During the autumn meeting two different members asked about the front carvings on the organ, and I promised to write a short article about them.
For a start, they are not carvings, even though they may look like it! With a limited budget I decided that to pay for carvings, or even to buy the necessary timber to do it myself would be too expensive. Consequently I used some small carvings I already had. I cov-ered them with a thin film of mould release agent, and constructed a small box approx. 1" larger all round than the carvings.
I then poured some reusable rubber compound (from craft shops) on top of the carving to fill the box. This compound has to be melted in a double saucepan, with water in the base. As it is a bit smelly, I used a small electric ring as the heat source and did it outside in the garden.
Once it has cooled you can remove the original and then make as many 'carvings' as you like from it. These can either be from strips of fibreglass pasted inside the mould to make a very lightweight shell or filled to give a solid cast. You can use ordinary plaster of Paris, but the cast is not very sturdy and prone to break. I used a two part resin, mixed with talcum powder as a bulking agent to make it lighter, and put two small wooden blocks into it as well to give strong fixing points. The resin and powder are all readily available from craft shops.
The 'swag' of fruits and flowers and some of the other castings were made from a mould supplied by a firm who make them for use in the TV, stage and film industry. A wide range of mouldings, panellings, ornaments are available to give the effect of everything from a brick wall to a Grecian urn. They come in different materials, and could be used as supplied. However, I made a cast into them as before. One problem I found was that the thin plastic started to deform as the resin/talc once mixed with the hardener starts to heat up. To solve this, I made a large water bath to surround it and keep it cool until it had set.
I think they look pretty much like carvings, and in fact at one event a gentleman came over to ask what timber it was. It turned out that he imported six million £'s worth of timber a year, and he was interested to know how it was carved without it splitting along the grain. If it's good enough to fool him, it good enough for the average punter! The total cost was under £50 of which approx. £25 was carriage (in 1992). The letters are plaster mouldings made by an artist I met at the Dorset Steam Fair and cost £6.66 each.