How Brass Quoits Are Made:

The Flury Foundry in Lancaster, PA

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The Flury Foundry in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is one of only a few places in Lancaster county where quoits are still manufactured from scratch.  This small company is family owned and produces castings from several copper based alloys, mainly brass and bronze.  The foundry supplies a large portion of the quoits for the

Ephrata East End Mart, an excellent source for purchasing locally-made quoits which I feature on another page of this web site.  I had the great fortune to receive advance notice from Paul Burkholder at the East End Mart that he was placing an order with the foundry for 21 sets of  four-pound quoits, in order to restock the store's inventory of quoits for the holiday shopping season.  He was gracious enough to arrange for me to visit the foundry while the order was being produced, and photograph the entire process from start to finish.  Jerry Flury, the owner of the foundry, notified me the day before the run, and at 5:30 the next morning, I met with him and some of his employees to setup this photo session.  I enjoyed the experience immensely, and am very gracious to Jerry, and to Paul at East End Mart, to make this page possible.  Thanks, guys!

An interior view of the Flury Foundry Company, showing the grinding and finishing areas of the plant.

Jerry Flury poses with the completed order of brass Quoits for the Ephrata East End Mart, and is holding a pair of quoits still attached to the gate which I have reserved for my growing quoit collection.

I was able to capture on film all the steps in producing quoits, except for the actual creation of the plastic pattern used for the pour.  The pattern had been fashioned before the beginning of the quoiting season, so our tour begins at the molding machine,  where the pattern, mounted in a 'pattern board', is inserted into a metal frame that is filled with sand to to create the mold.  Below is a photographic tour of the Flury Foundry and the detailed process of making Brass Quoits from raw materials.
The Pattern
A pattern is made by making an identical copy of an actual item which needs to be reproduced, usually out of an inexpensive material such as wood or plastic.  In this case, a hard black plastic is used to create the pattern containing two quoits, one with a raised letter 'A' and one with a raised letter 'B' on the top surface.  The pattern also includes all the paths required for the molten metal to flow through to reach the two quoit forms. In the photo at right, you can see the bottom side of both quoits and the two risers and gates between them through which the liquid brass flows. The small white block just above the upper riser is the point where the pouring hole, called a 'sprue', will be made from the top of the mold to the surface of the two halves of the mold.  The quoits are actually orientated upside-down inside the mold, so this side of the board is facing up when the casting is done

The top side of the pattern board contains a long runner between the two quoits for the brass to reach the gates.  The purpose of the risers and the extended runner is to provide reservoirs of extra metal which can flow back into the quoit cavities to compensate for any shrinkage of the brass during the solidifying process. 

The metal frame which holds the sand in place is called a 'flask'. Luis Silva is seen here placing the pattern board upside-down onto the 'cope', which is the top half of the flask.  He will then place the bottom frame, called the 'drag', on top of the pattern board.

Making the Mold

A mixture of compressed air and a mold release agent is sprayed on both sides of the pattern board when needed to act as a lubricant, preventing the sand from sticking to the pattern when the flask is separated.

The drag is filled with a fine black silica sand.  A small wooden 'press board', seen at the right of the photo,  is then placed on top.  The molding machine vibrates to settle and  pack the sand into the frame. The flask is then turned over and  the cope is also  filled and settled.  

The whole assembly is then packed tightly using a large hydraulic press, which swivels into place on the top of the molding machine.

The press boards are removed and the sprue, the access hole through which the brass is poured,  is created by pressing a hollow tapered tube into the sand and then removing it.

The Flask is then separated, and the cope is set aside while the pattern board is removed.  Here you can see the perfect imprint of the pattern in the black sand.

A small screen made of mica, called a 'strainer', is placed at the bottom of the sprue to capture any impurities that may be floating in the molten brass before it flows into the pattern cavities.

The two halves of the mold are put back together without the pattern board, and the flask is removed, leaving only a large block of compressed sand with the completed mold cavity inside. 

Three molds are placed together on a small rolling pallet on rails, and then shoved into the casting room, ready to pour.

Furnaces

The raw materials for making the quoits are inserted into the top of two small electric furnaces in the rear of the factory, and fired until molten.  The foundry uses what is called 'red brass' for their quoits - a mixture of  81% Copper, 9% zinc, 7% lead, and 3% tin.  Here,  Rob Silva fires up the furnaces after loading them full.

