Arcosanti - An Urban Laboratory in the Arizona Desert.

Bronze Foundry

November 17. 2014

The November workshop had a special treat during the first week of the 5-week program.

On Monday evening, November 10. 2014, the foundry crew did a special night pour. Night pours only happen two or three times a year, usually during a special event.

[terrific photos by Scott Riley, Arcosanti Utility Zar]

Foundry staff Liam Walsh and Brendan Seigl.

In the background is foundry manager Andy Chao.

August 23. 2013

This completes our report from 8/14 to 8/21/2013 about how the Paolo Soleri bronze bells are made.

In the 8/14 report we can see the foundry crew preparing the molds for each bell with a sand-casting method. Foundry crew at the moment are Brendan Siegl, Rawaf al Rawaf, Jonas Fister, and foundry manager Andy Chao.

On 8/16 we can see photos of hot bronze poured into each of the molds.

The 8/19 reports shows how the cooled molds are broken down and the bells taken out of the sand.

On 9/21 we reported on the steps of cleaning, grinding, assembling and the process of patina for the bells.

[photos by Soleri archive intern Julia Dorn-Giarmoleo, text by Sue Kirsch]

Here is the completed bell on display in the Visitors gallery at Arcosanti.

Note the crisp new wall display for the bronze bells, designed by Travis Shappell.

Every piece of the Cosanti Collection was designed by Paolo Soleri and embellished by our skilled artisans in sympathy with his compositional standards. Revenues from their sale help to support the construction efforts at Arcosanti.

You can find a gorgeous variety of Paolo Soleri - Cosanti Originals bells at the Arcosanti Visitors gallery as well as at Cosanti, and you can purchase bronze bells and more through our on-line store.

August 21. 2013

This continues our report from 8/19/2013 about the making of bronze bells.

The bells are then cleaned off of any remaining sand, and sanded down, extra bronze [flash] pieces are ground away.

[photos and text by Soleri archive intern Julia Dorn-Giarmoleo]

A hole is drilled through the top, the clapper will hang from here.

Every part of the completed windbell is made on site, here we see Brendan cutting and wrapping the wire through the inside of the bell.

Once the bell is assembled, it is dipped in a vat of muriatic acid, which opens the pores of the bronze and prepares it for the aging process.

The bells remain in the vat for less than an hour, and then are rinsed off and placed in a humidified tub overnight. This process ages gives the green patina that has become emblematic of Soleri windbells.

More about the bronze bell making at Arcosanti on 8/23/2013.

August 19. 2013

This continues our report from 8/16/2013 about the making of bronze bells.

Once the bronze has cooled, the plastic or metal framework is taken off the molds.

[photos and text by Soleri archive intern Julia Dorn-Giarmoleo]

The molds are thrown into a pile, breaking the sand apart and allowing the bells to be reached. Using hammers, the artisans shake out the excess sand from the interior of the bells and place the bells to the side.

Rawaf al Rawaf is sifting small pieces of bronze from the sand.

The sand is then cooled down with a spraying of water, swept back into a pile and fed through a machine which breaks up any clumps that may have formed. This prepares the sand to be used again.

This report continues on 8/21/2013.

August 16. 2013

This continues our report from 8/14/2013 about the creation of bronze bells.

Before reassembling the flask, the artisans use a hollow metal tube to perforate the top of the negative bell impression and then, using a spoon, they carve a small concave circle around the top of the bell, as we see Rawaf doing in the picture to the left. This allows for a smoother pouring of the bronze into the mold.

[photos and text by Soleri archive intern Julia Dorn-Giarmoleo]

In the meantime, the furnace where the bronze is melted gets loaded up. Here is Andy putting unusable bells and other pieces of scrap bronze in the furnace to be melted down and re-used.

The two sides of the flask are then reassembled, the wooden flask is taken off and the molds are lined up on the ground. A metal or plastic frame is then put around the sand mold, as Jonas is pictured doing in this photo. Ingots are then placed on the molds to prevent any possible movement.

