has the price of steam engine castings gone up with COVID

Home Model Engine Machinist Forum

Help Support Home Model Engine Machinist Forum:

HenryBanjo

Active Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2021
Messages
32
Reaction score
3
Location
Auckland, New Zealand
I've been looking into making an engine from castings, but ive noticed that the castings kits are quite expensive for what they are, for example the Stuart Victoria kit costs well over £300, epically once you include shipping to me out in NZ and at that price its probably almost enough to get a basic casting setup. im wondering if before covid these prices where lower (I haven't been doing model engineering since before coivd) and if i should wait for them to go back down or if thats what they always cost.
 

Eccentric

Well-Known Member
HMEM Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2020
Messages
324
Reaction score
731
Location
Southern California
Henry,

If I were you I would not wait until casting prices go down to get your project underway. Yes they are expensive, but if you amoritize the cost over the time you will be building your engine you will be getting a great deal on your enjoyment. Compare the cost to some other activities you do, trips, dinners out, going to the movies. I think 300 will be cheap when comparing value per hour.

Selling castings is a very niche market, the volume is low and there is not much competition. With global inflation and these market forces, I do not see the price coming down, at least not much and not soon.

I say get your project going and don't worry about the cost too much. If cost is a concern, consider building from the solid.

Good luck
 

Jasonb

Project of the Month Winner!!!
Project of the Month Winner
Joined
Mar 30, 2008
Messages
3,410
Reaction score
1,031
Location
Surrey, UK
There is a lot of the victoria that could be done without their castings, barstock and fixings. Depends how much you want to make from scratch. I worked it out a while ago for the twin Victoria and it came out about 1/3rd the price if you bought just the cylinders and flywheels. You even get better value per hour.
 

abby

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
530
Reaction score
182
Add to the above that energy prices have gone through the roof and casting is very energy consuming.
Dan.
 
Joined
Sep 26, 2009
Messages
197
Reaction score
346
To give you an idea ......the picture is 30lb of iron
20$ in fuel .....40 hours in the patterns or more and 30 or better in machining ......bought castings are cheap
 

Attachments

  • received_951797785437221.jpeg
    received_951797785437221.jpeg
    40.3 KB · Views: 97

Jasonb

Project of the Month Winner!!!
Project of the Month Winner
Joined
Mar 30, 2008
Messages
3,410
Reaction score
1,031
Location
Surrey, UK
For one offs and small runs the pattern making time will always be high, but take Stuarts for example those patterns have produced hundreds of castings so become a very small percentage of the overall cost. Thy will also pouring a lot of parts at a time with a better foundry so that is more efficient too. Machining time is irrelevant to the cost of the castings.

I build a lot of engines with a combination of cutting from solid and fabricating though they still look like they were from castings and generally cost for all materials works out about 1/3rd of what it would for the equivalent castings and barstock. I also don't need to worry about hard spots, undersize castings, poor joint lines etc.

With fuel costs going up I doubt you will ever see the cost of castings come down so buy now.
 

mole42

Well-Known Member
HMEM Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2021
Messages
54
Reaction score
62
Location
Bristol, UK
One of the factors is that in the last couple of years all imported raw material prices in the UK have risen due to Brexit and associated extra paperwork. In my business we have seen an uplift of 25% which seems to be fairly average across the board. I don't think the price of castings is going down any time soon!
 
Joined
Nov 20, 2015
Messages
273
Reaction score
216
Location
Gwynn's Island, VA
Don't forget, however, that foundry work itself is a lot of funz.

Yes, but don't forget that it's fun when done for fun or as part of an enjoyable hobby. Done for a living it's hot, dirty, and sometimes dangerous work.

As in the original post, some castings and kits, particularly cast iron parts, have increased noticeably over the last two years. I also know that many foundries have closed. Sometimes for economic reasons, sometimes for political ones. There is at least one US based pattern maker / casting vendor on group who is known for having excellent quality castings. Perhaps he will choose to share the impacts of lost foundries, covid, and increased material and energy costs on his business and pricing.

