The 'dudes foundry.. and metal-casting ramblings.

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by crazydrummerdude, Jun 17, 2012.

  1. crazydrummerdude

    crazydrummerdude Wacky Bongo Boy

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    It's about time I talk about my personal foundry. My posts will be picture-heavy, so if you want to quote me, please don't quote all the pictures!

    In my old casting/machining thread, I discussed the extra school work I was involved in as I pursued my degree in Aerospace Engineering. I ended up taking several classes in those topics and got hired at the universities foundry. I received scholarships from professional foundry societies and was pretty enthused. Here are some of my better shots from my classes/employment in the foundry, as seen on the old thread;

    This example was the last iteration of my design for a train car brake piece, in iron:

    Preheating the ladle:

    [​IMG]

    Innoculating:

    [​IMG]

    Pouring:

    [​IMG]

    My no-bake mold:

    [​IMG]

    My gating and riser design, knocked off:

    [​IMG]

    The finished part:

    [​IMG]

    The inside of the casting (no porosity!):

    [​IMG]

    There were many days of aluminum pours. Not as exciting as iron, but still very interesting.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The old thread itself helped me connect with a few inmates and it was an overall pretty cool experience. Then, I graduated (in May 2011) and the thread died off. I got a job in the aerospace field, but it's not where I want(ed) to be. So, I applied and interviewed at a couple foundries. The engineers all said I'd be a good fit. The HR people all told me "We don't hire aerospace engineers." Ok, I guess I'll be making my own foundry sooner than expected. When I told my friends and classmates that idea, they thought I was crazy. They're probably right.

    I've been casting lead with my brother for years. It's fairly unexciting as the temperatures are so low and the "crucible" itself is so small. But, I'll upload some pictures of that soon, too. Hundreds of pounds of ingots for sure..

    For my aluminum foundry, I started researching and buying crucibles, tools, and refractory supplies to make my own home-built setup.. and some extra equipment in case I'm able to bump up to iron production some day. Like most of my favorite projects, I found a commercial aluminum foundry furnace next to a barn in the middle of nowhere. The wires were all hacked off, the plumbing was loose/disconnected/missing, and it was set up for natural gas. It's 250,000 Btu. :evil

    [​IMG]

    I re-wired it, re-plumbed it, and converted it to propane. That was a learning experience in itself. It turns out, every HVAC store I went to and almost every expert I asked, had no idea what to do, how to do it, or how to help me. I wanted to give my money to so many people to help me but they just looked at me, clueless. I guess this is such a unique thing that thinking outside the box is too abstract for some people. I had to teach myself everything as I went. That was at the end of last year.

    The amount of dissatisfaction I feel with my job had spurred me to dive into this project further the past couple months as I let my other projects stagnate. Also, the amount of aluminum scrap accumulating in my shop was starting to get in the way. The cast iron behind my shop is still out-of-sight/out-of-mind. :lol3

    So, with that, my foundry is now online and operational. Right now, I am just turning old Saturn pistons and engine blocks and brackets and whatnot into ingots. Also, as I haven't built the little "dog house" for my furnace yet, I am just running it on the forklift, so I can still wheel it back in the shop after it cools down. The body/base of the furnace doesn't pose a fire hazard (or a hazard to the forklift it's on), but the top stays quite toasty. I leave the furnace closed, with an empty crucible inside to slow-cool to prevent cracking the refractory lining (which takes about 12 hours).

    I have thermocouples and monitor the melt and the furnace, but by now I'm getting good at visually determining pour times. I am tapping off a 100-pound propane tank, and fuel consumption is quite satisfactory.

    A typical pour is as follows. I leaned some corrugated steel against that side of the furnace to protect my pilot light. Since the scrap is still questionable, I wear all my aluminized gear:

    [​IMG]

    The furnace is at temperature, the scrap has been slagged off, and it's time:

    [​IMG]

    Transferring from the lifting, to the pouring, handles:

    [​IMG]

    You may notice that I'm using a small crucible. This is a 10 pound capacity and I purchased it while I was still under the impression that I was going to build my own furnace. The furnace I now operate has a 20 pound aluminum capacity. I am going to wait to operate at that capacity until I have the furnace in a permanent position.

