Fail of the Week: When Good Foundries Go Bad

Like many of us, [Tony] was entranced by the idea of casting metal, and set about building the tools he’d need to melt aluminum for lost-PLA casting. Little did he know that he was about to exceed the limits of his system and melt a hole in his patio.

[Tony]’s tale of woe begins innocently enough, and where it usually begins for wannabe metal casters: with [The King of Random]’s homemade foundry-in-a-bucket. It’s just a steel pail with a homebrew refractory lining poured in place, with a hole near the bottom to act as a nozzle for forced air, or tuyère. [Tony]’s build followed the plans pretty faithfully, but lacking the spent fire extinguisher [The King] used for a crucible in the original build, he improvised and used the bottom of an old propane cylinder. A test firing with barbecue charcoal sort of worked, but it was clear that more heat was needed. So [Tony] got hold of some fine Welsh anthracite coal, which is where the fun began. With the extra heat, the foundry became a mini-blast furnace that melted the thin steel crucible, dumping the molten aluminum into the raging coal fire. The video below shows the near catastrophe, and we hope that once [Tony] changed his pants, he hustled off to buy a cheap graphite or ceramic crucible for the next firing.

All kidding aside, this is a vivid reminder of the stakes when something unexpected (or entirely predictable) goes wrong, and the need to be prepared to deal with it. A bucket of dry sand to smother a fire might be a good idea, and protective clothing is a must. And it pays to manage your work area to minimize potential collateral damage, too — we doubt that patio will ever be the same again.

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Casting a 3D Printed Extruder Body in Aluminum

Creating 3D prints is great, but sometimes you need something more durable. [Myfordboy] printed a new 3D printer extruder in PLA and then used the lost PLA method to cast it in aluminum. You can see the results in the video below.

The same process has been used for many years with wax instead of PLA. The idea is to produce a model of what you want to make and surround it with a material called investment. Once the investment sets, heat melts the PLA (or wax) leaving a mold made of the investment material. Once you have the mold, you can place it in a frame and surround it with greensand. Another frame gets a half pipe placed and packed with greensand. The depression made by this pipe will provide a path for the metal to flow into the original mold. Another pipe will cut a feeder into the greensand over this pipe.

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Casting Tour-De-Force Results In Swashplate For Scale Helicopter

While quadcopters seem to attract all the attention of the moment, spare some love for the rotary-wing aircraft that started it all: the helicopter. Quads may abstract away most of the aerodynamic problems faced by other rotorcraft systems through using software, but the helicopter has to solve those problems mechanically. And they are non-trivial problems, since the pitch of the rotors blades has to be controlled while the whole rotor disk is tilted relative to its axis.

The device that makes this possible is the swashplate, and its engineering is not for the faint of heart. And yet [MonkeyMonkeey] chose not only to build a swashplate from scratch for a high school project, but since the parts were to be cast from aluminum, he had to teach himself the art of metal casting from the ground up. That includes building at least three separate furnaces, one of which was an electric arc furnace based on an arc welder with carbon fiber rods for electrodes (spoiler alert: bad choice). The learning curves were plentiful and steep, including getting the right sand mix for mold making and metallurgy by trial and error.

With some machining help from his school, [MonkeyMonkeey] finally came up with a good design, and we can’t wait to see what the rest of the ‘copter looks like. As he gets there, we’d say he might want to take a look at this series of videos explaining the physics of helicopter flight, but we suspect he’s well-informed on that topic already.

[via r/DIY]

Is It A Golden Gun If It’s Made Out Of Brass?

On today’s episode of ‘this is a really neat video that will soon be demonetized by YouTube’ comes this fantastic build from [John]. It is the Golden Gun, or at least it looks like a Golden Gun because it’s made out of melted down brass casings. It’s a masterclass demonstration of melting stuff down and turning a thirteen-pound blob of metal into a two-pound precision machined instrument.

