|As the hands of the clock moved towards midnight on December 31, 1999, John
P. Beckley, inventor of the Melting Pot™, a metal melting furnace, stood
ready. With drums beating and the rhythmic sounds of bamboo instruments
intensifying with every passing second, there was no denying that this was a
very unique New Year's Eve celebration. A small group of 15 had gathered at
Brad Silberberg's Silver Spring studio (Bradley Metal Design), to witness the
first bronze pour of the new millennium.
At precisely 00:00:01 Jan. 1, 2000 Beckley poured white hot bronze into a
prepared mold. The resulting sculpture is an eight inches high abstract image
of a mother and child, appropriately titled "Millenni."
It stands to reason that Beckley would choose to mark the Y2K with a bronze
pour. From our first meeting during a Kwanzaa event in 1995, his enthusiasm
for his work has been undeniable and infectious. Then he spoke with
unrelenting passion about his new invention, the Melting Pot™ and the
African culture that inspired both his creative sojourn and innovation. Using
the Melting Pot Beckley is able to create treasures that draw on over 6000
thousand of years of African artistry and ingenuity.
"What I'm doing now is virtually the same technique handed down from African
communities hundreds of years old," said the alumni of Howard University's
College of Pharmacy. In fact, Benin metal workers still cast using only the
most rudimentary equipment, beeswax, clay and fire.
Beckley's near reverential discussion of the beauty that is produced by this
seemingly unsophisticated method, in part explains his quest to preserve and
promote our knowledge and understanding of the history of bronze casting. But
Beckley has also added his own creative drive and intelligence to the
process. After spending over 30 years as a pharmacist, he turned his focused
commitment and determination to researching, designing and building an
`electric pot' that significantly reduces the time, cost and mystery of
He again took advantage of existing technology in the design of his `electric
pot.' He reasoned that since NASA is able to insulate a space shuttle that
experiences extreme temperatures, an `electric pot' that melts bronze is
"I simply got on the phone and called them (NASA) up and asked them about
their insulation and they told me who their contractor was...then I called
them up and asked some more questions...I went straight to the people that
had the information," said Beckley.
He experimented with various designs and ultimately perfected a furnace which
is lightweight, safe, easy to use and melts metal in a very short period of
In 1996 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent on Beckley's
design for the Melting Pot™. Today the Mitchellville, Md.-based company,
Melting Pot International, Inc., manufactures and sells the furnace.
With this one invention Beckley has revolutionized the casting process. What
once took more than one week to complete, can now be streamlined for
completion in mere hours.
To hear John explain the process, and then to see it's simple execution, as I
was privileged to do, leads me to believe that even I, given a creative
vision and patience, could create my own masterpiece in bronze.
First your vision must be transferred to a creation in wax; this `waxed'
art-piece is then coated in a plaster type material that will ultimately form
the mold. This coated form is then subjected to 1500 degrees (F) of intense
heat. The heat not only melts and burns out the wax, but it also hardens the
plaster, completing the formation of the mold.