Two artisans, (pictured here are Andy and Jonas) don protective clothing, and lift the crucible containing the molten bronze out of the furnace.

They carefully pour the bronze into each of the molds.

The other artisans follow the pouring with shovels, so that should any bronze fall onto the cement or out of the mold, they can quickly throw sand on it to prevent any danger or injury.

The molds are then left to cool for about an hour, or until the bronze is solidified.

This report will continue on Monday.

August 14. 2013

The bronze wind bells at Arcosanti are truly one of a kind pieces, each one carefully and skillfully created by our foundry artisans through a unique, albeit labor intensive, process which we will dedicate several posts to exploring. 

[All photos and text in this report by Julia Dorn-Giarmoleo]

(Pictured at left is an overview of the Foundry Apse; foundry artisans from left to right: Brendan Siegl, Rawaf al Rawaf, Jonas Fister, and foundry manager Andy Chao)

The first step in creating a bronze bell is packing the flask box. Each flask consists of two pieces, between which a metal pattern is placed. The flask gets packed with very fine sand, called nickel slag, and then agitated until the sand is extremely compact. Here foundry artisan Brendan Siegl is shoveling sand into a flask box.

The framework is then separated back into two separate pieces, and the metal pattern is removed, leaving a positive impression on one part of the flask, and a negative one in the other (here we see foundry manager Andy Chao removing excess sand from the positive side). 

The artisans then take the side of the flask that has the negative, and using simple tools, impress and carve designs directly into the sand. 

Here is foundry artisan Jonas Fister carefully carving the sand, he uses his left hand to hold the side of the mold as to ensure its stability; pictured below is Andy Chao using a round plastic form to create various shapes. 

Excess sand in the mold is then blown out, as we see Rawaf doing here. 

This report will continue on Friday.

September 14. 2012

Last week Julie Wayer was a work-study scholarship student, waking at 4am to make the cafe's breakfast, and spending her afternoons cleaning guest rooms.  This week, she was crowned Empress of Finland.  A recent graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, she came to Acosanti on the advice of friend, fellow MIA graduate, and former foundry worker, Sean Mohundro.  Arcosanti seemed to be the perfect place to pursue her interest in green design, and love of metal work.  The daughter of a sheet metal worker, Wayer grew up in Chicago around the craft, and later found a surprising calm from working the last 2 1/2 years in her school's foundry.  "I started spending time there for my sculpture minor, and found the work to have a real meditative quality.  While working on the grinder there, I would do it twelve hours a day sometimes.  It was amazing.  I would walk away with such focus and calm"

["Empress"Julie Wayer works on a fin in Finland; Photo and text by new archive intern Donald Mahoney]

Taking advantage of Arcosanti's work-study program, Julie has spent four weeks working hard in the cafe and for guest services to earn a scholarship for her workshop.  When workshop participants and volunteers get the opportunity to experience the foundry, they spend most of their early days in "Finland", a room in the back of the apse where the wind-chime fins are cut and shaped for the bottom of the bells.  This is where Julie earned her new nickname.  "Prime Minister of Finland, Empress of Finland, Queen, we call her all sorts of things," explains foundry employee Chad Repp, "It's just nice to have a hard worker with experience like her who doesn't mind coming in and doing the smaller jobs when she starts."  Unable to carve, pack, or pour yet, Julie's first week duties reside in "Finland", and helpful but not always glorious jobs like sweeping and sifting sand for small pieces of bronze possibly lost along the way.  Says Wayer, "You pay your dues in any job.  You never walk into one expecting to do whatever you want.  Everyone on the floor has done what I am doing now.  And this is more than a job I want, this is a chance to learn"

[Julie Wayer removes steel jackets from bell moldings in preparation for a pour; Photo and text by new archive intern Donald Mahoney]

After finishing her final project at MIA on the psychological effects of green spaces in cities, Julie has found a happy work environment at Arcosanti.  "My school's foundry was in an old warehouse.  Here, the fact that I can stand in my workspace and see green, see nature, it's great.  It's not a typical foundry."  Is getting the opportunity to work in this unique foundry all that she hoped it would be?  "I'm not sitting sitting behind a computer everyday.  I'm making things, with my hands.  And there is so much rotation here, I'm learning and doing something different everyday."

