After going through several different designs on the internet, a friend and I decided to make our own Aluminum foundry of a custom design. This instructable is more of a record of experimentation with an (eventual) successful outcome as opposed to a step-by-step with little trial and error.

Be sure to carefully examine each photo and read the highlights, the majority of this instructable is explained and documented in photos. Any and all questions will be answered to the best of the ability, and if we don't know we'll do our best to find out.

This forge is a bit more durable, but much less portable than other models you may have seen, but it can also melt steel should you choose to buy a proper clay-graphite crucible. The ability to melt steel is given to the furnace by adding clay/brick walls to the top of the furnace as seen in step three, no extra equipment (aside from the mud/brick and crucible) is needed.

Step 1: Materials

2" Steel nipple
2" Steel end cap
Briquette charcoal
Charcoal starter
Charcoal starter fluid
Aluminum (Cans/Scrap)
Blow Dryer
PCV pipe segment (~1.5" diameter)
Groove-joint pliers
Slag stick (A long bolt will work)
Proper safety equipment (eye protection, welding gloves, etc.)
Small shovel
Ceramic Mug
Soup Can
<p>First of all, congratulations. You melted steel. That's awesome. </p><p>Second, you've fired your foundry to 1400 oC. Aluminum melts at 660 oC. The aluminum ingots you poured look a little dull which may indicate that you heated the metal too high (if the internet is to be trusted). Maybe turn down the air or something to reduce the heat output of your fire.</p><p>I wonder why your steel crucible failed. Others have had success for several pours with similar setups. Are you heating the crucible without scrap in it? The aluminum evens out the heat when it starts to melt. For example, when I melted down some 3xx aluminum the other day, the cast-iron crucible started to glow at first but then the aluminum melted and the pan turned black again. Well, with the sun shining, it looked black. When I did another session in the evening with much lower light, the pan glowed a little with the aluminum melting. Point is, aluminum spreads the heat around in the pan. </p><p>The proper method, of course, is to use a pyrometer to measure the temperature of the molten aluminum. I don't have one so I'm using a trick I read about on the internet which is to watch for the last piece of scrap to melt, then count off so many seconds, then withdraw the crucible. For my setup, with a gas forge, it's about 30 sec. Another method us to go by color. If you look on the chart you'll see that a dull red is 650 oC or so. </p><p>Third, I used a cast-iron pan, about 10 $ at Wally World. I had gotten a 2&quot; x 5 pipe nipple and cap before and the price was about the same. Problem is that you have to break the aluminum into tiny pieces to get it into a 2&quot; pipe. The pan was a lot easier. I added 2' of angle to it with some 1/4-20 hardware. (Check out <a href="http://mikegigi.com/meltmetl.htm" rel="nofollow">http://mikegigi.com/meltmetl.htm </a> for more hints. That guy is hardcore.)</p><p>Forth, make some green sand. So easy. Just get some sand (must be dry) and some clay. Add a little water and mix, mix, mix. I used fire clay but you can use other stuff, like ground-up kitty litter or bentonite. Then you can make any shape you want. I used a small paint can to make nicely-shaped ingots. It's so easy and I wish I had learned how to do it a decade ago.</p><p>Fifth, figure out how to make your setup convenient and reliable. It's easy to work on a project when you're inspired and curious but what if you need to cast something out of aluminum to solve a real-life type problem? I know it's a hobby and you're doing it for fun but why not capture the knowledge that you've acquired so you can do it again at the drop of a hat? Just a thought, Mr. Fox.</p>
You should not use galvanized steel for any thing to do with a furnace. At high temperatures the zinc burns off and emits zinc fumes which are extremely harmful to your health, including death. Same problem with welding galvanized steel. Lots of info on the net, read it.
<p>I'll second this. If you can SEE the green, it's bad. People report terrible symptoms from just a little exposure from welding galvanized steel and that's without enough to be visible.</p>
lol loved the last bit, I was working at my homemade forge melting aluminum with short sleeves shorts. really good ible tho. if anyone needs a good hot fire hook up a shop vac to it works like a charm.
lol depending on how hot your forge is slag will not float. my forge gets hot enough to melt cans but not to completly reduce them to a liquid state. (i use wood. pine mainly) so too get my aluminum i take a stick one all my cans are gone and press the slag looking junk in my can. and wha la! liquid aluminum sqeezes out like water from a sponge.
Nice instructable, It covers lots of real life problems involved in homemade foundry, thanks.<br>
All cotton and leather clothing are definitely important when dealing with fire, no synthetics.
Not having frayed edges on your cotton coat is a plus also. I had an old carhart on once and it got a little warm and I was pretty surprised to find the front of my coat on fire. It did get rid of the frayed edges.
