Publication: The Architectural Review and American Builders' Journal
Philadelphia, PA, United States
HOT-CAST Porcelain is so new an article comparatively, that, doubtless, our readers will be pleased with a short description of it and its uses.
In chemical composition and general nature it is nearly midway between china, or porcelain proper, and glass; and its uses are very diversified, including artistic figures, vases, brackets, bell-shades, conical lamp-shades, stamped artistic shades, cups, tumblers, goblets, beakers, egg-cups, with eggs (for practical jokes) to match, napkin rings, match-boxes, perfume-bottles, very large evaporating-dishes for photographers, paint-cups and tiles for water-colors, flooring tiles, ashlar for bases, instead of brown-stone or marble, paperweights, lamp-stands, door-knobs and escutcheons, plates for photographic pictures, table-tops and mantel-pieces, columns, cornices, wash-stands, door and window-frames, slabs and gravestones, monuments, obscuring window panes (instead of ground glass) —which have the merit of being smooth on both sides, and therefore of not harboring the dust—balustrades and handrailings, lintels, window-sills, and, in fact, things innumerable.
Hot-Cast Porcelain cools with a handsome semi-vitreous surface lustre; but when the natural surface is ground off, the body of the material takes a fine polish and its lustre is even improved. The inner surface of the material, as well as the outer glaze of cooling, is impervious to acids, thus specially adapt ing it for the many utensils required in chemical laboratories.
Most of the demand on the company is for perfectly white ware, but the substance is capable of receiving the most varied colors without material alteration of its varied good qualities. A beautiful opalescent iridescence is sometimes observed on it, from the commingling of fancy colors. In plain tints, tones and hues, we noticed cream, siskin, drab, olive, blue, purple, brown, gray, green; and in fancy markings, striped, variegated, mottled and marbled. We were informed by the attentive assistant, that, the "pot-bottoms," or glass remaining—after being nearly drained in the course of manufacturing, and allowed to cool—often exhibits magnificent color effects, in changeable flushes, waves, &c, which he could only liken to the aurora borealis, as nothing else in nature seemed to vie with this sedimentary glass.
It is claimed that "this new and remarkable ware combines the beauty of French china with the strength of the strongest marble. It is capable of being formed into any shape into which glass can be blown, pressed, moulded or drawn. The materials which are employed in its manufacture are inexpensive, and are as easily worked, as those from which ordinary glass is made. Its durability, and resistance to heat, cold, acids, and other destructive agencies, have been thoroughly tested, and with the most satisfactory results."
Early in December, we paid a visit to the extensive works of THE AMERICAN HOT-CAST PORCELAIN COMPANY, at the corner of York and Gaul streets, Richmond, Philadelphia; and safely passed the portentous "No Admittance except on Business," by means of a letter of introduction, from a genial friend, to the superintendent, Waldron J. Cheyney, Esq. He himself was not in at the time; but his gentlemanly assistants made us welcome; and extended every facility in furtherance of our object. Taking a rapid survey of the office, general premises and packing-rooms, we proceeded, almost at once, to the grand apartment of the furnaces, where a busy crew of skilful men and agile boys were manipulating the fiery and plastic material. Perhaps we cannot do better, than describe a few of the processes, although in these—following the methods of managing glass for the same general purposes—there is nothing specially new.
Planned in accordance with the modern best models of arrangement, for buildings of this nature, the place is large and lofty, exceedingly light of construction, and unimpeded by vertical supports, the only interruptions to the general view being the tall conical furnace-stacks.
