Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Casting

Tabletop's casting operation was tiny...

The whole place, shop, warehouse, casting room and Bob and Kate's living space was situated in two three story Edwardian terrace houses with shop fronts... When I started they didn't need all the space they had so the 'house' above the second shop (55 Mansfield Rd Daybrook) was rented out to a couple of Police officers, who would come and go though the shop or back rooms at will.

The shop fronts were backed by a small room with a fireplace which I assume would have been the main living room in days gone by, but either Bob or the previous occupants had had the living space moved up-stairs and added a kitchen and Bathroom on the first floor... But at the back of the old main room was what might have been the old kitchen, or scullery, a room 4 yards square that opened on to the 'back-yard'... this was where all the casting was done.

When I started they had one casting machine, an ex-Citadel, swinging weight thing powered by a belt driven motor. White metal casting works by spinning a circular mould at a few 100 RPM and then dropping the hot metal into the central feed-hole and letting gravity, centrifugal and centripetal forces do their work...
Saunders Spinning weight machine similar to the TTG one
The only real issue with this is that it works too well, and pressure is needed to stop the still hot metal from shooting out the sides of the mould. Early machines, like TTG's, had three 'towers' place evenly on the spinning plate from which swung levers with weights attached which when spinning, swung outward and levered the top plate shut.
Cleaver huh?

Well to a certain extent it was an ideal way to work, but unfortunately it had one big draw back... The areas in-between the swinging weight would receive less pressure that the rest of the mould, and as a result these areas would flash (excessively fill) the cavities and if these cavities were large or particularly close to the edge of the mould, the still molten metal would shoot out of the mould and spray the inside of the machine... and as the lids on these machine were quite low to the spinning plate, and never shut satisfactorily, the metal would spray from the machine and blast a line of cooling lead alloy across the crotch of the operative... It didn't hurt, fortunately, but it would leave a line of metal embedded in the trousers of every caster in town... For years after it was possible to tell people who were working in the same job as me for other companies, by the 'Caster's Crotch' they all had...

In the middle of the summer of '83 TTG took delivery of another new casting machine, and this one was a bit different. The new machine, with an electric motor driving it's spinning plate directly, and its pressure controlled by a pneumatic ram was a huge step forward. Speed and pressure were now controlled by the caster, allowing for minor adjustments to keep a warming mould spinning for longer in a day. Previously a mould would have to be rested to cool once the swing weights could no long apply enough pressure to keep it running without the flash becoming too bad...

The new machine was delivered by MCP (Multi-Coupling Pneumatic), with a gentleman called Ray Tutt doing the fitting, whist his boss Mike chatted with Bob and Richard. Ray said that the machine that was being delivered was the first in a run of new machines which Citadel had ordered to replace their old spinning weight machines, and we were getting the prototype model ahead of them.

The new machine was fabbo, the pressure controller cured the flash and spitting issued almost instantly, and the dropping of the plates well below the the lid height meant that if you did get a mould that spat, the metal no-longer splashed into your groin...

BYC7 sculpted by Ali Morrison
TTG kept the old machine, so across that summer there were pretty much always two of us working in the tiny room... As I mentioned in the last post, Rees Taylor was one of the other casters, who I was told was just making up a little pin-money whilst being a full-time Father, but my main work mate was Richard Evans, a 27 year old local man, who I don't think actually spoke to me for over a week or so once I'd started...
He and  I would become firm-friends over the next four years while I worked at TTG.
(more on Richard later, a very interesting character, who I was to discover had his own history in the Wargames-world)

Casting isn't a bad job, its not difficult to master, but it is hot and heavy work, and requires long spells at the machine if the job is to be done efficiently... and although I'd jump at a chance to do anything else at TTG if the chance arose, I didn't mind if I had to stand casting all day... it gave the two of us in the tiny room time to chat, and listen to music...

Oh, and the first mini I ever cast... Well it was one of these... BYC7 Asisiactic light-horsemen with bow and javs.