Introduction: Creating Any Small Metal Object From Easy-to-melt Metals

In this instructable, I will show you how I made Christmas presents for my whole family by melting solder and aluminum. I made letters, drilled holes in them, and hung them as 1-of-a-kind necklaces.

Step 1: Materials:

To melt metal you need:
a 2" or 3" iron cap from home depot
a 3 foot long piece of thick iron pipe from home depot
a welder
a mapp gas blow torch
pieces of aluminum or a roll of solder
a clamp
a sawhorse
2x4 scrap peices

Step 2: Set Up the Melting Pot

Set up like the diagram shows (I couldn't take pictures of the real set up because it is at my father's house.)

Step 3: Melting and Pouring

After setting up the melting pot (the fancy name is crucible) turn the blowtorch onto automatic and let the aluminum or solder melt. Pour out the side of the melting pot and fill the mold. Let dry for an hour, and pour water on it. Drill the hole, and put a string through, and give as a gift. Your final result is a personalized amulet for your loved ones. And your inlaws.

Comments

author
wendylee1960 (author)2010-08-04

I grew up in a metal shop, my dad was a Bronze Mold maker, so I saw a lot of casting going on. Melting of metal ingots and casting of all sorts of metals. I either should have paid attention or asked a lot more questions because after reading all of these comments I have decided that it would be simpler and safer to just use the Precious metal clay to do what it is I am attempting to do. I saw way too many dangerous things go wrong being around casting pots and molten metal. I think my dad would have advised me to steer away from these ideas and suggested the PMC as an expensive but much safer alternative. Thanks for the comments!

author
paqrat (author)2010-07-31

Some years ago I worked in a jewelry store. There I got to try out something I had been introduced to years before: Charcoal Block casting. Jewelrers use the charcoal block to solder jewelry on. It is highly heat resistant and soft enough you can use steel pins to hold the piece in place while soldering. But you can also use it to cast small items like pendants or crosses. To do charcoal block casting you need two charcoal blocks. You take one charcoal block and carve the design you want into the face of the charcoal block. You melt your metal directly on the piece of charcoal your design has been carved. When the metal is ready to cast take the other block and carefully press down with it onto the molten metal. If you have judged the amount of metal right it will fill the design with very little overflow. If you have used too much metal you may have some squeezing out sides like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with too much jelly. The possibility of using too much metal is why you carefully press the second, uncarved block onto the metal. I have used this with gold and silver. I am looking forward to trying it with aluminum. Charcoal soldering blocks should be available at a jewelrer's supply house. The number of castings you can make from your carving depends on a lot of things including how intricate the design was. After you are through casting with that design and wish to do another you can "erase" the design by rubbing it onto a cement surface like a sidewalk, etc. This gives you another blank surface to carve.

author
dpocius (author)2007-12-14

Years ago, I'd heard of making a mold by carving the object you want to make out of styrofoam, then packing it in dry sand, adding fill and vent holes to the object, then pouring in the molten metal. The metal burns out and replaces the styrofoam, leaving a metal replica of what you carved. Can't say for sure how well it worked though. Never saw the finished results. Seems like it ought to work.

author
paqrat (author)dpocius2010-07-31

I have seen the results of this sort of casting and it can be pretty impressive. My attempts at it didn't work, I think because using the torch I was using I had difficulty getting the metal molten enough to flow. I was able to get it to a semi liquid state that I was then able to pour/drop into a mould I made from plaster of paris reinforced with wire. I used styrofoam as the master which I then melted out with the torch.

author
paqrat (author)paqrat2010-07-31

By this type of casting I mean styrofoam master and sand as the mould.

author
dpocius (author)dpocius2008-07-04

More on lost-styrofoam casting: I have been to the mount and have seen it with mine own eyes! We dropped by Cosanti Studio (http://www.arcosanti.org/) to buy a windbell and saw some of the styrofoam positives they used for the intricate cast-bronze panels. They use a fine-grained pink material (looks like Roofmate, perhaps) that can be carved to quite fine detail.

