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[DPRG] Making Metal

Subject: [DPRG] Making Metal
From: McQuay, Michael Michael.McQuay at wilcom.com
Date: Wed Oct 18 11:36:23 CDT 2000

 It's a hoot, ain't it!?

I played around with melting aluminum and made my first "ingot" a few years
ago.  Haven't really done anything with it since, but it was amazingly fun!

Check out http://www.lindsaybks.com/ for very practical books on building
your own backyard funace and ramming up your own molds for sandcasting.
They've also got a ton of other interesting books on stuff like building
small steam engines and building your own Tesla coils.  I've bought several
books from them.  They've got good prices and you usually get your books in
about 3 days.

-----Original Message-----
>From: Eric Yundt
To: dprglist at dprg.org
Sent: 10/18/00 2:02 AM
Subject: [DPRG] Making Metal

DPRG,

As I type this, my first ever (Aluminum) ingot is cooling down!
For a long time I've heard how easy it is for a hobbiest to build
a little backyard foundry and cast parts.  This afternoon while
taking a little "honey-do, stay-at-home" vacation time I thought
I'd give it a try...

I scrounged up a 3-lb (actually 39 oz) coffee can, a 16 oz dog-food
can, a couple of coat-hangers and a few bricks.  Then went shopping
to get some "official" welder's gloves (leather gloves with an 9" or
so cuff) and a bag of charcoal.  At the last minute I thought to get
some sand for making a mold and reward myself with a long-handled
pair of channel-lock pliers.  All I could find at Home Depot was
some for-playground/concrete sand which has lots of little pebbles
in it, but I managed to shake out most of them.

I poked a bunch of holes in the bottom of the big can for air-flow
and a couple of holes in the lip of the little can for a coat-hanger
bail/handle.  The bricks were arranged on a piece of sheet metal in
my backyard in a U-shape.  I made the "U" just big enough for the
large can to rest by its edges and completely cover the area inside
the "U" leaving only an air flute opening at the top of the "U".
Then to make a mold I filled the bottom of a flower pot saucer with
my so-so sand and poked a few pits in the sand about 1" deep and 1.5"
in diameter.

After "mining" 20 or so Mountain Dew cans from a nearby trash can
I figured I was about ready to crank up YaTu Metalworks No.1.

I halfway filled the large can with charcoal, stuck my little can
inside it, soaked it all with starter fluid and then sparked it up.
While the charcoal was heating up, I stomped down all my cans and
rustled up a couple of old hair dryers to create the blast for my
little blast furnace.  To super heat the charcoal I put my best hair
dryer down in front of the brick "U", but after only 5 minutes or so
its thermal shutdown kept turning it off.  Not to be stymied at this
point, I grabbed a vacuum cleaner and with a hose stuffed in its
exhaust port soon had a much better "blast!"

The vacuum cleaner exhaust soon had my furnace glowing and with my
fancy gloves and shiny pliers I started putting crushed cans into my
dog food can crucible.  After 15 minutes or so my 1st 4 cans started
shrinking down and then every few minutes or so I fed a couple more
soda cans into the crucible.  I lost count, but I think I eventually
added about 15 crushed cans into my little crucible before I gave it
one last stir and removed it from the fierce flame.

As I started to pour into my mold, I finally understood what "dross"
was all about.  Probably 3/4 by volume of what I got out of my 
crucible appeared to be junk floating on top of a little pool of
shiny liquid aluminum.  I mostly scooped it off to the side and
dumped the rest of it into one of my sand pits.  I didn't get near
as much pourable stuff out of it as I expected and then I noticed
that the bottom of my poor dog food can had partially burned through.
None-the-less, I got my first ingot -- a lovely 1/2" deep, 1 1/2" by
4" blob!  Plus, many ideas about how to do it better next time...

;-)

--
Eric

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