Hammarsdale is an industrial estate some 45 kilometres west of Durban. The area is surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills and open countryside of Mpumalanga (place of the rising sun and not to be confused with the province of the same name) and geographically forms part of the well-known Valley of a Thousand Hills, KwaZulu-Natal.
Vincent Farrar, one of the two partners of Olde World Foundry, is a very hands-on person and is involved with virtually every pour that takes place in the foundry
Once the epicentre of South Africa’s textile sector, which reportedly employed tens of thousands, Hammarsdale became a ghost town post-democracy as cheap imports flooded the country, devastating a major contributor to South Africa’s gross domestic product.
Between 1970 and the late 1990s, what was known as a governmental ‘decentralised’ zone, Hammarsdale had eight textile mills, a string of shoe manufacturing factories and numerous supporting industries.
When the textile industry collapsed, vast warehousing and factory buildings were decommissioned and unemployment in the neighbouring Mpumalanga township rocketed to one of the highest in the province.
Olde World Foundry has been located in Hammarsdale since 2008. The building in Spurwing Industrial Park was previously home to one the most successful textile manufacturing companies in South Africa – De Nim Textiles – before its closure in 2005.
“We only occupy a portion of the textile factory. It was turned into a mixed-use industrial and warehousing park with an abundant electrical supply at a lower rate than in the Durban industrial areas. Hammarsdale is situated midway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the two largest cities in the province. However, Hammarsdale is ideally situated 5kms from the N3 freight corridor between Durban and Johannesburg. The importance of the N3 Durban/Johannesburg freight corridor cannot be overstated. It is by far South Africa’s major freight route. Additionally, Hammarsdale is currently developing into a vibrant mixed-use industrial zone without the congestion seen in some of the more traditional industrial areas. Even the Hammarsdale interchange on the N3 is going through a multi-million rand upgrade to assist with the revival of the industrial area,” explained Vincent Farrar one of the two partners of Olde World Foundry.
Naomi Farrar, Brad Marais and Vincent Farrar
Today the foundry casts different material grades of cast iron, SG and non-ferrous metals for the mining, construction, automotive, shipping, primary smelters, decorative, pump manufacturing, farming, packaging, textile and general engineering industries. However, the foundry did not start off with this profile.
“My dad Dave Farrar started the company as Farrar & Co in 2000 and we were located in Prospection industrial area just south of Durban. I say we because from a little boy I remember my father always taking me to the foundry. I enjoyed the experiences and have subsequently been part of the foundry since I left school,” said Farrar.
“In those days the foundry concentrated on casting aluminium, bronzes and other non-ferrous metals. Although we were supplying castings to the general engineering industry we had a greater affiliation with the decorative and heritage type of casting. History can be fun and rewarding and making castings to match the eras was very satisfying. Early castings, which were relatively plain and easier to mould and cast, were replaced by increasingly ornamental and stylised designs as the potential was realised through increasingly fine design and pattern work. This also required a development in patternmaking and moulding skills.”
Castings manufactured by Olde World Foundry being prepared for delivery
“We have been part of some really interesting historical and decorative projects and still offer this service today. One of our larger projects was to cast all the lamps, benches and dustbins that are used in the exterior areas of the Melrose Arch shopping, apartment and office complex in Illovo, Johannesburg.”
Transforming into a ferrous jobbing foundry
“There is just something special about these decorative looking and ancient type castings that take you back in history that is pleasing to the eye and gives you a sense of respecting history.”
“We even changed the name of the company from Farrar & Co to Olde World Foundry in 2004 because it better reflected the type of work that we were involved in.”
“However, there comes a time when you have to weigh up the amount of time it takes to make a casting against the return you are getting for your efforts. Especially when each casting is virtually hand crafted.”
Olde World Foundry was dumping 60 tons of sand a month so this had to be addressed. At the beginning of 2018 Endeco Omega Sinto installed a primary reclamation plant that includes a GV3 gammavator, G3 cooler classifier, a bucket elevator and dust extracting system. At the same time a new Endeco Omega Sinto 303P three-ton-an-hour continuous mixer was installed. Olde World Foundry also changed to the alkaline phenolic system for their casting process as it is an effective way to improve the working environment, the casting quality is widely recognised, and the binder is finding increased application
Castings manufactured by Olde World Foundry
When Dave Farrar retired in 2005 son Vincent took over running the business. It would be a further two years before Vincent decided he would include ferrous metals as an alternative metal to cast. Before long he knew that if he wanted to expand the foundry and meet his expectations he would have to concentrate more on the ferrous side of the business. But with small turnovers and budgets it was not going to be easy.
“We started off with an old oil-fired crucible furnace, CO2 moulding and green sand casting. We still have this old furnace but it has long been moth balled. And it was only at the beginning of 2018 that we changed to an alkaline phenolic system for casting.”
“In fact, 2018 was a big year for us in terms of investment in equipment and systems.”
Move to Hammarsdale
“But let me go back further first. In 2008 we moved to Hammarsdale. It was a wow situation for us because suddenly we had a huge amount of space to work with and we could be housed in separate buildings. The foundry area is now housed in a space of 600m²; we have a separate 350m² for our patternshop and a further 400m² for housing our patterns. And there are options to take up more space as we grow.”
The company’s Spectro elemental analyser is housed in a laboratory environment along with all the other laboratory equipment you would expect a foundry to have
Mould dressings are supplied by Durrans RMS
“When we moved to Hammarsdale machinery was installed and raw material was brought in and production commenced immediately. No construction or alterations were necessary as the premises housed the boilers from the previous company, De Nim Textiles, and was perfectly suited for our foundry’s operations.”
