My Metal Melting Project

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It has been some time since the last time I updated this part of my site. Since that time I have enjoyed firing up the furnace and melting down various pieces of aluminum and have made several ignots. I had to pick up another muffin pan for making the ignots as the first one I had basically fell apart...I think because of the heat associated.

I have been thinking about what I could make as my first project. I had decided on making a name plate. Since I didn't want to take a chance in disappointing anyone I decided to make the plaque for myself. I figured once I got the first one or two out of the way I could begin making a name plate for someone else. Now, how do I go about making the mold?

I decided to get some of that pink styrofoam that is usually used as home insulation. That was an interesting project in itself. Not wanting to drive the truck up to the store and use more fuel than I had to I decided to take the car. Problem is, the sheets of styrofoam come in 4'x8' sheets! There is no way this was going to fit into the car and I had no illusions that it would. I took a razor blade knife with me and figured I would just cut the sheet down into 4 2'x4' sheets and they would fit nicely into the back seat of the car, so off to Menards I went.

I found exactly what I was looking for in short order. While I was back there I decided I would go ahead and mark the sheet where I planned to make the cuts so as to save some time. I proceded to the checkout, paid for the sheet and decided to head for the car. Did I mention I decided to do this on probably the coldest day of the year and it was windy as all get out, with gusts greater than 40 mph! For every 2 steps I took towards the car I ended up taking at least one step sideways. It was an adventure getting to the car. It is too bad I didn't take someone with me so they could have captured it on film (so to speak), but then again...I'm glad I didn't!

Once I got to the car I had to keep fighting the sheet and couldn't let go or else it would fly away, thus I couldn't cut it up like I had planned. Eventually I figured out if I placed the sheet on the ground I could control it easier. I did this, then cut the pieces as planned, but I didn't end up cutting it all the way through and had to lift it up and snap it the rest of the way. In doing this the wind caught the pieces and the wrestling was happening all over again. After probably 20 minutes of fighting the sheet of styrofoam I finally got it all cut up and placed into the back seat and was on my way home. All I can say is this was definitely an adventure.

I outlined the design onto the styrofoam. Then I took the piece out into the garage and decided to utilize my Dremel tool and cut out the design. I got a little carried away with the Dremel and ended up screwing up one side of the design and had to modify both sides. It ended up looking okay, but not the way I had originally planned it. Unfortunately I was so busy messing with all of this that I forgot to take additional pictures.

Now...I placed the foam design into a mold. I had purchased some Petrobond molding sand and was excited to use it. I placed the foam design in, then formed the Petrobond molding sand all around it to make the mold. Initially I had thought about removing the foam and utilizing the benefits of the Petrobond sand, but I couldn't get it out even though I used some parting powder so I decided to go ahead and leave the foam in. I cut a hole for the metal to flow down into the mold and prepared the rest of the mold. Again, unfortunately too busy to take pictures. I needed my assistant to take pictures, but she was busy making lunch! LOL

After getting the mold prepped it was time to fire up the furnace and melt some ignots. The furnace hadn't been fired for a while and apparently had absorbed some moisture. I noted a good amount of steam escaping for the furnace after it fired up.

After a bit the ignots melted, the liquid was skimmed to get the crud out and it was time to withdraw the crucible in anticipation to make my first pour.

You can see the crucible is still an orange color. When it is still in the furnace it is bright orange. The aluminum is shinny silver; it reminds me of how mercury looks inside the old thermometers.

Now I have the crucible sitting on some fire bricks so that I can switch tools so that I will be able to tilt the crucible to pour the aluminum out and into the mold.

If you didn't notice...I have pictures now. My assistant made a wonderful ham salad from the leftovers from Christmas dinner. Since we finished eating before I lit the furnace, she was available to work the camera while I worked everything else. I have to give her all of the credit for the pictures!!!

The following pic is of the crucible in a tool I made that allows me to tilt the crucible to pour the molten metal out.

The following pics are when I began to pour the molten aluminum into the mold.

Then a little spilled over and ran down the side. Then all of the sudden I had a fire! Smoke everywhere! I didn't panic but my assistant did some and my Rottweiler who was also helping, didn't like the smoke one bit!

The fire went out very shortly after I removed the hot metal from the wood.

Now that the aluminum was in the mold it was time to allow it to cool some. Having no idea how long this would take as it was my first pour into a mold I decided to go inside for a bit. I shut the furnace down and left everything outside to cool down. It was around the mid 30's today so not bad outside. I went inside and began watching a movie I had on DVD.

The movie was okay, but I got pretty bored. Finally the movie ended and I realized it had been a couple of hours since the pour so I decided to go out and see how things turned out. Again, this being my first project pour I wasn't really sure what to do so I brought the mold into the garage and split the cope and drag. Then I grabbed the plaque and pulled it out of the mold. It was covered with burnt sand, but from what I could see it didn't turn out too bad.

Below is what it looked like immediately after brushing the plaque with an old toothbrush to get the burnt sand off.

Below is what the inside of the mold look like. Note the blackend area, this is the burnt sand I was talking about. There was a strong odor of burnt plastic which I assume was from the foam melting away. It was pretty strong and stayed around for quite a while.

Cleaned up and polished a little. I guess all and all it didn't come out too bad, especially for my very first attempt.

If anyone has any suggestions on how I can improve please let me know. You can send me a note by clicking here. I want to thank you for taking the time to view this page.

Check back later for further updates on this project/hobby.


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