Basalt Arch

  • Basalt columns are stones that I relate to in a deep spiritual way. This was only my second attempt at splitting one of these BEAUTIFUL stones.

    My intention with this huge, powerful stone was to cut out a gentle arc as outlined by the steel wedges showing in the second photo.

    My intention in writing this story is to briefly go through the process of creating my sculpture and share with you the surprise ending.

    My previous attempt at splitting of one of these basalt monoliths was only marginally successful, adding to my anxiety.  To this day I find it very difficult to put the first mark on these stones that are so powerfully expressive on their own.  I feel a strong sense of obligation to be as sure as possible that I am doing something of real value with, to, and about them before I make that first mark.

    The technique here was to drill holes along the curve that I wanted the stone to split and then to drive wedges into the holes (see photo above).  Tapping on all the wedges in sequence forces the stone to break.

    As you see  this process did not end up in what was planned at all.  At the first sight and sound of this stone splitting my heart may have stopped.  What I saw appeared to have been the ultimate violation of the stone!

    Skipping ahead in the story to the final result, I hope when you see the photo below you will agree the end result was just fine.  Whether known or not to the stone, perhaps it did, on its own, COMMNUICATE that SOMETHING that I am still attempting to clarify even as I write this note.

    However while viewing this apparent catastrophe, my initial response was an automatic plunge into “why me?” peppered with unprintable comments.  Within a reasonably short lifetime, however, I did proceed to literally put the pieces together. What I had intended to be two pieces was now five.

    I first took pictures and manipulated them until I saw a vague suggestion of what I might want to do.  I liked the little curve at the end of the pair of stones shown below which suggested the arch that was to be the final theme.  The problem then became how to reattach these two pieces.

    I have learned that when I try to fix something on a sculpture it generally looks like a fix.  In this case, it was becoming clear to me that the new theme of the sculpture allowed the nature of the stone to be expressed more powerfully than my original concept.  So rather than simply “fixing” a break in the stone I took care to design the fix as a sculptural element of the piece, that is, stainless steel plates recessed and pinned into the stone. I liked this new element and used it elsewhere in the sculpture.


    It turned out to allow, via carefully tapered pins and hole placement, a sort of  “C” clamp effect. That, along with epoxy on the broken surfaces, created a very strong joint. The steel pins and plates were also eventually used to attach the two horizontal stone pieces to the vertical stones in the arch.  One of the horizontal stones is of the original five and the other, the sixth, was added to stabilize the whole thing as well as to complete the harmony.

    My Primary error in splitting this stone was not to have inspected it thoroughly enough to have found a rather large crack; however, that crack surface is what created the little natural arch, the key for the whole piece.

    Because the scale, orientation, and specific angle viewed of a multiple element piece, it is necessary to move the pieces around to visualize and choose the final form. Next are three photos that show how cumbersome this process can be.