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: Innoculating: Pouring: My no-bake mold: My gating and riser design, knocked off: The finished part: The inside of the casting (no porosity!): There were many days of aluminum pours. Not as exciting as iron, but still very interesting. 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. 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. 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: The furnace is at temperature, the scrap has been slagged off, and it's time: Transferring from the lifting, to the pouring, handles: 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. 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. ..and here's the before-and-after. Some Saturn pistons, and some sand-cast ingots. 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! Updates to come..