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Recognizing Casting’s Passion

Manufacturing is definitely seeing a sense of revival in the mainstream media and pop culture.  From television shows like Made in America and How Its Made to consumer advertising for automobiles (Toyota) and golf clubs (Ping), a resurgence in the love for manufacturing is happening.

Another example surfaced with Sailor Jerry Spice Rum, which produced a series of digital short videos called Hold Fast in which it is profiling “craftsmen of different stripes, to celebrate and honor the people keeping alive the spirit of authenticity and devotion to craft that Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins made famous with his pioneering tattoo work.”

The Hold Fast videos made their debut on November 21 by profiling the first five craftsmen, including Paige Tooker, owner of New York Art Foundry.  This copper-based investment casting shop is one of only a handful of metalcasters in New York City. The video interviews Tooker and gives you a glimpse into her craft. Take a look at the videos at

Sailor Jerry says more videos will be released on a weekly basis, with each one giving a unique insight into the philosophies and creative processes behind some of today’s most well-regarded and original artisans. Let’s applaud the rum manufacturer for seeing the art of metalcasting and the passion of metalcasters.

Foundry Reopening a Sign of Optimism

Maritime Steel and Foundries Ltd., New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, sat idle for almost 11 months before its furnaces fired up again last week. New owner Abbas Jafarnia, who worked as quality control manager for the steel caster, is no stranger to the work, and he’s optimistic about the firm’s ability to turn a profit, according to an article in The Chronicle Herald

Unsurprisingly, Jafarnia said he faced some resistance from the town to reopen the downtown facility, which is a familiar challenge we’ve written about earlier this month. The owner doesn’t envision fighting the urban battle in the long run, though. A better location would be near the airport and port of Halifax, and the owner plans on moving the facility’s location once the business is up and running.

Best of luck to Maritime Steel and its employees in finding success in their reopening, and hopefully they can serve as an example for other quiet foundries to start humming again.   

Metalcasting Vs. Urban Sprawl

Residences and industry don’t mix. So as housing sectors continue to spread outward from city centers and cover vast tracts of once prime industrial land, manufacturers can fall victim.

But we think metalcasting can take on urban sprawl with the best of them.
The question is this: when residential zoning surrounds a metalcasting facility, will the company be nimble enough to respond? Will it be able to eliminate odors? Lower noise volumes? Find ways to expand capacity without encroaching on land earmarked for other purposes?
We think Smith Foundry, Minneapolis, is nimble enough. 
In a recent article in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, Smith Foundry owner Neil Ahlstrom talks about some of the challenges his ferrous job shop has faced when trying to grow through new zoning restrictions. To overcome one of the challenges, the company has had to engineer an alternative sand system. For another, it is looking into noise and vibration mitigation strategies.
In the article, Ahlstrom comes across as somewhat pessimistic. But we’d put up an 88-year-old metalcasting facility against urban sprawl any day. Good luck, Smith Foundry!

Safety Should Remain Priority in Economic Recovery

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has released the 2010 recordable injury and illness rates for the metalcasting industry. Incidence rates increased 11.5% overall from 2009 to 2010, but are below industry levels in 2008.

Click here for a full table of the incidence reports by casting facility type.

Overall, the metalcasting industry logged 9.7 injury and illness cases per 100 full time workers and 5.1 cases where an employee spends days away from a job, whether restricted or transferred. Iron metalcasting facilities tallied the highest injury and illness rates, with 12 occurrences per 100 full time workers. Nonferrous casting facilities, except aluminum, recorded 5.2 occurrences. It is one of the lowest rates for metalcasting facilities but still represents a 36.8% increase over 2009.

Manufacturing as a whole increased its recordable injury and illness cases from 4.3 in 2009 to 4.4 in 2010.

After several years of declining injury rates, it is disheartening to see these numbers. Only two sectors of the industry continued to improve safety rates—steel investment casting and aluminum casting facilities. 

Fred Kohloff, director of environmental health and safety for the American Foundry Society said a number of factors could have affected the increase over 2009, which was mired in recession.  Fewer workers were on the job during a downturned economy, with no or limited over time, and many were working four to five days per week, which could account for better safety numbers. Fewer new hires in 2009 also could have contributed to better safety rates.

If you take 2009 out of the equation, 2010 rates in general do still continue the trend of safety improvement. But metalcasters should remember to make safety a priority, particularly as production revs up to meet a growing casting demand that is supplied by a now smaller group of casting facilities.

Intern’s Blog—Giftwrapped Castings

After seeing my first metalcasting facility, touring a diecasting plant was next up on my journey through the metalcasting industry. I had the opportunity to visit Chicago White Metal Castings Inc., Bensenville, Ill. This particular diecasting plant is in its third-generation of family-run operations dating back to 1937. It specializes in aluminum, magnesium and zinc die castings.

The foundry is a one- stop, full service shop. It makes castings, finish-machines them and incorporates them into complete assemblies before wrapping them up in nice little packages to send straight to the consumers. To me, the plant itself was a nice little package: everything was done right there inside the building. No need to travel around town, it’s all there in one location to fulfill all your die casting needs. It was a fast and efficient process that was cool to see first-hand.
It felt as if the shop transformed the finished die castings into presents for its buyers. The packaging and shipping department assembled the finished castings and sent them out like gifts—gifts that quietly make the world go round. The company’s employees were working hard to cover all the aspects of producing a die casting as part of their normal day’s work, but sadly, tying the parts with a nice bow was left out.

Cast Iron Street Signs Prevail

At the beginning of this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation issued a 2018 deadline for all street signs to be standard across the state: six-inch lettering and a highly reflective coating, according to an Ardmore article. This would replace the historical, cast iron signs in Lower Merion Township that appear on every street corner.

The town’s historical commission took it upon themselves to protect the historical signs from being replaced, not only for the signs’ historical significance, but for the financial burden and environmental concerns the new signs introduce.

Like the metalcasting industry, the street signs have been around for a while and are still in a good condition. Only minimal maintenance is required for these 100-year-old signs, and the new signs are only predicted to last 10 years.

Luckily, the township had the 2018 deadline postponed and the cast iron street signs will be gracing the corners of the Lower Merion Township for at least seven more years.

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