Pa. longtime coal sculptor moving out of state

Associated Press Published: November 23, 2012
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He started to sell his crafts in 1980 and in 1990 he opened "Len's Tree Art" at Cressona Mall. In 1991, he opened an ice cream parlor at Cressona Mall.

"We had 44 different flavors," Kimmel said.

In 1995, he closed his stores at Cressona Mall because he couldn't afford an increase in the rent.

In the mid-1990s, a fellow vendor showed him how to mold small statues and knickknacks from coal.

"People think that coal is carved but it's not, it's molded," Kimmel said.

"For the real small figures, you take coal dust and mix it with an epoxy resin and hardener to liquefy it. Then, you pour that into a rubber mold. It's basically done like you would do if you were making a cement form or statue. On the small ones, you use strictly coal dust. On larger figures, you can use pieces of coal, like rice coal, the size that they burn in stokers. You can't use pieces that are too big because you might puncture the rubber mold," Kimmel said.

Maneval said coal figures are rare.

"It's a unique product. Outside of Len's work, I don't see them anymore," she said.

"A lot of the coal artists that used to be out there, well, they're retired," Kimmel said.

Kimmel said he stopped making coal art in 2011 but he has an inventory.

"So we'll keep doing shows to get rid of what we have left," his wife said.

William Sedesse Sr., 92, who runs Sedesse's Coal Museum at 514 North St., Lykens, Dauphin County, said Tuesday that he still makes coal knickknacks every now and then.

"I still make jewelry, ash trays, crosses and other knickknacks. I've been doing it for 35 years. Coal mining is part of my family history. I had two brothers and two brothers-in-law killed in a coal mine and I was trapped in a mine myself for 11 hours. That was back 20 or 30 years ago," Sedesse said Tuesday.

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