An Afternoon at Hopewell

Last weekend, Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site held a casting demonstration. When Rob was done working, we ventured over to see how they used to make parts for the cook stoves. It is quite the process. I am not entirely sure I understand how it all works, but I will do my best.

They started with a template, a wooden frame, and several scoops of sand. They then pounded sand over the template to create a mold for a new door and the audience was invited to go up and pound for a minute.

DSC_0987 demo

After they pounded one side, they put two frames together, added more sand and pounded the other side, until their template was sandwiched between the two.

DSC_0990 demo

After all the pounding was complete, they separated the frames, removed the template and there was the pattern, perfectly shaped in the sand. After they removed the template, the put the frames back together.

DSC_0996 demo

It was then time to pour the hot metal into the mold. If I recall correctly, they used to use steel to make the stove parts, but for the demonstration they were using aluminum. It only took about five minutes for the metal to cool enough to separate the frames and see the new stove panel.

DSC_1002 demo

There was a blow-hole in the little door, so they were a little disappointed about that, but I thought they did a wonderful job. I thought I heard one of them say the fire had been off too long, so perhaps the aluminum was not quite hot enough. Back in the day this would have lost the worker money, but these days they can just toss the metal back into the fire and reuse it.

It was pretty neat to see how it worked, and this is only part of the process! Men used to feed the fire every 30 minutes with three types of rock. There were others out gathering and stacking. They went through an acre of charcoal every day! There is so much to learn and we have just scratched the surface.