The studio deserves mention. it is, quite simply, the most fabulous artist's studio I've ever seen. Paolo Soleri is known for his unique architecture, and the Cosanti workplace is no exception. He uses a lot of cast concrete structural forms in fantastic shapes to create a workspace that defies description. Arcosanti (north on I-17) is a whole community-in-progress that reflects Soleri's dream of an ecologically-ideal living space for up to 5000 residents. This also needs to be seen to be believed. The work is supported largely by sale of bronze and ceramic art pieces made at both sites.

Paolo Soleri is a maker of the highest order.

author
wocket (author)dpocius2008-06-14

sounds toxic.

author
dpocius (author)wocket2008-06-14

Do it outside and stand upwind. Use a fan. Hold your breath. Use common sense. Pour the molten aluminum from a cup on a long stick. Make sure the sand is bone-dry. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Wear eye protection, and protection for other body parts ("Brain surgery?? But that's my second-favorite organ!" -Woody Allen in 'Sleeper'). Close cover before striking. Do not attempt. Professional driver on closed course. Sorry, got carried away covering my ass...

author
wocket (author)dpocius2008-06-16

lol

author
!m 4 n00b 4t th!s stuff (author)2006-12-13

any one know a metal i can get from just about anywhere and melt it in with a fairly low tempeture and how can i make a mold? ~!m 4 n00b 4t th!s~

author

After reading this and other instructables I am going to be doing some aluminum casting. Around here you can just walk along a street and find cans that have been thrown away. Free aluminum for the taking and, it doesn't end up in a land fill. What I am planning to do is melt the poptops first in my crucible then feed the sides of the can into the molten pool off melted poptops. Just putting a torch flame to the side of an aluminum can would prpbably just burn through it but by using the molten metal to melt the rest of the lighter weight metal should work. If you use aluminum cans be sure there is no moisture left in the can. Moisture plus high heat can result in all manner of unpleasant things happening, sometimes to the person wielding the heat.

author

Tire weights can be found on the street, but they have a lot of lead in them.

author
andybiker (author)2010-03-07

You can use lead-free solder. Either electrical or plumbing types. The plumbing stuff is used to solder water pipes so should be ok to wear!
The cheaper electrical stuff is normally 99.3% Tin, 0.7% Copper. the good stuff (much nicer to solder with) is 96.5% Tin, 0.5% Copper, 3% Silver, but there are all sorts of ratios.

author
TVBOY76 (author)2009-05-27

Dear Maximilian:
You can also cast small body part replicas like kidneys, hands, hearts, lungs, feet etc. or farm animals as well; and by doing this your are reliving a traditional (on hispanic countries) forgotten craft called "exvotos" or "milagros"
Here is a link to some examples:
http://www.zanzibartribalart.com/MexicanMilagros.htm

author
FunkNattidelic (author)2008-08-01

I used a copper end cap to melt some aluminum with a blowtorch that i have in the basement, and the damn copper melted before the aluminum did, so i have this copper end cap with a hole in the bottom, and no aluminum was melted. I was bored once though, and i heated a penny because i wanted to draw it out and make it really thin, but it melted instead and i got splashed with molten whatever-it-is. burned a hole through my shorts, but my skin wasnt burned.

author

if it was after 19(either '82 or '83, cant remember) it was zinc with a copper skin.

author

The change came in the middle of 82.

author

:) thanks for letting me know

author
blackghost (author)2008-10-14

everybody is forgetting about zinc , its in a lot of scrap metal in junk yards or even constructions sites garbage piles. it melts at 420 degrees C , and is safe for jewelry

author
thepelton (author)blackghost2009-04-15

Cents made since 1983 are zinc plated with copper.

author
thepelton (author)thepelton2009-04-15

lots of foreign coins can be bought at a coin collector's shop for relatively little in a wide variety of metals: aluminum, brass, copper, nickel, zinc etc.

