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Restoration of a Piece of Magician History

Because they were matching the bust to a marble original, a smooth, uniform, high-detail casting was essential. “[Moore] was looking for white concrete, pinhole-free,” says Sacco, and that’s just what the customer got.

When Steve Moore, a retired escape artist and Harry Houdini historian, went looking for someone to help restore a damaged bust from Houdini’s grave, Bart Sacco’s was the first name to come up. Sacco, owner of Concrete Texturing Tool and Supply Inc., Kingdom Products and The Concrete Kingdom Decorative Training Center, in Throop, Pa., used his expertise in casting high-detail concrete pieces to help Moore create an identical replica of the 1914 marble sculpture.

Because they were matching the bust to a marble original, a smooth, uniform, high-detail casting was essential. “[Moore] was looking for white concrete, pinhole-free,” says Sacco, and that’s just what the customer got. Moore and the Harry Houdini Museum, based in Scranton, Pa., put up the money for the molding supplies, and Sacco donated the concrete, additives and time. Moore filled in the damaged portions of the original bust, and they were able to create an exceptionally high-detail mold. (The mold even picked up the faint signature of sculptor John Cassidy.)

Sacco then used Kingdom Products Imperial White Concrete Countertop Mix with the addition of Kingdom Products Self-Compacting Additive to cast the replica. In order to guarantee that the final piece was pinhole-free, Moore and Sacco built a vacuum box to put negative pressure on the piece while it was setting.

The final casting was installed at Houdini’s grave in Queens, New York City, in October 2011, replacing the damaged bust that was removed from the site more than 30 years ago.

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