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A Shout From The Attic: In The Foundry

...I got the job and started in the dirtiest place I had ever seen. It was a huge foundry, manufacturing some of the biggest castings imaginable. I worked at an iron table, making small cores out of sand...

Ronnie Bray goes to work in a huge ironworks. For earlier chapter's of Ronnie's engaging life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

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With roots of iron there is metal in the air,
When the cupola melts white iron glares. -
Richard Mikolajewski


I applied for a job as an apprentice core maker in the foundry of Thomas Broadbent’s Central Ironworks on Queen Street South. I went for an interview that went well, although I did not mention that my Dad and Granddad worked in the machine shop. I got the job and started in the dirtiest place I had ever seen. It was a huge foundry, manufacturing some of the biggest castings imaginable.

I worked at an iron table, making small cores out of sand. The sand was rammed into a core pattern that was usually in two halves held together by spiked clamps. First, the pattern was brushed out with paraffin to prevent the core sand from sticking to the orange painted interior. Then the sand was put inside and tamped to make it compact.

Metal sprigs were pushed in to help maintain rigidity during the moulding process. Oil was added to the sand to harden the cores during baking. I always used plenty of oil, because of which the cores were easy for the moulders to handle as they fitted them inside their mould. I was complimented and told that I made the best small cores in the foundry. I was somewhat pleased to receive this accolade.

Huge furnaces melted tons of pig iron into white liquid ten times hotter than Hades’ place. This was spewed out down a channel by a furnace-master who filled the mighty steel cauldrons that giant overhead cranes took tons of molten metal in giant ladles to the huge moulds laid out at various parts of the foundry’s dusty floor.

Spitting sparks of white and red fire, the massive vessel were tipped over to pour out the white hot metal into the mould. It was at once warm and exciting. The down side was that after they had completed pouring, they threw black sand onto the pouring place, and the sand gave off an caustic odour that was nauseating. I had to go and stand by the mile-high main doors in the open air to stop myself retching.

On my first day as an apprentice, I was asked to go to the upstairs store and ask for a “Long stand.” I presented myself at the window, made my request, and was asked to wait where I was. After ten minutes or so the storeman returned and asked me if that was long enough. I had had a ‘long stand’ and enjoyed the joke.

It was a regular thing to send new boys on a fool’s errand somewhere to ask for a ‘long stand,’ a ‘box of sparks, a ‘bucket of steam,’ a ‘straight ‘S’ hook,’ or some similar impossibility. It was a gentle initiation into the world of work.

Besides hydroextractors for commercial laundries, and heavy ironwork, Broadbent’s Central Ironworks made X Craft midget submarines during WW II.


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