has been marked for removal. Cuts, or notches, are made approximately every half-inch. Using the pneumatic hammer and chisel, the stone is easily removed by knocking out the cut notches.

      The piece is marked for more removal of stone, this time creating an interesting spiral shape.

      You can see the progression of the removal of stone in the next three photos.

      When the stone is roughly the shape I want, I use an industrial grinder to remove the ridges of the chisel and refine the shape some more.

      This is what the stone looks like after grinding.

      At this point, I sign the bottom of the piece using a Dremel. I like to sign the piece just before the polishing begins so that the stone grit from the dremmel does not scratch the finished stone. The sculpture is now ready for hand finishing, including sanding and polishing.

      The sanding process begins using a very course sandpaper, #36. The pneumatic hammer and power grinder leaves bruises - or white dents - in the alabaster, and these all need to be sanded out. You can see a few of these bruises just below my thumb in the photo below. Also, the unintentional ridges left by the power tools are removed. This first sanding is the most time-consuming. There is no shortcut for any part of the sanding and polishing process, and power sanders cannot be used because they simply cause more bruising.

      Sanding continues using a slightly finer sandpaper, #60. This removes all of the large scratches left by the first sandpaper. The stone begins to darken slightly as the size of the scratches from the sandpaper get smaller, and I can begin to see some of the grain of the stone for the first time.

      Finer grit sandpaper is used, first #150 and then #220.

      Starting with #400 grit, sanding will be done with water. Water actually facilitates the sanding process. As I sand, a slurry is formed between the stone particles and the water. This slurry acts like additional sandpaper, making the work go slightly faster.

      Sanding continues with #600, #800 and then #1000.

      When sanding with #1000 is completed, the sculpture is thoroughly rinsed to remove all traces of stone slurry.

      After the sculpture is completely dry, a thin coating of butcher's wax is applied to the stone and then buffed to give it a sheen.

      The entire process can take two, three or even four or more weeks depending on the design, size and hardness of the stone.

The Finished Sculpture

     These photos show the sculpture process from rough stone to finished, polished sculpture, using the direct sculpting method. For this sculpture, no preliminary drawings and no clay mock-ups were made. All design work was done directly on the stone. This is the method I like to use in sculpting stone.

    This sculpture was completed in over 70 hours of work over a three-week period. The rough stone was 98 lbs., and the finished sculpture is 43 lbs.

    I hope you enjoy seeing the process.