On The Job With James: Washburn Iron Works
As I travel around the 25th Senate district in N.W Wisconsin I am amazed at the remarkable companies that not only exist here but thrive here. Each month I am going to work at one of these companies and then tell you more about the company, what they do and what I learned by working there. My first ‘On the Job’ was at Washburn Iron Works in Bayfield County.
Most people have no idea that a foundry exists right along Hwy 13 in the City of Washburn. This is due, in part, to the efforts Washburn Iron Works takes to limit their impact and meeting the high environmental standards set forth by the EPA. Washburn Iron works was started in 1976 by Otto J. Rusch. Today Otto’s grandson’s Taylor and Cole Pearson lead day to day operations. Last month Washburn Iron Works won the prestigious ‘Best in Class’ award in a national competition among iron foundries for a sorting wheel they designed to separate grain for the cereal making process. Their casting and award are featured in the May issue of Modern Casting Magazine.
I was given the task of making the molds that create the very piece Washburn Iron Works had just won the national award for! The castings are made from black sand infused with a special compound that holds the form together. I worked with robotic equipment created by Washburn Iron Works specifically for making the grain sorting wheel. It was physical work with a variety of tasks required to make each form. Taylor told me ‘you won’t need to buy a gym membership, we pay you to work out’.
The casting is made by creating two separate forms with open cavities that are clamped together. Molten iron is then poured inside the form and the part is created within the open space of the casting. Once the metal cools the form bounces along a conveyor belt where the sand breaks apart revealing the iron piece. To increase efficiency and lessen environmental impact, the sand is then recycled and used to make more castings. The quality of the form determines the overall quality of the product so strict quality control measures are in place.
At the end of my shift I was much more skilled at running the equipment than I had been just hours earlier. This is probably due more to the skill of my teacher than to me. Washburn Iron Works has incredibly talented, hard-working employees and I truly enjoyed working with them. The company employs about 40 people but a robust economy and strong demand for their products has them looking to expand and hire.
If you’re interested in potentially working at Washburn Iron Works, contact them at 715.373.2661 or check them out at www.washburnironworks.com.