author
CookieLuver (author)2009-03-24

Could you melt soda pop tops??

author
pyro22 (author)2006-11-16

cool. An idea is to make an alloy of 52.5% bismuth, 32.5% lead, and 14.9% tin and you will be able to melt it in boiling water and use almost anything as a mold without it melting or burning. just watch out for the lead

author
chriskarr (author)pyro222009-03-21

First of all, as zachninme pointed out, that only adds up to 99.9%. Second of all, the problem with making an alloy out of those metals is that, while lead and bismuth both have fairly low melting points, tin's melting point happens to be quite high, comparably. I recommend buying the alloy rather than making it yourself, if you're doing this to avoid making a forge...

author
zachninme (author)pyro222006-12-02
Thats not 100%...
its 99.9%...
Just kidding!
author
JamesRPatrick (author)zachninme2007-06-14

HAha, you're right.

author
trebuchet03 (author)pyro222006-11-16

Is that %mass?

author
twenglish1 (author)2008-08-03

not sure if someone already said this but when melting solder with a torch in a container the flux in the solder will catch on fire and stink

author
AlexTheGreat (author)2006-11-17

be carelful of what you pour the molten metal in, I poured molten aluminum into a clay mold i made (i dried the clay in an oven). the mold exploded and I berely missed being blinded from molten aluminum.

author
wocket (author)AlexTheGreat2008-06-14

you can get casting plaster and clays, which are expensive, but they don't explode. Dried cuttlefish is an awesome mold!

author
twistedself (author)2006-11-17

I have made simple molds out of a bar of soap. Soap will not melt under heat. Eventually I think it will burn, but I have made slingshot ammo moulds from it. I just carved out the shape I wanted. I have also used wood. I was making shot, so I just drilled long holes in the 2x4 and poured it in. You could also make soap (lye, fat and all that stuff) and then make a proper mold.

author
zachninme (author)twistedself2006-12-02

NO!!! That would have moisture, which makes explosions!

author
wocket (author)zachninme2008-06-14

epp! and soap does melt! if your melting lead it wouldn't but anything else you'd have a molten mess.

author
bombs go boom (author)2008-06-03

sorry, im new. were can u by aluminum??? plez respond asap

author

You can just melt soda cans

author
Jonny Appleseed (author)2007-12-25

that alloy of bismuth... isn't it called woods metal? or is it just similar? because i know they sell woods metal on united nuclear

author
sehrgut (author)2007-12-13

Great job on your first foray into casting! If you'd like to be able to melt larger amounts of metal with less fuel (more efficient), check one of the many instructables on making a forge: you'll get more bang for your fuel buck that way.

author
aceman 569 (author)2007-05-12

there are solders that are lead-free. they6 usually say so on the container / roll

author
mdmoose29 (author)2006-11-16

just wondering of the lead would be at all dangerous to wear around your neck..

author
Vendigroth (author)mdmoose292007-05-10

only if you want to live. Lead poisoning's bad

author
SuavePotato (author)2006-11-17

Yeah, wearing anything lead based against your skin is DEFINATELY a bad idea. Especially something close to your mouth... If you value your family, do not give these away as jewlery.

You can find more info on lead poisoning at:
Wikipedia: Lead Poisoning

author

Aren't there other types of solder?

author
mrmath (author)2006-11-16

What do you make the mold out of?

author
pjax (author)mrmath2006-11-17

or better yet... how do you make the mold?

author
westfw (author)2006-11-17

Pure lead will melt OK over something like a camping stove operating off of plain propare. Pure bismuth will melt on a kitchen stove. Solders melt at even lower temperatures; you can probably melt it in a normal oven. As someone else mentioned, though, lead-based alloys are not ideal for jewelery purposes. Lead-free plumping solders are essentially a type of "pewter" (which sounds better) and would be a good candidate, I think.

author
pyro22 (author)2006-11-16

% by weight yea

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