Custom Aluminum Wheels Teach A Thing Or Two About Casting

For some mobile projects like small carts or rolling cabinets, your standard casters from Harbor Freight will do just fine. But some projects need big, beefy wheels, and these custom cast aluminum wheels certainly make a statement. Mostly, “Watch your toes!”

To be honest, [Brian Oltrogge]’s wheels are an accessory in search of a project, and won’t be crushing feet anytime soon. He made them just to make them, but we have no beef with that. They’ve got a great look that hearkens back to a time when heavy metal meant something else entirely, and things were made to last. Of course, being cast from aluminum sort of works against that, but there are practical limits to what can be done in the home foundry. [Brian] started with a session of CAD witchcraft followed by machining the cores for his molds. Rather than doing this as lost foam or PLA, he milled the cores from poplar wood. His sand mix is a cut above what we usually see in home-brew sand casting — sodium silicate sand that can be cured with carbon dioxide. All his careful preparation meant the pour went off without a hitch, and the wheels look great.

We’ve featured quite a few metal casting projects recently, some that went well and some that didn’t. [Brian] looks like he knows what he’s doing, and we appreciate the workmanship that he puts on display here.

[via r/metalworking]

35 thoughts on “Custom Aluminum Wheels Teach A Thing Or Two About Casting

  1. Gotta say that it one of the more impressively well planned and executed backyard metal casts. The processes he used were very similar to the processes I’ve seen when working in an actual metal foundry, just scaled down a lot.
    Very nice work.
    My opinion: Those wheels would be excellent for supporting a large toolbox.

  2. I hadn’t planned to watch the entire video, but his CAD/woodworking/metal skills and technique as well as the excellent video editing drew me in. I love every minute of this well executed video! Phenomenal work. The guy should consider doing a show on TLC or the History Channel.

      1. LMAO! Yes, of course! But wouldn’t it be wonderful if those of us who don’t need yelling to be entertained had longer versions of this type of video/program to learn from? :-)

    1. Ditto on the video work. I’ve become so used to clicking off videos as soon as I see the sideways cellphone effect. And for the love of pete, can we stop with the damned split & blurred image bullshit!!
      That crap is seriously fatiguing to try and watch. I only look at a small bit of it to see something on network newscasts and have to change channels after a few seconds

  3. So. Many. Steps. When doing batch production. Makes you wonder how you can buy these fully mounted to a base on the used market for probably 20 USD each or possibly even less as a set and brand new ones with bearings for about 40 USD each.

    If you count their time and experience as worth nothing, it still seems like they lost money on this build. Minus video views / royalty payments. Well done though, curious what their final actual use will be for.

    1. If time and experience are worth nothing then everything on this website lost money. Nobody does home metal casting to get something cheaper than mass produced chinese stuff.

      1. Of course. Building a foundry to produce one single set of wheels is not going to be economical. Still, there has to be a practical limit to how much economy of scale there actually is here? Certain steps in the fabrication process are easy, single steps but you still have to go through quite a few steps that cannot be skipped if you want to produce a finished product. Plus account for labor and profit if you are trying to sell these as fabricated items.

        1. Production forges reduce costs while increasing production speed by employing low skill, low wage workers to do assembly line work. One person packs sand molds, sets them on a conveyor belt that has the molds pass through an oven that sets the sand as it goes to the next station. That station removes the plugs, joins the mold halves, places them on a conveyor for next station. Next station pours aluminum from an always molten gigantic vat. The next station uses a little jackhammer to break up the sand mold (or blasts it with water which also chemically breaks down molds). Castings fall off onto conveyor, and the next station trims gates and flashing. Next stations, respectively, clean parts, paint, machine, assemble, package, and ship finished product.

          Each station can probably do one part per minute, maybe even more. Since the bigger infrastructure (like conveyors, giant vats of always molten aluminum and associated supply infrastructure/process, sand delivery, mold making, etc) can support more than a single production line multiple production lines are put in place.

          Any factory of this kind can easily pump out thousands of finished parts an hour.

          Since these are usually produced in countries where the wages are extremely low the cost per part, even with all the labor involved, is extremely low.

          Take that volume, consider what it costs to slow ship containers by container ship to first world countries, and there’s room for profit.

          1. Don’t forget a continuous cast line where a press gets sand poured into it, squeezes it, then presses it forward onto the line of molds that a vat of always liquid metal then pours some into the next empty mold. the only human needed is to pull out the cast pieces once they fall off the end of the line and the machine shakes the sand off.

          2. There is an excellent episode of How It’s Made, I don’t recall what they were casting but hundreds of whatever they were are ball-milled at the same time.
            The factory only sleeps during Christmas/New Years.
            Always hot, always ready to make another hundred things.

    2. 1st they don’t use co2 set they use greensand molds
      2nd they have patterns with the risers and gates all designed
      3rd they have between 2 an 10 parts for each mold
      4th the cost of aluminum per lb for casting is no where near what you pay

      The even more efficient way to make these would be permanent mold casting it is like injection moldig with metal.

      1. Definitely not always true. I have done costing to prove exactly the contrary (on a professional level.) All that urethane work he did wouldn’t need to be done with plastic.

    1. I wonder, too, that since he’s got the CNC, why not mill out the two wheels? Would have been a lot less human effort.

      But I’m glad he didn’t. It was fascinating to watch.

  4. I like how you said that the wheels hearken back to a time when heavy metal had an entirely different meaning and things were actually made to last. Lately I’ve been wanting to learn more about metal casting and the processes that foundries use. It was interesting to learn about the process of casting aluminum wheels, so thanks for sharing!

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