“We steadily grew the business and eventually we were able to afford to purchase our first spectrometer in 2013. As we all know metallography is the science of revealing and evaluating the internal structures of materials. It is one of the most important methods of materials research today, indispensable to the scientist as well as to the engineer. Until we acquired our own machine, we did not realise how important it is to have one in a foundry. Our Spectro elemental analyser is housed in a laboratory environment along with all the other laboratory equipment you would expect a foundry to have.”
“This investment opened doors for us as clients today demand certificates for accurate elemental analysis of metals from incoming materials to in-process testing to final quality inspection.”
“The next big step in the company’s history took place in 2015. I was struggling to cope with running all aspects of the business especially as I am a very hands-on person and will be involved with virtually every pour that takes place in the foundry. This necessitated a change in how we operate and I formed a partnership with Brad Marais, who had been in the scrap metal supply business all his business life. At the time when we formed the partnership Brad did not know much about a foundry but four years later you can see the innovation and transformation not only in him but also in the business.”
Over 4 000 patterns are stored by Olde World Foundry
Olde World Foundry manufacture patterns for their clients
“From casting approximately six tons of metal a month we have now moved this to 25 tons a month, which includes eight tons of cast iron a month, 12 tons a month of SG and the rest in bronzes, aluminium and other non-ferrous metals.”
“The transformation has been very beneficial and it has been aided by more investment in equipment. 2018 was a big year for us.”
“There were a few factors that influenced our decision to invest in the foundry with the main one being growth. We had been through a few troubled years of implementing systems and practices to comply with regulations that the local authorities were enforcing on entities that were involved in the production and or casting of iron, iron ores, steel or ferroalloys, including the cleaning of castings and handling of casting mould materials, countrywide.”
“In terms of Section 22 of NEM: AQA no person may conduct an activity listed on a national list anywhere in the Republic or listed on a list applicable in a province anywhere in that province without a provisional Atmospheric Emission License or an Atmospheric Emission License (AEL).”
Inside the pattern shop at Olde World Foundry
“We were receiving support from the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) in their efforts to resuscitate the local manufacturing sector but on the other hand other government departments were throwing obstacles at us. Fortunately for us a comprehensive environmental impact assessment report found that Olde World Foundry’s impacts were minimal and manageable and we were legalised.”
“It was also ironic that while this was happening we were making castings for another government department, we were training locals in the art of manufacturing decorative and historical castings and we were empowering others to further themselves in our business. Our patternshop is a great example of this.”
“The new equipment investment covered the three main departments in the foundry – melting, moulding and sand use. Before implementing our capital investment strategy we sought advice from other foundries and we thank them for steering us in the right direction.”
The core area
“We were dumping 60 tons of sand a month so this had to be addressed. At the beginning of 2018 Endeco Omega Sinto installed a primary reclamation plant that includes a GV3 gammavator, G3 cooler classifier, a bucket elevator and dust extracting system.”
“At the same time we installed a new Endeco Omega Sinto 303P three-ton-an-hour continuous mixer. We also changed to the alkaline phenolic system for our casting process as it is an effective way to improve the working environment, the casting quality is widely recognised, and the binder is finding increased application.”
“Before the installation of our new 750kg induction furnace, again in 2018, the foundry already had four other furnaces that can be categorised into three types – a 300kg electric coil furnace for the melting of aluminium, two crucible/pot furnace (fuelled by oil) for the melting of brass and bronze and aluminium and an induction furnace for the melting of iron.”
“On order is our fifth furnace, which will be installed shortly, a 1.2 ton induction furnace. This will increase our melt capacity that we desperately need and also allow us to take on bigger size castings. The maximum size casting that we have manufactured up until now is a 975kg press tool for the carpet industry.”
Castings that Olde World Foundry cast on a regular basis are pump housings, impellers and spares, bronze bushes, gear blanks, zinc and aluminium anodes for the primary smelters, roto mouldings, sugar mill consumables, propellers for the marine industry, split and other bearings as well as many other general engineering castings
“Not far from us is the Mariannhill Monastery, and in their repository they have a catalogue depicting the 15 different size church bells that we have manufactured in the past. The sizes range from 15kg up to 409kg. We have the aluminium patterns, which have been made in aluminium, amongst the 4 000 patterns that we store onsite for our clients. There is not much call for church bells these days but we have the know-how and if the patterns that we have are not suitable we can easily make a new pattern because we have a fully equipped patternshop. The patternshop is run by Fanuel Mudungwe from Quality Casting Founders & Patternmakers and he is one of our empowerment partners.”
“Bells are manufactured from brass or bronze, suitable to be used in church towers, bell towers and on ships.”
Olde World Foundry will manufacture decorative and heritage castings on request
“Other castings that we do on a regular basis are pump housings, impellers and spares, bronze bushes, gear blanks, zinc and aluminium anodes for the primary smelters, roto mouldings, sugar mill consumables, propellers for the marine industry, split and other bearings as well as many other general engineering castings.”
ISO 9001:2015 QMS certification
“As part of our upgrading and improvement strategy we have also been implementing ISO 9001:2015 QMS. Again, we have made use of the dti funding for this type of initiative and we will be certified in the next couple of months.”
“In total the foundry has 18 staff but once we have completed our upgrading and received our ISO certification, we anticipate this number to increase.”
“Working out here in the hills is good. Unwittingly we fell afoul of the laws but now that we have addressed the situation, along with the quality assurance aspects, and invested in our business we are not old world anymore but rather striving towards more improvements in the future.”
For further details contact Olde World Foundry on TEL: 031 736 1888