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Leslie Tharp

Finishing a Public Sculpture with Oil

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This forum is great, in particular the business threads. I am a public sculptor in Gainesville, FL and I have only been making iron sculptures to sell for a couple years now so I am still a newbee with most things (like pricing!).
The issue I am tackling today is finishing techniques. In the past I have been commissioned to make outdoor sculptures and have used a powdercoating finish on them. Today I am placing a bid on an interior bench sculpture and was thinking I'd explore some more natural finishes like oil to bring out the detail work and iron color (my favorite color). I am just not sure how long this finish will last until it need touch up and what I should tell my clients.
Anyone who has sold a medium sized piece (8' x 2' x 2') to a client or museum and used an oil finish have any advise?

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How long it lasts is like asking how long is a piece of string!! All depends on the conditions inside, I would imagine in a museum it would be climate controlled, so probably lasting quite a long time. I have done interior railings for clients and used an oil finish - jade oil. That was two years ago and the railings are still in fine condition. I leave clients with the usual instructions that I leave with anyone who has an interior piece, large or small with a wax or oil finish- that being, display in a dry area, use a little paste wax polish if necessary, if rust develops rub with a little steel wool and reapply oil or wax. People have to be informed that if they want something in steel, it is liable to rust, especially in a humid environment, it is just the nature of the beast and they should expect to maintain the finish.

I always hate painting work, I am not a fan at all, I too love the natural look of metals, and I love the look of rusted pieces too!! Lately on rust I have been using yacht varnish, looks good, who knows yet how long my test pieces will last though, experiments still ongoing!!

Hope that helps!

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use spar urithane or poly i am in nebraska and have had sculptures outside for 6 or 7 year with just a couple of coats of poly. just remember if it is usable it will not matter what finish you put on it it will wear depending on use. so after some heavy use it might need a quick coat.

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Hey Leslie,

I,m afraid a couple of coats of of anything in gainsville outside would give you many a year, inside I use 3 coats of lacquer,outside 9. I like permalac from sculpt nouveau, (2hrs to recoat ),they make metal oil rub, and wax also. It's the humidity and the salt in the air. Most of my work goes within 15 miles of the gulf of Mexico and it makes a difference Even Inside. That oil rub will take a top coat of wax or lacquer so you might be able to get away with it if you hand them a little thingy of wax and a label on it that says ' put this on the bench in a month and do it again next year at this time'.

Don't shortcut the finish, your work is too good for that. If it is clear it really isn't all that UV protected. Powder coat will chip and become a maintainance nightmare. Sorry maybe I'm venting. I do a sample for myself of exterior finishes and put them in the garden to watch them grow.

Hot dip galv is probably the best way to go, I know, but look at what macbruce did with it and his steel patina. (don't know how to make a link).

Again, nice work, look me up if you come up Gulf Shores way @ may tower forge.

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