Low Cost Aluminum Foundary




Introduction: Low Cost Aluminum Foundary

One day I went to a party and saw that a hefty amount of aluminum soda cans were being thrown in the trash bin. I wondered and decided to repurpose these cans into small Aluminum "Muffin" Ingots for casting.

***DISCLAIMER*** Liquid aluminum is over 660 Celsius so use all precautionary measures. Long pants/sleeves, resperator, heat gloves, face shield, etc.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials


Backyard Grill Charcoal Chimney Starter


Unica Stainless Steel Cup (18 oz.)


2 in. x 2 ft. PVC-PW Sch. 40 DWV Pipe


2 in. PVC DWV 90 Degree Hub x Hub Elbow


Style by Revlon 1875 Watt Dryer


Backyard Grill Deluxe Stainless Steel Grilling Tongs


Backyard Grill Briquets, 8.3 lbs


MainStays 12-Cup Cupcake Pan


Masking Tape

All of these items can be found at Home Depot and Walmart for insanely cheap prices.

Step 2: Connect the PVC to the Elbow

If you purchased the right parts. The PVC Pipe should slip right in with the PVC Elbow for a tight lock. After that just slip it in to the opening you created in the perimeter and match up with the center bricks.

Step 3: Create a Safe Brick Perimeter

I had some old bricks lying around the backyard so i used them as a do not cross visual and also if an accident were to occur around the foundary, the bricks would prevent spreading. I put 6" of clearance frome each side of the center bricks and an opening for the pvc pipe to slip in.

Step 4:

Now Tape the cool button down on your Revlon and slip it in to the end of the PVC Pipe away from the brick perimeter.

Step 5: Placing the Foundary Body

Now that you have your brick perimeter set up and the pipe is centered, set bricks to elevate and place the Charcoal Chimney Starter centered with the Bicks and the PVC Elbow.

Step 6: Placing Charcoal

Set down some paper and douse them in charcoal lighter fluid, also coat the charcoal as well. This will ensure that the charcoal will light and burn efficiently.

Step 7: Placing Crucible

Before lighting the fire, place the stainless steel cup (crucible) into the center of the furnace. Place charcoals around the rim of the cup to ensure leveled heating. After everything is set light the charcoal and wait for the charcoal to be at a steady burn.

Step 8: Applying Air

Once the charcoal is at a steady burn, turn the Revlon on to the low setting making sure the cool setting is taped down. Wait 2-5min before adding cans.

Step 9: Smelting and Pouring

Place cans and push down until they are melted. Be sure to scoop up the impurities and slag the cans produce. When you have enough aluminum in the crucible, pick up the crucible with your stainless steel tongs with a firm grip and pour into muffin pan. Be sure to throw the aluminum "muffin" into a bucket of water as it is still very hot when it solidifies.

Step 10: Aluminum Ingot

Now that the aluminum is cooled, you can either show it off or melt a couple cupcakes down for some sand casting projects!



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57 Discussions

wanna do this so bad might just make this my birthday present ya and todays my birthday woooo

do you use nonstick cooking spray or just dump the aluminum in there

I made a similar version and melted through 2 stainless crucibles, one identical to the one used. Looks like an ss cup is good for one pour with perhaps 8-10 cans of alu, i think once you reach beyond that the steel fails. Going to look for a proper crucible, the rest of the setup works great, beware, this thing will eat a whole bag of charcoal.

1 reply

I use half of an old fire extinguisher and it looks just as good as when I cut it in half. Simply take an old fire extinguisher (preferably A small one) and cut it half with A hacksaw. It works great!

Have you ever sanded the colors off the cans? That's one less impurity - or is it easier (and less time consuming!) to get rid of it after the cans are melted?
LOVED this 'ible! I think I just might be able to replicate your process! Thanks!

couldn't you just use grease and make a crucible holder? just wondering.

My PVC ended up melting, so I got some galvanized steel pipe instead. However, the largest size I could get was 1 1/4, so the airflow was greatly reduced. Any suggestions?

Be careful I got that same steel cup and put some holes in it because my foundry got too hot

Wouldn't it melt the PVC?

