- The art of poured iron is difficult and dangerous. Think of grabbing a hundred pound bucket of molten iron that’s at a temperature above 2,000 degrees and pouring it into a mold (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cast_iron). A spill could go right through a boot. And a pot of liquid cast iron can weigh a hundred pounds. Not something you can do by yourself. Not to mention that it takes roughly half a day to prepare the furnace, load it, and get it to the pouring temperature. And make the molds that the iron is poured into. This requires a seasoned crew where every person involved knows their role and delivers at exactly the right time. Johnny Williams’ crew at Alabama Art Casting have been doing this for 13 years and I’ve observed them many times at Tannehill State Park. When they graciously agreed to help with this project, I knew I had come to the right group.
After I finalized the concept of this project I turned to several other local artists for help with parts of the process that I could not accomplish alone. The molds for the iron pour are destroyed during the process when the finished piece is removed and a pattern is required that can be used over again for making a new mold for each pour. I’ve had some experience with Corian, the solid surface product mostly used for kitchen countertops that I’ve carved with routers and other tools and had a supply on hand, so I elected to use that for my pattern. But my graphic vector files created on a PC must be used to carve the pattern in the Corian and that requires CNC, or computer numerical control, used with a PC controlled carving machine. Enter Keith Elliot, a nationally recognized glass artist currently working at Coral Industries, a local producer of glass products. Like everyone else that I’ve approached with this project, Keith was anxious to help and invited me out to see his studio/shop. The design only had to be tweaked a very little bit to work with his machine and within several days he had the first pattern produced for the trial run. While all the artists involved have great prior experience in their fields, I am pushing the envelope just a bit with materials and requirements that none have encountered prior to this project. Keith reported that the Corian machined beautifully and Johnny reported that the molds made from the Corian pattern were outstanding. The first test pour produced a beautiful product and everyone who has seen them have been very impressed.
This is a laborious and dangerous production and the final product will be a singularly valuable item in its rarity and meaning in this community. The smaller pieces produced to finance the larger monument should be appropriately priced. I and others have documented the entire project and a DVD will be available for those who support it. Stay tuned for availability once a mechanism is in place for receiving the funds.
Keith Elliot with the CNC carving machine used to make the pattern. He was able to take my computer vector files of the art and transform them into a 3-D pattern to make the mold.
The Pattern looks great! I then cut it out with a table saw and pass along to Johnny and the Alabama Art Casting group for a trial pour at Tannehill State Park.
After AAC does a test pour, they meet with me to discuss the process and outcome and made some suggestions to improve the process.
A few changes would make it easier to pour the next edition and in the finest time-honored breakfast work-tradition, Jeff sketches out the changes on a brown paper bag in the parking lot.
I think I get it . . . learning a new vocabulary.
Johnny and I pose with the first “sketch-in-iron”.
Raw materials: a pile of bricks gathered from destroyed and damaged homes all over the Forest Lake Neighborhood.
Buckets of items from the debris field around Forest Lake that are pieces of people’s lives. These items will be arranged in a mosaic on the front of the monument.