The very earliest iteration of the Andrusko Group studio is Specialty Masonry Contractors, Inc. founded in 1990.
As the name implies, the true origins of my skill set and studio work is in the performance of restoration & repair of brick and stone masonry. I started out making pocket money on weekends and after school about the time I got a driver’s license during my high school years with the enthusiastic encouragement and support of my father. Didn’t hurt a bit to have small projects my dad and his crew couldn’t afford to do coming at me every week in a steady stream.
Growing up with a mason as a father allowed me to essentially pay for college and the first few years after college, performing masonry repair work and small construction. My parents, who owned & operated Andrusko & Son’s Mason Contractors at the time, were great.
My youngest brother and his wife now own the company and have diversified over the years into other activities, particularly construction & prop. management. They are really good at what they do! You should check them out.
Portland’s Chinatown Entry Gate
A bunch of years ago, a car caused some damage to one of the marble bases of the Portland Chinatown Neighborhood Entry Gate.
The challenge was to recreate the damaged portion of the elaborate dragon engraving in the white marble, as well as, finding a suitable replacement match for the damaged section of the base. The excellent team at the Stone Center made contact inquiring about whether I could exactly recreate the engraving and commissioned me to perform the work. The original carving in China wasn’t created using sandblasting, but used a rather unique process of chemical engraving.
One of the unique attributes of many marbles is that it is mostly composed of calcium carbonate, which reacts with acid and breaks down. A very common and generally benign cleaner used in masonry is muriatic acid which was used to erode the stone and recreate the unique pattern. What’s unusual about this process is that the erosion is both downward like with sandblasting, but simultaneously inward under the protective mask, so great care is needed to understand the migration of the chemical erosion and to modify the nature of the protective masking in order to manage the etch. Once the depth is achieved, the dilute solution is neutralized and the etching is completed.
I love challenges and this one was really interesting to resolve. As you will see, the finished result turned out great.
The Grotto of Portland
This is another project referred to the Andrusko Group studio from the great team at the Stone Center, Inc. and also involved the team at Schommer & Sons Builders.
Apparently, the beautiful engraving of the Servite Order placed in the pavement in front of the Grotto years ago has been covered up for most of the year due to the smooth honed surface of the granite and the shallow engraved details presenting a hazard to pedestrians due to the natural shade of the site and growth of organic matter on the Grotto pavement.
After an on site evaluation of the medallion with the Contractor and facilities maintenance team at the Grotto, a solution was proposed that essentially involved a re-carve of the engraved crest detail and the addition of a bush hammered rustic surface. By adding the bush hammering and increasing the depth of the carving, including some slight bas-relief details, the beauty and detail of the carving was enhanced and the problem addressed.
Federal Courthouse – Portland, OR
Yet another project referral from the team at Stone Center, Inc. (I’m thinking I may owe them big-time! Thanks, Tim!)
Unbelievably, somehow a mis-spelling managed to elude discovery for nearly 20 years. As an engraver, I know it can happen, especially with names and vowels no matter how many eyes are on board. Fortunately, I know a thing or two about how to address this kind of issue.
The original question involved potentially removing all of the stone, replacing it with new material and re-engraving the quote and attribution.
The source material used for the project is Indiana Limestone, one of the nation’s premier legacy materials used in prominent buildings all over the United States including the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. I’ve also worked it before in Corvalis, OR at Oregon State University, as well as at Willamette University in Salem, OR at Ford Hall.
The material is generally consistent, but like most materials has nuanced grain and can have some color changes. How light refracts from the surface is also a big issue that relates both to it’s location relative to light sources and ambient light, as well as with how the surface of the stone is finished.
The challenge for this project was to consider the cost savings of in-filling and re-carving the extant surface without it being obvious. I suggested this course of action as an alternative to the facilities manager and GSA Lead. I suggested that a physical sample be made to prove the viability of this alternative approach to re-placing and re-engraving everything. The agreed to give it a try and the result was passed up the decision chain and was accepted.
For such a small element, there was an amazing amount of effort: texture matching of the panel surface, in-fill materials testing, mechanical stippling, pigments needed to push both the infill tone as well as match up with the original pigment added to highlight the letter form. The engraving was originally sandblast, but in addition to being completely ridiculous to consider performing something like that in situ in a finished environment conducting the business of the Federal Government, the matrix of the patched areas would have enough of a material difference to need special attention to ensure the finished engraving was perfect. The solution was to hand-carve the new letter form with what are essentially dental tools and replicate the inner texture of the engraving by hand in order to replicate the look of the original sandblasting. The result was enthusiastically and happily accepted. I do like it when things work right!
It’s great when a plan works out and expectations are met.
Side Note: what’s really amazing is that in the year 2000, the SEGD professional design organization had their annual convention in Portland, OR. That was my first conference in what is a now 20 plus year membership with this incredibly talented group of design professionals. The Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse building had recently been completed and was part of a walking tour hosted by Michael Reed. The building was (and is) full of stone engraving and carving. I can tell you that this building was of particular interest to me and was a major source of inspiration to me at that time. The team that worked on it has proven to be the most influential of my professional career, but at the time I was a complete unknown. This year 2020 the SEGD conference team is planning to host again in Portland, OR at the recently completed Convention Center Hyatt Hotel where I just completed an installation designed by the landscape team at Mayer|Reed. What great symmetry.