By Michael Reschke
Mike Dillard left the garage door halfway open to stay cool, but beads of sweat ran down the side of his face while he poured the melted remains of a bell from IU’s Student Building into a ceramic mold. A vacuum pump sucked the super-heated metal into the mold, ensuring no air bubbles would ruin the medallions created in honor of Indiana University’s 200th anniversary. Once the castings cooled for a few minutes, Dillard dipped them into a drum of water. The ceramic mold cracked apart, leaving five black IU Bicentennial Medals. He described the color as exquisite.
“I love this project,” Dillard said. “The metal is a little different than what we’re used to using.”
The bell was about 79 percent copper and about 21 percent tin, with less than 1 percent lead, said Kelly Kish, IU’s bicentennial director. It was sawed into pieces and melted with other metals. The result are medals that are about 89 percent copper and about 11 percent tin, with trace amounts of lead. This was done to meet safety requirements for lead content, Kish said. It also helps Dillard do his job.