What’s this three-legged beauty of a metal monster? It’s FLO, cast iron artist and Duluth Women Model Alisa’s iron-melting sidekick and co-star of the annual Pour’n Yer Heart Out Community Iron Pour in Madison, Wisconsin. She was assembled from an old steel water heater, scrap metal and spare time in just three months and finished the night before her first pour.
Weighing in at around 650 big ones, FLO swallows 100 pounds of smashed up iron at a time and reaches temps upwards of 2,500 °F thanks to layers of intensely hot-burning coke.
When molten metal starts pushing slag up through the slag hole, it’s time to tap! Alisa breaks through the bot plug making yellow-hot iron rush into waiting ladles. Sand molds are quickly filled up before the iron cools.
What the heck is bot? Essentially it’s a mixture of water, clay and silica sand used to stop up the tap hole. Alisa’s contains some special sauce — a can of cheap beer. Well, most of one, because she’s gotta take a few swigs to seal the deal.
During Pour’n Yer Heart Out, FLO churns out nearly a ton of molten iron. Those 2,000 pounds are transformed into over 100 community-made hearts and dozens of art pieces from artists all over the midwest.
Speak FLO’s Language
COKE: carbon fuel made of refined coal. Alisa uses chunks of bed coke the size of giant grapefruits and charge coke that resembles lemons.
SLAG: material left over once the iron is melted. It’s made up of impurities you wouldn’t want in cast iron and floats on top of the molten iron “like marshmallows on top of hot cocoa” according to Alisa.
TUYERE: pronounced “two-yer.” These four holes allow high-pressured air into the furnace to fan the flames. The crew also “rattles the tuyeres,” meaning they stick a steel rod through the tuyeres one at a time to “fluff” settled iron and coke.
BOT: also known as “bod.” A mixture of water, clay and silica sand used to stop up the tap hole in between taps. Alisa’s tradition is to save part of each bot mixture and use it to start the next pour’s batch — kind of like a sourdough bread starter — for luck.
Wanna see FLO in all her blazing glory?
Check out our video of the 2015 Pour’n Yer Heart Out Community Iron Pour event.