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Metal Magic

Foundry casts parts for marine world

By Melissa Wood

The process of casting nonferrous metals (bronze, aluminum, and brass) hasn’t changed much in the last century. Once the metal ingots have been melted in the furnace, the liquid metal is transferred to a ceramic crucible and rolled along an overhead track to the pouring area. Photographs by Chris Reardon

As a fourth-generation member of the family in charge of the Lunenburg Foundry in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, John Kinley is eager to serve as tour guide and talk about the company’s future plans to continue to serve the marine industry. When I visited, however, his first task of the day was to search for a piece of the past. A customer had called, asking about an old fishermen’s stove. 

Although the foundry doesn’t make them anymore, it was once known primarily for its stoves. Kinley, the company’s marketing director, found the one in question in one of several buildings on the site. At one time, the building was a car dealership. You can still see the darkened ramp inside where Model Ts were rolled down to a train that carried them off. Those tracks are long gone, and the building now houses a tattoo parlor on the ground floor and foundry storage on the second—picture an attic of treasured but dusty family heirlooms. “My grandfather was a pack rat almost. We like to hold onto specific items. I don’t know if it’s a nostalgia thing or if we hope it will be useful in the future,” said Kinley. “We have artifacts that show our business and, more broadly, the marine industry over time.”

Incorporated as the Lunenburg Iron Company in 1891, the company began as a manufacturer of household wood and coal stoves and other iron products. It moved into the marine business when it expanded to stoves and hardware for fishing boats. Then it started making engines, beginning with the popular Atlantic make-and-breaks and progressing to heavier diesel engines. In 1921, it was the first company in Canada to install a diesel engine in a fishing schooner. The foundry grew to incorporate a shipyard in a second waterfront location, and during World War II employed 500 people refitting ships for military service. 

The foundry continued to serve the fishing fleet, but as the groundfish stock collapsed, the iron foundry shut down. Production of stoves ended, and the engine shop closed. The iron foundry smoke stack still stands tall in the foundry yard, stripped of its surrounding building.

Today, the renamed company, Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Engineering, employs about 50 people, divided among the foundry for nonferrous metals—bronze, aluminum, and brass—its machine shop, where shafts manufactured elsewhere are precisely machined, and the shipyard. 

While much has been modernized, in the metal foundry workers still melt and pour metal into molds, just as they have been doing for more than 100 years.