Four years went by before we--Katherine, really--came up with the right method for displaying this hay rake in our very old former-farm house.
The effect is of a hand that's emerging from the wall to hold the item. It's simple and sculptural, and while the approach was perfect for this item, one should be able to use a similar approach for a range of other items.
This also serves as something of a keepsake since the hand cast is that of my dad, which is also fitting since he grew up on a farm, as did generations before.
The challenges were (1) casting it such that the hole matched the one needed to hold the rake, and (2) attaching the plaster hand to the wall in a way that revealed no hooks or other fasteners.
The materials are inexpensive and readily available. The mounting method was very "invasive," but it produced the effect desired. (We also don't plan on taking this down until we move.)
The rake is not affected, which was one of the requirements we had at the outset.
And truth-be-told, we didn't realize that the slope of the rake was just about the same as the slope of the ceiling until it was mounted.
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Step 1: Cast the Plaster Hand, Unmold It, Clean It Up, and Seal It.
We used material from a local craft store that came in a bucket. Here's essentially the same thing from an online source.
My dad, whose hand we cast, held a piece of PVC in his hand. (Note that the angle, which was a guess, needed to be pretty close in order for an item of this size to be held without creating force that would pull the hand off the wall.)
After unmolding, it was easy to remove the PVC.
Following the directions that came with the casting material, we let it dry and then cleaned up the cast hand. This included filling some of the surface air holes with leftover casting material. We also sanded the surface with fine sandpaper in places to achieve a smooth surface.
We then spray painted it white (gloss) to ensure a uniform appearance and protect the soft plaster.
Step 2: The Rod and Hollow Wall Anchors Need to Match.
Here's where we're headed: A threaded rod is inserted into a hole drilled through the hand. The hole emerges at the inside of the palm. The threaded rod screws into a hollow wall anchor inserted into the wall. The hand is inserted onto the rod and held in place with a spacer and nut. The item, in this case a rake with a tapered handle, is inserted carefully.
As shown below, the threaded rod has to fit the hollow wall anchors, both in diameter and threads per inch. Labels on each make this straightforward; the items are available from hardware stores small and large.
Instructions on the box for the anchors explain attaching this to your wall. (Pick the place carefully; it will be there for a long while.)
The strews that come with the hollow wall anchors aren't used.
A hole is drilled in the hand using a very long bit. We used a 12" long 1/4" bit. That was longer than needed, but we had it on hand (so to speak) and the length made it easier to see if we were perpendicular to the base.
We were lucky because it ended up being close.
Step 3: Instert the Rod Into the Hollow Wall Anchor in the Wall
Put the rod into the chuck as you would a drill bit and make quick work of threading it into the hollow wall anchor.
Step 4: Place the Plaster Hand on the Rod and Attach It to the Rod.
Place the plaster hand on the rod and check the length of the rod. Minor adjustments can be made by screwing the rod further in or out of the wall.
Check the angle of the base (i.e., what's left of the arm) so that it fits snuggly against the wall. Sand it carefully if it needs adjustment.
Note that it's easy to repeatedly foul up the sanding, over correcting one way and then the other, and if you're not careful, ending up with a surface that is convex rather than flat.
It helps to use a large piece of sandpaper that's affixed to a flat surface, then sand carefully, ensuring that the finished surface is flat.
We took that approach and still ended up with something that was slightly off, as the second picture shows. Where we have it mounted most visitors will never have this side view.
To secure the hand to the rod and still allow room for the handle, a recessed area was carved out of the palm to hold a small hard nylon tube that I found in the small parts drawer in the fasteners aisle of the nearby home improvement store. (They may be labeled as "spacers.") This was used in order to provide a larger surface against which to tighten the small nut. (The shape of the palm made a traditional washer impractical.)
Note that the handle has a very slight taper. When we tested this with PVC, we realized that simply by slipping the rake into the hand from the top, with no other attachment than that offered by the pull of gravity, the taper was such that the hand would be in about the middle of the shaft when it "held" it.
Before we discovered this, we considered having to use various sizes of rubber washers or rubber bands around the shaft where you wanted it held. A worst case scenario would have been an invasive method, such as drilling a hole and inserting a small rod or nail perpendicular to the shaft that protruding on each side.
Step 5: The Finished Effect.
The finished effect is striking. We'd not seen it done elsewhere, and so wanted to share the idea with others.
Note that we've never removed the rake since putting this on the wall. If we did, I'm sure the rake would not be marred in any way. Also note that we have it in an area where it's never bumped or touched. Given that plaster is relatively soft, we assume that it wouldn't hold up to much use or abuse.
Good luck with your project.