First Aluminum Casting

Forced air makes for all the difference. and a 2-3ft tall flame.

Forced air makes for all the difference. and a 2-3ft tall flame.  Not seen: the hose to put of any stray flames.

Instead of making posts here, I’ve been doing things.  Over a two and a half years ago, I first attempted to melt aluminum in a tin can.  Well, since then, I’ve managed to make a bit of progress on melting aluminum.  The biggest issue I had with my first attempt was a lack of forced air.  I tried using a stand fan then, and there was not enough air, and it wasn’t directed at the charcoal.  My first successful attempt used a leaf blower on the lowest setting to get sufficient air, and charcoal as fuel.  An attempt or two later, I was able to use dry wood as a fuel source.  This is nice, because I have plenty of wood about to use as fuel at no cost.  After building a standard fire to get a decent size bed of coals, I turn on the leaf blower to kick up the heat and then start piling on wood as long as it doesn’t produce a lot of smoke.  Eventually, it builds up to what is show in the image. At this point, wood gets added to the outside edge of the fire and after it gets blackened and the wood under the crucible (in this case, the smallest dutch oven I had) is gone, the charred wood is moved under the crucible.

Carriage assembly

Carriage assembly

Several times, I’ve melted aluminum cans and formed ingots by pouring the molten metal into a steel muffin tin.  Today, however, was the first time that I cast a metal part, the carriage assembly for a Gingery lathe.  The part didn’t turn out perfect: there are several defects on the top face where the steel way for the cross slide attaches.  I will be attempting this casting at least once more and take the best of the castings to actually use.  I have the pattern for the cross slide nearly ready as well, but I will need to obtain a short piece of 1/2″ steel round shaft for the center hole.  Otherwise, that would likely be my next casting.

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Aluminium Melt Failure

Things rarely go well the first time something is done.  This is no exception.  I have been wanting to start melting aluminium soda cans and learn the skills I need to do metal casting in my back yard.  I have a basically continuous supply of aluminium from soda cans.

Coffee can crucible filled with aluminium cans in fire.

Coffee can crucible filled with aluminium cans in fire.

This attempt failed, but just barely.  I used a steel/iron coffee can crucible to hold the aluminium cans as they melt.  I built up a good coal base from wood logs and forced air into the fire with a stand fan.  This got the can a nice glowing orange and the cans did start melting, but it didn’t get quite hot enough.  I never got a good molten pool of aluminium.

Aluminium stuck in the coffee can.

Aluminium stuck in the coffee can.

In the end, I took a hammer to the can to try to extract the aluminium from the coffee can crucible, but this failed and just crushed the can.  I think that next time, I will use some of the charcoal that I have made to get things going hotter than this time.

When You Play With Fire…

…you tend to take precautions so you don’t get burned.  Like wearing gloves.  Well, I managed to burn myself today on the beehive smoker, and not the very open flames I use when making charcoal like most people would expect.  I was not wearing gloves.  Gloves have saved me from several burns.  I ended up getting some nice blisters on my hand where I burned it.  I don’t know how long it will be until they will be better

So, to all beekeepers out there, remember: smokers can get very hot and burn you. They also usually have no indication of whether they are hot. So be careful!

Also, anytime there is fire, be careful!