I have been wanting to cast some aluminum for some time. I used to cast my own bullets a few years ago with a LEE induction furnace, and it was a very satisfying undertaking. Lead has a very low melting point, and easy to work with. Aluminum has a higher melting point, but well within the backyard casters reach. I have been stockpiling Aluminum for some time, planning on building my own furnace, when a buddy of mine mentioned he had one for a very reasonable price. I carted it home, and its been a few weeks till I was able to spend a whole day getting to know it.
My dream furnace would be waste oil fired, and this one is coal powered. I figured; I gotta walk before I can run, and this one fit the bill. Its a well engineered furnace, and the workmanship on the tools is real nice. It came furnished with three 12 pound stainless crucibles, and three smaller crucibles, and all the associated tools to handle them.
It has a new Dayton squirrel cage fan thats whisper quiet to fan the flame.
From the top: that shelf raises the crucible about 6 inches off the floor of the furnace. I loaded that space up with charcoal before lighting it, and packed the outer space with some old oak flooring I had laying around.
Heres the ingot molds, and some of the tools.
The 1st burn, it took about a half hour to get up to temp.
This is about another half hour later. I was mixing cast, extruded, and sheet that was real dirty with paint. The top two inches of that melt is dross, and I still had 12 pounds in there.
The first set of ingots looked pretty good for a novice. I hadn’t used any flux or de-gassing agent, and the inside of the crucible showed it. The voids in the bottom of the ingots is due to pouring in a cold mold. Once the molds warmed up, this didn’t re-occur.
The second burn (of three total). I was learning a little with each load; like don’t even bother with aluminum radiators. All you will do is load your pot with dross, and little or no yield.. Very messy stuff, and not worth the bother. Here, you can see the top of the fan caddy needs a little re-engineering. The 2X4 on top was getting roasted. That’ll get changed after the shake down run.
Heres the total for the day, about 35 pounds ready to be cast. I learned one thing: Charcoal is NOT the way I want to go. It is labor intensive, and costly. But I did get my feet wet, and realize I have a few things to learn. Now that I know I can do it reasonably well, I plan to make some changes to the furnace. 1st is to try coal, and see how that works. 2nd is to build a propane burner, this seems to be the way alot of guys go. 3rd is to build my waste oil burner (all the parts are in stock). Any of these changes should cut my burn time, and cost, I would guess. I burned up two bags of charcoal today @ $6.00 per bag.
The upside is I moved enough scrap Aluminum out of my shop that I can almost see my lathe again! Once I get some more out of the way, and get the furnace to burn hotter, I might try and melt some of that copper and brass I’ve got in 5 gallon pails.
The ingots stack right nice, and I can just sit on it until the price gets right. For now, I’m holding onto the Aluminum for some casting projects I’ve got in mind. More to come…….