    Of course, when you have spectators, things don't go quite so smooth, so these permanent-mold ingots are a little sloppy.

    [​IMG]

    I decided to punish myself and do some sand-cast (Petrobond) ingots. I used some permanent-mold cast lead ingots as the mold for my aluminum ingots. The aluminum ingots weigh 1.25 pounds each. Sand-casting these takes way more effort than they're worth. After two batches (12 bars), I just stuck to permanent molds that I'd shake out and re-pour every 15 minutes once the furnace is at operating temperature.

    [​IMG]

    ..and here's the before-and-after. Some Saturn pistons, and some sand-cast ingots.

    [​IMG]

    At this point, I am still just melting down scrap into ingots that I can later flux, clean, and cast into... something. I haven't decided what I need to make yet, but I'm having fun filling up a 55-gallon drum of aluminum ingots. When I need to cast "important" items, I will not cast them out of scrap. The scrap will just be for "doo dads" and whatnot that I want to make for myself around the shop.

    Since I know people will ask: Yes, I have been melting down cans and gutters and other thin-wall stuff. I have a supply of dry, crushed cans that I add to a half (or more) full crucible to avoid severe loss due to oxidization and slag. I do a similar thing with the gutters. It's funny that when I have a half-full crucible and I open the furnace, I can just feed an 8-foot section of gutter into the crucible like it's a welding rod. It just shrinks and sinks down in and the crucible fills up. The main complaint I have with them is the amount of slag I produce during that process as they're usually covered in paint. But, I can still get a good percentage of aluminum out of each gutter, and it's all free to me!

    So, follow me along the journey! :lol3

    Updates to come..
    #1
  2. seriousracer

    seriousracer be a man dodge tree bark

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    i am not f***ng stupid,but i used too. niles mi.
    And what has the EPA said about your little foundry?

    pretty cool .... I like..

    :1drink
    #2
  3. trumpet

    trumpet Group W Bench

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    That's hot, err cool..yup :deal
    #3
  4. dorkpunch

    dorkpunch Oops...

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    In.:lurk
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  5. Off the grid

    Off the grid Seeker of the Unf

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    Very, very cool.
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  6. crazydrummerdude

    crazydrummerdude Wacky Bongo Boy

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    They said, "That's awesome! I'm jealous!" *

    And I can't think of anything that I'm doing that is worse for the environment than anything anyone else is doing.. and I like the environment!




    *When I talked to them in my dream.
    #6
  7. pilot

    pilot Slacker Moderator Super Moderator

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    :eyes

    How loud is the furnace? How hot can it go? Hot enough for brass?
    #7
  8. crazydrummerdude

    crazydrummerdude Wacky Bongo Boy

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    The furnace is not loud at all; maybe as loud as a hair dryer but with more of a growl while it's running at full power. You don't even have to raise your voice.

    I'm not positive yet, but I'd imagine it could get up to brass temperatures, and this is what a lot of people have asked me. Regardless, I've started saving all my brass. :lol3 I just wonder how the Cu/Zn alloy will do at temperature. I wonder if it will erode my crucible/refractory, or if I'll be able to pour it as brass, and not some messed up mixture.

    Since it's top-loading, you lose a lot of heat when you open the lid to charge it. Considering I have the materials to make my own furnace, I am going to make a different lid for it with a port for my thermocouple or to charge it. I'll try to get a good maximum temperature reading one of these days.
    #8
  9. CodyY

    CodyY ADVenture Capitalist

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    badass.

    Make me some brackets and shit. :rofl
    #9
  10. Lobby

    Lobby Viel Spass, Vato!

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    Cool stuff!

