American Bell Association `Bell and Tell` article

Emil Huddy`s North Fork Shop Draws West Coast Sculptors

It’s a long step from Rochester, New York, to the foothills of central California, and it’s an even larger one from managing a huge industrial foundry to operating a small, one-man shop making delicate art castings, but Emil Huddy, quiet-spoken, white-haired owner and sole employee of ArtCast of North Fork, has successfully made the change.

By William Klette, Correspondent, Fresno Bee, Fresno, California
For over 20 years, Huddy operated his New York plant turning out complicated metal castings for industry. Using the ancient method of pouring molten metal into molds, his company made thousands of intricate valves, air regulators, and tiny parts used in everything from cameras to food-processing equipment.

But those days are all behind him now. Gone are the long hours of having to satisfy a customer with work done to ulcer-making exactness. Today, in his crowded workshop, Emil Huddy casts only art – original, one-of-a-kind pieces, only producing a few duplicates in the line of bells. Most of his work now is done for such Wet Coast sculptors as Clement Renzi. The artist prepares his model, usually in wax, bringing it to Huddy who makes the mold and does the pouring. Some of the finished pieces are left as they are, beautiful bits of art suitable for the most discerning collector or museum. Others, such a Renzi’s “Family Group,” will be shipped to Italy where they serve as models for larger copies.

Though Huddy works with a variety of metal including gold, silver, bronze, and even stainless steel, and uses different processes, he is partial to investment casting, the so-called “lost wax” method. Here a plaster mold is poured over the original wax model and the whole piece is placed in an oven where the wax is melted away or “lost.” The finished mold is poured at temperatures ranging from 2025 to 2150 degrees Fahrenheit. After setting, the mold is chipped away.

“It would be nice if things all went perfectly, but they don’t,” says Huddy. “Sometimes the core slips when it’s poured, or the metal isn’t hot enough and there will be a ‘cold-spot’ – a seam where the metal cooled before it had a chance to join together.”

While Huddy’s New York business was chiefly industrial, he worked for Guisippi Macri, the Italian sculptor. And for eight years he made the S. Rae Hickock Belt, the $10,000 diamond-studded gold-buckled belt that is presented annually to the outstanding professional athlete of the year. Two years ago, former Fresnan [resident of Fresno, CA] Tom Seaver of the New York Mets baseball team was the recipient of the belt now being made by Huddy’s former partner.

Born in Austria, he considered himself lucky during the depression to find a job on a fishing vessel as marine engineer. A sea career ended when in 1938 he and Sterling Hayden, movie actor, delivered a sailing ship to Tahiti. After serving in WWII, Huddy and a friend – with a lead taken from a government booklet saying that metal casting was much in demand, built one of the finest casting foundries in the East. They little realized they were tackling almost impossible projects and that metal work is a closely guarded secret. Through trial, error, and luck, they were very successful in this exacting art, for there is no room for error when one is forming things like air valves for a high altitude breathing apparatus.

Huddy can now cast bells up to 6” in diameter and about 8” in height. For statuary, maximum height is 12” and about 25 pounds of bronze.

With present facilities, duplicates can be made: metal, wood, stone, plaster or glass objects can be reproduced. Objects such as bell book ends can be made to your order … try a wax model which is easier to make than you think, or send ideas and sketches. “I will be glad to quote on any art objects … try your creativity… and visit us at North Fork, 40 miles from Yosemite, if in our area.”

About Emil Huddy of North Fork, CA

For over 20 years, Emil operated an industrial foundry in Rochester, New York, turning out complicated metal castings for various industries. Then he moved to central California to set up a one-man shop making delicate art castings for West-coast sculptors, usually originals and one of a kind. Sometimes he made little bells for his wife, Mary Ellen, a collector and member of ABA [American Bell Association]. Her appreciation and enthusiasm for the miniature, true-to-life figures sculptured for the bell handles grew and spread among bell collectors until now Emil’s time is spent almost entirely on bell production.

Although he has worked with a variety of molten metals and has used a variety of processes, he is partial to investment casting, the so-called lost wax method. Here a cold liquid ceramic mix is poured over the original was model and the whole piece is placed in a very hot oven or kiln to harden. The way original melts and is lost, but the hard ceramic mold will withstand molten metal, duplicate of the original wax model, then cooled, perfected and polished or antiqued.

Emil’s earlier bells featured Bible characters, David with his slingshot, Rebecca at the well, Ruth, Joseph, Apostle Paul, and a Roman Centurion, as figural handles. Most recently he is producing a series of Famous American Indians and another series of birds, both described in current Bell Tower[sm] advertisements. In the picture (above) Emil is holding his version of the American Indian Maiden, Sacajawea, who accompanied Lewis and Clark through the wilderness of the western US to the Pacific. It is a one pound bronze bell, 6 ½” high.

Emil’s art shop is called Artcast, where he does his casting. He commissions the original sculpturing and the artist’s signature may appear on each number reproduction.

(Source of this biography and photograph of Emil Huddy: Bell Collectors of the ABA, Book IV, published by THE AMERICAN BELL ASSOCIATION®, printed by Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, TX, 1980)