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Lake Avenue light poles restoration - Pasadena, California

Niland's in-house pattern and machine shop recreated the cast iron foundry tooling needed for an exact replication
Niland's in-house pattern and machine shop recreated the cast iron foundry tooling needed for an exact replication

This light pole was originally installed in the City of Pasadena in the early 1920s. Its design consists of intricately detailed cast iron sections. After 85 years of service the need for additional light poles down Pasadena's famous Lake Avenue Drive became apparent. Representatives with the city expressed a desire to duplicate this early design and provide a period luminaire cast in solid bronze. Our in-house pattern and machine shop recreated the cast iron foundry tooling needed for an exact replication. Each section of the iron casting was sand blasted and several layers of paint removed revealed the raw iron casting.

Secrets of the early artisans that created the original tooling began to surface. The master journeyman of that era indeed had a story to tell and their work and creative ingenuity came to light. We estimated the original carvings in the original all wood tooling to be just over 4,000 man-hours back in 1920. Each individual section of detail had to be individually hand carved back then. The use of pillow blocks and triple radii shrink ratios allowed for a tight level uniform fit with an "as cast" casting. We came to discover this "trick of the trade" through careful analyzing the core prints after the old paint layers had been completely removed. We pulled sections of original detail out of the castings with a high performance non-shrinking reproduction polymer resin. The shrink ratios were added back to the wood turnings and the detail added back to the top of the pattern to bring the castings back into original tolerance. With the use of reproduction polymer resins and fine dental tools we were able to complete all the tooling on this job in less than 1,000 man-hours, allowing us the luxury of winning this work and learning from the master craftsmen of a bygone era.

Innovations in the casting process have come along way in the last century. One hundred years ago, wet "green sand" was the standard method of production. Erratic shrinks and tooling pulls would justify the use of triple radii shrink and pillow blocks. Today modern chemistry has given the age old foundry process the ability to control shrink more accurately. The use of chemically bonded "dry sand" to cast the individual parts allowed us to tighten up the tolerances and ensured a crisp detail throughout every pour. Very little machine time was spent preparing these castings for their final end use, yet the rich grain texture of fine iron castings gives each pole an individuality unique to itself. High performance acrylic primers and finish coatings completed this pole which will provide a maintenance free finish for at least 20 years.

The luminaire itself was also duplicated, only Niland was able to cast this tool in bronze, keeping with the original design from 85 years ago. Over the years most of the luminaires had been replaced with cast aluminum recreations. Our ability to cast this luminaire in bronze got the design back to its original historical intention. The light source recommended to the city utilizes electronic ballasts fully enclosed and potted in resin. This ballast allows increased life of the lamp and increased performance due to the decreased light loss factor associated with these high performance products.

Company: Niland Co.

Source: http://www.nilandco.com/project-gallery/lake-avenue-restoration



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