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The Story: Babe Ruth Next
What follows is the story of how this life-size, solid wood statue of Babe Ruth came to be. The piece took roughly 800 hours of work over a period of many months. The finished statue weighs 250 lbs (including the base, to which it is permanently attached) and is exactly life sized in all details. It depicts Babe Ruth in a 1929 home uniform (the first year the Yankees put numbers on the uniforms; the breast-located, "NY", was not added until 1936) having just finished his powerful swing. The torque of Ruth's swing often twisted his feet completely around and that is what is depicted. Absolutely everything on the statue was done by hand by artist/sculptor Brian Birrer. Absolutely everything on the statue is wood: the eyes, the hands, the hat brim, the belt loops, the shoes and even the shoe laces and spikes.
Here is the very first shot of the Babe Ruth statue. This was taken in 1998, as this statue project was shelved for almost ten years. The Black Walnut blocks have been roughly shaped into the shoes and the first layer of the base is laid down. As you can see here, the shoes are part of the base and are securely built right into it. As noted previously, the use of the Walnut is for strength and for the base of a statue that you will labor on for 500 to 800 hours, the base has to be solid, and with Babe, it is.
After an almost ten year hiatus, work on The Babe commences. The shoes are finished and the legs are roughed out. The legs have just been joined together and the base has been cut down as well. It was this very photo that was published on a web blog that resulted in the sale of the statue by the Gaylord National Hotel.
And by 'roughing out', I mean making chips; and saw dust. A lot of it. Here, a leg gets roughed out the old fashioned way: with the gouges.
But the real work is done with the chainsaw. It's noisier, dustier and not as romantic as the sculptor and his mallet and chisels, but it is the reality.
And the result is looking more and more like it could be a man and not a block of wood.
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