Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

Casting Ingots

HOT METAL shops were great recyclers of type metal and usually hidden in a less attractive location would be the equipment to melt the metal, skim off the dross and cast the ingots.

Typically the metal was cast into a cast iron mould with a water jacket to cool the mould, ingots and stop the iron cracking. The one I remember had multiple recesses to enable four ingots to be cast at a time. It was fed from a gas heated vat that looked not unlike grandma's clothes copper.

The mould was set up to pivot so when the metal had set, the mould would be tipped and the ingots dumped into a bin. Open on top with little regard for the atmosphere. In summer a large fan provided token relief of the operator.

The casting operation worked six days a week. This particular Saturday morning one of the managers decided to help pour the first ingots of the day. Given the way the business operated all the new starters had the opportunity to do the dirty jobs. And this manager was no different, having worked his way up he did know how to pour ingots.

The metal was at the correct temperature, fuming nicely as it did. Fill the first mould, then the second, the third and then with the fourth all hell broke loose.

The modern Australian vernacular goes something like, the brown stuff has hit the Mistral. In this case it was the white stuff had hit the water! Metal all over the place.

The cast iron mould after years of use, had cracked ever so slightly and water from the cooling jacket would seep into the mould. If the water tap was left on overnight with the mould the right way up, a little would accumulate, just to catch the unwary.

Regular operators were aware of this quirk and would tip the mould before the first pour of the day. Our helpful manager wasn't aware of these later developments and one might say was caught red faced.

Fortunately no one was injured with the lead spittting out of the mould until the water boiled off!!!

Apparently the reception at home was a complete contrast, rather frosty when time came to explain the destroyed pair of very good suit pants.

Wonder what Workcover, OH&S and the Union would have to say about such an apparatus these days. Somehow I think I know …

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