Nuke Your Own Uranium Glass Castings In The Microwave

Fair warning: if you’re going to try to mold uranium glass in a microwave kiln, you might want to not later use the oven for preparing food. Just a thought.

A little spicy…

Granted, uranium glass isn’t as dangerous as it might sound. Especially considering its creepy green glow, which almost seems to be somehow self-powered. The uranium glass used by [gigabecquerel] for this project is only about 1% U3O8, and isn’t really that radioactive. But radioactive or not, melting glass inside a microwave can be problematic, and appropriate precautions should be taken. This would include making the raw material for the project, called frit, which was accomplished by smacking a few bits of uranium glass with a hammer. We’d recommend a respirator and some good ventilation for this step.

The powdered uranium glass then goes into a graphite-coated plaster mold, which was made from a silicone mold, which in turn came from a 3D print. The charged mold then goes into a microwave kiln, which is essentially an insulating chamber that contains a silicon carbide crucible inside a standard microwave oven. Although it seems like [gigabecquerel] used a commercially available kiln, we recently saw a DIY metal-melting microwave forge that would probably do the trick.

The actual casting process is pretty simple — it’s really just ten minutes in the microwave on high until the frit gets hot enough to liquefy and flow into the mold. The results were pretty good; the glass medallion picked up the detail in the mold, but also the crack that developed in the plaster. [gigabecquerel] thinks that a mold milled from solid graphite would work better, but he doesn’t have the facilities for that. If anyone tries this out, we’d love to hear about it.

1000 Aluminium Cans Cast Into A Guitar

Aluminium cans are all around us, and are one of readily recyclable. While you can turn them into more cans, [Burls Art] had other ideas. Instead, he turned roughly 1000 cans into a custom aluminium guitar.

Both the body and neck of the electric guitar are made out of aluminium. It’s an impressive effort, as manufacturing a usable neck requires care to end up with something actually playable when you’re done with it.

Producing the guitar started with a big propane furnace to melt all the cans down so they could be cast into parts for the guitar. 38 lbs of cans went into the project, and were first dried out before being placed into the furnace for safety reasons. Aluminium cans aren’t made of the best alloy for casting, but you can use them in a pinch. The cans were first melted down and formed into ingots to be later used for producing the neck and body.

[Burls Art] then built sand casting molds for his parts with a material called Petrobond. Wood plugs were used to form the sand into the desired shape. The neck casting came out remarkably well, and was finished with a grinder, hacksaw, and sandpaper to get it to the right shape and install the frets. The body proved more difficult, with its multiple cavities, but it came together after a second attempt at casting.

Fully kitted out with pickups and hardware, the finished product looks great, and weighs 12.3 pounds. It sounds remarkably like a regular electric guitar, too. It does pick up fingerprints easily, and does have some voids in the casting, but overall, it’s a solid effort for an all-cast guitar.

We’ve seen some other great casting projects over the years before, too. Video after the break.

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Stop Silicone Cure Inhibition, No Fancy Or Expensive Products Required

Casting parts in silicone is great, and 3D printing in resin is fantastic for making clean shapes, so it’s natural for an enterprising hacker to want to put the two together: 3D print the mold, pour in the silicone, receive parts! But silicone’s curing process can be inhibited by impurities. What’s cure inhibition? It’s a gross mess as shown in the image above, that’s what it is. Sadly, SLA-printed resin molds are notorious for causing exactly that. What’s a hacker to do?

Firstly: there are tin-cure and platinum-cure silicones, and for the most part tin-cure silicone works just fine in resin-printed molds. Platinum-cure silicones have better properties, but are much more susceptible to cure inhibition. Most workarounds rely on adding some kind of barrier coating to molds, but [Jan Mrázek] has a cheap and scalable method of avoiding this issue that we haven’t seen before. Continue reading “Stop Silicone Cure Inhibition, No Fancy Or Expensive Products Required”

Casting Parts In Urethane: Tips From A Master

When you want a couple copies of a thing, you can 3D print ’em. When you want a ton of them, you might consider making a mold. If those are the shoes you’re in, you should check out this video from [Robert Tolone] (embedded below). Or heck, just check out all of his videos.

Even just in this single video from a couple years back, there are a ton of tips that’ll help you when you’re trying to pour resin of just the right color into a silicone mold. Mostly, these boil down to testing everything out in small quantities before pouring it in bulk, because a lot changes along the way. And that’s where [Robert]’s experience shines through — he knows all of the trouble spots that you need to test for.

