Stone Tori Gate

How to Make a Japanese Stone Tori Gate

The Initial Idea.

This sculpture was actually inspired by some good friends. Having met them after many years they came up with the idea of having me carve a Portland Stone Tori Gateway for their Zen garden. Life can be strange at times, recurring patterns of memories and coincidences. The very first stone I carved was for the Sculptor Phillip King, 40 years ago. A rough Portland Stone boulder carved into a bowl for his Zen Garden installation at the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park on the Isle of Portland.

This first carving became a catalyst, the start of a long relationship with this beautiful material. ( We have broken up at certain times! Well it broke or cracked. But we always get back together.) As I was carving the round basin I began to rub my knuckles against the sides of the stone. Which was quite painful so I angled the chisel to prevent this and the tool marks began to form a beautiful spiral. Phillip really liked this pattern. Very Zen.

Creating The Design

As with any commission we started by discussing the project. If it should be carved out of one block of stone or several? The rough size and design. How it would be transported. My friends sent me a very useful design which gave me a good base to work from. We agreed that it would be best to make the Tori out of separate elements, cutting the weight down making it easier for transportation and installation.

I then did my own research looking at all the different styles of Tori gates. Seeing which could be suitable in shape and proportion to be carved in Portland Stone. I decided to introduce a few curves to the design to soften the hard angles. Also to use different tooling textures to give the final piece some subtlety.

I needed a full size drawing to see the proportions, adjusting dimensions for strength and aesthetic reasons. Then making a list of the individual stones sizes. I sourced my stones at a local quarry on the Isle of Portland hunting around the off-cuts with their stonemason and found some lovely grained blocks that would be perfect. ( It was like being in a sweet shop as a kid!)

Carving the Stones and Fitting

The off-cuts of Portland stone first needed to be cut to size using a diamond bladed grinder. Then the faces honed using a spinner and sanding disc. This will leave some machine marks on the surface so I needed to hand sand using a tungsten rubbing block to get the effect I desired. The curves were then carved and finished.

Subsequently I prepared the pinning of the stones. Always measuring twice and drilling once! If not three times. Then I washed all of the stones making sure that there was no dust, especially in the drilled holes. Using 8mm stainless steel threaded bar cut to size I assembled the elements using an epoxy resin by Harbro Supplies Ltd (Stone-bond Vertical Mastic.) I always present the stones together dry with the pins in place to make sure that once the resin is applied everything fits. You don’t want to find things don’t fit properly as the resin begins to set. I’m talking from past lessons learnt.

The main stone is attached to the base with pins running through which are bolted into place.

The Viewing

The moment of truth! Will my friends like my interpretation of their initial idea? I moved the stones with the help of Andy, (a strong friend) down the 3 flights of stairs from my flat. Yes I always choose difficulty as a sculptor, keeps me fit (to drop) We then assembled the Tori in the garden being especially careful not to chip any edges. Awaiting with baited breath for their visit and response. Yay or nay?

Finished Portland Stone Tori.

Well it was a Yay. Yoopie. It surpassed their highest expectations. So pleased and of course one very chuffed Sculptor. Although this project was very different from my personal work it did inspire me in many ways. Giving me ideas for future sculptures. Watch this space.

In the Zen Garden

Finally the Tori Gate was installed in the Zen garden. Its so satisfying to see my work set in someones home and it will be interesting to see how it ages and patinates over time. Please take the time to visit my Sculpture page I would really appreciate any feedback. Can you see a connection between the Tori and my personal work?

I,d love to get any feedback about my work, feel free to comment.

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