Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Creating a Faux Stone Vineyard Wall

When you drive through wine country in many parts of the world you will see vineyards edged by beautiful short stone walls. Originally built hundreds of years ago throughout much of Europe's wine growing regions, stone vineyard walls are frequently seen in Napa Valley and other parts of Northern California as well. You may also think of the term 'Clos' used frequently in Burgundy that refers to an enclosed vineyard.

Stone vineyard walls take on several different methods of construction. The oldest walls were simply stacked stone of various shapes and sizes that were skillfully fitted to create a solid stable wall. Over time however these would fall in spots and need repair to re-stack the rocks. The second method was similar to the loose stacked stones but a mortar was added to strengthen the wall and prevent collapse. And finally a newer more modern method seen more often in California is a flagstone and mortar technique over a cinder block base wall.

For the wine exhibit I wanted to incorporate a little bit of that look into the exhibits vineyard area. For several weeks I contemplated the best way to build the wall and make it look authentic without weighing thousands of pounds because of my need to transport the exhibit pieces from venue to venue. After a lot of research I decided that I would construct the wall out of EPS foam panels...(or styrofoam) laminated to a plywood shell. The style I decided to replicate was the flagstone and mortar look. Fortunately for me two of the major suppliers that I needed to source supplies from are located in Houston. I had custom 2" x 12" x 60" and 2" x 9.75" x 60" foam panels produced at Houston Foam Plastics. From there I went to a company down South of Houston called Industrial Polymers and purchased 4 gallons of a special product called "StyroSpray 1000". This stuff is great! You spray or brush it in multiple coats over the styrofoam panels and it cures to form a hard, durable shell which can be painted with just about any paint. Many people have no idea about construction with foam materials. But actually it is very popular for constructing many faux reproductions in theme parks and museums. For my needs, the greatest asset with the foam technique is that the end product is super light for it's size.

The photo above shows one of the panels just after completion of the faux painting, a technique done with four or five different sponges. The photos below show construction of the wall pieces. The first shows panels being laminated to the plywood framework. The second shows me cutting the stone design into the foam with a 'Dremel' tool. The bottom photo shows a carved panel coated with 'StyroSpray 1000'.