We have a green light. Ready, Set, Go!

We are at the very beginning of the sculpting stage. The CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) foam becomes my armature for the art. Once the CNC milling comes from my vendor, we will be creating the monumental art. We got the green light from Dr. Philips, and here is how I got the files ready for our sculpting magic.

When you are working with digital files you often have to change the file from triangles to quads, otherwise you can’t sculpt on it in Zbrush. But you have to find the sweet spot of making it into quads that hold enough detail but does not make the file big.

You have read below and watched the incredible video about how the 3D scanning of my small Booker T. Washington sculpture went. It was a bit complicated because we have three things with which we are working.

  1. The scan of the original chair.
  2. The scan of the small figurine.
  3. The scan of the small figurine taken off of the chair.

These scans were returned to me by the scanning company, and then I did several things to them. First, the 3d files from a scanning company come back to me in a format that consists of either points or triangles. I can’t sculpt on something that has triangles. There is a beautiful description of why in this Gorilla CG video. I often refer to it. If you want to know more about digital sculpting, look at the rest of Gorilla CG videos. They are very good.

Zbrush is my sculpting program. I must change those triangles into a workable quad mesh. Luckily my sculpting program does this for me. I have to find the sweet spot where I have enough geometry to work with, but not so much that it is a large file and not so little that I lose detail. Once I got that, I wanted to compare things.

I placed the total scan of the small Booker T. Washington figure and chair on top of the digital scan of the chair and watched the placement of the figure. Even after working with it for a while, I decided arranging Booker T. on the chair is something I have to see in person. Synappsys Digital services in Oklahoma will be CNC milling this for me. If we are lucky, they will be providing us with a video of the milling. They CNC in urethane foam. I hope they give me a denser foam for the chair. That way, it will be stronger. But I’ll still be making something to hold the foam in place.

Once scan on top of the other. I knew the fabricated chair would be different than the scanned chair.

We will be working on Booker T. And the chair separately. They originally wanted to carve a portion of his back into the chair. I don’t want this because it makes him fixed, and I know me. When I get him in my studio, I may want to adjust him a bit to make him look more natural.

When you create the files for the CNC vendor, you want to be sure the size is correct before sending it to be milled. This milling is a costly part of the process. You don’t want to have to pay to have it done again, and you can’t say, “Well, it is a bit bigger. I think I’ll just make my bronze bigger,” because that will cost money.

Keep an eye on my instagram as I can often post there what is happening faster than I can on the blog. I will be back though. Here is an instagram about the process.

Teachers and Students

  • Did you watch the video? What is an artifact and how will it interfere with my digital sculpting?
  • What is G-Code and how is it used with CNC Milling and 3D Printing?
  • What do you know about the cartesian coordinates and how it compares to G-Code?
  • What is the right handed rule?

Waiting and What is In-between


Booker T, Washington on a proposed base.

There is a lot of waiting in a fine art job. An artist waits for vendors to get them prices, clients to move to the next step, contracts, and much more.

What has been happening in my studio while I wait?
We have had several meetings with the school via zoom. I was talking to architects, trying to figure the height of the sculpture and the surrounding area. The school will have to make a concrete form. We will set my Booker T. and stone on top of this. But how high? What is happening with lighting and the sculpture? How can the installers get into the property? Of course, with all of these questions and more, we work around two essential elements—budget and time. There is a projected date for the Booker T. Sculpture unveiling, but unless I can get started on it by July 16th, 2021 it is impossible to complete the project in time for unveiling in April.

While I’m waiting on things and having meetings, I have been working on another project that I thought might interest you. It is a bust of Cesar Chavez. Do you know who that is? I sculpted this in wet clay, and it too was 3D scanned. It is going directly to investment casting from a 3D print. How cool is that? You will see how much that cuts out of the traditional process once you see how I create Booker T. Washington in bronze. Going directly to investment casting in bronze from 3D printing is new technology and new to my studio.

I have done 3d printing for about eight years now. I have written a book on the processes and types of 3D printers. But I have never owned one. I now have an Elegoo 3D printer in my home studio. It is a lot of training trying to get it to work, but I’m determined. Keep an eye on my Instagram to see what is happening both with Booker T Washington, Caesar Chavez, and my trials and errors of 3D resin printing. I often post there quicker than making a blog post.

Portrait bust of Cesar Chavez. Do you know who this is?


  • Did you know that it takes so long to make a monumental bronze?
  • How are Cesar Chavez and Booker T. similar. What do they have in common?
  • Why is lighting important? What would a lighting person have to do to make something look evil or mean? Check out this article about lighting in a museum. Did you know the reason why they light bronze poorly in museums?

