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  • Writer's picturejohn gutsell

Fancy something bespoke? Love your pet?

Customer brief:

Restore a rusty bench that was given to the customer and her husband as a wedding present. In addition come up with a design for the central panels.

Project summary

After exploring a number of options – re-purposing a ceramic floor tile and shaping to the back panel and creating a stained glass panel, the customers large doberman dogs were bouncing around, full of personality and clearly an important part of the family. Using them as inspiration I suggested taking paw prints and using these to make impressions into the back panel. Specialist resin for outdoor use, capable of handling adverse weather and not misting up was the best candidate, especially as this is liquid during its initial mixing phase and enable making an imprint of the paws.

The customer was very happy to go ahead with this idea but wanted a copper colour and the paw prints to be black.

Firstly a cast had to be made which would exactly match the apertures of the back panel recess. Thick card cut to the profile of the back was used, then the sides of the mold was made from corrugated polypropylene sheet.

Then the paw prints had to be taken. This was probably one of the more testing parts of the project. How to get accurate representations of the paws of two boisterous powerful dogs, by a stranger without injury. Modelling clay was used because it sets slowly and has the right consistency to take an impring. After the use of many dog treats and much nervousness on my side the paw prints were taken and I hastily retreated back to the workshop to protect the clay as it cured. A problem with the dog paw casts was that the back panel maximum depth can only be 8mm. The paw prints were not perfectly flat across every component of the paw so that if set in the only 8mm of resin the inner pads of the paw would be very deep and at the edges they would be barely visible.

To resolve this, every component of the paw was made in specialist wax and then extended in height so the resin would not go over the top, they were then laid flat and set on a frame so that all parts would be the same depth. (pic) To make sure they did not touch the bottom of the mold they were help up by thread and a special jig designed to help with soldering with crocodile clips.

Everything went well at first, the resin was mixed, the copper powder added, then swirled to give it texture. The wax replica paws were gently lowered and left to set. Unfortunately during the curing process the resin heats up, quite a lot as it turns out, causing the wax to melt around the edges…

Luckily I made a latex cast of the final version as a precaution.

The mark 2 version used plaster of paris instead of wax, mitigating issues with heat.

After a day, the cast around the panel was carefully removed, the plaster pads carefully ground out using a dremel and the surfaced sanded and buffed down to a high sheen. The pads were then painted in using a special paint capable of adhering to the resin and weather resistant.

After fixing the panels in place with OB1 sealant and sealing around the edges, it could finally be returned to the customer…

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