1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Interesting tale of Vermont Casting Startup....

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by webbie, Jun 6, 2006.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,379
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    I spoke by phone to one of the original and largely forgotten founders of VC. I'm working on the story below for the wiki as part of the history of the company......good summer reading for y'all.

    Link to same story on Hearth Wiki

    ------------story below----------------
    History:Vermont Castings: W. Mitchell

    W. Mitchell

    One of the original founding partners of Vermont Castings, who along with Murray Howell and Duncan Syme started the company in 1975. W. Mitchell, now a well known motivational speaker, tells the story below - paraphrased by Craig Issod of Hearth.com.

    Note: The events below happened soon after the oil shocks and gas lines of 1973-1974, otherwise knows as the 1st oil shock.

    In 1975, two men set out on a road trip from Crested Butte, Colorado traveling back home to Northern New England. The two were Murray Howell and W. Mitchell, who were partners in some real estate in Crested Butte. Along the way, Murray told Mitchell about his brother in law, Duncan Syme, who had some original ideas about a new wood stove. Mitchell listened, but suggested to Murray that there were already a number of fine stoves on the market, like the Ashley, Atlanta and even Taiwanese models available at Montgomery Ward. Never the less, Mitchell agreed to front some money to Duncan and Murray so they could research the issue...lore has it that Murray spent a lot of this money on some fancy stereo equipment!

    Duncan and Murray were living in the Warren, VT. area (part of the so-called Prickly Mountain Gang) and on July 4 of 1975, Duncan unmasked the prototype of his first Defiant to a gathering of friends. The only problem was, the day was over 90 degrees, and so this became the first (and not the last) Defiant to roast a crowd due to it’s large size!

    After some additional discussion, the three men decided to found Vermont Castings and each became a 1/3 stakeholder. They drove together down to White River Junction and made the company official with Mitchell elected as the Chairman of the Board. Mitchell was the “money man” as well as an outside source of good business advice, while Duncan and Murray were more hands on with the daily operation of the company.

    They found some empty space in an abandoned foundry building in Randolph, Vt. and started about the business of making stoves. Mitchell tells of returning to Crested Butte in Feb. 1976 and finding the 6th Defiant even built sitting on his porch....obviously the great venture was underway!

    Duncan and Murray were having problems with finding iron castings of the quality they desired. They tried the top American founderies as well as some in Germany, but found that it was difficult to make updates and changes as quickly as they needed. Demand was quickly rising and Vermont Castings was already many months behind in filling orders. So they made a fateful decision and built a new Iron Foundry in Vermont. This was the first new foundry built in the US since the second world war, and also the ONLY foundry in the USA dedicated to stove castings.

    Mitchell also founded the first retail outlet selling Vermont Castings Stoves. The shop was started in Crested Butte and moved to Boulder, Colorado as sales increased.

    At a future date, Duncan and Murray came to Mitchell and inquired as to whether he would sell some of his interest in the company back to them. He agreed and transferred 2/3 of his share (1/9th of the company stock) back to them for the sum of $125,000.00. All parties knew it was a good price, so Murray made Mitchell an offer he could not refuse - a LIFETIME payment schedule which would pay him a certain amount, adjusted for inflation, as long as he lived! Vermont Castings has kept this promise, although CFM tried hard to renege, and Mitchell still receives a very nice check each year from the company.

    Mitchells interest in the company ended a few years later when a large company desired to purchase an interest in Vermont Castings and paid Mitchell approx. 1/2 million dollars for his remaining 2/9th share.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Craig I will bring along the plant tour VCR when I arive, about 20 minutes long. It might help you in the comparison of VC history to todays opperations. Pretty amazing home they cast the molds in a clay sand formula that once poured they break it a part.
    It also show footage of the enamaling process. Does any one know how much storage or web storage capacity is needed to to post 20 minute Video? Also Craig I am working on bring VC aboard in the advertising section, more things to discuss
  3. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,379
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    Video can be cut down pretty well, but the quality suffers. If this is a "stock" VC video, they should put it on their site - they can do it in various formats so people can download big or small depending on their speed. Also, most video can be edited so that it takes up maybe 1/2 the time and still gets the point across.

    Yes, casting is really an amazing art. The discovery channel had a show on building aircraft carriers recently and they have a small foundry within the shipyard for making 1-up of all the original and replacement parts for aircraft carriers. As fancy as the molding machines are, it is more fun to watch the "old" ways of casting - tamping the patterns by hand and carrying a ladle over to the mold and pouring it in. When I saw this, I was taken back thousands if years into history.

    Vermont Castings, Jotul and other automated founderies now have what are called Disamatics - VC had one of the first ones in the USA. They were invented by our good friends, the Danish, and basically you put the pattern in, push a button and the molds come out on an assembly line! A testament to these machines is that even at peak demand VC can make as many or more parts than they need - and I think that is with ONE of them!

    See how these machines work at:
    Disamatic Explained

    Older types of casting required a wood box (flash) around the sand so that it didn't fall apart. Disa and other molding machines press the sand tightly enough so that it becomes freestanding all by itself. Then, after the metal is poured, the sand is broken away and reused.

    Yes, I was happy to get to dig up this little piece of history. I have to add some details, such as Murray living in a tent at the time (in VT) and Duncan in a barn!
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page