Saturday, July 25, 2009

Touring Your Local Foundry Is Like A Trip Back In Time

I recently had an opportunity to visit one of Kansas City’s foundries. Cities like Kansas City once had numerous foundries that poured copper, bronze, brass and aluminum for all sorts of industrial as well as commercial needs. Today only a couple foundries remain active in Kansas City due to competition from overseas. Those that are still in operation have been creating product from molten metal in much the same way as they did since they were founded nearly 100 years ago. My visit, therefore, was in many ways like taking a trip back in time to the 1920s.

The foundry opens early in the summer to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures. They were pouring bronze the day of my visit. Large bars of primarily recycled bronze were melted in their large crucible at temperatures of nearing 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. Patterns of industrial parts had already been pressed into extremely fine black sand leaving an amazingly detailed impression of the parts in the sand. This type of casting is known as sand casting and has been performed in much the same way for hundreds of years. The melted bronze was then carefully poured into the impressions left in the sand. The bronze was allowed to cool. Once cooled, the sand was removed leaving only castings of the parts. The parts were then finished by removing any excess bronze that resulted from the casting process. Finally, the parts cleaned from any remaining sand with a shot-blasting machine.

Shop 4 Classics sells a lot of bronze home hardware products, so it was interesting to get a glimpse of how these products are produced. Hamilton Sinkler manufactures bronze and brass hardware including bronze door hardware and bronze vent covers. Classic Grills specializes in manufacturing decorative heat registers and air returns in several types of bronze. Finally, Mission Metalworks offers unique copper and bronze Arts & Crafts house numbers.

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