Next Sketch Outing

Oct. 13: Seattle Center

Friday, January 27, 2017

Nucor Steel Plant

1/27/17 Giant magnets release scrap metal into a huge bin.

Whenever I’ve visited West Seattle, I’ve wondered about those smokestacks visible from the bridge and the large industrial facility attached to them. It turns out that the facility is the Nucor Steel plant, and this morning Urban Sketchers Seattle had the good fortune to sketch inside it.

1/27/17 Sketchers overlooking the scrap yard.
Normally the facility is open to the public through two-hour guided walking tours that make only brief stops at each location. Working with Nucor environmental engineer Sean Wilson, we arranged a special tour for USk Seattle that would allow us enough time to sketch in a couple of places within the plant. In addition, visitors are not usually allowed to bring bags into the plant, but that restriction was waived for us so that we could bring our sketch gear.

Built in 1904, the mill produces more than a million tons of steel a year, mostly in the form of rebar. A large portion of the raw material for that steel is scrap metal from old cars, and that’s the production area where we spent the most time sketching. Overlooking the scrap yard, we could watch huge magnets lift heaps from the mountains of scrap metal and release them into a giant bin.

1/27/17 Fiery arc furnace awaiting its next "drop."
The most exciting part of our sketch tour was the viewing area for the arc furnace, where that giant bin of scrap metal “drops” its load into a steaming, flaming fire pit. The whole room shook like a mild earthquake! The flames erupted like a volcano too bright to watch except through the protective tinted windows. We got to witness the “drop” twice during the 45 minutes or so that we sketched there!

I had difficulty capturing the scenes we had the opportunity to sketch, but my sketchbook serves as a reminder of the fascinating process we observed. (Photography and video are not allowed inside the plant. It felt strange not to take trophy shots to share!)

Many thanks to Sean at Nucor for the tour and the special accommodations USk Seattle received! 

1/27/17 Sketchers watching the furnace.

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