Gadsden Deux

Ha-Haaa!

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And so after hours of travail and trouble, here you go. The Gadsden House got a bit of a well deserved face lift. In my previous post about the Gadsden House (https://wendblog.com/2015/02/22/a-slight-departure/) I had left off with making a mold of the existing compo swags. Starting with the completed mold, I’ll take you through the process of restoring the cornice to it’s former regal glory.

The finished mould. I guess I went a little overboard by making a mould of the whole cornice section. But it was just beautiful, how could I help myself?

The finished mold. I guess I went a little overboard by making a mold of the whole cornice section. But it was just beautiful, how could I help myself?

After hours of painting on the rubber mold, and then layering on cheese cloth with more rubber, and then making a plaster mother mold, and then re-enforcing the mother mold further, voila–a mold is born. Oh how my art teachers would be proud. Art education 1. Nay-sayers 0.

Anyway, the decision was brought down from above that the whole frieze board was to be replaced with all of it’s swags because the existing trim was too far gone. And so, one day when I showed up on site it was all just missing. The carpenter elves who came before me gingerly removed and stored the cornice. After it was taken down we finally realized the extent of the damage. Parts of the 19′ long cornice were just being held together by it’s sinews. This also meant that I would have to re-carve the little star details that studded the original. In typical fashion, the project grew from replacing two swags to replacing the whole damn thing. Welcome to restoration.

Detail shot of the frieze board after I had carved in the stars and started to lay out the swags before installing them.

Detail shot of the frieze board after I had carved in the stars and started to lay out the swags before installing them.

I had never really done gouge work before, but it really wasn’t too difficult, and at the end of the day it was very satisfying work. I would definitely recommend it.

Laying out all of the swags to make sure everything would work out.

Laying out all of the swags to make sure everything would work out.

Initially the plan was to apply all of the compo first, and then install the frieze thinking that it would be easier than trying to install the swags after the trim was up, and it worked. But there were still a lot of adjustments to be made after we got it up on the wall and I’m suspicious about the amount of time we saved…

Blocking out the masonry wall.

Blocking out the masonry wall.

Of course there was still the matter of putting the cornice back up there. It was a real challenge because the bricks were old and friable, making it hard to set an anchor. And furthermore, the wall undulated wildly. I had to go through and fir out each piece of blocking so that the trim would sit pretty up there on the wall.

The frieze went up first.

The frieze went up first.

Then the rest of the trim.

Then the rest of the trim.

After many hours of tweaking and fine adjustments we had ourselves a cornice again. Whenever I work on something like this I always wonder if my work would pass muster in the eyes of the original craftsmen. Hopefully they aren’t rolling in their graves over this one… In the end, despite some frustrations I really enjoyed working on this project. It’s really nice to maintain a tactile relationship with my work.

In closing I would really like to thank Luxury Simplified for bringing me in on this project, and especially thank all of the guys on the crew who helped make this happen. I certainly didn’t do this all by myself, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

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