derstand the schedule, level of detail
you need, the visibility of the elements
(are these elements at eye level or 40
feet in the air?); and find the right balance between historic integrity, overall
aesthetic, time line, and budget.
The biggest challenge was reproducing
the ceiling finials. The spec called for
stripping and refinishing them, but
four of the 20 were plaster and unsalvageable, which immediately ruled that
out. In addition, the originals were
carved from a single log section, and
after stripping off many layers of paint,
the predictable pith check gap was a
3/4-inch wide. They were also originally hung from deteriorated threaded
rods, which extended up into the attic,
and some were inaccessible.
The clock was ticking and we needed to reproduce them in a lightweight
material, quickly and accurately. Did
I mention the wedding? After repairing and re-carving one element with
automotive putty, we made a rotational
silicone mold using my wife’s old roller
skates and my grandfather’s ¾-hp low-RPM drill. With the help of Smooth-On’s tech team, we worked nights and
weekends. A 1/8-inch hard shell was
cast inside the mold using Smooth-On
Rotocast, which cures in 10 minutes.
Then we filled the remaining void
with a 5-pound expanding foam. This
created a hard and lightweight element
that could be screwed in place without
the ½-inch steel hanging rod.
Obviously there were a few weeks of
R&D and some tests to get the mix and
timing just right, but once in produc-
The finished ceiling finials stand out in the final restoration as a distinctive element in the Our
Lady of Victory Church.
An overview of the church sanctuary gives
a hint as to the scope of the restoration
project. A close-up reveals more detail
of the restoration work on the historic
Rochester, New York, church. Continued...