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Ultimate Guide to Making a Cheap but Effective Aluminium Forge.

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There are many guides and many ideas I've collected and, being that I completed this (the first one... I made a completely new setup just for this instructible... you should feel special.) within two days and most importantly... cheaply.

My cousin /assistant / camera man and I created this instructable so we could share our wonderful smelting smelting experience and win the hearts and minds of the instructable community.

DISCLAIMER

This instructible includes fire and molten metal.
BE CAREFUL and USE SAFETY EQUIPMENT!

Also; If you mortally wound yourself while duplicating this instructible, please delete this from your history internet history before dieing. i don't want to be held liable.

BACK ON TOPIC!

We shall begin.
 
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Step 1: Parts / Tools

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In retrospect, the parts / tools list quite long but it should be things that are easily available.

The most expensive thing was the torch. I'm really cheap but it turned out to be a rewarding investment.

The other parts are as follows:

Quick Setting Quickrete (I got a 20 lb bucket for under 10 bucks)
Something to mix the Quickrete in
Something to stir the Quickrete with
Large Coffee Can (6 inch)
Small Coffee Can (4 inch)
Hack Saw (or any metal cutting tool)
Drill (or metal punch or improvised hole making tool)
An empty 14.1 oz propane tank (make sure it's competently empty)
Scrap steel bar like from a printer, about a foot long (you can buy 5/8 steel bar at lowes)
A sharpie (or any marking tool)
Tape
Cardboard
Short (about 2 or 3 inches) iron or steel tube that the torch head fits in. (optional)
A ball peen hammer (any hammer will suffice)
Some propane gas (i buy the ones for camping stoves because their $4.38 for a 2 pack of 16.4 oz tanks.)
An oven (optional)
A vice. ( kinda optional. you could find another way but i find the vice necessary)
A mini muffin tin (optional. you just need something to pour the aluminum into.)
Some cheap thin steel wire (1/8 diameter max. but strong enough to hold some weight)
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Mgr122 months ago
Wow this post needs to be taken down these meathods are extreamly dangerous and not to mention forgeing aluminum or magnesium can cause parkinsons deseise and cancer and if its an alloy with zinc it can stright up kill you with out proper ventalation and charcole respirators this is dangerous only safe metal to forge without need of a respirator is unleaded iron and steel
WWil Mgr121 month ago

So what can I do to be safe while doing this? Could I just wear a ventilation mask and be fine or is there more?

NotI1 WWil7 days ago

There's <quite> a bit more to it, actually... before, during, AND after.

This is NOT a comprehensive list. please do more research after this in order to not die, or get hurt.

Fire: building one, maintaining one, the flying embers from charcoal popping, being near one, poking one with a stick... (btw, this isn't "fire" its "FIRE!"... campfire is to forge heat as a squirrel is to an angry Russian polar bear with munchies. to reiterate: you're going to poke this with a stick)

Hot Aluminum:DOES NOT GLOW! if there are impurities in it (probably will be), those will glow. Pure aluminum does not change color as you heat it. It will transition from a solid to a metal with no discernible change in color. it's FREAKY! It looks perfectly safe to touch, but is hot enough to cauterize your flesh down to the bone.. If you dunk it in water and wait for the water to stop boiling and take it out, it still can be hot enough to blister your flesh... no joke. O.O the point is to make it stupid hot. (I've grabbed hot aluminum more times than I care to admit, and hate myself for weeks every time I do. Just wear welding gloves or equivalent at all times and you'll only get burnt occasionally.)

Liquid Aluminum: SO pretty... SO deadly... noxious fumes waft over the forge in invisible intangible wisps. The vapors leak out of the molten metal, and mix with vaporized carcinogens from the slag and impurities straight up your nose, and you might not even smell it. drop some of this on concrete, and if your unlucky, the concrete will EXPLODE <-- no hyperbole here... water trapped inside concrete can vaporize to steam. This will build pressure in the localized area until it overcomes the tensile strength of the concrete, which fragments in a violent spray of half molten aluminum and shards of concrete. (read up on "Steam Explosions") If the bottom of your crucible springs a leak, skin begins to breakdown at 111 DegF. aluminum melts at 1,221 DegF...

