more plaster

today i did a range of things, from casting in plaster to working with paper collage to fitting yet another pvc pipe (to the body this time).  lots of timing things, going from one step to a completely different step and back to the first step, etc.  it was fun, and felt like i was getting somewhere.

it’s been, oh, a bunch of days that i’ve been epoxying pipes to dolphins, and hardware to dolphins, and objects to dolphins, and i’m almost to the end of this part of the process.  at this point it’s all minor stuff, except for getting the plaster drill on.

the way i left it last night, at nearly 4 am, was with a mess o’plasteline clay and washers adorning the butt end of my dolphin.  this morning i was discussing it with jim, and he said the most sensible thing i’d heard all day (i slept until 11:30) – if it’s not essential to the design, don’t do it.

what a concept.

so i came downstairs and popped all the washers off, and scraped all the clay off, and washed everything down with orange oil, and put it all away.  there, that’s the last of the washers and nuts, and no way am i going to put bolts on his fin.

that was easy.

underneath the paint tray

the first thing i did was to tilt the dolphin over on his nose (i laid him out on my futon couch), mix up a batch of plaster, and fill the space underneath the bumps on the paint tray.  i’d been wondering what to do about it.  it would take half my remaining epoxy to fill it.

jim suggested plaster, i thought of a statue he’d made with dabs of plaster, but he said it would be easier to just tilt it and pour it.  so, tray mostly level, i poured a mess o’plaster in and waited until it started to set up, and then put in more, and more, and finally shaped it to have approximately the tilting shape of the plastic around it.  i’ll sand and fill it when it’s dry.  but it sure solves the problem about the flimsiness of the plastic, and the vast water-holding space under it.  i completely filled the drain hole i’d so painstakingly carved out when i first put the plastic tray on the dolphin.


i mixed up another batch of plaster, and it was thin until i added another scoop and it was suddenly thick.  the ratio is 2 plaster to 1 water, but i’m not measuring.  it is what it is, and i just have to cope.

pouring the plaster

first i arranged the roller and then i poured in the plaster.  and immediately wished i’d stuck the roller down with a bit of epoxy, because it floated.


but that’s okay, because i wasn’t done messing.  once i had the plaster up to the brim, which was soon because it’s so very tilted, i used the roller to slosh plaster up onto the bumps and onto the side, and rolled the roller around in the plaster some (to solve the problem of roller sponginess).  these things took up a good deal of the plaster, and i had to add more from the container.

paint drips

in the meantime i’d poured most of the rest of the plaster into the paint can, which had only been filled halfway when i first poured, days ago.  then i took the rapidly hardening plaster and poured drips onto the top of the can, and made them run down the side.  in the process, i spilled a good deal of plaster onto the poor guy’s flipper, and i think i’m going to leave it there.  i wiped up some of it tho; plaster’s so messy.

while that was drying, i mixed up a batch of epoxy and completely cased the 1/4″ tubing on the other dolphin.  and next i’m going to actively reinforce it with connectors, either cable ties, or 1/4″ tubing, encased in epoxy putty.  it’ll be even more complicated when i’m done.  whee.

dead epoxy

here’s the first casualty.  i’d worked up a batch of epoxy and was letting it sit and de-goop for awhile, when i was called over to my daughter’s.  and totally forgot about it when i got back.  it was hours until i discovered it.  oops.  hard as a rock.

so i dunked it in orange oil and worked it as best i could, and when it softened enough to be spreadable, five minutes of hard labor, i found a place to put it – under the arm where i’m working on making a roll of plans.  there’s a lot of gap in this join, so i can actually use a bit of spare putty just to begin to build it up.  i’ll show pictures tomorrow.

but i wasn’t done with the putty, because i mixed up another small batch, and then a second other small batch, to glue the plaster drill together with.  jim had shellacked the outsides, and carpenter glued both insides of the drill halves and let them dry separate, to take care of the porousness of the plaster.  and i put on a second coat and stuck them together.  except they wouldn’t stick, because i’d made the inside surface too concave, and they didn’t actually meet.

so i had to wash off my glue and let it dry.  and then roll out some more putty and smush it inside the two halves, and then squeeze really hard to get the two halves to stick properly.   i put the drill down on the table and leaned into it with my hands, and that was great along the barrel, squished a line of putty out at the ends.  but then i did the same thing to the handle, and felt rather than heard a crack.

when i picked it up and looked, yes there was a crack along the place where the handle joins the barrel, and i’m pretty sure it went right thru.  i think the cast was still wet from when i washed the glue off, because it was very fragile, and the whole handle just cracked.

i’m leaving it, tho, on the theory that the cracked handle is glued to an intact handle, and isn’t going anywhere.  and i’ll reinforce the piece anyway, and now i’ll reinforce the hell out of it.

but i’m going to be very careful making sure it’s bone dry before i do anything else to it.  maybe another day in the oven.

the as-built plans, eviscerated

the folks at mckenney’s kindly printed me out a sheet of as-builts, the plans you have to submit after the project is completed, so that if anything goes wrong, theoretically city engineers knows where to look.

the part i need is the label, the extreme right hand side of the plans, that has the name of the designer, and the project, and the date.  it’s what shows when you roll your plans.

first i measured and cut where the plan wrapped around and met itself when rolled up around the 1.5″ pvc pipe, with a little margin.  then i cut out the blank paper inside various boundary lines on the plan.  because i’ve got this white space, and all the rest of the plan is going to go to waste, so i thought i’d make a little collage of bits and pieces of the plan, to make it look more interesting.  to give an idea of the complexity of a municipal aquarium.

what you can see above are the various bits and pieces.  from top right, there’s one of the inserts laid on top of the ruler.  then going out of the picture, bits i’m probably not going to use.  then there’s the label part of the plan, all cut out.  then there’s the bottom part of what i want to put in, showing the pumps and the skimmers.  (a razor blade.)  the top of the skimmer’s obscured by pipes, so i’ve got a replacement skimmer without pipes, and then there’s a kind of three way shape to the upper left.

that’s because there are three different possibilities for the area above the skimmer, which is almost half of the space i have to play with.  and here’s my dilemma.  i have to try them out by hand, because i can’t cut anything until i’ve decided which one i’m using.  and this is complicated by the fact that one of the insets is a bunch of end pieces (the names of which i forget at the moment), and whatever i use will have to leave them intact.

and it’s funny, because i’ll assemble the whole thing and stand back and look at it, and discuss with myself if i like it, and why i like it, and what sense it gives to the picture, and what it reveals about the complexity.  then i’ll swap it for another angle, and stand back and admire the hell out of that.  and there are three choices, which means six choices of how to complete the picture.

first choice

on this one, the pipes above the skimmer (the top piece) run parallel for a while, and then a bunch of smaller pipes come in at the top.  it’s got a good rhythm and is pleasing to my eyes.

second choice

this one has small pipes crossing the field above the skimmer, and big huge pipes going in crazy ways above.  i like the complexity, and the juxtaposition of small and large pipes.

third choice

this one has very large pipes rising above the skimmer.  it’s very calm and majestic, and is the more static of the three images.  so it’ll either be the best one to use, or the worst.

i’m going to have to wait until tomorrow to decide.  mainly because there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep, or at least, a nap, to clear your head and make the decisions obvious.


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