The deafening roar hits first. It’s a low-pitched, all-consuming barrage of noise that overflows Kalispell Art Casting’s workshop and permeates the frosty November air outside.
Inside the building, the rumble increases as the reverberations drum against the walls. The room is dark except for a cauldron of florescent green flames in one corner, the source of the thunder.
Between the noise, the intense heat emanating from the corner and the singed, acrid air, it’s easy to feel like a character in the climactic final chapter of the Lord of the Rings standing near the entrance to Mount Doom.
Mike Stephan, the foundry’s co-owner, and two employees stood around the inferno in leather aprons, thick gloves and face shields.
“Fair warning, it does splash around and it’s coming out at 2,000 degrees,” Stephan said, as he shut off the conflagration and fastened a six-foot metal frame to a thick crucible of molten soup.
It took two men to walk the 380-pound crucible a few feet over to an elevated sandbox full of plaster moldings. Carefully, Stephan tips the crucible over each mold and pours out a white-orange stream of liquid bronze. A few splashes of bright metal flies across the floor of the foundry, quickly cooling into blackened metal drops.
By the time a dozen molds are filled to the brim, the exposed bronze shows a fully chromatic range, darkening with each cooling moment.
“You can tell how hot the bronze is by how quickly a penny will melt,” Stephan said, flipping a coin onto one of the recently cast statues.
For a moment the coin did nothing but appear as a dark circle on a dull red background. But soon it began sparking and glowing, a mini fireworks show that served as a finale to a fiery process.
Read more: ONE FOUNDRY TO RULE THEM ALL
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