55 captures 18 Sep 2007 - 16 Jun 2018
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Grammy Award The making of a Grammy Annie Award John Wooden Award Telluride Tech Festival NHRA Award Caring for your award
The Convoy Duck
MAKING THE GRAMMY
1. After having been involved in making the Grammy for fifteen years, 1n 1990 I was asked by The Recording Academy to come up with up with a new design for the Grammy.
They wanted it about 30 percent larger. I started out with several sketches focusing mainly on the tone arm.
2.The tone arm on the award had a long tradition of breaking, either in the shipping or even by holding it the wrong way. So my main concern was to beef it up, while keeping it streamline. I started out making the prototype using whatever I had laying around the shop.
3. After making several different designs I finally decided on one I liked.
4. The cabinet was made entirely out of sheet brass cut out on a band saw.
5. The brass pieces were squared up and soldered together.
6. The components are about ready to be assembled.
7. Once all the parts were soldered together, I then polished them and sent them out to be gold plated. I them went to work on the base. The old Grammy was on a walnut base but I thought the new one would look great if the base was black lacquer.
I made the prototype base out of wood. Then sanded, filled, covered it with many coats of primer and painted it with several coats of black lacquer,
I'll never forget Rob Senn's reaction when I walked into his office and took it out of the box.
He held it up in the air with both hands and danced around his office saying " this is it...this is it"
8. Then the real work began.
Now that the prototype has been unanimously approved I have to make the molds so that I can make them in quantity.
The Grammy is made of 4 major components:
The Tone Arm
And The Bell
For the Bell I went to RSR Metal Spinning in Baldwin Park, CA.
I gave them my drawings and they made a steel chuck. The chuck is put into a lathe and a brass disc is held against it. While the chuck and the disc are spinning a long tool is used to shape the brass over the chuck. They do a great job at RSR and they are still making the bells for me.
The mold making process is long and arduous, demanding considerable mental effort and skill. I spent 10 years in apprenticeship with master mold maker Bob Graves. It was Bob who made the molds for the first Grammy.
In the end the molds are sand cast from bronze. I first make plaster patterns to be duplicated in bronze of each section of the mold. A section is a surface of the part.
To understand what a mold is think of an ice cube tray. It is a one-piece mold; in this case it is a gang mold, casting multiple pieces at once. A 2- piece mold would be like a waffle iron, where there are two surfaces to the mold, and so on.
The mold for the cabinet is a six-piece mold and the tone arm is a five-piece mold. These are the cabinet and tone arm patterns in progress.
9. I took the final patterns to Howard Eichenhoffer at Pacific Brass Foundry in Los Angeles to duplicate the plaster patterns into bronze. The foundry was started by Howard's grandfather in 1910. The process is what's called sand casting. Each plaster pattern was carved so that it could be divided in half, top & bottom. The patterns are pressed into damp sand to the dividing line. Then another piece of the sand mold is attached and the part is sprinkled with talc and more sand is rammed in.
Finally after the sprues are cut in the plaster pattern is removed leaving a cavity that is identical to the part. Molten bronze is poured in to the cavity and alas, a bronze part.
Then the work of fitting and chasing began. Although the bronze parts are a duplicate of the plaster patterns, they are very rough and grainy with a lot of metal flash around the edges. All of the pieces are filed so that the fit together into the two major halves, Typically it takes about a week of filing and fitting to get all the pieces of the mold to come together at the seams so that molten metal can be poured into the cavity without it leaking out. Once the mold is fit tightly together the process of chasing begins.
Chasing as it is called is manipulating the bronze using small steel chasing tools of various shapes and a chasing hammer. By tapping the tools against the bronze you can close up small gaps and re-contour any missing detail. Then using small riffle files the surface is smoothed down and polished.
10. When all the molds were ready the casting process began. Originally the Grammys were cast in lead. Lead was used in those days in all trophies because it was easy to cast and because it was easy to polish and finish. The problem with lead is that it is soft and breaks easily. I decided to use an alloy of zinc and aluminum and with the help of Semco Industries we came up with a custom alloy that we call "Gramium".
We are still using the same molds today and if treated right they should last another 20 years.