Hellfire and Brimstone - Foundry Laborer
If this is hell, I've already been there.
The whole operation ran to a one-day cycle.
Welcome to Hellfire and Brimstone.
Many years ago I worked for a few weeks as a laborer in a small iron foundry. It was quite an experience. The whole job ran in a one day cycle. I my case it was shovel gritty sand from the floor and spade it into a machine with a mix of water and other ingredients. This concoction, once semi-dried, would be fabricated by mold into shapes. These shapes were to later hold the molten iron. The iron, running white hot, would be ladled or poured by hand into these molds and, on cooling overnight, would become the iron parts for various machines such as water pumps, or simply barbell or dumbbell weights. It was all quite unsophisticated.
There were some horrible, monotonous jobs.
Actually, the day would begin by breaking open the molds from the evening before. The molds would be discarded, the iron parts picked up and taken to various buffing machines where the rough edges would be ground off. Horrible monotonous job. Then came the labor of piling them up, ready for pickup by truck. The truck would drive these pieces away to other places for further manufacture.
Then came that long, arduous job of shoveling. So it was breaking molds, shoveling dirt, grinding, lifting pouring…breaking, shoveling, grinding – I think you get the picture.
Liquid iron - not to be treated lightly.
shovelling dirty, gritty sand was only part of it.
Of course, it wasn’t simply a matter of shoveling dirty, gritty sand. One was also obliged to stoke up the actual furnace ready for its firing. This involved more back-breaking work shoveling coke, iron ingots and limestone into buckets which were then poured into the top of this dreadful funneled contraption of a furnace. Once done, the fire beneath it would be ignited. A more experienced hand would then shape a semi-tubular funnel down which the molten metal would flow when all was hot enough. When it was ‘tapped’ ready to flow.
Direct from furnace to ladel, ladel to mold.
Fire and Brimstone - Foundry Laborer.
As that furnace heated up, roaring away, the whole inside of that corrugated iron factory would make you feel as if you were standing a little too close to an big, open oven door. The sweat would run down in rivulets. But you couldn’t strip off. More clothes, more safety from burns.
When I look at pictures of foundries on the Internet today, I realize that nowadays people actually wear quite a few items of safety ware. Not back in the 1970s where I worked for those three or four weeks. No, all I had was a pair of overalls, stout boots and fireproof gloves. And when we were actually pouring, a pair of safety goggles would miraculously appear in the foreman’s hands.
“Put these on, mate. Those sparks have metal chips in ‘em.”
A luxury we never experienced in our 'dark satanic mill.'
I'd come home with just the whites of my eyes showing.
And that they did. Many’s the time I’d have to beat out a small fire which had erupted somewhere on my legs as my old blue overalls caught fire. At least the goggles saved one’s eyes.
You may recall that old film, ‘How Green Was My Valley’ with Walter Pigeon, about the coal miners of Southern Wales. Well, that’s how I used to come home from that foundry. They didn’t have shower facilities, just a hand basin wash up. So I’d come home looking like Al Jolson when he used to sing Mammy as a Negro – just the whites of my eyes showing. Black, sooty stains would ring the bath just above the water line. Yes, it was the real bit. Hard labor. It paid quite well. But it was hardly a life career. Still, the job tidied me over when I was desperate, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to for all the other, far more congenial work I’ve undertaken over the years. But that’s what life’s all about really – experience!
Hope you enjoyed reading Hellfire and Brimstone – Foundry Laborer.
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