View Full Version : Old Window Weights

10-29-2003, 09:43 PM
OK, I have a glass and window shop behind my home. Great place, friend of mine runs it. I go there for coffee and conversation now and then, as well as to get the occassional pane for my ever settling porch that tends to blast off windows every spring, and fall when the ground thaws and re-freezes...but I digress as usual.

So I buy a whole home of replacement windows from the gentleman. My windows are about 80 years old, the counterweights weights are probably from about 1905 to 1930. 1.625 aprox. diameter by 6 to 10 inch length, bullett shape, not all that straight. He already has a whole pile of these weights - from the old homes around here, so seeing I am looking for cast iron, I take four, go to the shop, and commence to cutting.

Has the outer appearance of cast iron, the chip appears to be cast, but the action is not there for cast, nor the finish. C6 insert, .030 depth of cut, .002 feed rate - backed off due to the issues encountered. Cut beyond the outer surface, the finish is not at all cast iron. hard spots, soft spots. BUT the chip says cast....the surface and appearance too bright and crappy - kind of like 1040 type steel all said and done.

Anyone know about these?

A few months back there was a discussion about wrought iron. The outer casing looks like some of my 1850 to 1900 iron I have lying around (old towns, old things to replace). Might i have found the "mother lode" for many of us looking for this elusive animal? OR is this cast iron, and I am just not doing it right?

If this is the mother lode, I can get these by the bushel basket in the spring and fall for you "wrought" enthuastiasts. he just throws this out at a cost to him. He mentioned that if this is the case, and people are interested, he would ship for the cost of shipping.

10-29-2003, 09:48 PM
Sash weights were made of anything lying around the foundry at the time, or what was left at the end of the day. They kept molds handy and poured leavings in them.

10-29-2003, 11:51 PM
Absolute crap!I worked construction for a man in New Orleans,we did a lot of remodels,not even the scrap yards would take them,he had about eight tons piled behind the shop,he fianlly had us move them over to his house,you know what he did with them?he used them for mulch in his wifes flower beds!

They do make good trot line wieghts though if slat boxes are legal in your locale.

10-30-2003, 12:37 AM
I have used them as counter weights on a couple of simple pulley systems. They may be crap in the metal value, but they are a weight with a hole in one end, which can be handy if you are creative.


10-30-2003, 01:54 AM
They are cast but very bad castings. I built the "Poppin" vacuum engine from live steam magazine and used a window weight for the cylinder. The best part of the weight to use for machining is the end closest to the eye where the rope attached. I was lucky and got about 2 good inches out of one weight. When I needed another small piece of cast, I went through about 3 weights before I got another good 2".

Forrest Addy
10-30-2003, 02:16 AM
Window weights, car and truck axles, railroad rail, and other odd but common metallic materials fall into the category of "mystery metal".

Unless you don't care how much time you waste or if you don't care if the material you're using is suited for the application you using it for, go ahead.

One of the first snakes that will bite you is the mystery metal snake. You'll find a nice piece of stuff and take it home to make a toggle for a loading press or a replacement screw for the transom clamp of an outboard motor.

You make the part and think about hardening it so you touch it to the grinding wheel. You get what looks like fine white bursting sparks by maybe a little too yellow. Cool! High carbon steel. So you harden it by cold water quench. In the quench you hear some clicks and "tinks" before you pull the piece out and admire it before drawing the temper to a medium purple. As you think there's a final "tink" and the part breaks in half from internal stress and chill shock.

It's the mystery metal snake! The stuff was 52100 bearing steel with 1.2% carbon and 1.5% chromum.

Or it's a hunk of low carbon maganese steel axle and it won't heat treat at all.

So that's the rule: if you don't know what kind of steel it is, use it for sash weights.

10-30-2003, 05:27 AM
Sometime back I brought 2 or 3 home just to tinker with. My bandsaw would only cut about .25" into them and go no further. Blade wasn't dulled...just wouldn't cut any deeper. Yep, some handy trotline wts.

