Seeing is believing. A trip to Coopermill Bronze Works explained more clearly how one of Alan Cottrill’s bronze statues becomes a reality. It’s not an easy task!
The Bronze Works is located on the farm of Charles Leasure, a life-long friend of Alan, and there’s even a statue in Charlie’s field…a mushroom hunter, in bronze of course. This farm has been in his family for eight generations.
Charlie and Alan created Bronze Works back in 1996. Alan needed a handy place to complete his bronze creations so made his own bronze casting foundry. So far they have cast well over 500 of Alan’s statues and hundreds of other sculptor’s works.
You can tell Alan is a down-to-earth kind of guy in spite of his fantastic talent to sculpt just about anything. His Bronze Works is not a big, fancy building, but one that can do the job required.
While Alan does the preliminary work of designing the perfect wax statue in the downtown Zanesville studio, the final touches are placed here at Bronze Works by highly skilled Ohio artisans.
You have to understand that the statue is not bronzed as a whole. It is separated into many, many pieces, which are individually prepared before the final assembly happens.
The whole thing is quite complicated so if my explanation isn’t quite perfect, please excuse me.
Bronze Works is where every fingerprint is erased and every line made crystal clear. Each detail makes a difference in the final product. Some parts are definitely easier than others. The men found it much easier to do a five-foot pant leg rather than a five-inch head.
It has to be perfect in its wax state, otherwise, when it is made into a mold, the bronze statue would carry any flaws, no matter how small. When asked how they correct tiny mistakes, Dana answered with a big smile, “I fix it with magic. My magic wand does the work.”
All those smaller pieces are then dipped in what looks like a batter and rolled in fine sand. The workers commented that it was somewhat like dipping a fish in batter and then rolling it in flour.
They do this dipping several times until dip by dip, a thick ceramic mold is formed all around the wax piece. When this dries, they melt the wax inside and remove it, leaving an empty shell to fill with, you guessed it, bronze. The wax though can be used again and again.
They receive the bronze in large sticks, which are then melted and poured into the shell. The bronze should then fit down into the perfect lines that were earlier created on the wax figure.
My purpose in going this particular day was to see the progress that was being made on the statue of Woody Hayes, Ohio State University football coach for many years. The Newcomerstown Historical Society has funded this project since Woody grew up in Newcomerstown while his dad was Superintendent of Schools there. Woody also coached in Mingo Junction and New Philadelphia before going to OSU.
During this visit, the head of Woody Hayes was hanging in the room, ready to be examined for any tiny imperfections. Then it would be dipped in the solution to make the mold on the outside.
After the mold is filled with bronze, it sets for a while before the cast is knocked off to reveal the actual piece that will be used in the statue. This is the end of a very long process. But now there will be a head, pieces of arms, legs, and body – all will be in bronze.
Now comes the assembly. It’s like putting a big puzzle together! Each piece is carefully attached to the place where it belongs with bronze welding rods. The weld has to be sandblasted so the connection is no longer visible.
Even then, it’s not finished as there has to be a solution applied to the bronze to make it the correct shade required for that particular statue. Now you can see why it takes months to create a bronze statue from beginning to end.
Alan Cottrill has designed statues all over the United States and the world. We’re lucky to have one in Cambridge of Hopalong Cassidy, and now one in Newcomerstown of Woody Hayes.
Watching the artisans at Coopermill Bronze Works felt quite magical.