The Preserve’s new iconic bench

Photo by Daniel Einstein.

As the ice receded and the migratory waterfowl returned to University Bay, visitors to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve were able to take in the view from a new custom-crafted bench placed along the shoreline. Located near the outlet to Willow Creek, just northwest of the Natatorium, the bench site has great views of Picnic Point and the bay.

Installed in early March 2010, the wood and cast-iron bench has been in the making for more than a year. The new bench is truly representative of the Preserve. Elements from the Preserve logo are incorporated into the shape of the metal bench ends and campus sourced materials were used to create the finished product,

The bench project was a collaboration that benefited from generous contributions of time and materials from UW-Platteville students and faculty, UW-Madison staff, Preserve volunteers and university supporters in the manufacturing community. Additional funding for the project was received from a gift from the UW-Madison Class of 1963.

The iron frame for the bench was designed by students from the UW-Platteville Manufacturing Technology Management program, under the direction of Prof. Kyle Metzloff.

Metzloff, who completed his graduate studies in UW-Madison’s Material Science and Engineering Department, enthusiastically accepted the invitation to create the benches for his alma mater. This would be the largest casting job ever undertaken by his small teaching foundry –but everyone was up to the challenge.


The design and fabrication process

With the assignment to “create a bench that fits into the natural landscape and yet be distinguishable as a unique Preserve amenity,” student project manager, Henry Frear set about designing the bench using state-of the-art engineering software. Henry worked under the guidance of computer aided design (CAD) advisor, Assistant Professor Eric Rimel.

Greg Gauerke at Perfect Patterns of Appleton (also a graduate of Metzloff’s program) took Frear’s computer design and built the intricate pattern used to create a sand cast mold. The pattern in the molding box is used to form two sand molds–a top and bottom piece. Students carefully hard pack the mold box with a sand and binder mixture, being careful not to leave any unwanted voids.


The two sections are then “glued” together to create the finished sand mold. Special channels are included in the mold to allow the molten iron to flow throughout the cavity. Students don special heat reflective clothing and other safety gear when working with the molten iron.


Once the molten metal has cooled sufficiently, the sand mold is broken apart to extract the rough casting. Many more hours of finish work–grinding, shot blasting and powder coating still need to happen before the bench ends are finished.


A unique mix of sustainable/recycled materials

Scrap re-bar, salvaged from the recent demolition of the UW-Madison’s Food Research building was incorporated into the mixture of metals used to create the ductile cast iron. Ductile iron is much more flexible and elastic than other varieties of cast iron, which can be brittle. Each bench end weighs approximately 100 pounds.


The wood slats for the bench were milled from black locust trees cut in the Preserve. This species is ideal for outdoor applications, as the wood is durable and naturally decay resistant.

Black locust trees are not native to this part of the state and can be invasive in our woods. As the trees are removed as part of ecological restoration activities, volunteers and Preserve staff have been milling the logs to produce lumber for a variety of projects, including fencing and sign posts.

Bob Falk, of the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory and Kris Ackerbauer, assistant director at Physical Plant, donated their time and use of their portable mill to produce the rough cut lumber. Joe Gugel from the UW carpentry shop performed the finish milling.


Brian Weeks, director of operations at Thomas Steele of Waunakee, a local manufacturer of outdoor site furnishings, assisted the project by coordinating powder-coating and final assembly of the benches.

Tim Dobson bolts down the slats, after adding cross-supports to the bench ends. Daniel Einstein and Brian Weeks give the newly assembled bench a final “sit test.”


Thanks to all of our wonderful partners on this project with a special thanks to our hard-working friends at UW-Platteville!

Additional support for the project (materials and services was generously provided by: Badger Mining Corp. of Fairwater, WI (molding sand), J. B. DeVenne Inc. of Berea, Ohio (sand binder), and Richland Center Foundry of Richland Center, WI (shot blast and grinding).

UW-Plattville manufacturing technology students (L-R) Henry Frear, Bret Heinemeyer, and Adam Butry with the finished casting. Fellow students from the American Foundry Society student chapter at UW-Platteville assisted with the casting.

Prof. Kyle Metzloff and Greg Gauerke of Perfect Patterns “toast” a bench end in recognition of the great job performed by the entire design and fabrication team.


Look for more benches in the near future

This is the first of several iconic benches that will be installed in the Preserve. The benches are dedicated to major donors, who provide funds that support a variety of Preserve projects. A limited number of bench sites are still available. Contact us for more information on giving opportunities.

A great learning experience, a beautiful bench and a wonderful addition to the Preserve.

Come, sit, relax, and enjoy the view!

All photos by Daniel Einstein.