Newsletter Issue Number:
AICCM National Newsletter No 143 September 2018
Dr Ian D MacLeod, WA Museum Fellow & Chair, Swan Bells Foundation

At precisely 11 am Perth time on Friday 3rd August, the golden shimmering mass of liquid bronze metal began to flow into the giant-sized mould at the VEEM Foundry in Canning Vale. Prior to this we had all been inducted into the safety procedures for watching the pour, but nothing could prepare one for the sheer awesome power of 8.5 tonnes of shimmering metal flowing into the 35-tonne mould which was the beginning of turning our dreams into metallic reality. Before the ladle was charged with its precious cargo it was blast-heated with a diesel fed flame thrower to heat the interior to over 1100 oC, so that when the molten metal from the electrically inductively heated crucible poured in there would be no chance of solidification. Cranes silently moved the red-hot ladle with the reverence of an Olympic torch. Lumps of charcoal slobbered over the liquid bronze and temporarily gave up its protective care before the journey down the foundry floor on a giant gantry crane. The foundry operators were like the first and second violins in a distant orchestral stage as they took the temperature and carefully removed the charcoal before the moment arrived. Finally, the symphony began under the command of the master founder. The liquid metal had to be at the “Goldilocks” temperature of not too hot and not too cold to get the best outcome from the casting.

Bell tower supporter, mining entrepreneur Mark Creasy was donned in a full-length deep blue protective apron with leather gauntlets and full-face shield to protect him from the heat of the ladle and so, looking like a magical wizard from distant ages, he cast not one but six sovereigns of pure gold from New Zealand and Australia from 100-years ago to make sure that the best of traditions were honoured with the casting of a great bell. Mark’s height was accentuated by the garb but in no small way it reflected the real stature of our generous patron, without whom there would be no bronze for the bell for her donated the ten tonnes of bronze metal. Without Mark there would also be no Creasy Clock in the foyer of the Bell Tower in Barrack Square.

Once the primary pour had been completed, the second 1.5 tonnes of liquid metal was poured to top up the gating and sprue structures to ensure that there was a good head of liquid metal to crown the bell and prevent premature cooling of the upper part of the casting, which would render it too brittle. Even though the final tuned weight will be approximately 6.5 tonnes, a total of ten tonnes of liquid bronze (80% copper & 20% tin) was needed to properly cast the ANZAC Memorial bell. We now all wait for a couple of weeks until the bell has cooled enough to keep its microstructure and then the mould will be broken open and we can see the bell in all its glory. Once sprues and gating structures have been removed, the trimmed down bell will be taken to Willis Engineering in Welshpool for tuning on a massive vertical lathe.

Congratulations to VEEM for the huge amount of preparation that went into the project, from developing the complex 3-D printing to show the giant frieze to ensuring, through test castings of decorative elements, that they had the correct temperatures and composition. Congratulations to the whole team who have steered this project from its inception and in honour of the Patron of the Swan Bells, perhaps we should call this bell Little Laith for it is half the weight of Big Ben. Representatives of the Minister for Culture and the Arts were present as were the RSL and the Royal Australian Navy, as the senior service of the Australian Defence Forces. The local MLA for Jandakot was present and the whole show was stage managed by Andrew Reynolds. It was an emotionally uplifting event, the likes of which we will not see again.