For instance? Color matching. Resin dyes are incredibly concentrated, so getting the right amount is tricky. Mixing the color at a high concentration first and then sub-diluting it slowly allows for more control. But even then, the dried product is significantly lighter than the mixture, so some experimentation is necessary. [Robert] sneaks up on just the right color of seafoam green and then pours some test batches. And then he pours it in the exact shape of the mold just to be sure.

That’s just one of the tips in this video, which is just the tip of the mold-casting iceberg. Pour yourself a coffee, settle down, and you’ll learn something for sure. If you’re into more technical parts and CNC machining, we still love the Guerilla Guide after all these years.

Much thank to [Zane] for tipping us off to this treasure trove.

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A Rotocasting Machine Sized For The Home Shop

If you’ve ever wondered how large, hollow plastic structures like tanks and drums are formed, you’re in luck: [Andy] not only fills us in on the details of rotational casting and molding, but he also built this sweet little rotational casting machine to help him with his DIY projects.

Granted, [Andy]’s build won’t be making anything too large, like a car fuel tank or a kayak. Not only is it sized more for smallish parts, but those structures are generally made with the related process of rotational molding. Both processes use an enclosed multipart mold that’s partially filled with plastic resin, and then rotate the mold around two axes to distribute a thin layer of resin around the inside of the mold. The difference is that roto-molding uses a thermoplastic resin, whereas roto-casting uses resins like polyurethane and silicone that set at room temperature.

The machine looks simple, but only because he took great pains to optimize it. The videos below cover the build in detail — feel free to skip to the 11:38 mark of the second video if you just want to see it in action. Though you’ll be missing some juicy tidbits, like welding a perfect 90° joint in square tubing. There’s also the custom tool [Andy] built to splice the beaded chain he used to drive the spinning of the mold, which was pure genius.

Using the machine and a complex nine-piece mold, [Andy] was able to create remarkably detailed tires for RC cars from polyurethane resin. We’d love to see what else this rig is good for — almost as much as we want to see details on how the mold was made. We’ve seen other rotational casting machines before, but this one takes the cake for fit and finish.

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3D Printed Molds For Casting Rose’s Metal

Have you ever played with Rose’s metal? It’s a fusible alloy of bismuth, lead, and tin with a low melting point of around 100 °C. Historically, it’s been used as a solder for cast iron railings and things, and as a malleable pipe filler material to prevent crimping while a pipe is bent.

[Ben Healey] has been playing around with Rose’s metal and some PETG printed molds, making everything from Star Wars Imperial credits to chess pieces to leather stamping tools. In the video after the break, [Ben] takes us through the process, beginning with mold-making from STLs — something he picked up from another YouTuber.

He recommends adding registration marks to multi-part molds in order to keep everything lined up, and adding a small recess in the seam for easy separation with a flat-head screwdriver. So far, the molds have held up to multiple pours, though [Ben] did print them rather thick and is glad he did.

As far as making liquid metal, [Ben] used a cast iron pot with a convenient pour spout, and a blowtorch. He added graphite powder to the molds in an effort to make them give up the goods more easily. To finish the pieces, [Ben] cut the flashing with tin snips and used sandpaper and a Dremel to smooth the edges. Copper plating didn’t work out, but [Ben] is going to try it again because he thinks he screwed something up in the process. He’s also going to try printing with TPU, which we were just about to recommend for its flexibility.

There are many ways to cast metal on the (relatively) cheap. Have you considered Kinetic Sand?

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Epoxy lenses

The Ins And Outs Of Casting Lenses From Epoxy

If you need a lens for a project, chances are pretty good that you pick up a catalog or look up an optics vendor online and just order something. Practical, no doubt, but pretty unsporting, especially when it’s possible to cast custom lenses at home using silicone molds and epoxy resins.

Possible, but not exactly easy, as [Zachary Tong] relates. His journey into custom DIY optics began while looking for ways to make copies of existing mirrors using carbon fiber and resin, using the technique of replication molding. While playing with that, he realized that an inexpensive glass or plastic lens could stand in for the precision-machined metal mandrel which is usually used in this technique. Pretty soon he was using silicone rubber to make two-piece, high-quality molds of lenses, good enough to try a few casting shots with epoxy resin. [Zach] ran into a few problems along the way, like proper resin selection, temperature control, mold release agent compatibility, and even dealing with shrinkage in both the mold material and the resin. But he’s had some pretty good results, which he shares in the video below.

[Zach] is clear that this isn’t really a tutorial, but rather a summary of the highs and lows he experienced while he was working on these casting methods. It’s not his first time casting lenses, of course, and we doubt it’ll be his last — something tells us he won’t be able to resist trying this all-liquid lens casting method in his lab.

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