Just so you know, most compressed charcoals like the above contain a relatively high level of sulfur. It is released at the high temperatures of burning charcoal (actually much less, but we won't get into that). That liquified sulfur does get into your aluminum and can influence how it casts. I can't remember off hand, but I do remember it isn't good.

This is an easily accessible means to wet your feet with aluminum casting. I would recommend insulating that charcoal starter with some rock wool if you can find it to improve your effenciecy.

7 replies

Thank you for your input! I did not know the sulfer levels in the charcoal could change the structure of the cast. I will use your advice and better this project in the future. I'm only 15 so I'll be learning all the chemistry aspects next year. Thank You!

sulfur and phosphorus(and copper, when you're talking about steel welding) tend to affect the properties of the metal when you're smelting, casting or blacksmithing. the reason blacksmiths use low sulfur coal is that contamination of those trace elements can cause brittleness, weak welds, increased vulnerability to corrosion, and a whole mess of other issues. luckily these days we have the whole internet available to us for information and guidance so that we don't have to learn these things the hard way anymore.

that said, great instructable, it's an excellent way for someone to get their feet wet if they're interested in metal casting. I hope you stick with it because this is a promising start and shows cleverness and creativity.

Are you sure that is relevant in this case Welsh?

A smith puts his metal directly into the charcoal, so the chemical content of the charcoal can effect the metal. In this case the metal is not in contact with the charcoal. It is sitting inside a stainless steel crucible. Any sulphur and any other chemical vapour will rise and go past the crucible so i don't see how it could effect the molten metal inside.

it can definitely be a factor. the metal in the crucible still has one surface exposed to the air inside the furnace. this is why for sensitive, easily oxidized metals like copper you want to have some sort of protective layer(such as crushed charcoal or molten flux) floating on top during the melt. an extremely hot reducing flame, in concert with a good flux, can even be used to reclaim oxidized metals for casting, such as copper that's been polluted by oxygen absorption during a previous melt. done right, you can convert rusted iron or steel back to its un-oxidized form.

but this goes both ways, which means any contaminants in your fuel, and thus in the smoke, can react with the metal. the result in that your smelted metal will be full of sulfates,phosphates, and other unwanted compounds that will adversely affect the final properties of the cast. remember: if it's reactive in its metal phase(ie can be rusted or patinated or anodized) then in it's liquid phase it's going to be even worse thanks to all the energy you've dumped into it. a great example of this principle is titanium, which is so reactive with oxygen that you can't melt it outside an inert atmosphere because it'll just burn up. this response ended up way longer than i intended for such a simple question, but working metal is such a complicated topic when you get down to the chemical level, and it's a subject of particular interest to me.

So in that case, would it be better to use electric heat to melt the metal?

There was a half decent(very iffy wiring) instructable using an old hob electric ring recently.

IN industry, electric furnaces are used when the purity of the melt is of paramount importance, such as for transformer steel (versus construction steel). Argon gas fill is also needed. But you will need a lot of electric heat! It is usually applied by having an arc discharge to the metal.

If you use "real" charcoal (Cowboy or other brands) that consist of "cooked" wood only, and no clay or coal, which the briquettes contain, you will be relativaly sulfur free. The sulfur (and iron) come from the coal.

A few comments about the chemistry. When thin aluminum is heated, a lot is lost to oxidation before it melts and coalesces. Commercial recyclers fill the crucible with some sort of molten salt. When the aluminum is dropped in, the salt bath instantly protects the aluminum from the air while the aluminum melts and sinks to the bottom. You could use borax, as that is commonly used to flux metals. It can be poured off into a spare ingot mold and reused. If you don't use a salt bath, be sure to crush the cans completely so they quickly melt. Once you have a "head" of molten aluminum, the next can will melt quickly. You can still put flux on top to clean the metal before pouring.

I recommend you keep water away from the operation, and not use it to cool the ingots. Bad things may happen in the next melting! How do you get the cans totally dry before starting?

2 replies

When I get some cans i usually put them out in direct sunlight for a couple hours so the remaining liquid is evaporated. Sometimes if I didnt have time to wait i would cut the bottom of the can and wipe with a paper towel. Thanks for your input on the chemistry! You learn something new everyday.