Robert’s Head: the mounting

Well, Robert’s head has made it out of the sink. It’s been buffed a little. Next step is to mount the sculpture – but easier said than done.  This pose is complex. His head is turned to the left and tipped downwards. This helps evoke a certain feel but makes it more difficult to mount. It is also very large (1.25 life-size) and heavy.  Andrew Brown, the caster, has already set into the plaster (inside the neck) the studding (a threaded metal rod), which protrudes from the bottom. This is what will attach the head to the base. If this is set at the right angle, then all we need is a suitable base.

Checking the angle – by eye, it looks quite good. However, I cannot physically hold it up and step back to view it properly. So I need a vice and another pair of hands to help with this. Once in the vice I can see that Andrew has in fact done a great job at replicating the original pose. This means that the metal rod just needs to go into a base vertically. That makes things easier.

Getting a suitable base – what I mean by ‘suitable’ is a combination of factors. It needs to be heavy enough to bear the weight of the sculpture, and broad enough to take the distribution of the weight. With Robert’s sculpture a lot of the plaster weight is quite far forward given the head is tipped downwards. But aesthetically, a base needs to show off the sculpture to maximum advantage. This is often the proportions in relation to the sculpture, and the material it is made from including the colour. I have decided that I want a sizeable lump of wood that can either be stained or painted black: the hunt begins.

Robert in the vice
Robert in the vice

I scour the house and shed, then pay a visit to the Wood Recycling Centre in Brighton. I have a few options, but am unsure which would look best. So while Robert’s head is in the vice, I hold the pieces of wood in front of the sculpture, positioning them as near as to where the final base will be attached. I finally settle on a large lump of oak. It is a good size and weight, but needs some TLC first. Time I visit the woodworking specialist (okay, my father).

After some planing and sanding-down we work out the position of the hole, for the studding to go through. The hole is drilled from the top, then a ‘counter-sunk’ hole is made from the bottom. I’ve decided that I want the base to be black. So I use a black spray with satin finish. After several coats I put the studding through the base and secure with a washer and nut from underneath. Finally, I lift Robert onto the plinth ready for photographing.

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