yep, i agree with hailsteve. I'm a blacksmith and sometimes i will burn the zinc off of a galvanised piece of steel and that burns with a bright cyan(blue) colour. Love your little furnace though. It's just the very thing. Ps i think the big foundries use a clay crucible. All the best smithy
You probably saw my instructable. If your soup can broke, it's too hot. They should always last for one melt, no more though. It's good to get a hair dryer with a low and high setting. Crucibles...Once you start REALLY melting stuff, soup cans won't cut it. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and go to the plumbing section, and get some large diameter iron water pipe, I think they'll cut it for you. Since they don't make caps that size, weld some steel plate onto the bottom. But I understand some people can't do that. I just use a $50 Oxygen/MAPP thing that every Home Depot sells, it runs on those little 1lb. cylinders, which leads to the next thing. These are crucibles every can have that last for quite a few melts. Go to any hardware store or even Wal-Mart, and get some disposable propane tanks. Not grill size ones, but the ones used for camping stoves and torches. I don't even empty mine, I shoot them twice with a .22 pellet gun to penetrate the tank, let it all empty, and use an angle grinder with a cutting wheel to chop the top off. The bottom leaves you with a nice crucible. If you can't use an angle grinder, just hacksaw. It's slow, but it works.
Camp stove propane tanks are a good bet, I just melted some aluminium, however my heat wasn't high enought die to the fact that all I used was maple wood... Dont worry, I added a bunch of black coals from the previous fire. I suppose im going to have to get some charcoal... -PKT
i did the same sort of thing but instead of charcoal i used kindling and it took a long time and a lot of sticks but it worked just fine
alright if u want a crucible that will last....go to a ceramics shop and make your own cone 7 or 07 i forget which 1....it will last quite a few melts the only issue being that it needs preheating
i wouldn't recommed casting into dirt. it may contain small spots of dampness/wet or just be a tad too cold and lead to a reaction with the metal that is effectively an explosion of molten/semi-molten metal. i only had this happen once, and since then i found a brick with a V in the top of it. i heat it in the forge for half a minute or so to remove any possible dampness, then place it to one side for casting into. hope this stops someone ending up with burns like mine were ;)
I don't think the zinc made it burn green. Copper is the chemical that burns green, so maybe there was copper powder on your pipe or something.
Our furnace runs with a propane cylinder and a bullfinch blow torch attachment - this works really well. (its made in a galvanized bucket with perlite and fire clay around the inside - galvanised buckets must not get to hot on the outside as the galvenising vapourises and the fumes are toxic - were working Mk 3) On a safety note of my own - pouring should never be done over concrete as if the molten Al hits it, it evaporises the water in the cement causing an explosion. Value cup cake tins make good ingot trays we found. If lots of air gets to your melt it will oxidise directly causing lots of slag to form - putting glass in to form a protective melt layer on the top can help along with the actual design of the furnace.
my god... i dug a hole in the ground and put some coal in it, got a cast iron pot and put in in the hole... it wouldnt melt anything so i got a balloon blower and a copper pipe an put it in... melted the aluminum AND THE CAST IRON
The explosion thing happened with a friend of mine. Luckily, he only had some burn scars on his belly and leg, and his son lost some hair. Another thing I believe you could try melting: old carburators. They are an alloy of tin and lead, I think, with something else added. They're tough, look like steel, are way cheaper (junkyards) and have a lower melting temperature. Well, at least in Brazil they're easily found. : )
From your picture it looks like you had a bit of an issue with impurities in your melt. You can saw/file off the outside of these and then use them as a starter for your next melt. For my <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.workshopshed.com/2008/10/melt-12th-oct.html">latest melt</a> I used old harddisk cases which made for much better results.<br/>
Heed the safety caution cited here. Several years ago I was involved in salvaging the lead from logs used on a Scout rifle range. Lead melts at a considerably lower temperature, but in its molten state is pretty nasty stuff. We were creating lead ingots by pouring the molten material into small trenches scraped into the dirt. The solidified ingots were then dipped in water to cool. An ingot I was working with overflowed its trench and I dipped the misshapen lump in the water and without thinking put it back into the melting cauldron still wet. The resulting explosion of melted lead left my face spotted with numerous burns and my Scout shirt with several holes. (I was lucky it didn't burn my eyes.) It is amazing I survived my teen years!

About This Instructable




More by Phocus Labs:Aluminum Foundry 
Add instructable to: