Recycling iron

Iron, while not a renewable resource, is a recyclable one, especially if the strength of the iron made is not a major issue.  During the mid to late 1800’s recycling iron made a great deal of sense, not because the raw materials were scarce, but because the creation of new iron remained expensive.  Nepaug had a factory for a number of decades that specialized in this industry.

From a very early period several small shops in Nepaug turned wood, using the ample water power supply of the Nepaug river.  Additionally, there were several blacksmiths.  A logical extension of these two industries was the building of furniture.  However, specialization was always a competitive edge, and in this case it was in building castors for furniture.  Established long before the Civil War the factory changed hands a number of times; however, for most of its existence it made furniture castors, bed frames, and, early in its history, door locks.  A small brass foundry in the complex made brass castors.  However, most of its business was in making iron ones.  Scrap iron brought in from the surrounding region was mixed with a small amount of new pig iron.  This mixture was then turned into the various parts.  The final touches were a large japaning and lacquer process to give the iron fixtures a look similar to the brass ones.

Although the furniture shop never approached the size of the larger mills elsewhere in town, it was very respectable.  At one point the business sold for $30,000; while its payroll averaged between 800 to 1200 dollars a month throughout the year.  This influx of cash must have been very welcome to the small village of Nepaug.  Additionally, it bought not only scrap iron from the area, but also its fuel.  Its furnaces were fired with wood.  The business came to an end in 1875 when the foundry burned.  The remaining material was then bought by D.B. Smith, the large factory in Pine Meadow, and closed completely.

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