Resilient to abuse and versatile by nature, ‘Cast’ iron was so named because it is made by ‘casting’ (pouring) molten iron into a mold. The 1830’s through the middle of the 1850’s was a period when cooking vessels – and the stoves on which to cook with them – were made of cast iron, and made in abundance. Fanciful castings were also in great demand during this time for windows, furniture and lawn decorations.
Assisted by the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, toys made of cast iron eventually made their debut. The more popular designs of such things as doorstops and toys were made for many decades, making authentic examples reasonably accessible today, if a bit pricey. The first cast iron mechanical bank was successfully marketed in 1868.
To produce a cast iron piece a pattern maker would make a model of the item to be cast. Although sometimes metal patterns would have been made for continuous re-casting of the numerous small parts of a toy or bank, the main pattern would usually be made of wood. Pattern makers were often artists skilled in wood carving. Kindly visit Cooking pots ‘n’ pans to find more information.
Sand casting was the method of choice for decorative items like doorstops, as well as banks and toys. Sand casting entailed the use of a very fine sand mixed with a binder to hold it firm. The damp sand would be used to mold the exterior features of the model or ‘die’, which was then removed, leaving an image of its pattern behind in the packed sand. Sprues would be cut in the sand and then melted ‘pigs’ of iron would be poured through the channels to fill the pattern.
When cool, the resulting piece of cast iron would be removed from the mold. If flaws or imperfections were visible, a piece would simply be tossed back to be melted down once again. If the casting was a good one, the surface of the piece would be carefully finished and polished. Separate pieces would be bolted or riveted, pinned in some way or, in the case of many turn of the century and later pieces, screwed together to complete the finished article.
Because of the craftsmanship and hand labor required to make them, earlier cast iron, toys and banks that were made in this way were never inexpensive when first sold. They were made by skilled workers who took great pride in their work. Their craftsmanship is still recognizable in the pieces they made that survived the times.