It seems unlikely that casting kits will come down in price. Over the hundred plus hours you might put into a model engine, I guess if the casting cost amortizes to $3 USD or 3UKP an hour it's not so big a deal, but it certainly feels like a big hit when you make the initial purchase. Working from stock material may make the costs more palatable, but raw stock isn't very low cost either, and you tend to accumulate left over material in weird lengths and shapes. Useful in some cases, too expensive to toss, often just the wrong size for use in the current project stuff to store.

Cheers,
Stan
 

patternmaker

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2010
Messages
39
Reaction score
51
Tales from the patternshop ...........
We just had to raise prices on everything.... and it was very painful to do so. Here are some of the reasons:

1. The very last Mom n Pop iron foundry in Oregon closed in September while I was on a trip to South Dakota for the Black Hills Model Engineering Show. The day after returning, I rushed down to the foundry to pick up all my patterns there and ship them off to out of state foundries. They are now 5 hours north in Washington and 12 hours south in California. ( Instead of 20 minutes away) So shipping charges have gone way up and these foundries are more expensive to have castings done.

2. The price of bronze has gone through the roof. In less than a year, the raw cost has gone up over a dollar a pound, in a couple of weeks it went up almost half a dollar.

3. Supply chain issues and trouble keeping workers in the foundries is another issue. I have had some castings on order since October, but the foundry has been shut down on and off or working much less than a full crew with because of Covid restrictions and the weather. I have had to order and try to keep more castings in stock as i do not want to run out. Keeping more in stock costs more money. I have about 2 tons of iron castings here now.

4. I get all all my iron castings Fully annealed to try to avoid the hard "crust" and other hard spots to make it easier for home machinists. The cost for annealing is over a dollar a pound now.

5. I have been asked why I don't have my castings made in China because it would be cheaper.. My answer: I will burn all of my patterns before I sell out to that evil empire.

Buy the way, in 1980 there were about 320 foundries in Washington State. There are now less than 30. That is counting the one man shops.
So buy them now because they may not be here tomorrow.

Gary Martin
Martin Model & Pattern
 

littlelocos

Littlelocos Model Engrg
HMEM Sponsor
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
164
Reaction score
106
Location
Hagerstown, Maryland
Gary, well said. We are seeing the same thing here in our area on the East Coast. For us, it's on a much smaller scale than you guys and even more difficult to get things cast in small quantities.

For the few, small foundries left, they are running like mad. The small foundry we work with is currently up to their ears in work and unable to get folks to work for them to keep up with orders. They are running 6-7 days/week and still turning away orders. At the same time, they have several large customers who want to buy them out so they can be dedicated to them full time. If that happens, we're pretty much on our own.

Hope to see you at Cabin Fever next weekend. (Jan 13-14) Have a safe trip.

Todd.
Littlelocos Model Engineering
 
Joined
Nov 20, 2015
Messages
273
Reaction score
216
Location
Gwynn's Island, VA
I'm glad Gary and Todd chose to pass on the reality of what's been going on. I've worked with castings from both of these folks, and both offer excellent products. If you are on the fence about getting one or more casting sets from anyone in our little world I'd suggest doing it soon. Doesn't matter how dedicated the folks we know are, or how good their plans, if the foundries stop pouring for them we're all out of luck.

Best to all, hope those going have a great time at Cabin Fever. I'm leaning towards giving this year a pass sadly, guess I'm getting chicken in my retirement...
Stan
 

patternmaker

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2010
Messages
39
Reaction score
51
Todd, that is a major concern with the foundries. I do have one thing going for me. I do industrial patterns for the foundries in Washington. So they will fit me in between their big customers, but I am at the back of the line of course. I am not complaining, but it can be frustrating.

There is another issue I did not mention. Because of the lockdowns "down under" my shipments to customers there are not being sent by the Post Office as there are not enough plane flights to carry any extra packages. I ship all of my castings in Flat Rate Priority Mailboxes to hold down shipping costs for my customers. Ironic, they are locked at home wanting to keep busy and productive doing some machining, and I am unable to get my product to them.

I have a booth reserved at Cabin Fever. My only concern is whether my plane flight will be cancelled or not. I have about 200-300 pounds of iron castings stored back there so come and get it! I hope to see as many of you there as possible!
 

