The making of the prism

23 07 2012

We have taken care of the design, construction and implementation of the monument to the burial site of Yvar.

A simple, granite outline was made and put in place, allowing the planting of flowers and small trees on the grave. On top of this stonework, the bridge was mounted, which has been described in a separate post. But the final touch would be the addition of a special item to the site: a prism.

The design criteria were as follows: we have always regarded our little family as a 4-sided prism, a pyramid. Once Yvar passed away, one side of the pyramid changed into a higher state. So we were puzzling about how to visualize this? The solution was a simple as it was symbolic: a 3-sided prism with the top chopped, so a fourth surface was created. We would have all of our individual, Yvar related tattoos engraved on the three sides, with his one, in the full colors that he never had on his own tattoo, but clearly marked and indicated how to apply the colors, on top of the prism. We all agreed on this design.

A prism, based on natural stone, preferably Basalt or Belgian Hard-stone. Long time spend searching the web for suitable pieces of stone, finally found some nice looking blocks of Belgian Hard-stone in NederWeert. Appointment made, gone there. But it appeared that the pieces were not 80 cm by 20 by 20, but 150 by 30 by 25. Which meant that they were not 60 kg a piece, but more than 200! I can carry 60 kg, but 200 is beyond my power. Fortunately, the owner was a tough guy and together we managed to put the 3 pieces in the back of my car, which by magical coincidence was able to carry such a load.  Although steering was considerably more difficult.

The 3 pieces were delivered to the stone milling company, but they were too big for their saws, so they suggested a different company. As advised, we went there and the responsible manager called his employee, a German guy, to take a look at the blocks. He looked at our design, told us that he once had made a similar monument. He selected the most suitable block and promised to have it cut according to our design. Although he cautioned against the sharp point of the prism, that it might break during sawing. Two weeks later, I could collect the cut piece of stone. It was beyond my dearest expectations.

This young man had done the sheer impossible:  he did succeed in sawing the prism from the crude block, exactly as I had in my mind!

The prism must have been present in this block of stone all the time.

He had even gone beyond my request: he had smoothed the surface of the prism from the sawing signs and stabilized the edges by soothing (if this is the correct term in English, in Dutch it is zoeten).

Carefully the prism was transported to our home and put onto a special stand for the next phase: the engraving. Since we had also collected all the fragments from the sawing, we had ample material to practice on. I had ordered a small, light weight engraving tool from Conrad Electronics, with diamond tipped tools for the engraving. Ava was busy to copy the designs onto the prism, making the outlines stable for the next step. All was set for the next step: the engraving!  We (Ava and I) started with testing our skills on the fragments from the sawing of the prism. In that way, we learned a lot about the quality and variation within the block, and which tools are most suited for a particular design or part of it.

After the learning phase, I continued onto the next stage, while Ava was gritting about the basic pictures and trying to engrave then into the prism. And so she did: carefully engraving all the images, characters into the very hard stone. With extreme dedication, accuracy: she is fanatic in these things.

The next stage was something completely different: trying to get hold of pigments, light stable, that could be mixed to obtain the colors as Yvar had selected them for his tattoo. I got into contact with a guy running a web shop for art painters that prefer to mix their own paints.

He came with very useful advices about which pigments to use and how to mix them in order to obtain the desired color. Next problem: which resin to use? I have contacted several craftsmen, but they had never made anything beyond white, black, gold or silver pigmentation.

No clues on colors, let alone mixtures of colors when creating gradients or gradual color changes. So back to basics: the experiment.

Several combinations of pigments and resins were tested, along with pure resin/harder combinations to serve as control for the effect of the pigments on the curing of the resin/harder combinations. Because that was sure to happen: interaction of the pigments with the polymerization of the basic resins. And it did so turn out.

The black, Iron based pigment extended the curing time of methacrylate based resin by 10 fold, regardless of the addition of the amount of hardener. And the final hardness was less than 25% as estimated to the hardness of the pure resin. On the other hand, the red pigment accelerated the hardening so much, that it became impossible to handle it as was needed. So I developed a scheme of which resin pigment combination to use to fill the engraved symbols and characters with the proper color scheme.

Another problem was how to get rid of excess resin? I tried several methods, grinding with a grinding tool: this mere burnt the surface, rendering all colors to grey. I used a sharp wood cutting tool, but this went OK in the beginning, but soon started to take out pigment/resin  mix below the surface. Then I tried something completely different: a surgical blade. This appeared to work perfectly and kept this performance during the entire operation. Remaining problems were removed by a very short, wet, sanding with 400 grain paper on an electric sanding tool during 1 minute. Finally, the image of the burning Pheniks was ready and on display.

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