The foundry has been the heart of Behrends Group for decades – it is where we have built our signage legacy and it has given birth to new and innovative areas of the industry all from the same original banner. The foundry is an ecosystem, connecting a tight-knit group of loyal artisans together through the incredible experience of forging lasting metal signage. In terms of foundry work, the finished product is only as good as the metal pour that went into it and, as such, the role of the foundry Smelter is integral to the beautiful products that we produce. Its importance cannot be overestimated and, at Behrends Group, we pride ourselves in having high-quality and consistently exceptional quality metals for all of our signage products. As artisan craftsmen, our smelters are part of our holistic team, where every individual is a cornerstone to the success of the whole system. When we all work together, beautiful things are accomplished and no one knows this better than Ken Levesconte who is part of the family at Behrends team.
Tell us a little bit about your personal history and what brought you to Behrends Group.
I was working in construction back in the 1970s when that industry started to go down a bit with the economy. At that time, I saw that there was an opening with Behrends and I was hired here. Since then, I have been working here for 37, going on 38 years.
Can you tell me about some of your favourite moments while working for the company?
Oh, normally I just come to work and do my time here. The people are great –sometimes I get together with the boys after work and the social atmosphere is good. Of course, the company picnics and Christmas parties are always a treat. They treat the staff well here.
What is your current position at Behrends Group?
I do a little bit of everything. I do all the smelting, as well as the forklift operation and checking the cranes.
So, you are primarily responsible for managing the chemistry of metals for products that have been fabricated by Behrends. What can you tell me about this particular aspect of your work?
The metal chemistry stuff is the smelting. This means I watch the temperature so that it is perfect for a pour, degassing it to make sure it is clean going into the molds. Basically, the point of my position is to make that there is a good product going into the molds so that we get a good product coming out of them too.
Can you tell us what kind of products go through your department?
Since I am in the metal pouring part of the foundry, I am usually working with high quality metals such as bronze, yellow brass and aluminium. We do all kinds of pieces from cast bronze plaques to custom statues.
What sets this company apart from others? What, in your opinion, has made the company so successful?
The biggest thing is that the people in this company really care about the quality of the final product. If we ever find something wrong with a product, we work to make it better. We have a lot of perfectionists around here which is a good thing. Also, it’s a really clean foundry. I know guys who have worked at other places and they say it is the cleanest foundry they have ever seen. That makes a difference to the working environment and the quality of products we can put out in the end.
What are some of the most memorable projects you have worked on so far? Do you have a particular favourite?
There are really so many. When you have been watching plaques and things pass through your hands for decades, it is really hard to just pick one or two. The memorial plaques we have done have been great with decent molding. I used to do some of the molding in the foundry too so I have seen projects from multiple stages in the process as well. The Chinatown gates with the dragons from awhile back sticks out in my mind. Honestly, there is always something new and different so I like to look forward to what we have coming through for the future.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love riding my bike, my motorcycle, in my free time when the weather cooperates. Like I told my old lady, my bike is like my girlfriend and no one’s going to touch her!