Richard Hed

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2018
Messages
2,166
Reaction score
559
Location
Moses Lake in the Great Soviet of Washington
Tales from the patternshop ...........
We just had to raise prices on everything.... and it was very painful to do so. Here are some of the reasons:

1. The very last Mom n Pop iron foundry in Oregon closed in September while I was on a trip to South Dakota for the Black Hills Model Engineering Show. The day after returning, I rushed down to the foundry to pick up all my patterns there and ship them off to out of state foundries. They are now 5 hours north in Washington and 12 hours south in California. ( Instead of 20 minutes away) So shipping charges have gone way up and these foundries are more expensive to have castings done.

2. The price of bronze has gone through the roof. In less than a year, the raw cost has gone up over a dollar a pound, in a couple of weeks it went up almost half a dollar.

3. Supply chain issues and trouble keeping workers in the foundries is another issue. I have had some castings on order since October, but the foundry has been shut down on and off or working much less than a full crew with because of Covid restrictions and the weather. I have had to order and try to keep more castings in stock as i do not want to run out. Keeping more in stock costs more money. I have about 2 tons of iron castings here now.

4. I get all all my iron castings Fully annealed to try to avoid the hard "crust" and other hard spots to make it easier for home machinists. The cost for annealing is over a dollar a pound now.

5. I have been asked why I don't have my castings made in China because it would be cheaper.. My answer: I will burn all of my patterns before I sell out to that evil empire.

Buy the way, in 1980 there were about 320 foundries in Washington State. There are now less than 30. That is counting the one man shops.
So buy them now because they may not be here tomorrow.

Gary Martin
Martin Model & Pattern
I didn't have a clue there were so many foundries in the Soviet of WA, and I didn't know there were as many as 30 here now! I do know that Moses Lake has one and he has trouble keeping labor too. He pays minimum for very hard work--is there any wonder? He also makes a LOT of moolah and could easily pay better. This foundry will make anything you want but of course charges for it too. Mostly they make those large drain covers for city streets. I'm surprised that there aren't any near you in Oregon. Where in the Soviet do you buy your castings?
 

Jasonb

Project of the Month Winner!!!
Project of the Month Winner
Joined
Mar 30, 2008
Messages
3,410
Reaction score
1,031
Location
Surrey, UK
Although there may be local foundries not all will do the quality of work and I would not really want an engine casting that was done from the same pour as street furniture.

I've been doing a bit of pattern making over the last year or so for Graham at Alyn Foundry, more just for our own consumption than reviving the business and he has had to go through several foundries until he found one that would produce good castings to the standard he used to be able to get when fully in business.
 

littlelocos

Littlelocos Model Engrg
HMEM Sponsor
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
164
Reaction score
106
Location
Hagerstown, Maryland
Gary, I've been doing smaller industrial and decorative patterns for the foundry as well. That's one of the reasons they are still willing to work with my small orders. Unfortunately, patternmakers are getting fewer and further between as well. I could easily spend most of my evenings and weekends doing that rather than stuff for Littlelocos. That's also what has gotten our little business through this crazy pandemic.

Hoping you have an easy and safe trip East.
Todd.
 

patternmaker

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2010
Messages
39
Reaction score
51
I didn't have a clue there were so many foundries in the Soviet of WA, and I didn't know there were as many as 30 here now! I do know that Moses Lake has one and he has trouble keeping labor too. He pays minimum for very hard work--is there any wonder? He also makes a LOT of moolah and could easily pay better. This foundry will make anything you want but of course charges for it too. Mostly they make those large drain covers for city streets. I'm surprised that there aren't any near you in Oregon. Where in the Soviet do you buy your castings?

Its worse than the number 30 when you take in to account that this includes die casting, steel foundries, mom n pops, brass and aluminum, iron, lost wax and in-house foundries. In Oregon, in the not too distant past there was about 50 brass and aluminum foundries. I have done work for about a dozen of them, all but 5 are closed. I send my work to 3 of them on a regular basis. There was also about 30 steel and/or iron foundries. I have done patternwork for about 10 of them. In the past I sent my patterns to 5 of them. They are all gone now. I do have one lost wax foundry that does my work in bronze, aluminum, iron and steel about an hour away from me. They are backed up for 3-6 months at this time.

