Permalac Seals the Deal, and That’s No Bull (or Bear)







Markets up, markets down; bear to bull, bull to bear.  Bronze effigies of these two majestic creatures have been used to represent the ever-changing balancing act of the stock market for hundreds of years.

Mention the stock market soaring, and an image of the bull comes to mind.  Markets down conjure up the bear in your mind’s eye.  Bronze likenesses of the bear and the bull are ubiquitous for anyone the least interested in the daily financial markets in New York, Chicago and St. Louis.

St. Louis you say?  While there is no stock exchange, the folks at Stifel Financial Corp. felt it necessary to commission one of America’s greatest giant sculpture masters, Mr. Harry Weber.

According to a blog article in the Wall Street Journal:

While St. Louis might not have famous pizza or an actual stock exchange, it does have barbecue and soon will have its own Wall Street bull. It’s even one-upping Wall Street by adding a measured force: a bear……..

The St. Louis based investment bank is in the process of closing a deal to acquire KBW Inc., a Manhattan-based investment bank to the banks and one of the firms most associated with the World Trade Center.

Stifel CEO Ronald Kruszewski says the growth in his city and his bank echo each other, but both stories remain underplayed because of New York’s dominance in banking. Stifel’s gone from 1,200 employees to 5,500.

“We have been growing like a weed,” Kruszewski says.

“I think if you would say the city is the second to New York, the idea to put some art on the ground … is appropriate,” Kruszewski said. “It isn’t like putting a bull and bear in an oil town.”

Why Permalac

I had a chance to speak with Harry Weber by telephone in preparation for the writing of this article, and quickly understood why he receives the huge amount of respect and recognition he deserves.  When I asked him about some of his projects, we spoke at some length of the Louis and Clark monument in the Mississippi River (yes, sometimes completely underwater), known as The Captain’s Return.  The placement of the monument commemorates the 200th anniversary of the return from Louis and Clark’s 2-year exploration of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.

“We use Permalac as a finish coat to protect our monuments from the ravages of weather and conditions particular to the site,” said Mr. Weber.  “In the case of The Captain’s Return, because the site is nearly exactly the spot where they landed, occasionally the sculpture gets completely submerged underwater.  Most of the time a portion of the piece is submerged constantly, so it is imperative it be protected from the harsh realities of nature. Permalac not only protects it better than other lacquers, it won’t discolor the patina of the piece,” he added.

“As for the commissioning of the Stifel piece, it took numerous sketches and drawings to come up with the right image. On Wall Street, the Bull signifies the upward mobility of the market. There is no bear.   In this case, the balance of the markets is in constant contest, with upswings and downturns.  Rather than a decisive winner of battle to decide a victor, the bear and the bull needed to reflect that constant struggle of the winners and losers in the marketplace.”

I also learned that over the course of his career, Mr. Weber has crafted more than 100 large sculptures, and an innumerable amount of smaller works. Although not all of his works possess the signature lacquer’s protection,  Perlamac is a big part of his finishing touch.

In this 20-minute video, Harry Weber chronicles the entire project. As you might imagine, the design and construction process of a 9000-pound sculpture is amazing to watch. The video is quite illustrative and informative (The Bull & Bear:

The originally published WSJ article:

Image Credit: Stifel Financial Corp.

Captain’s Return by Harry Weber and the use of Permalac

September Contest Winner: Fireplace Bellows

Pat writes to us: labella-entry-3I purchased this Johnny Beard bellows and then did a Pen Work design on it. This is accomplished by drawing the design and then filling in the negative areas with ink applied with a Rapidograph pen. Since this was to be hung by a fireplace or wood stove it needed to be protected from the heat. I applied Permalac as the final coating. It has held up and I have since used Permalac on many of my projects.

Refinishing Wood

The last few weeks my spare time has been eaten by a move. I’m renting a small townhouse in South Philly, just a few miles from Peacock. The owner of the place has completely renovated the house, but he left the original pine floors. Sanded and refinished they look great. I realized, with some help from my girlfriend, that some of my furniture wasn’t up to standards of this house. Rather than spend the money I don’t have on new stuff, I decided to give my old stuff a sprucing up.

First up, perhaps because it needed the most help, was this old mahogany end table that had belonged to my Grandmother. It had spent a few years in the basement before banging around with me for a while, and the hard living had caught up with it. The old varnish was dull and dark, there were numerous deep scuffs and scars on the table as well as some mysterious discolorations. Some people would call that a antique patina, I call it ugly. I wanted to remove the old finish, sand out the dings, stain it a lighter shade, and then spray it with Permalac it to protect the wood and give it a nice sheen.
The first step was getting rid of the old finish. I used some 150 grit and a palm sander to knock most of it off. Some areas had to be hand sanded. It took a couple of hours to get down to bare wood, mostly because the sand paper kept gunking up with old varnish. I probably could have done it faster with rougher paper, but I was worried I might eat up to much my table in the process. Once I had the original finish off I hand sanded the table with 220 grit to get it ready for the new finish.
The sanded table ended up fairly pale, so I decided to stain it. I wanted to see the grain of the mahogany, but the stain needed to be dark enough to blend out anything I couldn’t fix with sanding. I went with a popular oil based stain in a tint called “English Chestnut.” I spent some time with the stain, making sure that I had even coverage without any blotches. I hate doing things twice. The stain I used asked for an eight hour cure so I called it a day.
The next morning I started spraying the table with Permalac. We have an enclosed tent here at Peacock, it’s not a proper downdraft booth, but it does vent off the over-spray and it keeps the air clear in the rest of the warehouse. I use an HPLV with an .8 mil tip for spraying Permalac. The warehouse air is set at 60 psi, so I use a regulator to dial that down to 30 psi. I also limit the trigger pull so that I get a very fine mist. One thing you want to avoid is laying the Permalac too fast, that can result in an uneven, gummy layer. Instead, take your time and try to spray thin coats. This will give you an even, hard finish.
When spraying Permalac, it’s also important to thin it properly. Thinning Permalac retards its dry time and prevents “hairs” of resin from forming on your project. It was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit when I sprayed this table, so I used #281 thinner to thin the Permalac. 1 part thinner to 4 parts Permalac is a good starting point, On hot, dry days you’ll want to use the #69 thinner instead of the 281, you may also want to increase the percentage of thinner.
For this table I figured 125 ml per coat, so 100 ml Permalac plus 25 ml #281. I shot four coats this way, allowing 10 minutes between coats. The first two coats pretty much vanished into the wood. By the third coat I started to notice a surface build developing. After the fourth coat the table started to developed a nice gloss. I let it sit for 30 minutes and then lightly sanded with 400 grit to polish out any pebbling that hadn’t flowed out on its own. Then I wiped the table clean of dust and shot one more coat. I let this final coat cure for an hour and then lightly sanded with 1000 grit. This final sanding deglosses the finish slightly. I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way it came out. Next up, my ladder back chair.