In less than a half hour, the brass is molten and ready to remove from the furnace.  These furnaces actually raise up and swing away from the  pedestal on which the crucible sits, as Sergio Montanez is seen doing above, to allow easy access with a small hoist and carrier.

The crucible is first carried under a vent hood where zinc and phosphorous copper is added to make impurities come to the surface of the liquid metal.  This slag, or 'dross', is skimmed off onto the floor.

The crucible is then transported via a traveling hoist to the Pouring Deck and the awaiting skids of molds. Ed Smith wears a facemask to protect himself from toxic fumes produced by the brass.  Now the fun begins!

Pouring Baille
The Pouring Deck contains four sets of tracks leading from the molding area to the left, behind the heavy plastic partition curtain. The crucible is place in a pouring 'baille',  a carrier which allows the operator to move it horizontally in front of the row of skids and tip it over to pour the metal into the sprue of each mold.  A helper places heavy weights on the top of each mold to prevent it from expanding or breaking apart when the pour is made, then removed shortly after.  Ed Smith and Junior Ocasio complete a pour along a row of skids in the two pictures above.
When the crucible is close to empty, it is taken off the baille and moved back to the furnace room by the hoist, where it is emptied of any remaining metal and bottom impurities.  It is placed back onto the furnace pedestal, the furnace is lowered down over it, and another shot is loaded for melting.  The second furnace is then lifted and the whole process begins again with a fresh batch of liquid brass.
Breaking the Molds

Once the molds are cooled enough that the catings are hardened, usually not more than 10 or 15 minutes, the skids are moved to the far end of the Pouring Deck onto a dumping platform, which tilts the skid over and causes the molds to roll off  into a conveyor belt. The molds break open as they tip over, and the castings fall free of the sand.  The objects seen above are not quoits but were being processed in the same batch along with the quoits.

The dumping platform then lowers backwards and the empty skids roll down under the deck onto another set of tracks that transport them back to the molding area.  The upper platform in this photo is seen in this position.  The conveyor full of quoits and sand moves away from the dumpers, to be separated by hand. The numerous white spots in this photo and the one at left are reflections from the camera flash on smoke particles in the air from pouring the molten brass.

At the end of the short conveyor, a worker uses a hammer to pull the quoits out of the sand and put them in a wheelbarrow.  The sand falls into a hopper and is sent through a cleaning machine which screens out the scrap metal particles and then conveyors the clean sand up overhead and back to the molding machine hoppers for reuse.

When the wheelbarrow is full, the quoits are wheeled over and dumped into the hopper of a cleaning machine called a Wheelabrator to remove any sand stuck to the metal. 

The Wheelabrator

The Wheelabrator is basically a large tumbling machine, in which the inside surface, similar in construction to a tank-tread, rotates the quoits until no sand remains.  Here, Sam Krauskop raises the hopper up to the open doorway of the machine and dumps them in.

After a short time in Wheelabrator, the quoits look much cleaner.  The metal track is reversed and the quoits fall out onto a vibrating shaker which removes the last bit of sand.

The quoits are vibrated to the end of the shaker and fall back into their wheelbarrow.

The quoits are clean and ready to be cut apart.

Cutting and Grinding the Castings

At the cutting machine,  the quoits are separated from the gate   The scrap material is moved back to the furnace area for reuse.  Remember building a plastic model when you were a kid, and having to break off all those little parts from their plastic frames?  This is the same thing, only on a slightly heavier scale!

Brian Starr cuts the gates from the quoits, freeing them at last!

A bin full of freshly-made quoits is ready for the grinder.

A pedestal grinder is used to take off the remaining protrusions left by the gates on the outside edges of the quoits, and to remove any large burs or excess material from the casting process.

Adrian Santiago grinds the outside edge of a quoit to a smooth finish, while his fellow co-worker Romulo Maldonado busies himself with another order. After this rough grinding is done, some hand grinding with a small, dremel-like tool is performed on the inside edges of the quoit.  

The finished product is stacked on the table and labeled for shipment.  All those glistening brass quoits are certainly a beautiful sight!  Romulo Maldonado, Adrian Santiago, and Tony Silva are proud of their hard work, and so will all those lucky folks who receive these quoits under their Christmas tree this year!

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