The Great Iron Pour Scheduled for Monday, March 15, at The Colorado Springs School

March 12, 2021

The Great Iron Pour engages high school students at The Colorado Springs School through a hands-on immersion into the world of making and pouring molten metal to create art. The three-week seminar asks the essential question, Can we come to a clear understanding of the enormous significance of the age of metals while developing a personal aesthetic relationship with cast iron as an artistic medium?

The Colorado Springs School (CSS) is the only high school in the country to conduct an Iron Pour. Students have broken nearly 1,200 pounds of iron into shards for the pour, which will take place on the evening of Monday, March 15, 2021, in the courtyard of the Carriage House art studios at 21 Broadmoor Avenue.

The Iron Pour is offered through the Experience-Centered Seminar program, a hallmark of intensive and hands-on study. It will occur as a pinnacle experience of a student seminar led by Art Department Chair Mr. Hans Wolfe and assisted by Visual Arts Teacher Kaja Reynolds. The Iron Pour is open by invitation only as we follow COVID mitigation and safety protocols. Media may attend but must notify the school by 10:00 a.m. Monday to go over mitigation strategies; the Iron Pour is not open to the public.

During this three-week course of study, students are meeting with artists, creating wax and sand molds, assembling a cupola, breaking iron and bonding coke, welding, and working intensely in teams to discover the science and art of an iron pour.

The schedule of events for the pour (weather and variables permitting):

  • On Monday morning, students will be completing the final setup for the pour area. They will be attending to last-minute details, conducting dry run-throughs, and final safety training.

  • The furnace will be fired up and burning during this time to get up to heat, which means flamethrowers will come on around noon.

  • After lunch, various lost wax molds are checked and patched as students heat and start to bury ceramic shell molds. Students are dressed in full safety gear.

  • The cupola will be brought up to melting temperature between 6:00-7:00 p.m., and the first charges of iron are thrown in. Metal will start flowing shortly after that and the dance of pouring everything commences.

  • Beginning at twilight, the artworks will be poured. When the cupola is tapped, then the last iron and the bottom is dropped in a fireball of glory. The final ladle of metal is poured into a crowd-pleasing pyrotechnic display.

Fun facts regarding the Iron Pour:

  • 1,200 lbs of iron will be broken down for the pour. The scrap iron has been procured from the school’s historic Trianon building. In 2015, the 110-year old boiler was replaced but the scrap iron was retained for future iron pours.

  • 200 lbs of purified coal (AKA coke at 95% carbon) will be used to fuel the fire.

  • The cupola will be heated to approximately 3,000 degrees. The cupola is lined with 1,000 lbs of aluminosilicate refractory clay.

  • Tons of sand are being used in multiple grades.

  • Students are using a lost wax process dating back to 2000 B.C. to create molds for their iron sculptures. A more modern space-age technique of dipping the molds in a slurry and covering them with a stucco process is also being used.

  • The Colorado Springs School is the only high school in the country to conduct an Iron Pour from beginning to finish. Students help build and repair all of the equipment used. Everything is from scratch.

  • Check out student blogs on the Iron Pour at www.css.org/blog/2021-iron-pour-ecs.

  • The school has conducted eight iron pours since 1994. This seminar is offered on a multi-year rotation, with the last one offered in 2018.

A special thank you:

  • Culver’s at Lake Plaza is donating 25 milkshakes to the students for the Iron Pour. It is believed among welders and boilermakers that milkshakes provide vital nutrients and restorative qualities for those working with heavy metals and high temperatures. If nothing else, they will be refreshing to the team of students and faculty.

About the Iron Pour ECS

The Iron Pour ECS is a hands-on immersion into the world of making and pouring molten metal to create art. The course relies heavily on teamwork and involves a historic study of the discovery and use of metals, the industry of iron and steel making, the chemistry of metals and refractory materials, and sculpting in wax, clay, and other mediums. Student art is informed by exposure to galleries, museums, and by visiting artists. Iron casting is physically demanding, and teamwork is important as the whole class moves together toward the goal of melting iron and pouring it into molds to make art. This course also includes the pouring of aluminum and bronze, and students learn basic steel forging and welding.

About Experience-Centered Seminars

Experience-Centered Seminars (ECSs) are an integral part of the Upper School program and teach students the skills necessary to conduct large-scale investigations in college and beyond. Each March, students participate in a three-week study that immerses them in academic subjects through a hands-on, interdisciplinary approach; they do not attend regular classes during this time but focus entirely on seminars. ECSs approach broad, interdisciplinary questions to optimize the teaching of critical thinking, organized inquiry, in-depth analysis, and synthesis of information. They demand direct active participation and primary research in an environment outside of the classroom. Academic requirements include oral and written presentations, term papers, group work, and projects, or final exams. The ECS experience sets our students apart as they move into the collegiate world and beyond.

Students are blogging about this year’s seminars, including:

About The Colorado Springs School (CSS)

The Colorado Springs School is a college-preparatory, day, and international school serving students from preschool through high school. Through superior academics and mentoring, The Colorado Springs School prepares students to think independently and to meet the needs of a dynamic world with leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and personal integrity. Learn more at css.org. The school is located on 28 acres at 21 Broadmoor Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80906.

Media are welcome to attend but must notify us by Friday. For more information about Experience-Centered Seminars or the Great Iron Pour, please contact Anslee Wolfe, Communications & Marketing Manager, at awolfe@css.org or (719) 434-3503.