F.I.R.E. - Foundry Invitational and River Exhibition - 2024

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Jul 2, 2021
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MidSouth, USA
This year's F.I.R.E. event is underway.

I was able to visit for a few hours today, and chatted with a number of the artists in attendance.

One person I ran across worked for many years in a commercial foundry, and he told me many of his stories (some rather scary).
Fascinating fellow and a very successful foundry operator for many years.
I mentioned that I was trying to make ductile iron for use with model engine crankshafts, and he disappeared for a few minutes, and then returned with a box of ferromagnesium, which he gave me for free.

So now I guess the pressure is on for me to try and learn the ductile iron process.
I have studied it in the books; consulted with someone who understood the process, and also watched the process on ytube.
The trick will be to get a mild reaction, and not a severe reaction that ejects all the iron back out of the container.

They will do an iron pour tomorrow, so I will try to get photos and videos.

Its a great group of artists, and they use some really creative bound sand molding techniques to cast all sorts of odd shapes and sizes in iron.
It is great fun to be around folks who are very passionate about casting artwork using gray iron.


This person was not in attendance today, which is unfortunate since I was looking forward to a chat.
I don't think they would mind me posting this impressive photo, which illustrates this person's passion for art-iron very well I think.

Many who attend this function are actually professional full-time commercial art-iron artists.

This is a very nice and talented iron casting person.
I hope to see them next year.

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It was a great event today.

They ran two cupolettes simultaneously.

They go through rigorous training before they begin this event, with everyone assigned an exact tast, like furnace stoker, furnace operator, furnace tapping person, shank pouring people, safety people with dry sand and shovels, guides who guide the pouring folks to the correct mold, overall directors for each cupolette, etc. etc.
They do complete dry-runs of every move that everyone makes before they ever start the furnaces.

Some of these folks have been casting art-iron for over 30 years.
People in attendance include the foundry director for the Metal Museum, his staff of instructors, vetran art iron folks who often travel across the country to attend, and young interns who are often enrolled in a multi-year curriculum to learn commercial art iron.

You an tell when they are getting close to pour time because they "leather-up", as I call it.
I counted at least 30 in leather.

Every single person at this event will chat and explain to you what they are doing, and how they are doing it.
Its a great friendly group.

One volunteer that I talked with worked for many years in a foundry in Alabama, and successfullly ran his own foundry also for many years.


This is the larger of the two cupolettes that were operating, and they are preheating it with propane.

And a photo of a small propane furnace they were using inside the foundry to pour silicon bronze.

The cupolettes use coke for fuel, which is coal that has been heated in the absence of oxygen.


I had to ask what this piece of equipment was.
The air regulator is not related to this equipment.

Do you know what it does ?


It is an acetelene generator, and the container on top is for water, which drips slowly into calcium carbide in the lower chamber, which generates acetelene.
You would definitely not want to accidentally dump excess water into the lower chamber, which is what I learned from using carbide caving headlamps.

Scratch blocks, which can be purchased blank by the general public, and then carved on site.
These will be poured in gray iron.

Note the sand around the pour area.
At first I thought this was some sort of safety thing, but when I asked, they said it was to protect the expensive washed-pebble driveway from getting stained by iron spills.

The molds use a resin binder with commercial baked foundry sand called "OK85".
Resin binder requires a very dry sand.

The variety of mold sizes and types is endless.

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They had a large number of shells made, I think for sculpture/figurine type castings.

These were loaded into a burnout kiln, and burned out.
The kiln is also used to preheat the molds just prior to pouring in bronze.

A few castings and patterns laying around.

LOL, I was wondering about the figurines, and had to look twice.
Apparently one is a donut head; LOL, very creative folks at this show.

The bronze dragon is very nice too.


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And one cool thing about this show is that it is located high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, and so affords a spectacular view of the river and bridges crossing it.

And if desired, the participants can camp right next to the river, and have a fantastic view.


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