Lost Wax Casting

While many pieces made by HACI are large- to medium-scale and require sand molds for casting, there are some smaller, more complicated parts that we produce by another method–lost wax casting. 

For Historical Arts, the lost wax method is most usefully utilized when the parts in question are smaller and cannot be modified in terms of draft. We have used it to produce smaller hardware components, finials, and even detailed sculptural elements (stay tuned to our Instagram feed later on this year for some coverage of a couple beautiful bronze dragons that we are currently making at time of this writing).

The following images, along with their associated captions, are meant to provide an overview of the process–an introductory storyboard to the process, as we follow a small light fixture part through the stages of its production. 

1. The process begins with a pattern of clay, wood, or other materials. This pattern was 3D printed.

1. The process begins with a pattern of clay, wood, or other materials. This pattern was 3D printed.

2. A silicone block mold is flexible enough to allow more complicated shapes to be cast and removed without damage. This mold is filled with the liquid wax.

2. A silicone block mold is flexible enough to allow more complicated shapes to be cast and removed without damage. This mold is filled with the liquid wax.

3. The wax casting, having been removed from the silicone mold, is shown here supported by wax sprues. The sprues become the path for the metal to be poured into the part, and for the air to escape.

3. The wax casting, having been removed from the silicone mold, is shown here supported by wax sprues. The sprues become the path for the metal to be poured into the part, and for the air to escape.

4. The wax part is shown here inside a steel flask. The flask is filled with a plaster-like material which is baked at a high temperature to cure the mold and melt out the wax.

4. The wax part is shown here inside a steel flask. The flask is filled with a plaster-like material which is baked at a high temperature to cure the mold and melt out the wax.

5. When the mold is hard and empty, it is filled with the molten metal, usually bronze. A vacuum is used beneath the mold to pull the metal into every crevice.

5. When the mold is hard and empty, it is filled with the molten metal, usually bronze. A vacuum is used beneath the mold to pull the metal into every crevice.

6. Red-hot bronze in mold after the pour has been completed.

6. Red-hot bronze in mold after the pour has been completed.

7. After the piece has cooled enough, it is washed to remove the mold.

7. After the piece has cooled enough, it is washed to remove the mold.

8. After washing, the metal has cooled to the touch.

8. After washing, the metal has cooled to the touch.

9. The sprues fill with metal, as does the part itself. They are removed when the casting has fully cooled.

9. The sprues fill with metal, as does the part itself. They are removed when the casting has fully cooled.

10. The piece is cleaned up, then it goes out to our shop for fabrication, finishing, and installation.

10. The piece is cleaned up, then it goes out to our shop for fabrication, finishing, and installation.

Honoring Howard Bailey

For nearly 22 years, Historical Arts & Casting’s customers have benefitted from the expertise that Howard Bailey has contributed to their projects. Howard left his mark at the foundry mold/pour stage of our process. Day by day, along with the other staff in our foundry, Howard made the sand molds into which the molten bronze, aluminum, and iron flowed to make the castings which become HACI’s products. We are all grateful for the part that Howard played to make HACI’s metalwork what it is. 

While we don’t know what the next few years will hold for Howard as he leaves HACI to begin a new phase of his life, we all wish him the very best. Thank you, Howard.

Howard Bailey stands in the foundry.

Getting Up To Speed With Aluminum

Richard Baird, the president of Historical Arts & Casting, has always been good with his hands. The son of an architect, he spent most of his summers from an early age helping his father with restoration surveys of old cast iron buildings. At fifteen years old, he purchased a badly mistreated 1963 Volkswagen Beetle and began to rebuild it. Less than a year later, it was drivable.

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Old Becomes New

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One of the driving forces in the preservation of historic buildings around the country is, ironically enough, a cutting-edge trend built on high-tech entrepreneurship. It is led by the Millennials, who see the benefit of tapping into restored structures while creating their urban hubs of innovation. News accounts tell how the renewed sense of community is revitalizing towns such as Durham, North Carolina, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and San Diego, California. In these cities, you can see turn-of-the-century buildings anchoring historic districts filled with apartments, restaurants, and businesses.

Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. has seen this first-hand. We played a role in the restoration of Chicago’s Sullivan Center, adding authentic touches such as the painted cast bronze grilles we replicated using historic pictures. Even retired HACI cofounder Robert Baird is helping restore the old Odd Fellows Club in downtown Brooklin, Maine, which, according to an article last fall in The Weekly Packet, will house two apartments and commercial space related to boats and boat-building.

Consider this:

  • Restoration is the ultimate in recycling, although something built in the 1800′s probably isn’t considered “green” by today’s standards. Instead of trashing what are probably far better building materials than you can get today, such as true hardwood floors, you can save some money on materials. Chances are, if the building was built before WWII, it will stand longer than any you would build to replace it. And, you never know what’s hidden in an old building. You may find gorgeous pressed tin ceilings underneath suspended tiles, or a bas-relief buried behind 1970′s-era paneling.
  • Restoration is economically sound. According to Curbed, American Underground (a subterranean hub underneath a turn-of-the-century building) brought more than $50 million in venture funding by 2017, along with 1,100 jobs and $1.4 million in spending it has driven toward area businesses. For Durham, this is a quintessential success story.
  • Renovation hits close to home. Salt Lake City was ranked the third-best market for commercial development in the Urban Land Institute’s 2018 Emerging Trends report. You can see this in the Central 9th District, where old warehouses are being converted to office spaces for tech firms. In 1973, architect Steven T. Baird and sons David, Richard, and Robert restored the ZCMI Department Store façade, one of the first cast-iron preservation projects of its kind. Later, in 2007, Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. restored the storefront again, and it now welcomes shoppers as a contemporary Macy’s.