    I've done (and am doing) similar, but with more expensive metals. :evil

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #10
  11. Cumminsman76

    Cumminsman76 befuddled

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    Let me know when you fire it up next.
    #11
  12. crazydrummerdude

    crazydrummerdude Wacky Bongo Boy

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    Probably this weekend.

    Bring some aluminum! :deal
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  13. Smithy

    Smithy Avoiding the Skid-Demon

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    Aluminium was once called "solid electricity" for all the energy it takes to smelt from ore, and get into a useable form. It was once the most precious metal in this country, and the Washington Monument in DC is tipped with a pyramid of it, weighing 100 ounces which was the largest single-cast piece ever made here at the time.


    Cool work. I've melted bronze in my forge, and I've participated in a few steel cruicible melts, and find it tricky at best. Your lack of porosity is commendable. How are you killing the charge?
    #13
  14. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    Subscribed. I've always been fascinated with castings since I learned of the David Gingery series on casting and making machine tools from scrap aluminum.
    #14
  15. Gentleman Adventurer

    Gentleman Adventurer Adventurer

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    WAY Cool!! :thumb

    Good luck in your venture. If you can do bronze, I would expect one off marine work to have a market.
    #15
  16. RonS

    RonS Out there...

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    This is very cool. I'll be watching.
    #16
  17. HamboneSlim

    HamboneSlim ಠ_ಠ

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    Good luck on the endeavor! I work with a number of foundries, so I'll explain what they do and perhaps you'll get some ideas of some of the work available.

    I make a lot of patterns for "art furniture." Some of it is quite large, and some is very intricate. These are cast in bronze, aluminum, etc., depending on the architect's specs. Typically, a designer sells his idea to a wealthy client. The designer contracts a sculptor to produce the finished product. The sculptor contracts the patternmaker (yours truly) to make the pattern, and the foundry to cast it. There are a lot of links in the chain, so you know the end customer is willing to pay handsomely for his work of art. The customer is only aware of the artist-designer.
    Here is a pattern for a table base; I believe this was cast in aluminum.

    [​IMG]

    Definately a great racket if you can get into it. I would check local artists, interior designers, and sculptors and let them know what you can do.

    There is an operation in Gordonville, Penna. called Cattail Foundry. They are an Amish-run business cast in iron and aluminum. They have developed an excellent reputation and following among the vintage machinery, hit-and-miss engine, and antique tractor restoration crowds. They charge by the pound.

    There is an operation in Conn. called Horton Brasses. They cast excellent reproduction furniture brasses, and have built up quite a library of patterns. In addition, they have acquired a nice collection of dies for stamped brasses, and they have a network of blacksmiths who produce on demand a nice selection of hand-forged iron hardware. So they have set themselves up as a one-stop shop for reproduction antique cast and stamped brasses and forged iron furniture, house, and barn hardware.

    I would think that repairing and recasting iron and aluminum would be a good way to get your foot in the door. Welding would be a good complimentary skill. Learning to TIG weld aluminum and welding cast iron would be valuable skills among the farm equipment crowd. There is a lot of equipment and machinery still in use, that there are no parts available for. A couple of weeks ago I made six sets of parafin-impregnated wooden bearings for an obsolete combine. A visit to the local antique tractor, hit-and-miss engine show will give you an idea of the types of parts these guys need. There is also demand for parts for popular old pieces such as Atlas lathes and Emmert vises.

    Just some thoughts. Good luck!
    #17
  18. crazydrummerdude

    crazydrummerdude Wacky Bongo Boy

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    Thanks for the info! Pattern-making is going to be one of the biggest hurdles for me.. but I built a desktop CNC (ran off EMC2) that I'll strap a Dremel to and see what I can make. I don't have many wood working tools.

    Also, my sheds are full of my familys antique tractors, hit and miss engines, lathes, mills, and the like. Parts for those will most likely be the first things I'll cast. :evil
    #18
  19. anonny

    anonny What could go wrong?

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    So cool, your neighbors must love you. :D
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  20. Schmeds

    Schmeds scarce

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    +1

    So is this the new 9-5 for you?
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