Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Trip Back In Time - To the Foundry

The Smith Foundry

In 2011 we live in a world of modern conveniences from data phones giving us access to the worlds information anywhere any time to cars navigated by GPS units and solar panels to power our houses.  The world is constantly changing and you have to constantly be adjusting just to keep up.  Some things can be modified and improved, but never get far from their essence, and that is the foundry.   This is where metal is liquified and poured into casts to make real tangible things.  Yes we in America still make things and the Smith Foundry is no exception.  Born in 1923, they are still going as strong today as ever.  It is a small operation of  less than 70 people creating casts from one ounce to 500 pounds.  It is a place where you can see bone crushing work done every day.   The men who work on the floor are some of the toughest men around.  They are raw unadulterated power.  

Here is the Foundry:

To create a cast surprisingly enough begins with sand.  They use a 'green' sand which is composed of silica sand (both new and reclaimed), various bonding clays, carbonaceous materials and water.  And yes it is moved by hand.

Sand is then packed into two haves of a form.  Different sands are used for smaller pieces versus larger pieces.   The sand used on the smaller pieces can be reclaimed whereas the larger ends up in a landfill.

After the packed and vibrated into a dense mass, a form is placed in the sand and the two haves pressed together.   It is then opened back up and a mold cavity appears, ready for the molten metal.

Meanwhile in another area of the factory, iron is picked up by an electromagnet and delivered to a furnace to be dried.  It is dried so well that it makes the Sahara look like a watering hole; for if any water gets in the metal, when it is liquified, an explosion could occur sending the roof right off the place.

The scrap steel, pig iron and scrap return metal is brought to a temperature of 2600-2800 degrees Fahrenheit.   This not only liquifies the metal but heats the entire room.  Just imagine what life is like on a 90 degree summer day.  

At this point, a variety of various other alloys are added to create the desired mixture.  This mixture is carefully monitored by the plants metallurgist.

As soon as the metal is liquified, the first pour begins and it is transferred to the runner.  

As soon as his pot is full, he races across the factory floor to begin the pour.  

With sweat dripping across the men's brows, the pour begins and the molds are filled.  

After the pour, the molds are allowed to cool for a predetermined amount of time and then broken open.

Still Fiery hot, the iron is allowed to cool before the shakeout.

After it cools, it is sent through a giant shaker, that violently bounces and vibrates the casting until all the loose pieces break free.

Men then suit up like they are headed to another planet and begin the pain staking task of grinding the castings free of all the unsightly wings of metal.

Sometimes, brute strength and a good old iron rod is required to beat the wing free of the cast. 

After all this is done, the casting is either sent out to the customer raw or it could be machined, painted or plated.   


1 comment: