Faux Bois Tutorial
Demo on HGTV!
Note: I was told this episode aired in June or July of 2009. I never saw it myself, but it may be possible to get re-run info or an online video by contacting HGTV.
This project was a great deal more demanding than it will ever appear on TV. Since the idea was to show most of the steps involved, I had to create about a half-dozen welded steel armatures (frames) in order to film the entire sequence in just six hours. One to show the parts being cut & formed...another being welded together...another having the wire work applied...another to apply the first layers of concrete onto...another to apply the final sculpting coat to...and, of course, yet another that was fully finished. What they refer to as the "Hero".
At some point, I will try and organize the progress pix I took into a formal tutorial, but for now, here's a few of the stages that were involved in creating this particular piece.
Above is the "Hero". The finished Faux Bois garden table sculpted in ferrocement for HGTV. It is about 18" high and 25" in diameter. It began life as pieces of steel rebar like the other armatures seen below.
The completed, rust treated frame looks like this...
...and then it get's wrapped in galvanized stucco lath, secured with stainless steel wire.
A frame with the wire work complete.
Next comes the concrete, or in this case, a highly modified, fiber reinforced mortar mix that is worked into the lath. The first layers are referred to as the "Scratch Coat". A term borrowed from the masonry trade that describes the roughly textured or "scratched" finish that is necessary in order for subsequent layers to bond well.
Here is the underside of the top being formed. Note that in the second photo, an edge ring has been built up. This will give the appearance of mass to the top, while holding down the weight.
Here you can see two of the pieces being sculpted side-by-side. One will be used to demo the completed "scatch coat" phase, and the other will become the fully completed and acid colored "Hero".
Once adequately cured, they are turned over to complete the scratch coat on the top.
Here you can see the deep undercutting necessary to later accomplish dramatic features into the final sculpting material. Once the top cures for a day or so, it is ready to have the sculpting mix applied and worked. This piece had to come indoors to cure due to unseasonably cool overnight temperatures (36-40 degrees).
Below is the sculpting mixture as it was being worked and detailed. The deeply incised "cracks" follow those made in the scratch coat. This 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick final layer of modified neat Portland cement (no sand or aggregates) has the consistency of modeling clay and can hold extremely fine details. This is one of the features that sets this masterwork technique apart from the more common gray, sanded Faux Bois. It is far more articulate...but a great deal more difficult to control. It is also the only means by which to create the appearance and feel of genuine petrified wood that characterizes the finest works of ferrocement Faux Bois.
Close-ups of the detailing and subtle coloring tell the tale. The number of individuals who have mastered these techniques over the last 150+ years can be counted on one hand. And since the work of Holland & Tucker incorporates many technical advantages simply not available or understood back then, even when exposed to the elements, it will have a useful life measured in thousands of years instead of the one hundred or so for earlier works. How's that for "heirloom"?
While antique pieces of reasonable quality still occasionally come onto the market at ever increasing prices, they are virtually all limited to the more familiar coarser finishes and techniques. Masterwork grade antique pieces almost never appear for sale to the public today. These extremely rare works, while much sought after, are today mostly in the hands of very few, very fortunate private collectors with most of the known remaining major works protected from future sale by virtue of their inclusion on The National Register of Historic Places.
Here's one of three rusty old hand-cut spikes that hold the "wooden" pieces together. All sculpted, textured and permanently colored in neat Portland cement, of course. And finally, there is the "signature". All work executed by Holland & Tucker is signed and dated as befitting any work crafted to last for many generations.
Please note that I rarely do anything but commissioned works, so it is extremely rare when I have a finished piece of this calibre to offer for sale. This piece is available by itself or it can be part of a set of three based on the same design. One is a completed armature and the other is ready to receive the sculpting layer. All were prepared for the filming of the HGTV episode. Priced singly, they will be $2250 each. As a set of three, I will discount them to $2000 each. If you are interested, just post a note onto our "Contact" form accessable on the Homepage or visit our Discussion Forums and leave a note there addressed to "Admin".