Creative Journeyat Tonglen Lake Lodge

Metal Artist Rodolfo Santana

Santana at work.
Aimee Lee helping with the design transfers.
The lodge railing
The rusting pile
Chris and Santana fine tuning the sign construction.
Santana installing the Tonglen Lake National Forest Sculpture
Wildlife in the National Forest.
Santana and Donna

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When I entertained the idea of purchasing a plasma cutter to produce metal signage for the lodge, I was completely ignorant of the equipment and the process, so I “asked around”.  Googling is a wonderful resource for researching information but it provides a daunting amount of information to sort through and the choices can be so profuse as to render one into a bleary-eyed state of ineffectiveness.  So, I welcomed a neighbor’s advise:


“You should contact Rudy.”


Santana, as he likes to be addressed, entered my world… and my shop…last summer; his forth season working for the National Park with Tim Taylor’s crew.  The warm smile and quiet demeanor of this young man from Palm Springs captured the hearts of many in our community.  He advised me on the type of plasma cutter to purchase (the Hyperthem PowerMax 30, if you are curious), set everything up when it arrived and even provided lessons.  Soon he was spending hours in my shop on his weekends, sunglasses on, earphones in, cutting… and cutting.  We were able to complete the railing for the main lodge before he left for Southern California last October.


My list of metal projects grew, and grew.  This spring I texted Santana just to see if he might be interested and able to fly up to Alaska for a few weeks to help. The stars aligned and he winged his way to Fairbanks last month for two and a half weeks.  He arrived here on a Sunday around noon and was setting up the shop by 1:00pm.  I had worked diligently to produce a body of designs and transferred many of them to the sheet steel with help from Molly Walker and Marin Durrenberger.  Admittedly, I did not have EVERYTHING completed but I was fairly certain that I could stay ahead of Rudy enough to not hold up production.  That was easier said than done.  He completed all the pre-prepared work in only four days!  I scrambled to keep up…. Ultimately, in the time he was here we completed and installed:  the railing for the Canine Resort building (including painting), the ten cabin lamp post sculptures (including painting), the ten cabin exterior designs, four cabin railing accents (including painting), the large Tonglen Lake sign, the large Artisan Café sign, the large sign for the Canine Resort, six directional property signs, the Tonglen Lake National Forest sculpture, a pile of trivets and a wolf portrait. 


The signs we chose to rust.  We expedited the process with a mixture of white vinegar, peroxide and salt repeatedly applied to the metal.  Once the pieces were adequately rusted, they were then spray varnished.  In addition, aluminum accents were included on several of the large signs.  Special thanks to Chris Jones for his help in the installation of the signs.


Santana is a diligent and focused worker.  Add to that an abundant knowledge of metal along with creative brilliance and you have an amazingly outstanding talent.  He is a joy to work with and our interests and knowledge dovetailed well.  In our hours working together, we created another long list of projects including producing some artwork for the Artisan Café gallery.  We also are accepting orders from folks who are interested in metal products that I could design and Santana can create. 


Are you interested?  Drop us an email : )


Special thanks to Rudy Santana.


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