I am Steve Maxon, a sculptor/foundryman in Kalona, Iowa. Together with my team, we run and operate Max-Cast, where we pour bronze, cast iron and aluminum, plus other related activities.
I want to introduce you to the fascinating processes involved in producing cast iron sculpture using our Brain Dumbbells and Bookends. Many of the patterns we use to make molds are found objects, things people use or see every day. I came across a plastic anatomical brain a few years back and recognized its sculptural potential: squishy brain becomes hard, cold man-made fossil: As bookends , the iron brain contains knowledge; As dumbbells , it is a mind-body workout item.
This resulted in our brain dumbbells and bookends, for brain power and brawn power.
First, we make sand molds by packing resin-bonded sand around a rubber version of the brain pattern. A gating system is cut into the sand mold (vents and sprues) and pour cup is attached to funnel in the molten iron. We bury the molds in damp sand to prevent run-outs and keep down the smoke.
The pour is the fun part. We use an induction furnace that holds 300 pounds. Since these are fairly thick castings, we only go up to around 2400 degrees F. Thinner stuff gets poured hotter. The molten iron is transferred from furnace to mold in a preheated ladle hung from a hoist on a bridge crane. It is all carefully choreographed. Everyone knows their place and what to do.
Usually we let the molds cool down overnight before digging them up and busting them open. Finishing the raw castings involves sandblasting, cutting off the gating system, grinding off flashings (the lines where mold sections meet) and sanding down unwanted roughness. They get a final sandblasting and then on to patination and paint resulting in a splendid 16 pound Brain Dumbbell.
Some snapshots of the process can be seen below.
The bookends and dumbbells will be made onsite at the Max-Cast facility by our skilled team, including myself. You can see the entire manufacturing process in our Youtube video, seen here:
Founded in 1983 by artists Steve Maxon and Doris Park, Max-Cast is a full-service sculpture foundry located in the quaint Amish town of Kalona, Iowa. Casting in bronze, iron, and aluminum, we produce original sculpture and offer a full range of foundry services for artists and artisans worldwide. Our employees are highly skilled in all steps of the metal-casting process. Many are also artists in their own right, creating original sculpture at the foundry or working in other media.