The Heat

Port Townsend Foundry employees Joe Burgess and Jessie Thomas remove the lid of the crucible filled with liquid manganese bronze, which has been melting in the foundry’s propane furnace for several hours.

The roar of the furnace fills the space as ingots (raw metal in block form) melt in the crucible, sometimes taking about two hours to transform from a solid to a liquid state, at temperatures as high as 1,900 degrees F.
The original Port Townsend Foundry and Machine Works started in 1883. Remnants from that era still adorn buildings throughout town, including cast iron on downtown building fronts. Resident Pete Langley revitalized the foundry in 1983 after his family had difficulty sourcing certain hardware for their boat, realizing this was a much-needed resource for the maritime community.
Pete first worked in the area on a flatbed trailer; today, he and his wife, Cathy, oversee the raw-materials-to-finished-product operations in an 8,000-square-foot multi-building complex off Highway 20. The foundry makes products from Everdur silicon bronze, manganese bronze, aluminum nickel bronze, white bronze and aluminum alloys.
Raw Metal

Before the liquid metal can be poured into molds, the slag, or impurities that float to the top, must be removed using a “rake” (a piece of bent rebar).

The foundry receives its raw materials in the form of ingots from a supplier in Bedford, Ohio, which also recycles the foundry’s scrap metal, shipped back east in the form of glittery flakes and curly bits that litter the machine room floor after projects have been ground, machined and finished.
The foundry takes pride that its materials are U.S.-sourced, the casting methods are environmentally friendly, and the work goes global.
Instead of using chemical binders when preparing a mold for a pour, “green sand” is used: sand and bentonite clay, with water as the binder, not much unlike the dirt, straw and cow manure likely used during the Bronze Age.
Most of the items created at the foundry are marine hardware, but the foundry also casts pieces for whomever needs it, including commercial, industrial and architectural enterprises. Pretty much anything that can be made out of metal, the foundry can do.
Boats around the world are outfitted with metalwork from the foundry, such as the bronze helm on the yacht Columbia, a 141’ racing/fishing schooner that is a steel hull replica of the historic fishing schooner. The foundry also makes non-maritime pieces, including a memorial bench in the form of a Ford F-150 truck seat that is on a public boardwalk in California, and a tombstone for a tribal elder in Africa.
The Pour

Wearing silver aircraft firefighting suits, hardhats, leather welding gloves and leather boots, employees use overhead cranes, oversized tongs and a “rake” (bent rebar) to work with the liquid metal as it is poured from the crucible into the sand-packed molds.

The foundry employs patternmakers, grinders, machinists and molders to handcraft each item. A pattern typically starts with a block of wood on the second-floor workshop, where the patternmaker sits at a workbench lined with tools for precise measurements per the work order, and carves out the piece and its details by hand.
The Langleys are pattern collectors, as the second-floor storage room is packed, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with boxes for just about anything imaginable, in addition to the crates full of patterns neatly stacked throughout the main building.
From making the pattern to pouring the mold to giving the piece a final polish, it can take at least a couple of days to complete something as small as a six-inch bronze cleat.
Back to Top