||Restoring Tiki: Save Big Daddy Olu from brain rot!
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
|Posted: 2009-01-13 08:42 am  Permalink|
Well, the tooth of time is gnawing on all of us, and eventually we will cave in --but that does not mean we can't slow the process down. Carved in 1994 by Leroy Schmaltz, my lawn Moai named Big Daddy Olu (=cool) has been faithfully watching over my Tiki Island. I gave him regular coats of varnish, and treated him against termites when I saw them. But you do not see the termites that come from the ground, and being a tree in his former life, he is rooted firmly into that ground. So I assume he is slowly being eaten from the inside, and his decay is inevitable.
A brief history:
Big Daddy Olu was born when the tree he once was died, and had to be cut down because its heavy dead branches threatened the house. Back then I briefly entertained the thought of carving the stump into a Tiki myself, but I foresaw myself ending up with a toothpick. So I decided to call in a professional. Back in 1994, there were no other Tiki carvers around in L.A. but the master himself, Leroy Schmaltz. Since he had to work at O.A. during the week, Leroy came out on several consecutive weekends to do the job. Here is the evolution of Olu in my 1994 photo album:
Top left shows the original tree (with two tree trimmers for size reference). The middle pic shows the raw stump with its bark, bottom right shows my dad (who was visiting from Germany) helping to de-bark the stump. Bottom left shows Leroy making sketches while I point out ideas about details.
The next page shows the work in several stages: Left: Leroy checks out his handiwork after the first cuts, Middle: Leroy on scaffolding to do the forehead, and upper right, the finished Moai in the raw. Finally, Olu freshly varnished (with my son Diego at 2).
I recently decided to give Olu a semi-gloss coat, to repell the upcoming rainduring LA's winter season. I like how it reflects the light, bringing out the sculpted lines nicely:
A couple of days ago, I noticed a crack under his forehead had widened, and a chunk of wood seemed loose. I decided to investigate and the piece came right out:
I squeezed my fingers in the hole, and brittle pieces and dust crumbled out. Termite brain rot! Here is the piece with some inards:
Here is a close up of the crack:
...which looks worse with a flash!:
...and here's what it looks like inside!:
Now before I operate, here is my plan: I really do not want to open a can of worms and remove the whole frontal lobe, I am afraid of what I might find, and it's gonna be difficult to re-attach it. Knocking on the forehead, it all sounds pretty hollow.
So I am going with trepanation: Drilling two or three holes in the upper part of the forehead, and filling in wood hardener to let it sink down into the wood, and after letting it dry, push expanding foam into the hole from the bottom, then plop the square piece of wood back in, finally sealing it up with wood putty.
My question to the wood carving community:
Is it wishful thinking that the termite-tunneled wood inside will suck up the wood hardener like a sponge, and solidify and fuse the wood again? (It is liquid like a clear solvent) What about my foam idea? Does anybody have any other suggestions?
All I am hoping for is to slow the process down, I am not gonna cut him off the ground and put him into a resin block.
Here are some pics of Big Daddy in happier days:
Joined: Jan 09, 2004
From: Port Saint Lucie, Florida
|Posted: 2009-01-13 09:32 am  Permalink|
WOW What a Beautiful piece to have to rescu in such a manner. Unfortunately this is the end fate of any carving done to a tree left attached to the roots, it will end up this way every time. I Applaud you for getting the length of time you have from this piece as it is surely a testament to your continued treatment of the exterior. In the very beginning if you could have drilled out the center (Impossible!) and filled it with concrete it would be different. As far as what to do now, there are several ideas I would give thought to.
First would be to dig out as much of that rot as possible without harming the exterior. When you have as much out as possible and as deep as possible then the interior should be hosed out and cleaned as well as possible, even drilling a few drain holes at the bottom if needed. Its kinda like tooth decay, if you put the filling on top of the rotted part, it keeps rotting away inside so the dentist must remove as much as possible.
The next step I would have done is to invite a professional bug killer outfit to spray the interior with termite and other needed bug killer poison. Those guys have access to the strongest stuff available.
