By Dianne Sudbrock
If you have driven through Augusta, Missouri the past few months you no doubt noticed a large metal sculpture taking shape along Jackson Street. Now complete, the striking mallard drake is an original piece created by “Augusta Rust” (Brian Watson of Augusta and Ben Boyher of Byrnes Mill, MO.) The two are experienced metal fabricators with a talent for imagining and fabricating big, bold creations from reclaimed rusty metal.
The idea for this particular sculpture was born during a conversation with a duck hunter who admired a custom-made weather vane the two had created.
With a potential customer in mind, Brian and Ben set about designing a male mallard (drake) in a dramatic landing pose and finding materials they could use. Most of the materials were locally sourced in the Augusta area including vine starter rods from a local vineyard for the armature (inner framework,) and reclaimed metal roofing from what was once a gas station, now a glass blowing shop, in Augusta.
A plasma cutter was used to cut the roof tin into feathers which were then individually fastened onto the armature to create the outer cladding. Two special tools were made to help bend the metal. Each feather is fastened in a minimum of three locations. Stainless steel staples were used to prohibit corrosion. Each 2-inch-long staple was shot from the outside, then hand twisted together on the inside — which was no easy feat given the tight quarters.
Structural elements were added later, after the armature was complete. The wings were socketed by three telescoping tubes per side, and bolted in place. Bracing was added to ensure stability and prevent cyclic movement which could lead to tensile stress failure.
The wings were created in tandem for symmetry. Each wing contains 220 individual feathers, 120 of those are outlined with a 1/4-inch rod for rigidity. The rods were attached with 11-gauge hog rings via the use of a custom-modified pliers. These connections will be intact long after a spot weld on the galvanized roofing material would have failed.
The cladding on the feet was made by weaving small strips of the metal roofing tin around each claw, and the large tail feathers were curled mimicking this signature trait of the male mallard.
With the exception of the teal wings and eyes, the roof tin was used without any additional paint. To create the dramatic contrast between the different areas of the piece, the artists hand-selected sections of both the front and back of the roof panels: blackened soot underside for the tail, reflective gray galvanized on the head, full rust for the collar and bill, streaked rust and original metallic paint for the body feathers.
Once completed, the “Mallard at Landing” sculpture was coated with a special paint additive that soaks into the rust and helps arrest the corrosion, ensuring the longevity of the piece.
The completed sculpture, which took four months to build, has a 23-foot wingspan, stands 9 feet tall and is 14 feet long. It is believed to be the largest mallard sculpture in the country, and the second-largest in the world! Soon, it will be moved to its permanent home at a private residence where the surrounding landscape will create a long, double wake behind the duck using elevated ground and short foliage.
Local Artists Create Striking “Mallard at Landing” Sculpture Using Reclaimed Materials.
Primary target photo of "Mallard at Landing."
An aerial view showing the 23' wingspan.
Vine starter rods from a local winery were used to shape the
armature and support some of the larger wing feathers.
Except for the eyes and some teal paint on the wings,
the colors on the rest of the piece are all-natural patina from the aged roofing tin.
The cladding on the feet was made by weaving thin strips
of the metal roofing material around each talon.
Curved tail feathers - a signature trait of the male mallard (drake.)