An Educational Resource- 3D Scanning


If you remember, back in September I reported about my friend Tom who came and scanned the small sculpture and the chair for me before I had to put the small maquette of Booker T. through the mold-making processes. I’m so glad he could do that and wait to get paid because, as you can see, the sculpture was damaged in the mold making process. If I waited to scan until after making the mold for the foundry, I would have had to fix the clay, and it would not be as it was when it was approved. He was glad to use this as an educational process for his nephew. Lex is a freshman at UT Arlington and is studying aerospace engineering and scanned the pieces.

In this educational video on 3D Scanning we talk about the process and much more. The scanner used on this project is a Creaform.

The Maquette


The foundry goes through their process of casting. It is called the lost wax method of bronze casting. I did not get photographs of that part of the process for the small sculpture, but we will have many photographs of this for the large monumental work. You can check out my website Process page for wax. This talks about the wax, how it is made and how the foundry makes a ceramic shell. Then there is the bronze pour. You can see examples of this in Casting and Metal. However, it is still not done. They have to grind and weld things together.
The final part of this bronze process is the patina. I was at the foundry for this. The foundry man will take different chemicals and put it on the heated metal. This causes a chemical reaction. Once he is done, the sculpture is waxed. Finally, they mount the sculpture on a wooden base. I could hardly wait to bring it to the school. If you would like to order one of these sculptures, please contact Booker T. Washington High School.

Getting the Maquette Ready For Casting In Bronze


Mold Making. Clean up and Seam the Sculpture.
There is much to do when making a mold. After Everything is as clean as I can get it, I first seam up the sculpture. Seaming up the sculpture takes a specially trained eye to know what will pull from where. I make my seams with playing cards. In the end, I need to get wax out of the mold that I make.

Painting Rubber
Slowly I put coats of rubber on the mold. The rubber is only the first part. Then I need to create a mother mold that will hold this rubber in place. There are things that I have cut off of the sculpture. Booker T’s lapel, his hands, and his book are made separately, and of course, he is taken off the chair. Because his suit coat falls over the chair edge, some of it is still on the small chair.

The Mother Mold
This mother mold is made of plaster and holds the sculpture in place. There are several molds. The chair is one mold. Booker T. is another mold. His book is a third mold and finally his hands and lapel. After the mother mold is complete, I take out the original. Usually, the original is lost in this process. Yes, the original is gone, or at least damaged. But that is o.k. we have a mold from which to cast.

A Wax Pour
The foundry then pours a thin layer of wax in the mold. The final bronze is only as thick as this wax that we make. The artist or foundry man will clean each of the wax pieces. They will then take Booker T and register him to the chair. All the details are finalized in the wax before sending the work to the foundry.

If you would like to see how I do this on a larger sculpture, be sure to check out my website. There is a Process section of her website, and the Mold making, process, and creating the wax are listed there. The monumental sculpture of Booker T. will go through this same process.

3D Scanning!

It is unusual that we would go into this next step, until we got further into the project financially, however, I know the man from this scanning company. We are very old friends. I figured if they could get the scans ready, I could pay for them as soon as the school got more funding. Tom was gracious enough to go with that as they were also using it as a learning tool for his nephew, a UT Arlington student— Lex Bocanegra. Lex is studying Aerospace Engineering. When the scans are ready, I’ll put together a video about the entire scanning process. It is fascinating. But here is a quick look.
I need a scan of the real chair. A scan of Booker T in the small chair and then just a scan of Booker T. I will use Booker T’s scan to fit him into the scan of the real chair. Our small chair is nice for what it does, but it does not look exactly like the real chair from that period. Just wait for the video. All of this will begin to make sense.

3D Scanning is a great entry level field for students to consider.

The Creaform Scanner captures great detail quickly and acurately.
Lex is learning quickly.

Approval of The Maquette!

It has been a long time coming. Having the team in my studio was the most people in the studio at one time. Some tweaks on the sculpture and the small maquette is approved. What is the next step? I will get it ready for bronze and preparing it to be 3D Scan. I’ll have to cut Booker T. Washington off of the chair for both. Working small is much harder than working large. One small move, and it makes all the difference. I can’t wait to get working on the monumental sculpture. I hope we can move to the next part of the project quickly.

Completion and Covid

No doubt Covid is playing havoc on more things than the work in my studio. Being alone or away from people is really nothing new for an artist and writer. However, I’m at risk, so I’m very careful.

I’m busy finishing up the small maquette of Booker T. Washington. Going through every detail is time-consuming. There is a trajectory, though I think a pandemic has thrown us all for a loop.