Casting:You're gonna dump this stuff into some sand, that hopefully wont make it splash, and hopefully is thick enough not to melt the container it's in. you need to wait long enough, or it'll be too hot, and when you pull it out, it will drip, and come apart and still be WICKED hot.<splash warning!> after 30 mins, it's probably solid (depending on the size) and can be removed from the sand (with tongs, it can still ignite paper with relative ease) finally, spray it off... carefully. It will instantly steam water for a while.

lastly, Machining: a lot of tools can steal your nose/fingers (Daddy always gave it back to you when HE stole it... These jerks do not...) but primarily, grinders, sanders, saws, and drills which are designed to cut metal, will give pressure and resistance while doing so. bone is softer than aluminum in most cases, flesh is softer yet. MANY tools will give NO resistance when confronted with human material, and go RIGHT through, think how a cheese grater goes through cold butter.

As you become more familiar with it, you'll deal with the dangers better. as you deal with the dangers better, you stop being afraid of the dangers. Danger doesn't care if you're afraid or not. or If you're experienced or not. And in THIS craft, there isn't a very big margin for error.

Cast with care, so you don't have an accident, and with a friend so that if you do, he/she can help clean up the mess.

If you have specific questions, feel free to text me: 865-248-6505 (text+)

TenKTech Mgr122 months ago

If we treated all information like that then this would be lost over time and only corporations would know how to do it. Responsible people use the internet to further their skillsets and education as well.... If your argument is for kids then that's a parenting issue not anything else...

Mgr12 TenKTech2 months ago
And also the reply of "responsible people use the internet to further thier skill set" is just ignorent any one can see this post no matter their age, resposiblity, or level of common sense... Not only smart responsible people that know all about the dangers of metal working look this up, in fact i believe there is more of a tendancy for people that have no clue how to do it thats going to look up instructions, than there is people that understand
NotI1 Mgr127 days ago

It is impossible for every instruction and every documented experiment to be idiot-proof. For technical projects (just like this) it is assumed that the reader has mastered supporting skill-sets sufficiently enough to recognize the dangers of that particular activity.

If the reader has not done this, and attempts this anyways... I'm not responsible. nor is the poster, nor is anyone but that person, unless that person is under 18. then it's a parenting issue.

Finally,

"This instructible includes fire and molten metal.

BE CAREFUL and USE SAFETY EQUIPMENT!"

very clear wording. Appropriately concise, and straightforward. AND right at the top too! (starts on the 70th-ish word. barely a quarter of an inch into the article, and WELL before the barest hint of instruction.)

and then a message about the potential of dying. spelled incorrectly, but still there.

if you take the guard off of your table saw and are disfigured by it, it is your own stupid fault. period. not: comma something else. not question mark: we think. period. there are very clear stipulations in our legislature that indicate this. It is proportionally your fault if you fail to follow advised safety procedures. such as "USE SAFETY EQUIPMENT!"

unless you're under 18. Again, that's bad parenting.

Mgr12 TenKTech2 months ago
How is the potential to give a teen a life altering problem a parenting problem? Im not a parent and wasnt looking at it from that standpoint but its good you brought it up kids do things without thinking it through and the propane tank in this post is extreamly dangerous to thoes that dont take precautions, there are also adults out there that would like to do this that also do not know the dangers of breathing in the fumes, i wasnt suggesting it be took down because you shouldnt do it but because it doesent tell people the dangers and how to protect themselves, i too looked this up to further my skill set but if i didnt already know the dangers i would have done this as it was in the instructions and could have seriously harmed my health by doing so and im sure there are others that probably have done the same
NotI1 Mgr121 month ago

A young teen/preteen/younger than that... who uses this article and injures themselves is a victim of bad parenting. Parents are responsible for their offspring, as well as their offspring's behavior.

Good parenting might sound like this:

Son/Daughter, there are dangerous things in the world. Things that if you try them will kill you. Please use common sense regarding new ideas and always do research from many independent sources before attempting anything. Be safe, and if you have any questions, please ask a professional.

These are similar to the words my father told me, and I have learned the truth of them. To this end, I have not died yet. (I apologize, I cannot verify this for you. you'll just have to take my word for it :P)

NotI1 Mgr121 month ago

Your post does not utilise the English language very well, and it detracts from your intended message. Please consider additional care when constructing posts.

Additionally, it would be foolish to look at any one article and assume that you've instantly mastered all skills sufficiently to be able to execute this procedure flawlessly. "This information is dangerous, so it shouldn't be seen" Is a very silly argument. I feel that the article has more than sufficient disclaimers regarding the peril of performing these operations, and has suggested safety methods which cover MOST of the dangers.

You indicated that "only safe metal to forge without need of a respirator is unleaded iron and steel"... This is false, both of those metals oxidize relatively quickly at forge temp, and produce ferrous oxide, commonly known as rust. Inhaling rust without the use of a respirator is dangerous and can cause a number of unhappy conditions. However, some exotic metals melt at room temperatures (for example, Gallium) and are quite safe to forge without the use of a respirator.

Conclusively,

Although you seem to have the readers' best interests at heart, I deem your posts to be invalid, as they illustrate a poor understanding of basic information trading, and safety procedures. Furthermore, you have expressed preconceived notions about forging and hot metals that facilitate dangerous behaviours, and you've asked that others follow your example. To heed your advice is dangerous, and will cause harm.

Please refrain from offering dangerous advice on subjects that you don't have significant experience in.

Thank you!

Mgr12 NotI11 month ago
Offering dangerous advice? Nothing that i have said is dangerous advice ive only gave advice on how to deter the effects of breathing the fumes of molten aluminium, i also clearified in another post that i didnt think the knowledge shouldnt be known an utilized but the poster should have adressed the fact this can easily kill you just by breathing, so the fact "he covered MOST of the dangers" is not enough because he missed the most important one, dangers like grinding, pouring the aluminim, hammering or any other danger assoiciated with smithing of course is the responsibility of the one doing it these are uncontrollable varibles dependent on the user of the information but something like toxic fumes is a eaisly controlled varible that should be addresed and the user should know the danger so they can take the precaution, this can kill and seriously harm people for the rest of their lives, and to say its the falt of the ones who did it should know the dangers... That is ignorant because they came here for the KNOWLEDGE on how to do it, so i stick by what i said because the poster does not address all the extreme dangers
NotI1 Mgr127 days ago

you posted: "only safe metal to forge without need of a respirator is unleaded iron and steel"

This is false information. Those metals are NOT safe to forge without a respirator. If a young person followed your advice blindly, he could be killed or develop mesothelioma (which I consider worse). Your advice is dangerous and illustrates a lack of experience and study in this particular subject matter.

The poster makes no claims about the safety of these operations.

Additionally, I came here looking for the knowledge to do this. If I relied ONLY on this ONE article, that I read (read skimmed) ONCE I would have a pretty good idea of how ONE GUY cast aluminum ONCE. basic logic dictates that this isn't enough information to successfully repeat a successful casting operation. However, I've also read scholarly articles on the subject, took a college course over the properties and strengths of materials, as well as a chemistry class. I've watched dozens of youtube videos, and I've spoken firsthand with some folks who work in an industrial casting facility.

If you rely on one perspective to perform potentially dangerous activities, I feel that speaks volumes on your intellectual ability. however, if yer parents had lerned ya yer ledders, and you've read ye sum werds onit, and jawed wit sum folks 'bout it, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your looking for.

I'm not asking you to retract your statement. I'm assuming that you're so convinced by the rhythm of your own words, that my perspective is completely lost on you. However, for those reading your words, I hope they'll read mine too. Stay Safe!

tiantase Mgr128 days ago
Id like to point out that molten metal and amalgums at the correct temperature dont create fumes... oxidizing flames across the surface can though... I have cast for years both lead zinc aluminum bronze and brass both yellow and red.. new kids on the block should simply play outside.. see smoke go up wind... I believe you can still purchase kits for making die cast cars... zinc was melted in an electric pot indoors.. I also want to point out every thrift store has cheap stainless pans when handles of non metallic are removed they make perfect crucible... so with that I also also want to point out that the temperature of a cooking stove electric element turns red hot... basic ingenuity tells us that is more than hot enough to melt aluminum... dont be stupid and do it inside... an old junk stove some cheap wait free refractory removed from the oven lining and a pot cast iron or stainless steel wrapped in the refractory will work just fine ... cheap wall mart stainless steel ladel's work great for dipping material..a slotted spoon is great for skimming dross and removing unwanted steel and scrap from pot bottoms...
flyman4161 year ago
Hi I really the idea of this cuz I've been thinking of what I could use as a crucible in my forge and I saw this. I was wondering how do you make sure the butane tank (the one that will be the crucible) is completely empty? I showed my dad this and he was like "NO!", but I wasn't about to cut into a pressurized tank like that. We have an "empty" tank but I'm not sure how pressurized it still is. So how do you depressurize it?
Easy take a valve tool and remove the Schrader core out doors... fill the cylinder completely with water then empty it and feel free to cut away

best way is to hook up the torch head to the propane tank your going to use and hold it under water. if bubbles rise from the tip then it still has pressure, if not then you should be fine. i am not liable for stupidity though

joshmayo7977 months ago

I have a question for you.. Do you think A home made coal forge can be made out of aluminum? Minus the fire pot of course.

Look up a blacksmith forge you will find they are cast iron pans... heat rises... coal coke and ash insulates the bottom of the forge pan.. the air is blown from the hand crank blower through the coal to increase its heat output..

I don't think so. I think it would be unsafe to construct the forge out of anything less than iron/steel. The inner surface should be refractory cement (or firebrick) as well. Aside from the risk of overheating the aluminum, the stability/strength of the iron is desired.

dion.fettke6 months ago

question -- what would happen if you mixed fine glass powder smaller then sand with the molten aluminium and mixed them together why'll the aluminium is in liquid form

is their a chance of EXPLOSION or will it just make the finished product brittle pending on the amount added

This is ironic you asked about molten aluminum and glass... glass charge is actually spread across molten aluminum beds to make sheet glass.. glass floats on the surface of molten aluminum.

Sort of going off ash springer, the explosiveness in thermite is all about how readily aluminum oxidizes, and the heat that is produced from the reaction. You'd have to do an energy balance to figure out whether there is an energy deficit or increase. Keep in mind there is a lot of free energy in molten aluminum.
In the case that the oxygen molecules from SiO2 don't explosively move to the aluminum molecules, you'd still have a really brittle product - I guess thats what you want, so it might be worth a try.
Definitely do the energy balance though to evaluate the risk..Then post the results up here! Sounds like an interesting idea. Whats the goal in extra brittle aluminum? b/c another solution is to just leave the melt out and oxidizing or restir the dross back through the melt.

GOOD POINT ! i think there is a chance not of explosion but of intense thermic reaction perhaps , which may well end in explosion my pyro chemistry is not my area but alot of pyro based products are made from aluminium flash powder for example now silicon dioxide may well make a thermite when mixed with powdered aluminium but im unsure because both will be in liquid phase whether there would be enough surface area to cause a reaction as one would expect liquid silicon dioxide and liquid aluminium + tin + byproduct annealing products, to all be very different in density and not mix well (you avoid agitating the pot while smelting alli) the sodium lpercarbonate used to seperate off the label junk and tin impurities adds another possibility. thats not an answer just my thoughts evoked by your statement, try it why not but be very careful as thats a very big dangerous cherry bomb if what you suggest happens.

NotI11 month ago

I'm a little worried about using quikrete as an insulator... all ceramics have the potential to experience a steam explosion when exposed to molten metals. The moisture trapped inside the 'crete turns to steam, expands and eventually ruptures the construction, flinging hot metal, and sharp fragments of stone in all directions. (look this stuff up, it's pretty nasty, and yeah... it DOES happen). I think a better mix would be sand/plaster of paris/water. Little cost difference ($5 or so) a MUCH better insulator, and it removes the danger of a steam explosion. If you feel so inclined, you might toss in a short segment about that in this instructable? Thanks!

IronM22 months ago

I made this, based on another persons build. Worked great... actually... mine worked too good. We accidentially melted the STEEL propane tank used for melting the metal. So apparently I need a better crucible.

Azazel893 months ago
Awesome instructable

The one thing that caused some concern for me was cutting into a pressurized container. Even though you make sure it's empty. I've seen tanks explode just be careful is all.
In other words use fire extinguisher not water.
"Mixing water or other contaminants with molten aluminum can cause explosions. Explosions can also occur in the aluminum scrap re-melting process due to moisture and contamination in scrap."-See more at: http://www.aluminum.org/resources/electrical-faqs-and-handbooks/safety#sthash.aeX9BvQg.dpuf
Warning! Use fire extinguisher, not water! Aluminum is explosive! Keep it away from water! See this page:http://www.aluminum.org/resources/electrical-faqs-and-handbooks/safety
sheddk5 months ago

As far as a propane tank crucible:

1: make sure tank is empty.

2: make sure tank is empty

Then:

a: light a small camp type fire

b: have a protective barrier pre set

b1: Make sure you understand b: then place tank in fire

c: walk rapidly to protective barrier (b:) 10 yards+

d: get a gun and fire a round through top of propane tank

e: fire 2nd round at tank if any doubt 1st round hit

f: retrieve tank (retrieve next day if unsure of first 2 rounds

f1: Shoot another round next day

g: Finally, cut tank as you see fit

3: Foot note for pros:

Try with full tank, but double distance to protective barrier and have "friend" place tank in fire. Results......impressive, but don't expect a usable crucible via this method.

4: COME ON PEOPLE...if unsure of any steps required to do any of this safely DO NOT ATTEMPT. Once Forge is built the true danger shows up. If concerned about steps.....you have to far to go to MELT METAL safely. Fumes, heat, reactions via moisture or chemicals, gas build-up, splatter, slag, fire, burn through, etc......molten metal is easy to achieve, what to do with it once liquid, that is the true danger. Good luck all.

mrjackson sheddk4 months ago

Taking the valve off then filling it completely with water is another good way of verifying that all the gas is out and it's safe to cut.

billjoh8 months ago

Just a idea to make your forging much easier. Check this out from Budget Casting supple. Also I have been a mason for over 40 years I know first hand that fire and concrete don't mix, I would never put a flame to concrete. I have built hundreds of fire places and masonry smokers and grills.Get a book on green sand molds you can't get any cheaper than making your molds from sand. Good source is Lindsay Publications Inc. Bradley IL.

I copied this from Budget Casting Supple.

A crucible is
needed to withstand the extreme temperatures encountered in melting
metals. The crucible material must have a much higher melting point than
that of the metal being melted and it must have good strength even when
white hot.


It is possible to use a home made steel crucible to melt metals such as
zinc and aluminum, because these metals melt at a temperature well below
that of steel. However scaling (flaking) of a steel crucible interior
surface is a problem. This scale can contaminate the melt and thin the
crucible walls rather quickly. Steel crucibles will work if you are just
getting started and don't mind dealing with the scaling.


Common refractory materials used in crucible construction are
clay-graphite, and carbon bonded silicon-carbide. These materials can
withstand the highest temperatures in typical foundry work. Silicon
carbide has the added advantage of being a very durable material.


Our Clay Graphite Bilge Shape crucibles are rated for 2750 °F (1510 °C).
They will handle zinc, aluminum, brass / bronze, silver and gold
alloys. The manufacturer states they can be used for cast iron. Made in
the United States!


The "A" shaped crucibles are useful for metals up to 2000 °F (1093°C).
They will handle zinc, aluminum, brass / bronze, silver and gold alloys.
Made in China.


The Silicon Carbide Bilge crucibles are rated for 2750 °F (1510 °C).
They will handle zinc, aluminum, brass / bronze, silver and gold alloys.
Made in Mexico.

billjoh billjoh8 months ago

Oh I forgot that you can buy a crucible from Budget Supple for as low as $22.00

Seem to me you would be better off buying one than making one your self. at such a low cost and you would get better resuilts from your forging.

samuri098 billjoh8 months ago

Which of the three crucibles would you prefer?

And what other materials would I use to do a aluminum anthill project?

jdgreen10 months ago

MOLTEN METAL AND WATER DONT MIX!!!!! Also make sure your muffin tin is steel... i had an aluminum one which i quickly discovered after trying to pour molten aluminum into it.

justin557 years ago
im not sure exactly what the cause was but last weekend i had a propane torch and i decided to heat a penny with it and discovered that it melts, then i did it on my wet carport and it exploded all over my face and it looks like i scraped up my face really bad, i could have been blinded easily and i recommend being very careful with water!!!!!!!!!
jsyson1 justin5511 months ago

Glad you're okay. Basically, as soon as the molten metal got in contact with the water/moisture it turned it to steam almost instantly, that expansion (volumetric ratio well above 1:100) is what sent the molten metal flying upwards. Again glad your okay, especially your eyes. There is a very good reason foundry workers get around in all that protective gear...

It's the same reason that you don't place water onto a grease fire. The water rapidly (very, very rapidly) turns into a vapor. When it turns to a vapor it expands and moves outwards. In the case of a very hot liquid, the water turns into water gas and pushes everything outwards. There is no need for a chemical reaction. Rather, the physical transition between phases is what causes the explosion.
actually if the grease or oil is hot enough the water decomposes into hydrogen an oxygen instantly ignites and creates a huge fireball might look cool but is very dangerous
Water decomposes into hydrogen and oxygen around 3,000C. Then plasma incineration. Cooking oil (such as canola) top out around 500F. So it is simply a phase transition. As a solid or liquid transitions to a gas they expand and occupy much more room. When this transition and expansion happens very quickly it is termed as an explosions. A bomb undergoes a chemical reaction that gives off heat and gas at the same time which makes it occupy more room very quickly. Gundpowder is a great example. Just a tiny bit can hurl a tank shell for miles. Water thrown into a 500F fire immediately and rapidly expands into a gas. This transition throws oodles of burning oil into the air. Not a lot of fun to be around. But no chemical reaction is necessary.
some pennies melt because at some point they started making them out of zinc (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that explosion was probably the concrete exploding underneath the molten metal when it was heated, because there is still small amounts of water in the cured concrete...when you heat it, that water turns to steam, creating lots of pressure, eventually it explodes due to built up pressure , thats why you use so little water in the cement when you make this furnace, you also have to ram it in to eliminate any air pockets.
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