The eager crew tests the heavy, welded steel frame for the Kraken. Each piece was built on removable wheels so we could move the pieces around the shop and yard. Lift points were also designed from the start.
The more complex the shape, the more difficult it is to shape and tie on the galvanized mesh. While that may be true, it’s also true that the more complex the shape, the more interesting the final result will be. Once the wire is all secure it is time to begin sculpting the final shape.
It takes a lot of teamwork to sculpt a project like this. The piece is both large and detailed. One person mixes the fiberglass-reinforced concrete, another delivers and four to six team members trowel it on. When it begins to set, the whole crew joins in to sculpt it in a couple of hours.
It took three days to sculpt the large and complex shape, with careful planning to put the seams where they wouldn’t show. Once sculpted, the piece is allowed to cure before the painting process can begin.
Most of it was to look like it had been fabricated from riveted copper plates. To break up the sameness and add a variety of textures and colors, we added some “wooden” parts. Since this vessel had sailed countless seas and partaken in some epic battles, the wood needed to look the part.
A minimum of three base coats of color were brushed on and then two coats of glaze was brushed on and toweled off to age things to perfection. Then some faux corrosion was simulated, using some green patinas.
Like the sculpting process, the paint and glazing involved the entire crew working shoulder to shoulder at times. When we paint we need to work quickly so there are no dry edges as we blend and glaze.
Phillip John came to our shop from Australia to attend a workshop. Since he was in town for a few extra days we put his talents to work on the painting of the names and symbols on the submarine.
The final paint job was a pleasing combination of warm and cool colors. Once painted, it was pushed out of the shop to make room for many more pieces yet to be done. It will be placed on a concrete footing on site, then the deck will be poured around it, burying the remnants of the shipping frame.
When the crane arrived we hooked up the chains to the sturdy eye hooks built into the structure. The crane operator skillfully and gingerly eased it into the open-top shipping container. Once it was settled in place we reinstalled the canvas top for transport. Onsite the reverse procedure will take place.
The sign for the bumper boat attraction featured a smaller version of the full-size Kraken. The life preserver ring was routed on our MultiCam CNC router from 30–lb. Precision Board. It is comprised of three layers with a steel armature laminated into the center. Steel arms protrude out of the back to fasten to the ship’s mast which will hold it up. The Kraken was sculpted using Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy.
The finished sign was mounted to the ship’s mast made from structural steel and fiberglass-reinforced concrete. The sign post was fabricated in two pieces to facilitate it fitting into the 90-in.-tall shipping container.

Building the mighty Kraken

Creating a centerpiece sculpture with steel and fiberglass-reinforced concrete

By Dan Sawatzky

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2015

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The legend of the much-feared Kraken is indeed true—at least at Scallywag Bay Adventure Park in Trinidad. But it isn’t quite like everyone has heard. The long-tentacled sea monster is actually a mechanical beast, and was more than a match for the wooden sailing ships of the pirate’s day. This mechanical creature was invented by our Gruffles, the illustrious resident pirates.

Our delightful task was to build two of these awesome crafts, one life-size (about 35-ft. long) and a much smaller version on a sign. They will be the icons for the bumper boat attraction, acting as both signs and photo opportunities.

The massive beast also needed to break down to fit into a shipping container for transport. We started, as usual, with a heavy, welded steel structural frame. Around this a lighter pencil-rod framework was built, which would support the sculpted fiberglass-reinforced concrete shell. Then came the laborious task of hand-tying the expanded galvanized metal lath. When we were done, the concrete was sculpted to resemble a combination of heavy, riveted copper plates and wooden panels.

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Dan Sawatzky's shop, Sawatzky's Imagination Corporation, is in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. Dan shares his experience in his Sign Magic Workshops on 3-D sign making, and his Sculpting Workshop.

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