COUNCIL BLUFFS — The handsome eagles of Pottawattamie County didn't just land at their respective sites.
A lot of hard work by Neola artists Russ and Penny Christensen went into the creation of the 42-inch-tall bronze bald eagles that honor area veterans.
“About 3½ to four months is normally how long it takes,” said Russ Christensen.
He recently demonstrated the steps to create an eagle bust at the Center in Council Bluffs.
To start a bronze eagle, Christensen starts with a plywood platform, then installs a metal pipe on the platform to support the creation of the eagle bust.
The next step involves cutting 2-inch-thick foam, similar to what is used in new home insulation, into the shape of an eagle, which is then wired to the pipe.
He packs tin foil onto the foam, applies beeswax-based clay onto the foil and then heats the clay under a heat lamp for five minutes.
“That will soften it up,” Christensen said. “It never hardens.”
About seven coats of latex rubber mold are then applied over the clay.
“Over the latex, I'll do a plaster shell to support the rubber mold so that it doesn't move. Then I'll pour wax into that mold.”
All of this work is done at his Neola studio. Then he takes the mold and wax to a Colorado foundry, where bronze is poured into a ceramic shell at temperatures reaching 1,800 degrees. The final steps involve applying chemicals to the bronze to create different colors.
“It takes me about two months to sculpt it, two weeks to mold it and do the wax, and eight weeks at the foundry,” Christensen said.
“It's a unique process, it really is,” said Roger Frieze, co-chairman of the committee overseeing the Council Bluffs eagle.
Christensen has already completed 13 bronze eagles throughout the county, and the one for Council Bluffs will be the last one finished, he said.
“Freedom With Honor” is the city's theme for the countywide project honoring those who served in the military.
The eagle and its surrounding plaza will be installed at the RailsWest Railroad Museum at 16th Avenue and Main Street. The official unveiling is planned for Veterans Day.