Click for Original Built up Dragon Scultpure

Demonstration by Jock Dempsey
September 19, 2001
There is a long story behind this sculpture. The original was wood and a landmark in Lynchburg, VA. It was mounted on top of a section of telephone pole about 8 feet off the ground and nearly overhanging the street. It was the kind of thing that kids would beg to go see any time they were out for a drive. It became an annual prank to steal the dragon head. The owners got it back 12 out of 13 times. . .

The wife of the fellow that had originaly made it wanted a replacement as a father's day gift. I told her I would make a drawing and and then we would go from there. One requirement was that it would be difficult to steal.

If you are ever in Lynchburg it is on Link Road about a block past the golf course.

So, here is how I made the famous Lynchburg dragon sculpture.
The techniques used here could be used to build birds with feathers and reptiles with scales. Perhaps insects with segments.

Figure 1
To start I drew the outline of the head on a piece of 1/4" plate. Spiney fins and the tongue support were part of the drawing.

Figure 4

Figure 5
The side view was torched out and cleaned up with a grinder. A ring "collar" was made and extension bars added to attach it to the post it was to be mounted on. The fins were shaped while they were accessable.

Figure 6
More fins were added and two bent bars were welded on folowing the outline of the back of the head and neck.

Figure 7

Figure 8
A piece of 3/8 by 1-1/2" steel was forged to represent the eye sockets. Sort of looked like a pair of glasses.

Eye "balls" or pupils were upset on pieces of round bar and bent so that the "optic" nerve attached to the dragon's "brain" :)

Figure 9
The lower jaw was forged from 1" square bar. Holes were drilled for teeth. The teeth were forged of 3/8" round and set in the holes. The teeth were welded from the back and then ground smooth.

Figure 10
The upper jaw was made similarly except 3/8 x 1" flat bar was shaped to fit. The teeth were done the same as the lower jaw.

Figure 11
The upper and lower jaws were welded to the front edge of the frame. Two support bars were welded between the inside of the jaw and the plate at the back corner of the jaw.

Figure 2
Here is a dragon's eye view from the back at about this point. This is my favorite picture of the dragon. . .

Click for an enlargement.

Figure 12
The dragons tongue was forged of 3/8" by 1-1/2" bar. It was split with a chisle and very serpent like. Although this sculpture is fabricated it contains many forged components.

The tongue was welded in as shown. If I had thought of it he would of had tonsils too!

Figure 13

Figure 14
Two types of scales were used. Flat wide scales like on the belly of a snake and "heater" shaped scales.

The scales were attached starting from the bottom edge and overlaped like shingles. On the lower jaw the scales were fitted and welded along the inside were the welds were not visible.

Figure 15
The same was done from the back except that small scales were used. These were all torched out of 3/16" plate, ground to clean up and shaped on the anvil to give them some character.

Making all the scales was the hardest part of the job since they were all alike but not.

Figure 16
Scales were added one row above another and welded from the inside forming a hollow self supporting "skin".

Figure 1
When done it was cleaned and painted colors chosen by the customer. The eye "balls" are bright red and can be seen in their dark setting from some distance.
These techniques could be used to build an entire "beast". Today I would make drawings and have someone with a machine torch cut the hundreds of scales necessary for such a project. They would still need to be dressed and shaped. If they were feathers they would all need to be forged.

Figure 17
The dragon and I. Click for enlargement.
Questions, Comments?
How did you make it theft proof?
It wasn't quite "theft proof" The long bars had a cross bolt that went through the post and was piened over after installing. There was also many other hidden screws.

A couple years after installation someone tried to steal it by cutting down the whole post. so we put two reinforcing plates all the way to the ground and the customer "spiked" the pole with hundreds of nails.

The next time (about 8 years later) someone cut the attachement arms with BIG bolt cutters. When it was returned we reienforced it more. . .
Jock, I am so impressed. I want to build, or better yet, get Bill to build one of these dragons for the Ren. Fest coming up. Boy it would be a "Big Hit", people love Dragons. This was great. Thanks for Sharing it w/us:)
What is the size of this dragon?
Sharon Epps
Jock, is this just a Head of a Dragon Mounted on Plate or what? Surely you didn't have to do the whole body??
Looks like a friendly dragon. Could mount a torch inside and make it breathe fire, I suppose. Looks GREAT as it is!
The pole it is mounted on is 10" in diameter. IF you click on the image above you can see a photo of me with it when it was installed. It weighed a little less than 100 pounds.
Sharon its monted atop an 8 foot tall post and just clears the shrubs that surround it.
Milt, The customer considered making it a true fire breathing dragon but the quote for fire was much more than the sculpture!
good demo as always. . . I like him.
If fire cost more than your work, you probably did it too cheap. But it apparently is loved by many in the area --- it's atribute to your work years later --- neat!
A very nice piece of work.
Jock // a tour de force. Formidable!
Way too cheap. 10 years after the initial installation I charged as much to make simple repairs and to repaint it (needed sand blasting) as the original price!
Got some sculptural mailbox commissions to do and theft is a real problem. . they dont return em round here.
Sharon Epps
Jock, I assume it is still standing? That is a piece to be proud of, cause lots of folks can appreciate it:) I like the way you made this dragon, I plan to study it in detail when you post it on I-Forge (Grin). There are lots of ways to make dragons, but this one looks impressive because of the "Eyes and the Scales". Good Demo.
Pete, Stainless so it can't be torched, and deep concrete anchoring. . . However, the highway department often has rules on roadside "posts"
tom b
Very nice peice of work
Dragon came out great,nice detail
Yes, it is still standing. If it wasn't I would hear from the customer. The second instalation had hardened 3/4" bolts in countersunk holes that were filled in to hide the heads.

But nothing is "theft proof" if someone is determined enough.

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