Drogon is ready to land at his new home.
The 15,000-pound, fire-breathing Game of Thrones steel dragon made by a Chilliwack artist is finally ready to be shipped to Utah.
It took two years for metal sculptor Kevin Stone to build Drogon, one of the dragons in the popular HBO TV series, for a man who commissioned the piece.
And even though he lost financially in the end, he said he still won.
The marketing and advertising generated from posting photos and videos to social media of Drogon resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new projects.
“That piece alone puts me on another level on the world stage as an artist,” Stone said.
It’s the second dragon he’s made. The first one was a Chinese dragon built in 2009, but he always wanted to build a fire-breathing dragon.
In 2019, that day finally came.
He got a call from a man named Matthew Focht who was at Dollywood standing in front of an eagle that Stone made. Focht said the eagle was “unbelievable” and he wanted one for his roundabout at his home, recalled Stone.
“I said ‘You know, I could build anything. It doesn’t have to be an eagle,’ and he said ‘What about a Game of Thrones dragon?’ I didn’t even know what Game of Thrones was when he said that, I just heard ‘dragon.’”
Stone and his wife Michelle then binge-watched the series (all but one season) in about a week.
“Once I saw Drogon, I realized I kind of bit off more than I could chew for what the quote was.”
Stone and Focht agreed on a price tag of $110,000 USD… before Stone knew anything about Drogon.
He didn’t realize how many horns and spikes were on the dragon and how difficult they would be to make, in addition to other details like scales, fins and wings.
Plus Focht wanted it to breathe fire.
“Gotta have fire, it’s a dragon,” Stone said.
As he added more and more details and features, the project snowballed. The $110,000 USD paid for the materials, but not the labour.
“I did two things: I underbid it by a long shot and I overbuilt it because I got carried away.”
If anyone were to ask Stone how he built his 15,000-pound steel dragon that stands 30 feet tall (with the tail mounted), is 55 feet long and 45 feet wide, they might be surprised with his reply.
“Most of it’s all just visual… and then I just start building.”
He literally looks at pictures and then constructs it.
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
Well, Stone does have 33 years experience in the metal industry.
“I wanted a big dragon so I started with the mouth,” he explained, “and I built the head.”
He plunked the head on a stand.
“I went up on a ladder and looked down at the head and tried to visualize it on the floor. Then I took kids’ chalk and I drew it out on the floor – how long his neck would be, how fat his body needed to be.”
Once he visualized that and measured the chalk drawing, he figured out how big the tubular frame would be from the neck to the tail. He calculated that the ring-shaped supports needed to be placed three feet apart and would gradually get bigger in size from the neck to the body and then decrease towards the tail.
He started Drogon in October 2020 and finished it in December 2022. It’s made of heat-treated steel.
“I’ve turned what should have been easily a one-year job into a two-year job,” he said.
Granted, there were some bumps in the road.
In April 2021, he was forced to move the dragon from an automotive shop near downtown Chilliwack to his current workshop near Yarrow.
Then earlier in 2022, he stopped working on it for at least six months when he realized the dragon didn’t have a home.
Focht was living in California at the time of the deal in 2019 and later sold his house to live on a yacht with his family for a year. When Focht bought a house in Utah and Stone realized Drogon had a new home, he went back to work on the dragon.
But the new location did bring up a concern.
“I would like to see him go to an indoor place like a museum where he’s protected from the elements and would last. He’s going into the most extreme of elements now.”
Drogon was supposed to be installed in California in a driveway and now the sculpture is going to the mountains of Utah where there are 100-mile-per-hour winds. The tail and wings are like giant sails, he said.
“He’s going to be under a lot of physical stress. It’s good that I built him so strong,” Stone said. “I’m not worried about him actually breaking, it’s the fatigue on the wings. You could start seeing welds crack eventually.”
Stone later said, according to Focht, he might store the dragon inside and find a permanent indoor public location.
During the six-month period he paused work on Drogon, Stone was busy building other projects.
The popularity of the fire-breathing dragon grew and grew as the months went by. Mostly thanks to Drogon, Stone took on several more projects over the past two years including: three eagles, an Elon Musk head, a T. Rex, and two abstract pieces – one called ‘pearl of the ocean’ and the other ‘warrior angel.’
With business booming, it’s been hard to fit all the projects in the space so he’ll be moving to a different workshop in Chilliwack in the new year. Currently he’s in 2,850 square foot building with 14-foot ceilings near Yarrow. The new space is 8,600 square feet with 20-foot high ceilings.
He also hired two young tradesmen to help him. For the past several months, Josh Guretzki and Brandon O’Shea have been welding, shaping and hammering Drogon to perfection alongside Stone and his wife Michelle.
Over the past few weeks the team has been putting the final touches on the dragon including painting it with Penatrol, an oil-based coating that prevents the steel from rusting.
In early December, Stone got the propane puffer system up and running so it can shoot fire remotely. Open up the dragon’s belly and you’ll find a propane tank, valves, charging system, 12-volt battery and and a computer system.
The whole thing is controlled by a key fob.
“One button would turn the valves on and get the gas going, the next button would trigger the sparkers for the pilot lights, and you hit the trunk key to shoot fire,” Stone said.
Unlike the real Drogon in Game of Thrones, Stone’s Drogon doesn’t reign fire. Rather, the flames that shoot out of his mouth last just a few seconds, but it’s still very impressive.
Drogon will be shipped at a cost of $31,000 USD in January. It will take three trucks – one for the body, one for the tail, and one for the wings – to haul it south on the 2,000-kilometre journey to Toquerville, Utah.
No one, not even Stone, has seen the dragon intact since it’s too big to fit in his workshop with the tail on. He’s hoping Focht will fly him down to help install it where he can see Drogon in all its glory.
“When I first built the Chinese dragon I thought, ‘How am I ever going to top this?’ Now I have this and I think this one tops that one. What’s next?”