pagoda ice sculpture design, white on black

I am currently raiding my old, beat up file cabinets, hopefully to your benefit. Eventually, all of my designs and drawings will be at least digitized, if not available on this site. (We’ll see.) My goal is that someday, those old file cabinets will be out on the side of the road, just in time to be picked up in the weekly trash collection. My latest “discovery” was this pagoda design, which I’ve used on more than one occasion, but not for a while.

Previously, I’d thought that pagodas were primarily a Japanese specialty, but pagodas are found all over East Asia. They have a very distinctive tiered tower look; the tiers will have multiple eaves. There are typically an odd number of tiers. Frequently, the pagoda is topped by a decorative finial which seems to often have nine rings. The design that I’ve attached has a seven ring finial, largely because it’s tough to squeeze in nine rings without making it ridiculously tall. I have found examples of pagodas with seven rings before, however, so it’s apparently not a hard and fast rule.

sculpture dimensions

The sculpture is designed to be cut from a single standard block of ice and as drawn, it measures approximately 53 inches tall, 19 inches wide, and 9-10 inches front to back, depending on the thickness of your ice block. As is frequently the case with ice sculptures, because of the ice block dimensions, the front to back measurements of the sculpture are out of proportion. This is correctable, but it requires a lot more work and a lot more ice. You do this by stacking a series of progressively smaller square slabs that correspond to the tiers of the pagoda. Each square slab is as thick as each pagoda tier is high. A similar approach can be used with the Eiffel Tower design, although you only need a couple of square slabs for for that, as La tour Eiffel gets much thinner much more quickly.

pagoda ice sculpture in Mobile, AL
I created this pagoda for an event in Mobile, AL some years back.

where you could use a pagoda ice sculpture

Not surprisingly, ice pagodas are ideal for Asian food displays. I’ve done them in the past when an event featured several different styles of food and they wanted to highlight the Asian food station. I recall one event that had pagodas on either side of a long table at the food station. I’ve also made ice bars for sushi and a pagoda ice sculpture might be a nice accent for one of those. Or, you could go the route that Dean Carlson and Ben Rand of Styled Ice went with this sushi bar, and use pagodas for the supports.

pagoda sushi bar by Styled Ice
This cool pagoda sushi bar is part of the Styled Ice gallery on the site.

keeping things straight

Any time you sculpt a tower or building, it’s very important that the sculpture stands up straight; the notable exception being the leaning Tower of Pisa. To that end, the pagoda template is very useful, but it’s very important to make sure that it’s applied to the ice properly. Once the sculpture has been set up in the display tray, make sure to take a look and see that it stands straight up and down. If it doesn’t, make adjustments. I often use cocktail napkins underneath a sculpture to raise one side or the other until it looks right.

pagoda ice carving
This is why you don’t use a flash when you take pictures of ice sculptures…and why you should also pay attention to the background. The pagoda is straight up and down; the background, not so much.

the finial

Not all pagodas have finials. But it’s a straightforward way to significantly increase the height and impact of your pagoda. I suggest adding the delicate finial once the sculpture is in place. There’s no point in risking a delicate part of the sculpture during transportation. But it’s extra important that the finial stand straight up and down as well. When freezing the finial in place, I might make small adjustments with a warm iron. For example, I might check how the finial sits, then make necessary adjustments with the iron, check to see how it fits again, make more adjustments if I need to, and repeat as necessary. When I’m finally satisfied with how the finial sits atop the pagoda, then I’ll freeze it into place with butane or maybe gum freeze.

As with any sort of rod, tube, or tower shaped piece of ice, you should make a special effort to make sure that your melting finial doesn’t start to look like something unintended. Making sure the finial is as highly detailed as you can make it will help in this regard. Cutting the rings is an important part of this detailing.

You can get the finial out of the block as indicated in the template. However, it’s a bit of a tight cut and if your ice block is smaller than expected or if you just can’t get enough space in the block to cut out the finial, then probably the easiest solution is to use some scrap ice that’s hopefully available from earlier carving. As pictured, the finial needs a piece of ice that’s about 15 inches long by about 2.5 inches wide and 2.5 inches thick.

design and template

pagoda ice sculpture design

pagoda ice sculpture template

more Asian-style ice sculpture designs

Asian dragon ice sculpture design, 2 blocks    dragon food service tray    Asian dragon ice sculpture design, 1 block
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