Custom Covers From Your Town Seal

By Joanne Ray | September 28, 2010

What used to be the same old ordinary manhole cover in your town can now turn into art — and no one knows that better than Salesman William "Bill" Hopkins.

Hopkins has been in sales at the Lebaron Foundry in Brockton, Mass., for more than 15 years. Of late, Bill has been doing quite well selling custom cast iron manhole covers to towns — made with their own town seal.

The 153-year-old Lebaron Foundry is the largest manufacturer of municipal castings in New England. The company's manhole frames and covers have been specified and installed on thousands of streets in hundreds of communities. All of the products are made from recycled cast iron. The foundry melts 100 tons a day, five days a week from an inventory of old sinks, bathtubs, engine blocks, water pipes, and municipal castings mostly supplied by scrap dealers.

"We also recycle and dispose of confiscated firearms," said Vice-President of Sales John Macaione.

The foundry makes every type of casting that appears in the street — stormwater, sewers, pipelines, electrical, catch basins, and anything which provides access to buried infrastructure. The end users of the Lebaron products are cities and towns, state agencies and utility contractors.

All castings are manufactured according to ASTM A48-83 and have a minimum tensile strength of 30,000 psi. Castings are made for three types of traffic: heavy duty — 16,000-pound wheel loads; medium duty — where wheel loads do not exceed 4,000 pounds as on driveways and parking lots; and light duty — designed for non-vehicle pedestrian areas.

The development of a custom cover starts with an image of a town seal. That image is used to create an electronic, three-dimensional model that represents as much of a town seal as practical for the molding and pouring technology. Town departments can decide what to incorporate into the design — by choosing the hole design, vent holes, lettering inserts, and cover webbing design. All these choices influence the cost of the cover. If a town gives the foundry the old castings, Lebaron will give the town credit towards the purchase of new castings.

When that process is approved, the pattern is created in plastic. The actual cover is cast directly from this plastic pattern.

"We hand deliver the first few for your approval and then begin your production runs," Hopkins said. "Normal sample delivery time is two to four weeks from design approval."