Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scottsdale Iron Pour 2010

I have a friend who takes an iron sculpture class at a Scottsdale Community College.  Twice a year there is an iron pour where the artists melt enough iron to fill hundreds of molds. In the spring it is done at a college with no room for observers.  But in November, visitors are welcomed and encouraged.

Last year, my first to observe, was held in the morning and I was quite impressed.  It takes a lot of careful coordination because the iron is kept continuously flowing and is heated to 2500 degrees. 

This year they held the event at sundown and I remembered to bring a camera. As impressive as it is in the daylight, it is twice as cool at dark when the iron is glowing red and the steam is rising off the poured molds.

This is maybe one-sixth of the molds laid out
One of the small plaque molds is mine.

The molds are laid out on a pile of sand.  This enables the molds to be leveled and catches any drips of molten iron.

The smaller open face molds to the right are the ones they sell at the iron pour for people to play with.


Last minutes instructions before the pour.

As you can see, everyone is wearing welders leathers and helmets with face shields.  This is too dangerous to take chances with.

Blazing hot cupola

The cupola is loaded from the top with iron and coke.  The molten iron pours out the bottom.  Slag exits from the side (hidden in this picture) 

Sparks everywhere

Waiting to lift

 One of the reasons for the protective gear. 

It takes two people to handle the ladle.  Here they are waiting for the last bit of iron to fill the ladle before they take it.  The fiberglass blanket keeps the iron hot  and prevents splashing.   

The first thing done with a fresh ladle is scrape off the slag, which rises to the top of the ladle.

Pouring the open face molds.
Glowing iron

Pouring the molds requires a lot of manpower.  The 2 ladle handlers can't see into the mold from their posts.  So there is a spotter that tells them when the mold is full.

Besides the spotter, there are one or two shovelers  that cover any overflow with sand and watch for fires.

Pouring a mold

Closer view

The amount of iron required depends on the size of the mold.  And the temperature of the iron varies within the ladle with the hottest at the bottom.

The detail of the mold determines whether it is poured first or last from the ladle.  The differing sizes of iron requires someone to calculate which molds can be poured from the current ladle.

Pouring ceramic shells

Some of the more delicate pieces are created using ceramic shells.  A wax design is created and the ceramic poured over it to create the shell.  These are preheated before iron is poured into them so the ceramic doesn't shatter.

Smoking and burning after being poured.

This is part of the reason for the sand base.  You can see the iron burning outside the molds where is over flowed.

The largest of the night.

This mold required 250 lbs of iron.  That took two ladles poured simultaneously.  One ladle was filled, then set aside with its fiberglass cover while the second was being filled.  Then the 2 ladles were poured at the same time.

I enjoyed the pour immensely and highly recommend it.  .


  1. Hi Sue,

    I'm looking for a photo of pouring iron to use for a book. How can I contact you?

    1. What kind of picture did you want - the glowing iron being poured?

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