Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Extrusion


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: When the crank is pulled the dragon tenses, clanking begins, a funnel of steam puffs from a stack, and hydraulic muscles bulge shining forearms that push the ram. The ram pushes the push-die and the block into the greased container. The extruder moves like a living thing; torso segmented, the groin pushes forward as the chest hunches back  to take in the block. As the block slides into the container the ram inserts a mandrel, like a long tongue, down through the center of the push-die and block so that the semi-molten donut of copper is totally contained within massive steel. 

And then she whines and wheezes, squeezes and wines, 2700 lbs per square inch of pressure squeezing, wheezing copper as if it were paste through the cutting die at the end of the container. From the sides of the ram come puffs of smoke and licks of flame as the grease inside the container is seared away, but at the front, the dragon's mouth roars flames, puffs sparks, breathes fire as a glowing tube of copper slowly grows.