While it might have taken others a few decades to catch on to the value of making the old new again, Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. will continue to play a major role in the preservation of historic metal-cast architecture in years to come. It’s our legacy and we’re proud of it.

Top Secret

Privacy is important, anyone can tell you that. We are all used to procedures and protocols that we employ to keep our personal information private. From time to time, we hear about instances where private information was released, and the damage that the victim(s) will likely face. 

At Historical Arts & Casting, Inc., we understand the need for privacy. We know that our clients are trusting us with all kinds of information which, if released, could put them in a compromising position. We have thus become accustomed to handling this private information. As a company, we work very hard to keep things private that should be private. We endeavor to only release information to the public in ways that are consistent with our clients’ discerning privacy expectations.

At the most basic level, consider implicitly confidential information. Our clients can rest in the knowledge that, even without a legal structure in place, HACI will not share information to which any normal understanding of the word “private” would apply.

Some clients, however, are more explicit with their privacy concerns. These clients approach the subject either formally or informally. An example of an informal approach might be a client or their representative asking for certain additional privacy measures in conversation, through correspondence, or by email, where they would request that a certain aspect of their project be kept confidential. Though no legal document governs this sort of information safekeeping, HACI is happy to oblige.

There are also occasions where our clients (or their representatives) require an actual Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to be in place. These documents are carefully written to protect the interests of the client. They are explicit in their wording about how and what kind of information may be disclosed. Just as in the informal type previously mentioned, NDAs can cover a range of degrees of privacy. The most strict NDA that HACI has ever worked under required us to purge all of the client’s information from HACI’s systems (except for accounting records necessary for business purposes).  

In 2017, our estimator received a phone call from a potential client, who revealed that they had purchased two bronze wall sconces at an auction. They learned that HACI had made the light fixtures, and called us. The potential client requested that we produce two more identical fixtures, as there was a need for a total of four. They followed up their phone call with an email that included photographs of the original fixtures. It was clear to our estimator that HACI had indeed made the fixtures. However, in the original NDA, HACI had formed an agreement that we would not make that light fixture for any other client. At the request of the new, potential client, HACI tracked down the original client’s representative and explained the situation. Once we had determined that our original client had indeed sold two fixtures at auction, we were able to obtain a one-time written exemption from the original client to produce the two new fixtures that the new client needed. All of this was done without disclosing to the new client any personal information about the original client. In the end, all three parties — the old client, the new client, and HACI — were delighted with the outcome.

A Year to Remember

Looking back at 2017, we could list our favorite jobs, the big-hitters, the unusual, the ones that make people remember our names.

There are even a few projects we’re guessing might show up in the movies one of these days, not in a leading role, of course, but something that will catch our attention as we’re watching. It’s a game we play at Historical Arts and Casting, our own version of “I Spy,” especially when the action’s set in New York City and, lately, Washington, D.C. as well.

But as partner David Teague puts it, “We’re excited every time a new project comes in and it feels good to see the final product that comes out of all the effort.”

While we are proud of the iron stoop rail renovation in Washington, D.C., the vintage street lamps restored and now standing again outside New York’s Grand Central Terminal and the John Russell Pope Award recognizing our work on the restoration of the U.S. Capitol dome, this is no time to rest on our laurels. Instead, we want to give you a rundown of the things that happened in 2017 that will prepare us for anything that comes our way in 2018.

• Internally, we’ve progressed in our operations, not just in manufacturing but in keeping everything moving along. We continue to explore new technologies, making the most of what’s available while utilizing the traditional methods that preserve the history of our art. What makes it all possible is a group of artisans, from President Richard Baird to the dedicated folks sweeping the floors, who love it as much as we do.

• We’re pleased with the unique relationship we’ve developed with the architects and contractors who bring their client’s projects to us. We’ve earned their respect and trust and in turn, we appreciate their vision. It has led to interesting collaborations, repeat business and, from the Institute of Classic Architecture and Art, the John Russell Pope Award.

• Not to avoid the elephant in the room, 2017 was the year the U.S. Capitol dome restoration was officially completed. We’re very proud of the role we played in bringing it back to its original form. As Robert Baird, our vice-president of operations said, it’s the sort of project you wait your whole life to do. But we need to look forward to our next big project and keep producing great work. We’re glad for the successes and we’re going to keep pushing in 2018 for even more!. Thank you for making Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. a part of your world!

Honoring Robert Baird

It is with mixed emotions that we at Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. are announcing the retirement of Robert Baird—one of the three brothers who founded HACI more than three decades ago.

RobertandJoDee.jpeg

Together with his brothers, Richard and David, Robert has worked tirelessly to build Historical Arts & Casting, Inc. into what it is today, the recognized leader in the field of cast architectural metal ornament. He and his brothers did this by identifying a need for the kinds of products that we now make.

Then, they brought that dream to light by gathering the people, the facilities and the equipment needed to make it all possible. Robert infused everything he did with his own unique mix of unbridled enthusiasm and charismatic leadership. His influence can be found everywhere you look here at HACI.

That influence will endure. It will endure because many of us at Historical Arts were hired by Robert—and were subsequently guided by Robert. Our company values were shaped in part by his values. Many of the ongoing relationships that HACI enjoys with architects, contractors, and associations are the fruit of these efforts.

The best way that we can think of to celebrate Robert’s impact is to continue his vision—to put our heads down and to carry on with the work—always with that joyful, dedicated optimism that comes with being sure of your skills, a desire to do the right thing, and the knowledge that what is being built is a legacy that will outlast each of us.

Thank you, Robert. Our best wishes to you and your family as you carry on in the next part of your journey.

“Fair Winds and Following Seas.”