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A Sculpture from the Inside by Alvin Calhoun
Porting is something that I have always been curious about. Back in the mid-1970s, I used to read Hot Rod Magazine. One of its writers, Jim McFarland, wrote a lot about head porting, and I could hardly wait until the next issue came out.
It was actually in the mid- to late-’80s before I first put a grinder-borrowed from a friend-to a head. These were big-block Ford heads and I got good results. Then the next set came, and the next. I had a full-time job at the time, and did porting on the side until the early ’90s.
Then I got into an accident that put me in a wheelchair. At that point, I was not able to do a lot of the other things that I did before. But, I could still port heads. So I moved into it full time.
What this work requires is the hands of an artist and the mind of an engineer.
These two characteristics don’t usually exist in the same body. I am a little bit different. I studied engineering many years ago when I was in college. I have actually gotten my hands on a lot of stuff, taking it apart to see what works and what doesn’t.
I am also an artist. I paint, draw and sculpt. I have been into that since I was a little kid. Whenever I approach a head, it feels like I am doing a sculpture from the inside.
The other thing this work requires is patience. Not many people can sit in front of the same head for three days. I have had people walk into my shop the first day and say, “OK, you’re working on those heads” and then come back the next day and say, “Are you still working on that same head?”
I say, “Yes I am, and I will be working on them again tomorrow.”