  • I hope to get the small sculpture approved by the school soon.
  • The next step will be to get it into mold for bronze casting
  • but before I can do this, we will need to have him 3D Scanned

Meanwhile, I have another commission in the studio. As I said, I love to look at the history of the subjects. This other commission is of Jack Johnson. I could not help but wonder if the two men had interactions. My mind often thinks in a spider web sort of pattern. One thing leads to another. As I research the people and their interactions with the world and each other, I’m intrigued. We know Booker T. lived 1856-1915. Jack Johnson was “The First African American Heavy Weight Champion.” He lived 1978-1946.

For Teachers and Students

  • Was there ever a pandemic or plague in the time of Booker T Washington?
  • Did Booker T and Jack Johnson think alike? How were they different? How would you describe their contributions?
  • As I researched “plague and Booker T. Washington” I learned that Tuskegee college was involved in the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. I didn’t know it was there. Did you? What is it, and why is it important? (This was long after Booker T. )
  • Was Booker T. Washington involved in health education? What was “National Negro Health Week?” Why was it important? What did Booker T. have to do with it?

Files For 3D Printing?

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Pixologic has lots of tutorials on different things concerning creating and 3D printing.


You may remember that in previous posts, sculptor Bridgette Mongeon talked about G-code. That is what a machine needs to be able to 3D print, or CNC, which stand for computer numerically controlled milling. 3D scanners also use G-code.

Just like when you work on a picture on the internet, there are many different types of files. For example, you can create a photo file as jpg, png. giff, pdf’s and more . There are also many kinds of files, depending on the software you are using and the software version. So it is with the case of 3D printed data. There are a couple of different types of files. To print your work correctly the files from your machine have to be able to translate that G-Code correctly.

Marc Eberle in New York and Bridgette in Houston were working on the file of Booker T. Washington’s book. They both work in a program called Zbrush. Bridgette also works in a program called Mudbox and wrote a book on that as well. Mark and Bridgette can send Zbrush files back and forth, but they have to be sure they are both working in the same version of Zbrush. The other option in sending a working software files is to send a 3D print files to someone in a recognizable format.  These are usually an STL or an OBJ. What is the difference? 3D printer Insider created an article that describes the differences between STL and OBJ’s. Pixologic also has a great article on how to prepare your files for 3D printing should you like to learn more.

Bridgette talks a lot about the pitfalls when 3D printing. She learns from her experience and shared a lot in her book 3D Technology and Fine Art and Craft: Exploring 3D Printing, Scanning, Sculpting, and Milling. No need to go get the book, just keep watching this blog, she will be sharing a lot of that information here. In the next post, we will look at how to fix a file and what can be wrong with a file that might keep the file from printing. There are a few free programs that allow you to be able to check your files for 3D printing.

Teachers and Students

If you would like some free software to start working in 3D check out the following:

Sculptris -Pixologic, the makers of Zbrush, has Sculptris. It is free and an excellent way to begin creating in 3D. It is available for Mac and PC. You will have to download it.

Tinkercad  – works in a browser, so there is nothing to download

Vectary– works in a browser, so there is nothing to download

We will post some more for you later. Please let us know if you create anything with these programs. We would like to see it.

Author Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon


Technology Comes Into the Art Again. Booker T. Washington’s Book.

booker t book_2Dr. Phillips wanted to switch out the papers in Booker T. Washington’s lap. Instead, it would be Booker T. Washington’s Book Character Building.  Originally, Dr. Phillips had a new version of the book.  After consideration, Bridgette decided to make it into an older version of the book.  After all, the modern paperback books would not be around until 1935.  Changing to a more original version was done for several reasons. The first is that the viewer might not see the book title if Booker T. Washington’s left hand is holding it open.  Instead of trying to sculpt such a tiny book with tiny text, Bridgette decided to do it digitally.

booker t book
Bridgette decides to create a separate design of the book one where the cover is connected so that the students at Booker T. Washington High School and others can 3D print it out and have their own tiny book used in this small sculpture of Booker T. Washington.

Mark Eberle in Western NewYork has helped Bridgette on several different projects, including education on 3D Technology in the Western New York area.  Once again he came through. Mark and Bridgette created the book in a digital sculpting program called Z Brush.  There is a free sculpting program that is offered by the same company. It is called Sculptris, should any students be interested in check it out. The other problem was that Bridgette was not sure how open the book would need to be. She could not really decide this until she worked on the design and the hands. So, to remedy this situation, Bridgette separated the cover.  That way, she can tip the cover to whatever angle she needs. Mark 3D printed the book on a Form Labs 3D print. If you remember, we discussed the different types of 3D printing. Form Labs is one of the best consumer 3D printers. It uses the stereolithograpy ( SLA) process of 3D printing.


  • To obtain STL FILES or OBJ’s for 3D printing follow this link.
  • If you would like to learn more about STL and OBJ files check out this article by 3D Insider.

Author Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon