Homemade Custom Metal Objects From Recycled Materials

Picture of Homemade Custom Metal Objects From Recycled Materials
This Instructable will cover two ways to form the objects being made. The pictures are from a variety of trial and error projects and won't match up but the steps are the same. Recently I got a solder suck (like a little turkey baster) after several months of desoldering old electronics for their components I have a bag full of little solder bits. I also ended up with a bunch of stumpy crayons and candles.  But what to do with this old stuff. 
The solution was to melt both down and make them into the shapes I wanted.
The two methods are using a knife to shape the wax and them making a mold of it or using a lathe to shape the wax and then molding that. 
This project deals with molten metal and wax, along with plaster of paris (follow safety instructions on box) and most solder contains some lead so wash your hands frequently. Please be careful as all of the above can damage you, I am not responsible if you hurt yourself. (the knob was made from lead free solder) 

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Step 1: Materials (knife method)

Picture of Materials (knife method)
Materials (the main ones )
Wax (old candles,crayons,or you can buy it in a candle making kit)
A knife (small)
Carving tools (optional)
solder (recycled or bought)
A couple of aluminum cans or another container that can be used for mixing the plaster
a stove and pot
a fire pit
some scrap metal (old dvd player) or a crucible 
pliers (needle nose)
Plaster of paris (hardware store or art supply) varies on amount depending on the size of mold/object your making
cardboard tube
hot glue gun
pin (or paperclip or thin pointy carving tool)
wood (for fire)
dust masks (for plaster of paris)
some sort of coating for the final project (paint, polyurethane, or something)
release agent (vasaline, oil, soot)
image editing software (any with measurements/rulers)
a 3d editing software (not strictly needed but if you want to make a custom object it's necessary)

It's a long list but most are common tools or can be scavenged

Extra materials for lathe method
lathe (metal)
another smaller piece of scrap metal
tin snips (scissors that will cut the scrap metal)
sharpie (or permanent marker)
Allan key(s) for lathe
small file (recommended)

other helpful but not necessary items:
A glove that resists heat 
large tongs for fire pit
a helper
a vibrating motor(or table to set the wax)

Lead free Pewter is what you want, thought of course a lot of low melting point alloys will do the job. It's not all THAT easy to come by, some model shops keep it in ingots (they use it for casting those little game figures of Orcs and Dragons and stuff) but the CHEAPEST source is usually from a charity shop (thrift store), a lot of souvenir Tankards are made of lead free pewter if you see one in a Charity shop you can usually pick it up for less than the cost of buying the new metal. Chop it into small pieces with tin snips and melt down as you illustrate. you may need a little more heat, but that can be done with bellows or similar and you seem to have the right basic skill set.

I'm not sure if your crucible would stand up to that kind of heat. One solution that avoids that problem is to include a space in your mold for the raw material and then when you have burned out the wax. Put the pewter or solder pieces in that cavity and continue to heat.

Hope that helps and good luck with your future projects.
Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)  Dream Dragon2 years ago
Thanks for your ideas, however I don't think I've ever seen those pewter tankerds you are talking about. My school does metal casting as an art project, if I want to do a larger mold I might ask them. Allot of high schools do this so if your stuck maybe ask around.
You've never seen a pewter tankard? Well ok, maybe your younger than I thought, but keep your eyes open, and well done with your instructable.

Other molding materials you can look at include Soapstone and Cuttle Fish Bone, I've even heard of MDF being used with some success.

Good luck
Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)  Dream Dragon2 years ago
I've also never looked for tankards. I liked wax because I could reuse it over and over again by saving the shavings. I've also had moderate success with plastacine as it also melts out of a mold.
Nano_Burger2 years ago
Traditional electronics solder has a good portion of lead in it. Depending on the brand about 40%. I don't want to be alarmist, but I would not want to handle this object while preparing food. Perhaps as a last step, you could coat the object in polyeurethane to minimize Pb transfer.
You make a very good point here, perhaps Lead Free solder would be a viable option.
Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)  Lunera2 years ago
The knob was made from bought lead free solder. The other objects that I made (usb stick,heart,phone case) used recycled solder but unfortunetly because of various flaws and one malfunctioning crucible they failed.
I think just handling lead is pretty minimal, unless you've some kind of an oral fixation or something ... even then you'd have to chew it up and eat it to have the remotest chance of deleterious effects.
Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)  Nano_Burger2 years ago
I was going to add that and many other things today last night I was too tired to stay up any later. But yes unless you buy the solder make sure to coat the piece in something first.
rc jedi2 years ago
lead is not the best, but you could paint it, just a thought.
Zaphod Beetlebrox (author)  rc jedi2 years ago
or polyurinthane if you want the metal to be seen