Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Tradesmen mind their p’s and q’s with Knoebel school’s new name

Decorative painter Molly Wilkinson of MW Designs applies red primer to carved letters prior to applying gold leaf. Scott Davis, right, carves the letters.

The Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management may be a mouthful for many, but for stone carver Scott Davis it’s a musical title.

That’s because Davis, whose job is to carve the Knoebel school’s new name into stone on the east side of its building, is paid by the letter. The more letters the better, he grins. Especially if there are lots of “i’s” and “l’s” and not so many “m’s” or “w’s,” which are a lot more work.

“It’s a half-inch deep V-cut,” he explains. “Done with a hammer and chisel like Roman letters were originally done.”

Each letter takes 30 to 60 minutes to hand carve after being traced onto the side of the building with a stencil provided by the University architect’s office. Davis likes having a stencil because it eliminates the chance of misspelling “Fritz” as “Frits” or “Hospitality” as “Hopitality.” Mistakes in stone, he cautions, are not easily fixed.

At least the Indiana limestone on the building carves well, he says, unlike other stones such as travertine.

Colleague Molly Wilkinson of MW Designs doesn’t mind a job with a lot of letters either. She follows Davis’ progress, carefully gilding his Roman letters with 24-carat gold leaf. That’s pure gold, she reminds. It’s as thin as paint and durable enough to last millennia.

“If you go down to the King Tut exhibit, there’s a lot of stuff with gold on it that’s been there … forever,” she says, referring to the display at the Denver Art Museum.

But gold is also delicate to handle, sometimes flecking onto hands and face like expensive paint spatters. “It’s so fine it’s almost like liquid. I usually go home with gold stuck to my face.” She says gilding takes patience and a steady hand to properly adhere the gold to the stone once she’s sealed it with red primer.

Wilkinson figures it’ll take about $800 worth of gold to leaf the letters in the school’s new name, which is just two letters and a comma shorter than the old one: School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. “We’re looking for a great donor with a really long name,” she chuckles.

No matter how many letters are involved, she and Davis will need to be finished carving and gilding by Oct. 19. That’s when the Knoebel School officially will be named at a private event honoring Fritz Knoebel, founder of Nobel Inc., formerly the nation’s largest privately owned food service distribution company.

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