I got a phone call from Sharee asking if I might make her husband Richard, a rustic bird sculpture, for his 65th birthday.
After quite a few doodles and suggestions it was decided that the sculpture would be a big incoming to land with brakes on 5m plus wingspan Hawk. The sculpture had to be tail mount into concrete ground foundation. Richard would handle doing the steel and concrete foundation work. The sculpture had to include complex internal engineering to achieve structural strength. At first I thought this would be simple, as usually with incoming to land birds , their tail feathers present quite a lot of strength in that they are plied on top of each other where they go into the back bone and also the pile is concave which is a shape with much strength. But what happened - was a different story. For I chose a unique image of a Hawk in perhaps a bit of a head wind directly about to land, with a wings up quite vertical and its tail spread in an enormous fan Full Brakes on . And as I was going about the 3 dimensional shape setting , only then did I realise that my previous theory of there being a lot of strength in the tail - was becoming the opposite and that the fully flared out tail was one of the weakest features on the sculpture as there was no overlap of the feathers and the concave shape was gone. And I was also flabbergasted to realise how high up the spine, the tail feathers actually came from ( normally their entry point to the back bone is hidden by 100s of body plumage feathers. It was kind of a uh oh feeling. Man what will I do. For I did not want 2 big girders type engineering to be carrying the birds cantilever weight which was an obvious choice but would interfere with the natural look. What followed was me working out how to use low volume mild steel standards splayed out kind of parallel to the tail fan, with principal ones going right up into the body of the bird ( linking up with the flight hooks ) and then making sure that there was ever so slightly some concave lateral shaping to these which would provider much strength. I found naturally bent long ward standards that had been shaped by massive snow creep forces during the winter of high up fences being under snow packs for 4 to 5 months of the year - and these were perfect to provide much strength for the going up into the back bone area of the bird. ( its mind boggling to see how these standards have been shaped by glacial force - whenever I am sorting out the piles of fencing standards I always put these aside and they wait patiently for their turn to be part of a sculpture.) The other thing required was to weld all these components together with cross bars in a herringbone type pattern to make the strength plan become 100 per cent. This took a lot of time that only a labour of love for this bird could achieve.
In a desire to keep the weight of the sculpture down due to the increased force on the cantilever each kg contributes ( normally big bird sculptures could be 900 kg ) it was decided to not use the 5mm thick historic standards for the big glider and tail feathers but instead use 2mm thick steel sheet from historic punch riveted water tanks which pre date the invention of arc welding. I had to dig deep and go far and wide to find enough of these tanks to cut up for the bird. At one point I actually made an A Frame “ pig house “ out of corrugated iron and with H3 tantalised frame -to swap for a very rusty old relic tank I spied in a paddock on a local farm in the Wakatipu. During making up this A frame - I kind of did wonder what was I doing.. wasn’t I making a bird sculpture ? But here I was making a pig motel ( for a while , any way ) Another thing to do was find a way to put strength into the now only 2mm thick very big feathers - and so they received an slight v shaping , which also was useful to slightly create visually, the spine of each feather.