Things of Beauty- Classic Art Foundry

Magnifying Artistic Talent with Technology

During a visit to Orlando, Ion Onutan, owner of the Classic Art Foundry in Seattle, Washington was presented with an opportunity to purchase a large one-of-a-kind carving tool. It was a used KOMO router with a table that could be removed to reveal an 8′ x 2’5″ custom rotary axis. He didn’t exactly know what he was going to do with it, but he could not pass it up. It looked like something he might be able to use to make very large sculptures.
Onutan was trained as a sculptor at the University of Art in Romania. Shortly after coming to the United States, he founded the Classic Art Foundry in Seattle with the objective of making bronze castings for other artists, as well as his own commissioned art works. He said, “One of the requests I had was for a large 64″ high religious statue sculpted from wood. It was a very complicated piece and normally would have taken about six months for me to carve totally by hand. Because we live in a world where everyone wants things fast, I wanted to find a way to use some technology, including the machine I had recently purchased, to create the same results in a much shorter time frame.”

Onutan’s hope was that he could carve the statue he had in mind from a far smaller block of wood, laser-scan the hand-carved model, and import the data into CAD (Computer Aided Design) software which would transform the scanned data into a 3D digital model that could be scaled up to the appropriate size. This CAD model would, in turn, be imported into CAM software that would be used as the basis for writing a program to drive the cutting tools in his multiaxis CNC router to precisely carve the larger wooden sculpture.

He enlisted the help of CIMtech, his Mastercam reseller. Ion created an original 17″ high version of the sculpture by hand-carving it from a block of wood. Then the CIMtech laboratory used a laser scanner to accurately capture data from the original and create a 3D model of it in their CAD System. They scaled the model so that it was about four times larger. The model was then used as the basis for creating a unique 4-axis rotary program in Mastercam that would index the part in 1° increments so that the router’s cutting tools could be driven to remove wood in a way that replicated what Onutan had done by hand on a much smaller scale.

Ion said, “We made the big sculpture from a large laminated block of linden wood, a rather soft material with very little grain. You can carve it in all directions without worrying about chipping. We used a one-inch end mill for roughing out the surface, a one-inch ball end mill for finishing, and then we used a ½-inch tool for some of the detail work.”

“I did a little hand carving, sanding and polishing here and there, but not much because the sculpture made on the router was so detailed. It took us just a month to complete this project from start to finish. If I hand carved a sculpture like this myself with conventional tools, the project would have taken about six months.”

Thinking like an artist, Onutan’s goal in acquiring this technology was to “see what it can do and use it to make beautiful things.” He did not do any market surveys to see if there would be any demand for these art objects. The demand, however, has materialized.
He concluded, “We have a lot of traffic to our shop to see what we can do. Our visitors are impressed with how we can take hand-carved special models and scale them to any size. There is no limit to what we can do.”

Many more impressive examples of Ion’s digitally scaled sculptures can be found on the Classic Art Foundry web site

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