10-30-2003, 10:22 AM
Sash weights are one of the few products, most likely the only product, made from pig iron. No mystery, just crap.

Neil Peters

10-30-2003, 06:23 PM
Sashweights are what iron foundries did with the dregs of a pour. They had to put the stuff somewhere, so they'd always have a bunch of molds for sashweights set up as their molten iron "trashcan."

Or so I was told.

11-02-2003, 02:51 AM
Are they any use for recasting?
I've only attempted aluminum because I don't have a proper crucible. I melt in cast iron but I have little doubt I can melt it. Once I get a crucible I may try some other projects in iron. I guess you could say sash weighs are a pig-iron in a poke.


11-02-2003, 03:10 AM

Melting iron ain't something you do on the barbeque. Try this link for some perspective.


11-02-2003, 04:37 AM
The outer shell of a barbeque doesn't limit my forge in the slightest. It's all about fuel and air and a crucible. The only limitation is the refractory concrete. This isn't even a limitation because you can use bricks and replace them as necessary. So Bah Humbug! If I listen to you, then I would have to buy a premade forge to the proper specifications. That is where marketing takes the place of common sense. This brings me to the Gingery series. The best thing about the Gingery series is the debunking of this commercial attitude.

A can-do attitide is in the interest of the Home Shop Machinist. Unless it don't work, of course.


[This message has been edited by SJorgensen (edited 11-02-2003).]

John Stevenson
11-02-2003, 06:29 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SGW:
Sashweights are what iron foundries did with the dregs of a pour. They had to put the stuff somewhere, so they'd always have a bunch of molds for sashweights set up as their molten iron "trashcan."

Or so I was told.</font>

Give this man a banana.
That's exactly what they are, run off's
When the furnace is tapped the first slug is pulled to one side and then the rest of the pour is either run into ladles for direct casting or run into troughs and pigs on the floor or both. It depends on the days workload. Contary to what Neil says pig iron is pure and can be used and is for direct casting.
The only reason they run pigs is so it's easily managable for remelting or selling to do castings later.
As the pour starts to run out you get impurities in the melt and this is where in the olden days they would run these off into weight pigs just to use them up.

I have used these for odd jobs at times but the quality is very mixed. Sometimes you can get good ones, obviuosly the first ones cast are not much different from the last pigs.
I usually just whack one on the floor and snap it. If it's a nice dull even gtey inside then you have a good one. Any signs of shiny spots inside and it's total rubbish.
I'm UK based as many know and we have been using window weights for a long time and still are. In fact we only replaced our front bay windows from sash three years ago and our house as built in 1901.
I have found that up to the start of the 20th century you got a better quality than just after. After the first World War they were absolute rubbish, possibly because of the shortages caused by the war.
Incidently out of the 12 weights we took out the front windows we got about 6 or 7 good ones.

John S.

11-02-2003, 12:32 PM

Can do is my motto, but, I look forward to the pictures of your blast furnace...

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 11-02-2003).]

11-02-2003, 05:03 PM
All the window weights - 4 - i had ended up life in my steel scrap bins. Just had to try a few cuts to see if there was anything they might be good for. Two inserts later, and only about 1" cut length to .500 diameter, i found it is the better choice to "ding them".

11-03-2003, 01:45 AM
Sorry John but pig iron in the classical sense is not pure iron, 92-95% iron 3-5% carbon and the rest other stuff. This applies to the subject at hand because we are talking about old houses etc. Now the term pig iron has taken on a broader meaning in the last 100 years or so which would validate your comments. In the old days pig iron was fresh from the blast furnace and then was reprocessed to make the various forms of cast iron wrought iron and steel.

Neil Peters

11-03-2003, 11:17 AM
The Foundry would take pig iron and remelt in a cupola with alloying elements to get whatever they needed for the parts being poured.

Some items might be fine with reasonable analysis pig, others require alloying or addition of desulphurizers, etc.

The problem here is that you are taking something that was made with one parameter somewhat controlled...weight....and asking for after-the-fact control of other parameters, like porosity, analysis, etc.

That never works consistently, although you can get lucky.