I have done patternwork for about 10 foundries in Washington. I have sent my own patterns for iron work to Morel Foundry, an hour north of Seattle, Travis Iron in Spokane and steel to Roemer foundry in Longview. The great foundry in your backyard in Moses Lake does ductile iron and gray iron. What you may not know, is that when they went to expand the foundry there about 10 years ago, it took 2-3 years and a quarter of a million dollars just for the permits. Foundries do not have a huge margin like one would think.
 

GrahamJTaylor49

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2012
Messages
81
Reaction score
43
You ask if the price of castings has gone up. Yes it has, but taking into account the size of market place it doesn't surprise me. Stuart Turner used to be in London, They then moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands and were finally taken over by Bridport Foundry. I purchased a set of castings for the Major Beam Engine around 20 years ago for the princely sum of around £400. The cost of that set of castings now is £1074. Looking at the parts list for that kit there is a lot more parts in it than I got but being in a wonderful position of being able to rummage through my clients scrap bins I have an enormous stock of bar ends and sheet steel that I will never get through. EN1A, Stainless, Brass, Bronze and a large amount of "stuff" that until I try to machine it I don't know what kind of finish I will get. Still, I won't stop raking around the bins and skips. After 20 odd years I have finally got the Major Beam Engine running. I will post some pictures of the beast when I get the time. That's the trouble with having your own business, not too much time for the real pleasures in life. Model Engineering, Shooting, Motor biking, Freemasonry and, last but not least, my good lady Wife, please note the capital "W". I just hope that people like Stuart Turner keep producing the castings or our wonderful hobby will disappear for ever, and that would be a great shame.
 

Bentwings

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
1,188
Reaction score
195
Location
Minnesota
For one offs and small runs the pattern making time will always be high, but take Stuarts for example those patterns have produced hundreds of castings so become a very small percentage of the overall cost. Thy will also pouring a lot of parts at a time with a better foundry so that is more efficient too. Machining time is irrelevant to the cost of the castings.

I build a lot of engines with a combination of cutting from solid and fabricating though they still look like they were from castings and generally cost for all materials works out about 1/3rd of what it would for the equivalent castings and barstock. I also don't need to worry about hard spots, undersize castings, poor joint lines etc.

With fuel costs going up I doubt you will ever see the cost of castings come down so buy now.
this whole thing has turned into just a big political power thing. Normally I’d say “game” but I surely don’t want to note my approval as a sports player. This thing is just reficulous yesterday I heard that for practical purposes everyone will test positive at some time or other. Vaccines or not many have had 3 shots plus booster and still either get mild sick or indeed wind up in hospital . Masks or not . I hate them. The only good use I’ve found is very cold weather wind protection might as well get ice fishing balaclava. I’ll get a chance today as winds are supposed to get to 35+ with well below 0 F wind chills . Lots of snow to shovel it looks light weight however. Plow truck just dumped 2 feet over my street entrance to my side walk. I need o go out and shovel for deliveries today maybe more model steam stuff haha .
buton
 

delalio

Well-Known Member
HMEM Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 23, 2019
Messages
83
Reaction score
59
Location
IE
Hey Henry,

I am not sure if you are any further along with your kit decision.
The Victoria is a beautiful engine.
I had the privilege of living about 20 miles from the Stuart foundry upto about a year ago. Went up and viewed a bunch of their kits, and got some advice of the people there. They also have a good presence at the local shows here, and often do the kits there tax free / slightly discounted. Not that is any use to you on the other side of the world!

I'm not sure how much machining you've done, or what equipment you have access to.
I ended up building the 10V. The kit was about £100, plus about £20 of optional extras like drain cocks etc.
It took me around 400h to build, as it was my first time using a lathe in ~20years.

Apparently the Victoria is 2x that, so about 800h build time. I really want to build the Twin Victoria, which is about 1000h, as many of the setups are reusable.
I don't feel up to it yet, and don't want to scrap a load of castings, so instead I have the S50 as my next project.

The S50 is similar to the 10V at ~300-400h work, and the kit cost me about £110.

I hope that info is of some use to you.

Best of luck in your build. Looking forward to seeing pics / video of your progress!!


Del
 

Latest posts

Top