Iron casting in the parking lot

Here’s one good thing about the bitter cold Midwestern winter, it helps keep you from overheating when working around a hot furnace. Back in February this iron pour happened in the parking lot of the Madison, Wisconsin based Sector67 Hackerspace. Look, they’re making iron hearts!

Now this isn’t just a bunch of members who got together and decided to do some casting. As you can tell in the video after the break the team knows what they’re doing. The event was a collaboration with FeLion Studios, a custom cast-iron art boutique. But the Hackerspace participants did get to take part in the process of building the cast, watching the pour, and cleaning up the rough results.

One of the people from FeLion Studios just appeared on the Martha Stuart Show, along with a 550 pound cast-iron frying pan United States map.  [Chris] from Sector67 tells us the New York frying pan that [Martha] is hold was a product of the parking lot pour.

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Build an induction heater and become a metalsmith

If you’ve ever wanted to forge, cast, or smelt metal, this project is right up your alley. It’s a 30 kVA induction heater built by [bwang] over on Instructables. It gets hot enough to melt and forge steel, iron, and aluminum.

An induction heater operates by surrounding the object to be heated with a coil carrying high frequency AC current. Basically, the entire setup acts like a huge transformer with a shorted secondary. To get these currents into a workpiece, [bwang] used a TL494 PWM controller as an oscillator. The output of the TL494 is filtered and amplified a few times to generate a huge amount of AC current.

Larger versions of [bwang]‘s induction heater are found in foundries and forges all across the land; even though this small version sucks down 50 A out of a dryer or stove outlet, induction heating is very efficient. We’re actually wondering why we don’t see many home blacksmiths using induction heating, so we’ll leave that for our readers to discuss in the comments.

[sessions] reminded us of this induction heater from a few years ago. A little smaller, but still usable.

Smelting metal in your microwave oven

Grab some scrap metal and a microwave oven and you’ll be casting your own metal parts in no time. [Mikeasaurus], who is known for doing strange things like making Silly Putty magnetic or building his own spray paint bottles, doesn’t disappoint this time around. He read about microwave smelting in Popular Science and is giving it a shot himself.

The image above shows him pouring an ingot. He build an insulated brick enclosure inside of the microwave oven, then set it to go ten minutes for a 50/50 lead/tin mixture, or fifteen minutes for silver. This will vary based on the power rating of your microwave. You can see in the video after the break that the setup gave him some trouble shortly after pouring. It wasn’t a problem with the molten metal, but spontaneous combustion of the rigid foam insulation that did him in. We shouldn’t say ‘I told you so’, but that insulation says right on it that it’s flammable!

This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at casting metal melted in a microwave. Check out this other version posted back in 2005. [Read more...]

Hacking in Cameroon for profit and entertainment

[Bill Zimmerman] is in Cameroon and has been posting some really interesting articles about life in the central African nation. It comes as no surprise that imported goods can be prohibitively expensive for many of the country’s residents, so building tools and goods is way to improve life and save money. The image above is a metalworking cooperative where any number of products are manufactured from recycled materials, often using tools that the craftsmen made themselves. Their wares are amazingly wide-ranging; crow bars, motorcycle seats, buckets, plows, hammers, knives, cold chisels, and much more. The video after the break shows the tradesmen hard at work. See some video of the cooperative after the break.

But adults aren’t the only ones getting in on the action. Remember [William Kamkwamba] who built a wind generator for his villiage? It seems the tinkering spirit runs deep in the children of Cameroon as well. [Bill] came across some kids who grabbed leftovers like the soles of sandals, scraps of rope, and empty sardine tins to build a steerable toy car.

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Building an electric kiln

[EmcySquare] is delving into some hobby-blacksmithing by making his own knives. He needs a furnace to heat the metal, and after trying out a few different forge designs he decided to attempt an electric kiln build. The final project seen above is a box within a box. The outer shell is reclaimed using old computer cases and metal shelving brackets. Inside you’ll find a box made from fire brick, with stone-wool insulation to keep the heat where it’s supposed to be.

He cut the bricks to the right size to build the inner box, then added grooves on the inside edge witch will host the heat coils. This cutting was done with an angle grinder and [EmcySquare] notes that it kicks up an extraordinary amount of brick dust to make sure you’re wearing a respirator and goggles. Once the enclosure was ready he set out to fabricate the heat coils. Twelve meters of Kanthal A1 wire was used, shortened to a neat length by shaping coils around a 1 cm diameter wooden dowel. This prototype works but future improvements plan to add automatic temperature control through a thermocouple and a relay.

Nails and some blacksmithing

Here’s a blacksmith turning 4 inch framing nails into buckles. In the clip after the break he starts by heating and bending the nail around a square form. Next the excess gets cut off and both sides of the square frame are ground flat while in a vise. A smaller nail serves as the prong and a flat piece of metal is shaped so that this can be connected to a leather strap. This ends up as part of the support system for a full suit of armor.

We’ve seen a lot of great welding projects over the years, but today’s blacksmithing video leaves us wanting. If you’ve got a favorite project that involved this kind of work tip us off about it and we’ll see if we can get some more hacks for the Smithies out there.

[Read more...]

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