Passing through a long corridor, from the room containing the finishing side of the annealing furnace, we came first to a gang of men and boys making
The particular style occupying them, at the moment, was Molasses Pitchers; but the process is much the same for all kinds. A furnace boy brings the blower Ins long blow-pipe, with a bit of red-hot glass, as it is technically called, upon its lower end, of about the size of a small orange, obtained by dipping the tube into the incandescent molten material, at the bottom of the furnace, and giving it a slight twist, as it is raised. The blower takes the pipe, blows in it, to increase the size of the plastic knob; revolves and sways the pipe slowly backward and forward, the glass bladder, or bubble, as it may be termed, gradually elongating and enlarging; and, at a given signal, has an attendant open for him a hinged iron mould, in which he rests the fast-cooling opalescent mass. The mould—containing the proper depressions for making figures in relief upon the side of the pitcher—is instantly closed; and, without revolving his pipe, with one steady puff, he forces the glass into all the recesses of the mould. The mould is immediately opened; and the pipe and pitcher together carried by a boy to the finisher, who rests the pipe upon a slight rail or ledge before him, the pitcher, bottom outwards, being turned away from him. Meanwhile another boy has brought a small mass of melted glass upon the end of an iron rod, and has swayed it, until it drops into a long pendant, at the same time rolling it upon a small level iron table, before him; and, as he hands it to the finisher, twirls his rod, until, from the centrifugal motion, the glass resembles the trunk of an elephant. Upon the handle side of the pitcher were moulded two little knosps or projections, corresponding to the insertions of the top and bottom of the handle. At a motion from the finisher, the youth drops the hot and plastic end of the trunk of glass upon the hot upper projection of the pitcher, where the finisher immediately fastens it, by a momentary pressure of a large pair of plyers held in his right hand. The youth withdraws his rod, to obtain the length of the proposed handle. This drawing causes the rod-end hand of the glass to become the slenderer part; and, the proper length being obtained, the finisher, with a pair of scissors, cuts off the glass, takes the rod in his left hand, revolves the half-attached handle on the pitcher, to lengthen it, and, with his plyers, gives the handle somewhat the form of an S, and fastens the lower end down to the lower projection on the pitcher, making it secure by a single pressure of the butt of his plyers; and shapes up the handle itself by the blades of the plyers. A slight jar of the rod against the edge of a trough then detaches the pitcher, which is at once taken up on a rod, in the hands of a small boy, and borne off to the annealing furnace.
A few steps to the left was a similar gang engaged in moulding
The principal operator stands before an upright iron press, arranged with table, plunger, and stops, the whole adjustable by means of set-screws, and provided with an iron mould, in two parts, whereof the lower is hinged, to open and free the glass knob, forming the fastening of the lamp itself, and the upper is solid, the upper part sliding, and fitting accurately, upon the lower. When ready, he closes the lower mould, by means of long handles, like those of an old-fashioned waffle-iron, and secured in the same general way—only these move in their hinge laterally, instead of vertically—and, in the same movement, adjusts the upper and the lower parts of the mould, leaving upwards the wide open mouth of the latter, which corresponds to the bottom of the lampstand. An assistant now drops into the mould an elongating red-hot lump of glass, which the first cuts from the rod, with a large pair of shears, at the same instant pushing the combined mould back to a rest, upon the table of the press. The plunger now descends, and forces the glass into all the minute ramifications of the mould. The plunger rising, the mould is withdrawn, and the lower part unclasped, enabling the operator to lift in his left hand the moulded glass itself, in the upper part of the mould, which is provided with a handle, at the same time fanning the glass briskly for a few seconds with a common fan, held in his right hand, in order to cool it. He now relieves the stand from the mould with a slight tap, which causes it to rest in the bottom of a little trough, or dry vat, and taking it up, on a broad little wooden spatula, turns it out upon an iron table, bottom downwards. This last motion, the glass being yet warm, and the table perfectly level, causes the stand, by its own weight, to assume the exact shape for resting steadily, when in use. As soon as two are ready, a boy upon an iron instrument, like a baker's peel, carries them to the annealing furnace. This method is for the larger sizes, the smaller ones, treated in every other respect the same way, are not fanned.
Directly across, and near the opposite side of the place, with a table before him, supporting two open hexagonal moulds, in a heavy iron plate, is a stalwart man forming
An assistant brings the glass on the end of an iron rod; and allows it to fall slowly upon the centre of the depression of a mould, when, by estimate, the workman cuts it away from the lump on the rod, with a large pair of ordinary shears. The moulder then smooths off the top of the mass—or the bottom of the tile—by means of a little board, about half an inch thick, seven inches wide and twenty inches long, which he rotates very briskly over the mass, thus forcing it into all the corners of the mould. Then, sprinkling along a little damp sand upon the glass, he rotates the board upon it again, grinding in the sand, to roughen the under surface of the tile for the cement, in the final setting for floor or pavement. A second tile is formed in the same manner. He then stands up the mould plate; and with a slight tap, disengages the tiles. He next sprinkles both moulds with water, to cool them for the succeeding pair. In the whole process, he looks like a spirit, of the terrene realm of fire, engaged in some choice salamandrine cookery. These tiles cool with some tendency towards concavity, just within their edges on top; but this is obviated by grinding them perfectly level, and finishing with a waxy lustre, that they may not be too smooth for the feet.
