The weather cooperated with Streator High School students attempting to pour iron Tuesday morning.
A clogged vent didn't.
The students spent the morning heating the furnace up to 2,000 degrees and shooting flames out of the top of the furnace before they dumped in the coke, refined coal used as fuel in the melting process.
Iron gets poured into the furnace after the coke but in this case, welding instructor David Taylor said they used too much iron too quickly.
“It’s a little discouraging but this won’t be our last attempt,” Taylor said. “It's a shame we couldn’t get it done this school year but we can learn from our mistakes now.”
The furnace took a little longer than an hour to heat up and once the iron was properly melted it dribbled out of a chute on the front side and onto the ground. This is a major success in testing the furnace because it means it is functioning properly and future uses will only need operational changes rather than mechanical changes.
Taylor was sure to temper the expectations of his students, acknowledging the difficulties of furnace work and telling them first attempts don’t always work as intended.
“We’re so proud of the welding program here at Streator High School,” said Principal Amy Jo Mascal. “This was all driven by them. They came up with the plan on their own. We try very hard to make sure we have a blend of supporting college-bound students and the large population we have that are more interested in career readiness.”
The heat from the flames blasted towards spectators when the furnace’s lid was opened and occasionally embers would escape; it was in many spectators’ best interest to shift their position in relation to the furnace as the wind’s direction changed. The debris was particularly unpleasant to the eyes.
Taylor said using the furnace is important for anyone who wants to go into foundry work.
“Anything with an engine block, brake rotors, brake pads, anything like that, is built using a furnace like the one we’re using,” Taylor said. “This kind of work is in heavy demand.”
Representatives from Plymouth Tube in Streator were present for the iron pour and just a few weeks ago, four advanced welding students at Streator High accepted positions at Vactor Manufacturing as part of a welding course put together in conjunction with the factory.
Taylor said they will test the furnace out again but it will not take place until next school year, as the semester winding down and the preparation would take more time than they have left.