Tag Archives | Roman

Introducing Leonard the log!

After taking the introductory Roman mosaics class and falling hopelessly in love with the hammer and hardie, I immediately began my search for a log in which to embed my hardie.

Walking around the neighbourhood, I made a mental note of all the trees marked with the bright red “X” that means they’re destined to be chopped down. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought maybe, just maybe, I would happen to wander by at the exact moment that a crew was cutting down a tree and would be able to convince them to give me a small log. Well, that never happened. But here’s what did happen:

While biking through the city to meet up with some friends, I happened upon a pickup truck loaded with manageable rounds of wood from what looked like a freshly felled tree. I stopped, got off my bike, and went over to the truck. Nobody was there. I waited for almost 15 minutes, hoping the truck’s owner would return. Alas. Reluctantly, I carried on my now not-so-merry way, sad to be walking away from such a prime find.

I told my two friends the story of my search for a log and about the truck I had just passed. They wanted to help. As we parted ways, one asked: “Do you want us to come back to the truck with you since we have a car?” I told her not to worry about it – the truck was probably gone by now anyway. So I hopped on my bike and headed for home.

And…you guessed it: the truck (and its load of logs) was still there!

This, I convinced myself, was a sign from the universe. I was meant to have a log from that truck. It was now dark out, and taking a log from the back of a pickup truck didn’t seem quite as bad as it had in broad daylight. It was just one little log among many, and it was probably just destined for the fireplace or the wood chipper anyway. However, there was just one problem: there was no way I could carry it on my bike. I paused for just a heartbeat, then did a u-turn and booted it back to where my friends were parked.

“Please let them still be there. Please let them still be there,” I panted, biking as fast as I could. As I approached where we had parted ways, they were just pulling out of their parking spot. I manoeuvred my bike alongside their car and waved frantically. They saw me and waved a friendly wave back, as if to say “Oh hey, there’s Julie. Hi Julie!”. They didn’t understand! Their car pulled ahead slightly and I dug deep, willing myself to go faster. As I came up beside the car again, I waved my arm to get their attention again and then did the universal ‘roll down your window’ sign, at which point I shouted breathlessly, “It’s still there!!! Help?!”

Being the dears they are, they turned around and followed me back to the truck. With a bit of muscle and a lot of teamwork, we liberated my chosen log, which then travelled with my friends back to their place. A few weeks later, we met up again and they brought my log, which they had christened Leonard. Len and I then made the trip back to my place by bus. My arms nearly fell off in the process – he’s a hefty chunk of wood – but we made it.

Leonard in his natural state

After letting him dry out a bit beside the rad, I gave him a good sanding on the top and bottom and then, finally, screwed up the courage to drill the hole for the hardie. I didn’t really have the proper tools, but I made do with a regular drill, a hammer, and a big screwdriver. (A drill with a much larger bit, plus a mallet and chisel, would probably have been a bit more ideal.)

Len after his sanding. Looking good, Len!

I’ve since taken Leonard out for a test drive on some marble subway tiles I picked up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Pretty slick! I have the feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Here’s Leonard, all decked out. (The hardie wasn’t embedded quite deeply enough at this point, but I could stop myself from snapping a pic during one of the pauses in my drilling / chipping!


When in Montreal, do as … the Romans did (?)

Arriving in Montreal … the good ol’ Five Roses factory

I am in love. Mosaic love, that is. About a month ago, I took the train to Montreal for another Mosaikashop course, this one on Roman mosaics.

We each made our own 8″x8″ Roman-style mosaic using the indirect method (which I had never used before) and then cast the whole thing in concrete. I made sure to choose a simple design, just like I did last time, so that I could finish by Sunday.

For the tesserae, we used marble rods that we cut with a hammer and hardie (essentially a big chisel that you embed in a log, plus a sharp hammer). I immediately fell in love with the H&H. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it feels so hands-on. Not that other mosaic techniques don’t, but this was just … different. It was rugged. And organic. And because the tool hasn’t changed much since Roman times, I guess I felt like I was part of a tradition, which to me was pretty neat.

I can’t wait to do more marble work with my H&H. So many ideas percolating. But first, I need to find a log, ASAP! I also need to track down a steady (and ideally cheap) supply of marble. I thought I had it made when the local granite store owner told me I could raid his dumpster whenever I wanted, but it turns out that granite is too hard and will ruin my beloved H&H. Boo. So if anyone out there knows where to find cheap (or free!) marble offcuts in the Ottawa area, let me know!

Here it is! Cast in concrete, then grouted and waxed.

My new favourite tool: hammer and hardie


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