The tiles being turned out upon an iron table, boys whisk them off' to the annealing furnace. A few steps further, and we reach a tall active man, with a press before him, similar to that of the lamp-stand moulder, but rather lighter in construction. He is engaged in making tops for little, round, flat
or boxes; the boxes themselves are formed in the same way. He has a little iron mould, with a separate iron collar, into which his assistant, from an iron rod, drops a small lump of molten glass, which the moulder cuts away from the glowing bottom of the rod, with a light pair of scissors, when the combined mould is pushed backward, on the press table, to its rest; and instantly a plunger descends; and drives the yielding glass into every part of the mould. Then the plunger rising, the mould is withdrawn; and the workman stirs the square end of a little piece of board, say about an inch and a half wide, briskly around in the glass on the open mould, to keep the top of the new-formed cover well against the bottom of the mould, and this being opened, the cover is dropped out, and, as before, carried away by a boy to the annealing furnace. The cups or boxes, here described, would answer as well for shaving-cream, or any substance of an unctuous nature.
Moving around the spacious building; and returning almost to the point where entered, we find a pair of sturdy workmen busy making conical
LAMP OR GAS-SHADES.
This pair, is in all the other cases, have several younger assistants. The assistant blower takes the molten glass out of the furnace upon his long iron blow-pipe; puffs it out to the size of a large apple; and partially shapes it, by means of a wooden mould, which he holds in one hand—with about two-fifths of one side cut away, so that its interior is of a very concave shape—by revolving within it the glass upon the rod, by means of which the mass is half formed and put back again into the incandescent fluid in the furnace, for a fresh accretion. The tube—now taken by the principal workman—while the assistant returns to the former operation —is then blown into, swayed backward and forward—revolved, in order to obtain length and partial regularity in the combined mass—and the elongated flask rested revolvingly upon the bottom of a side-acting hinged wooden mould, opportunely opened by an attendant boy, seated upon the pavement, with the mould between his legs, so that he can readily look into it, for the proper time of closing, which is when the whirling, flattening mass — becoming like an obtuse hollow cone, closed in at the bottom, nearly fills its mould, which being tightly closed, the workman blows and revolves his blow-pipe very briskly for a few seconds ; and, the mould being open, he takes his rod to the edge of a trough or dry vat; and shaping the neck, or upper part, by revolving it within the blades of a pair of plyers; and, giving the thin glass a little above, a smart tap, he detaches the shade, which is immediately taken up by a boy with a rod and hurried to the annealing furnaces. The glass bottom of the shade is cut out afterwards, by running a hot slight iron rod around upon the edge of the shade.
In all these processes, both the iron rods and the iron blow-pipes are guarded near their upper ends, or wherever wielded, with thick twine, wrapped around them, for the continuous space of about eighteen to twenty inches, in order to protect the hands of the workman from the cumulative effects of heat; and, we suppose, that, in addition, the workmen have spare ones, to allow those in use for awhile to cool off.
There is no waste, whatever, in the fragmentary material, which is all gathered up again, and re-melted, in the crucibles, for any future operations.
We have reiterated the annealing, at the end of each separate process, because, as absolutely necessary to toughen the glass for use, it is well to fasten it in the mind. All the articles are five hours each in passing through the annealing furnace, when they re-appear, on the opposite side, in another apartment, where youths are constantly watching, either to bear them away to the storeroom shelves, or, if the commercial hurry of the Company requires, to pack them, at once, for distant transportation.
The whole establishment is exceedingly busy and brisk. Indeed, in the furnace room, it is necessary to be wary, because, although the men are polite and careful, they must be alert, and may not observe you. Should you, perchance, pass between the moulders and the furnace door, you are in great danger of a serious and searing burn, from the lumps of red hot glass, on rod, or tube, ceaselessly flung about, on every side.
This Company also manufacture occasionally, and will constantly, after New Year, 1869, at the works of THE ATLANTIC QUARTZ COMPANY, NO. 3045 and 3047 Chestnut street, West Philadelphia. Their present business office is in the hall of the Franklin Institute, but will shortly be at the northeast corner of Seventh and Walnut streets.
Hot-Cast Porcelain is, though yet in its infancy, a successful rival of china, glass, bisque, and other substances of their general nature, as hinted in the beginning of this sketch, for all the smaller objects and utensils, designed either for ornament alone, or for elegant use. But its capabilities extend far beyond these lesser luxuries of society.
The greater luxuries are chaste and lustrous exteriors, and polished and elegant interiors, for the homes of men. Much time and capital have been expended in the production of artificial stone, which—from the facility of producing it of almost any given size and shape—will look well in masonry, and yet afford lines, which cannot, as cheaply, be given to natural materials by the stone-cutter.
But the gentlemen concerned have aspirations far beyond this, confidently hoping, as they do, to produce in the near future, a choice and not uneconomical material, in blocks, for the finest building-fronts, which shall receive, if desirable, a fine polish, and yet withstand, without disintegrating, the quick-sapping effects of the American climate, in its utmost stress. We sincerely wish them Good Speed!