[Julie Wayer sweeps the foundry floor; Photo and text by new archive intern Donald Mahoney]

Foundry Manager Andy Chao:  "She seems to have it together."

[Foundry Manager Andy Chao gives guidance on making one of the larger fins; Photo and text by new archive intern Donald Mahoney]

The latest Soleri custom assembly, commissioned by the Mayo Clinic to honor their 25th year in Phoenix Arizona, was installed at the main entrance of their Phoenix campus on June 28, 2012. 

[photo by Aimee Madsen and text by Roger Tomalty]


The assembly echoes the mission of the Mayo Clinic, their logo being three abstract shields representing teaching, research and practice of medicine. 

[photo (Paolo Soleri) by Aimee Madsen and text by Roger Tomalty]

The assembly features three large patina bronze bells each suspended from a 1.5 ft by 2 ft, one of a kind rectangular plate, carved and signed by Paolo Soleri.

[photo (Paolo Soleri and Abel Alday) by Aimee Madsen and text by Roger Tomalty]

Suspended 9 feet above the landscaped entrance garden the piece is 3 ft wide and 3 ft deep, where each connection is able to rotate a full 360 deg.

[photo (Abel Alday) and text by Roger Tomalty]


December 07. 2011

The foundry crew is busy making lots of bells for the Christmas season. Despite freezing temperatures they are cheerfully working away.

Crew members at the moment are Matt Cornwell, Colin Evans, Guy Flagg, as well as three foundry women, Cabiria Dourte, Zoe Middlebrooks and Sal Tellini, and foundry manager Andy Chao.

Here is Sal Tellini molding the fine sand mixture into one of the bell forms. The damp sand gets packed around an aluminum bell pattern (there are about 38 different styles / shapes in the collection) inside this 2-piece wood and metal frame called a snapflask (the top half is called the cope and the bottom half the drag).

Zoe finished her mold and is cleaning the form. She removed the snapflask from the cope block of sand, which was molded around the aluminum pattern. The aluminum pattern was then removed leaving a cavity for the liquid bronze to fill.

Within the cavity are carvings of the individual artists.These become the images that are seen on the outside of the cast bells. Each artist tends to have her / his own renditions of the classic Soleri standard motifs, so it is interesting to observe the unique creations being made.

A propane-fired furnace melts bronze ingots inside a silicon-carbide crucible vessel. While bronze as a material (comprised primarily of copper alloys) melts at 1700F, this furnace heats the metal all the way to 2200F, enabling the bronze to maintain its liquid state long enough to do successive pours.

A series of sand blocks in steel sleeves are laid across the deck of the Foundry Apse, awaiting the pour.
While two people balance and pour the crucible of molten metal using foundry tongs, others stand ready to pitch sand onto any stray pools of bronze.

The melted metal enters the spru hole and follows a channel to the cavities formed by the aluminum patterns. In only a few minutes the metal cools back to solid state and soon enough the bells can be broken out of the sand molds.

Here is yesterdays 10:30 am pour. Andy is guiding the crucible with Matt tailing and  Sal, Zoe and Cabiria are shoveling, making sure that any spilt bronze is dealt with right away.

Cabiria is grinding bells to eliminate excess bronze flashing. Once the bells are 'cleaned up', a hole is drilled through the top of each bell. This makes it possible to attach the clapper and ft-links [which can comprise the hanging chain attachment off the tops of the bells].

Cosanti Original bells, bronze and ceramic, make wonderful Christmas presents, and better yet, some of the income from the bells supports ongoing construction here at Arcosanti.

November 18. 2011

This continues our report from 11/16/2011 with detail photos of this 'Geosphere' Special Assembly.

Cliff Hersted chose a wooden clapper to ring the hollow brass tubes.


[photos: Sue]


More details of this fascinating new line of Cosanti Originals Special Assemblies.