Before concrete artisan Josh Thiel of Thiel Studios in West Palm Beach, Florida, changed his career path, he was a mechanical engineer. From building combat robots for television and designing Power Wheels with Fisher-Price, he was involved with one intriguing project after another.
One that serendipitously prepared him for future concrete endeavors involved his former employer the International Chimney Corp., a company well known for its capabilities to relocate large-scale structures such as mansions, museums, theaters and even the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
During Thiel’s employment, the company was hired to renovate and expand the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, New York. Thiel served as project engineer.
Among other things, he and his crew were tasked with relocating the basilica’s Peace Mural, a curved 7,000-pound sgraffito artwork created in 1975 by Polish professor Joseph Slawinski. The sgraffito technique involves carving thin layers of colored concrete and mortar to reveal different colors at different depths.
The 24-foot-long, 7.5-foot-tall mural, which was 5 feet off the ground behind the church’s main altar, was to be relocated to a new sacristy where it could be better displayed. To prepare for the move, the mural first needed to be structurally reinforced and braced. A specially devised jacking-and-cribbing system was then used to lower the mural a quarter inch at a time onto a custom dolly system engineered by Thiel and his team.
With great care and precision, “We lowered it down, rolled it through small openings, raised it back up and secured it in place,” says Thiel.
This painstaking procedure didn’t go unnoticed. The feat landed him an award from the International Association of Structural Movers for the most unusual move of the year … and laid the groundwork for his patent-pending invention he’s calling the King’s Cart.
Not putting the cart before the horse
After he got into the decorative concrete business, Thiel says he initially designed a cart to transport a walk-in concrete bathtub he fabricated for HGTV’s “The Vanilla Ice Project.”
“The tub weighed 800 pounds and I needed to maneuver it in and around the site,” he says. “I designed a cart specifically for the bathtub. It wasn’t meant to be adaptable.”
Over the course of about four years, he says he used the same base and “Frankensteined” the cart to serve the project at hand. “I had cut and rewelded it so many times, it was a monstrosity. Its extensive modifications were limiting my ability to continue to reshape it,” he says.
He realized he was always facing the same obstacles and concerns — namely he needed a means to move oversized, heavy, awkward and potentially bulky items without damaging them or the property or injuring the crew.
“So I decided to finally engineer a new cart based on my four years of wish listing and utilizing this thing,” he says. It would be a modular cart that you could easily take apart and add things so it could transport a variety of shapes and sizes.
Enter: The King’s Cart. “There’s nothing like it on the market,” Thiel says.
Seemingly endless capabilities
“I’m hoping this cart enables artisans to produce larger and more complex pieces and not worry about how they’re going to get them in place,” he says. “I really feel this tool will open up many more (opportunities) for artisans like it has for me!”
With very large pieces, Thiel says, going through a doorway with just manpower becomes a complex task. “The cart takes that out of the equation. It allows you to breathe easier.” For his test delivery with the latest transport cart design, Thiel maneuvered a one-piece 850-pound U-shaped countertop through doorways and through the home into the kitchen. He says he’s also used it — solo — to deliver a pair of 24-foot-long bar tops.
The cart is also a godsend to small business owners who don’t have a full-time staff and have to hire people to help with the heavy lifting that some installs require, he says. “Installs can get pricey.”
But with the aid of his King’s Cart, “I’ve loaded, transported and installed projects alone, and never had to lift the piece.” In most instances, he adds, the King’s Cart can be operated by one person, but it’s easier to steer with two.
Although the King’s Cart can be used by those in the marble and granite sector, Thiel specifically designed it to accommodate the needs of concrete artisans who don’t like seams in their creations and who often need to transport complex 3-D shapes.
The cart functions as a rolling system and each leg lifts independently. They can be tilted, rotated up to 360 degrees and locked in place.
“I also built in a design which allows you to adjust each workpiece’s center of gravity and ease the labor of the person moving it.” These endless adjustments let the cart and its contents get through doorways, around corners, and up and down steps with control, Thiel explains. “The whole thing is on a pivot point.”
Pricing and availability
Right now, carts can be purchased directly from Thiel, who says he’s working on distribution venues.
A complete functioning cart — which comes with the standard 8-foot 6-inch gantry span or an optional 10-foot 6-inch gantry span — is fully outfitted with outriggers, swivel casters and hydraulics. Optional accessories include extensions that can be attached at either or both ends of the base platform to increase the overall carrying capacity by up to an additional 4 feet.
The King’s Cart, fully welded and powder coated, comes with a one-year warranty. It’s rated to transport up to 2,000 pounds. Pricing starts at $4,795, plus freight shipping.
Kits are also available starting at $1,795. They come with all the critical steel CNC parts, custom hardware, fasteners, assembly instructions and a cut list that can be taken to a local welding shop. “You can do your own fabrication and assembly and then buy the remaining components, casters and hydraulics locally for about $500,” Thiel estimates.
“I really want people to push the boundaries on what they can do and achieve with concrete,” he says. “I think this cart will help with that.”
Seen here, Jenny Thiel admires the Peace Mural in the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, New York. Years ago, her husband, Josh Thiel, was instrumental in relocating the sgrafitto artwork created by Joseph Slawinski during a renovation.
The left side of the mural depicts a mushroom cloud and the aftermath of an atomic bomb. The right side paints a much rosier picture of a tranquil world where peace prevails.
In the center is a pregnant young woman, a symbol that peace has not yet arrived but may soon. Four figures representing the world’s four races surround her. Above the group, a symbolized Holy Trinity draws the two hemispheres together.