Metal Casting At Home
The Excellent Hobby Of Metal Casting
It doesn't take a fortune to get started with metal casting. With enough imagination, there isn't much that you wouldn't be able to build. All it takes is some determination to get set up properly and safely, and anything is possible. Even from the most modest of back yard foundries, you can achieve quality work with just a little experience.
This is very same process that they make your car's engine, that ring on your finger, or your expensive wrenches in that toolbox in the garage. Why pay some one else to do it when you could do it yourself?
Imagine the thrill of showing everyone you know that:
-Special motorcycle intake box that you cast and polished
-Necklace charm that you made and set the stones
-Hand made cabinet drawer pulls that you cast
-Tool that you always needed but no one ever made
-Fixing that broken trim piece on your car
What about all of the things that sculptors do with bronze and aluminum?
For that matter, melting down your own pop cans and car wheels for the aluminum and becoming your own recycle station.
Am I waking up your imagination yet?
Photo courtesy Backyard Metalcasting.com
"This used to be how our school's worked.
Lost Foam Casting
Simplicity at it's finest
Another trusted website tells us about a method that he stumbled upon by trying to learn metal casting and it worked so well that we has decided to keep using it. Easy to work with and cheaply purchased in a large quantity, construction foam comes in a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet 2 inches thick. He says the secret is not to use the beaded styrofoam, use the other type, it has a better melting rate due to it's open cell design.
This way you can shape your pieces, be it sculpture or like the drill press top that he cast on that page, with simple everyday wood tools. Of course this process would be better suited to a "one-off" type casting. It would be better to find a mold making process that you liked if you were planning one making several of the same part, but even then you could use the lost foam method to do your prototyping!
For more on this please make sure to visit his page
And don't forget to browse his site too! He has many other pages that show different aspects of his own setup. He also has a project page that outlines "Rural Skills." He also has a penchant for building his own 3 and 4 axis CNC machines, very similar to the ones I hope to build once I have my garage/shop started... Make sure to stop by and take some time to read.
NOTE - His site is currently being reorganized. All that is working is his home page at the moment. Be patient though, because I'm sure he will have it back up to date quickly.
A Foundry From A Flower Pot?
The Quick way to get your feet wet
An enterprising individual could easily look over the plans presented at various really good sources online and come up with your own design in a furnace and how to build your own casting implements, but it is so easy to follow down someone's path that has been playing with melting metal for years. You could learn all of their tricks without having to go through as many of their failures. This used to be how our school's worked. Mentorship-Apprenticeship.
Though failures are how we learn...
One of my online mentors in this process has even created a process that you can use a clay flowerpot and barbecue charcoal to make a small foundry. Once your aluminum, pewter, lead, even silver and gold, is melted down you can easily make enough up to pour all sorts of jewelry and /or trinkets. These often can make a good living on selling sites like Etsy.com or Ebay.com!
He says of the flowerpot furnace: "I have to be honest, the flowerpot crucible furnace is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to build a working furnace. Take care of it and even with fairly heavy usage it can last quite awhile (mine lasted 7 months and I left it outdoors uncovered and used it heavily). It'll melt aluminum within 10 or 15 minutes and I've gone from a cold unlit furnace to pouring bronze in about 31 minutes."
If your are interested in this inexpensively constructed system you can order the book from him. I suggest browsing his site thoroughly however! He has much to teach.
He has built his own machine tools from scrap metal. He uses waste oil to power many of his smelting processes. All of that oil you used to have to haul to the disposal place anyway, so you, instead, started having the QuickLube down the street change your oil instead... Yes! That Waste Oil!
Another system he has worked up is probably the oldest foundry style known to man. On his page, he shows how he threw together a furnace the old fashioned way, dirt and old brick. Not even fire brick! Of course, he used his Oliver Burner type 1 and was pleased with his results for something that he threw together in just a few hours.
Do not just take my word for it, go check him out! He is a great guy and would love to have you swing by!