Next, what to fill it with?? The Minwax wood hardener and GitRot are good things but you would be needing a 55 gallon drum of the stuff.
Foam would seem like a good choice but I'm afraid that "Expanding" part would split the tiki wide open at several places so don't think that would be the greatest.
My personal choice would be the foam.spray cement or plaster similar to what the pool guys spray onto the pools. It is light weight and will fill a large space in a hurry. HOWEVER, you may not want tofill the whole thing at one shot, break it into 3 or 4 sessions. Confer with the cement technician for that advice, That foamy stuff shouldn't expand like the Foam foam but will create heate the same way and you need to know that it won't get too hot.
Then it should be able to last many more years with you only needing to maintain the thin wood shell.
Of course I have a few other ideas too which I'll gladly share if you like.
On behalf of the rest of the tiki community, I offer THANKS for going the extra mile to protect this piece of tiki history, BUT, Thats what YOU DO and we are Lucky!
Joined: Jan 02, 2009
From: South FL
|Posted: 2009-01-13 11:44 am  Permalink|
Big Tiki? Think big! I think the Mai-Kai is in the process of restoring some of theirs. I have a friend with a 14' marlin done in a dead pine in his front yard. So far we just keep fillin it w/resin. Probably a bad move...
Joined: May 17, 2006
From: Costa Mesa, CA
|Posted: 2009-01-13 12:20 pm  Permalink|
Here are my thoughts. I used to do restoration and preservation work on historic homes and museums.
Are you sure that it is termite damage? To me it looks like natural wood rot. My guess would be that the rain is constantly seeping through the natural crack on the top, and soaking the head inside.
What I would do is first let the inside dry out real well. You may need to make an awning over the top to keep new rain out, but make sure air is flowing through easily to help the drying process. Next I would pour a wood hardener through the top of the head, and let it soak through that way. (Prepare yourself for the fact it will seep and drip from every crack and hole on the bottom of the brow.
The minwax hardener is not that great. It is fine for a flat surface, but it will just run right through the cracks. Also, it is solvent based, so most just evaporates. The best products I have used are PC Woody. They make a 2 part epoxy rot terminator as well as a very good filler. Here's their site:
Their Rot Terminator is thicker and takes longer to dry, which means it will really seep into the cracks and give the wood time to soak it up. This will really harden the wood, and if it is termites, they won't attack the hardened wood.
After that, you can use the PC filler to fill the hole. You can even harden the piece that came out, then put it back in with the filler.
Ben is exactly right. DO NOT use the expanding foam. That moai's head will just explode, and it will prevent you from doing any work in that area in the future, and will also trap more moisture in.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Joined: Nov 12, 2002
From: Huntikington Beach
|Posted: 2009-01-13 1:40 pm  Permalink|
Make a mold out of it asap!!!
If nothing else works, at least you could make a
Custom Tropical Decor
I build Fun for you!
Joined: Nov 30, 2003
From: Kansas City, MO
|Posted: 2009-01-13 9:28 pm  Permalink|
Oh does this take me down memory lane. The whole interior rot thing...When I restored ol' 8FT himself back in 2003, I encountered the same things. (Here is a link to that story)
His former owner had him outside back then and sitting right on bare ground. The BIG difference here is of course is that Olu is one with the land and cannot be moved indoors. Such a shame to hear how time is catching up with him but it is inevitable in the climates most of us reside in. Water and creepy crawly things get in. Period. I would agree with the others that advise against the expanding foam here. It is stronger than you think it might be and definitely could split him in weak areas. I don't know what you will end up doing but I wish you my best and hope that you will have a successful "savage renewal" project completed soon.
[ This Message was edited by: 8FT Tiki 2009-01-13 21:29 ]
Joined: Sep 27, 2007
From: Buckley, WA
|Posted: 2009-01-14 7:07 pm  Permalink|
What a great carve this guy is.
Make him proud!
Grand Member (2 years)
Joined: Jun 24, 2005
From: Long Island NY
|Posted: 2009-03-01 10:20 am  Permalink|
How's Big Daddy Olu Doin?, have not seen an up-date on this, Hope his brain rot has not gotten any worse.