Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sandstone Countdown

A week from today, it will all be over:  I'll either have finished the stone piece, and submitted it for jurying, or not.

Today, the fourth day, started out badly.  Too much stone, not enough muscle.  Too much sheer volume to be hacked away before I could even contemplate matters of shape.  "Help, I need help," I kept muttering.  I mean, old-time sculptors had apprentices--whole shops of them--for the heavy work and the boring parts, like polishing.

And then it occurred to me:  I could use some help sharpening my tools.  Sandstone, you see, is terribly hard on tools.  After half an hour of carving, a chisel is as dull and ineffective as a slice of Wonder bread.  No matter how hard you whale away with your mallet and wear out your sinews,  nothing much happens on the stone.

I am a terrible tool sharpener.  If things are going well, if I've got some momentum going, stopping to sharpen tools is the last thing on my mind.  If things aren't going well, I'm too upset to even think of sharpening chisels. And when I do condescend to sharpen a tool, it feels my aggravation and remains stubbornly blunt.

I am, however, married to a man who excels at tool sharpening.  Not until I married him did I experience the bliss of slicing an apple with a truly sharp knife.  Until then, my family had always sort of hacked/smashed meats and fruits and vegetables into submission, and bloodshed was a standard part of cooking.  But once you've known the bliss of a sharp blade, you never forget it.

My breakthrough today was to realize that I could, without compromising my creativity, ask Ed to sharpen my tools.  So I did.  And  he agreed. 

I handed him a pile of chisels--point, tooth, flat,  carbide, and steel, and before I'd even put my dust mask and gloves and carving shirt and shoes on, he handed them back with knife-sharp edges.  I went to work with the point chisel, and the stone just flew--it felt like power steering, and so good that I whaled away for two and a half hours without stopping...at the end of which my two point chisels were blunt again.  So I handed them back to  him and he sharpened them once more, and now they're sitting on my workbench, shiny and pointy, waiting for tomorrow's session.

I suspect that by next Wednesday my chisels will be worn down to stubs, but I'm beginning to think that finishing the piece by then just might--Inshallah--be a possibility.

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