The sculpture department at the University of North Florida had an iron pour this weekend and while Aisling was working on her roles in the event I managed to get some video and pictures of this intense creative process.
First up, Professor Lance Vickery guides students in installing the air blower for the cupola furnace – then finds and demonstrates where the hot part is.
Off to the side, the students’ molds sit in preparation for the iron to heat up.
Now the furnace is starting to really heat up:
To keep the temperature up, coke is added to the fire. This isn’t Charlie Sheen’s kind though, this is a distillate of coal that serves both as a fuel and as a reducing agent that will help to separate the oxidization and other impurities from the scrap iron.
This next video shows the actual tapping of the furnace and pouring of the iron. Molten metal cascades out to the pre-heated ladel, and two students carry it off to have the final impurities skimmed out. Once only the pure iron is left, they then walk off to pour this liquid iron in to the waiting molds the students have prepared.
And here they finish up the ladle’s worth of iron and pour the remainder back in to the furnace to stay fresh for the next round.
More iron and coke is added in to the furnace to prepare for the next batch of molds to be poured.
Students on fire duty stand ready with sand to put out any flames that get out of control.
In this video, I’ve got a slightly different perspective for the entire process, from tapping the furnace and skimming impurities, to filling the molds and managing the resulting flames:
In the last video, molten iron bursts through several ceramic shell molds. After several late-minute changes, the longer & thinner ceramic molds can’t manage to hold the 2800 degree iron without cracking and bursting at the weak points. Still, one of them worked perfectly and one of the others might still be somewhat salvageable in a modified form:
Group Photos and Aftermath
When the final molds were full and the furnace started winding down, the students and professors all gather around for a few group photos:
Now the fun part, cracking open the molds like it was Christmas morning:
And finally, smashing the last few molds and preparing for cleanup. Quite a mess compared to the orderly set up of molds when things got started!
A chance to write… (summer 2011) | John McDonald