This build began by simply cutting a wooden block, packing it in sand, and melting approximately 1425 shell casings of various calibers in a DIY furnace. The molten brass was then simply poured into the open mold. This is standard yellow brass, with about 70% copper and 30% zinc. There’s a bit of aluminum in there from the primers, and the resulting block isn’t terribly great for machining. [John] says this could be fixed by adding a few percent of lead to the melt. To all the jokesters suggesting he add some unfired bullets to the melt, don’t worry, we already have that covered.

chiseling a hole square, with a chisel.

The machining went as you would expect it would with a large mill, but there are a few things that made this entire video worthwhile. For some of the holes, [John] had to square up the corners. The simplest and easiest way to do this is to break out a file. This is brass, though, and with some steel chisels hanging around the shop your mortise and tenon skills might come in handy. With the very careful application of force, [John] managed to put corners on a circle with a standard wood chisel. A bit later in the build video, a few more sharp corners were created by shoving a broach in the mill and jamming it down into the work.

When it comes to machining builds, this is high art. Yes, it’s the same as building an AR-15 out of a few hundred soda cans, but this one is made out of brass. It looks just great, and that final polish turns the entire project into something that looks like it’s out of a video game. Simply amazing.

If you’re looking for more ways to push your metalwork boundaries, give cast iron a try!

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Move Over Aluminum: Cast Iron for the Home Foundry

When it comes to choice of metals that can be melted in the home foundry, it’s a little like [Henry Ford]’s famous quip: you can melt any metal you want, as long as it’s aluminum. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; there’s a lot you can accomplish by casting aluminum. But imagine what you could accomplish by recycling cast iron instead.

It looks like [luckygen1001] knows a thing or two about slinging hot metal around. The video below shows a fairly expansive shop and some pretty unique tools he uses to recycle cast iron; we were especially impressed with the rig he uses to handle the glowing crucibles from a respectful distance. The cast iron comes from a cheap and abundant source: car disc brake rotors. Usually available free for the asking at the local brake shop, he scores them with an angle grinder and busts them into manageable chunks with a hammer before committing them to the flames. The furnace itself is quite a thing, running on a mixture of diesel and waste motor oil and sounding for all the world like a jet engine starting up. [luckygen1001] had to play with the melt, adding lumps of ferrosilicon alloy to get a cast iron with better machining properties than the original rotors. It’s an interesting lesson in metallurgy, as well as a graphic example of how not to make a flask for molding cast iron.

Cast iron from the home shop opens up a lot of possibilities. A homemade cast aluminum lathe is one thing, but one with cast iron parts would be even better. And if you use a lot of brake rotors for your homebrew cast iron lathe, it might require special handling.

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Make 3D-Modeling Child’s Play with a Can of Play-Doh

You need to replicate a small part on a 3-D printer, so you start getting your tools together. Calipers, rulers, and a sketch pad at a minimum, and if you’re extra fancy, maybe you pull out a 3D-scanner to make the job really easy. But would you raid your kid’s stash of Play-Doh too?

You might, if you want to follow [Vladimir Mariano]’s lead and use Play-Doh for accurately modeling surface features in the part to be replicated. Play-Doh is a modeling compound that kids and obsolete kids alike love to play with, especially a nice fresh can before it gets all dried out or mixed in with other colors or gets dog hair stuck in it.

For [Vladimir], the soft, smooth stuff was the perfect solution to the problem of measuring the spacing of small divots in the surface of a cylinder that he was asked to replicate. Rather than measuring the features directly on the curved surface, he simply rolled it across a flattened wad of Play-Doh. The goop picked up the impressions on the divots, which were then easy to measure and transfer to Fusion 360. The video below shows the Play-Doh trick up front, but stay tuned through the whole thing to get some great tips on using the sheet metal tool to wrap and unwrap cylinders, as well as learning how to import images and recalibrate them in Fusion 360.

Run into a modeling problem that Play-Doh can’t solve? Relax, we’ve got a rundown on the basics for you.

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Recycling and Casting Styrofoam with Solvents

Styrofoam is an ever-present waste material in modern society, being used to package everything from food to futons. It’s also not the easiest thing to deal with as a waste stream, either. With this in mind, [killbox] decided to have a go at recycling some styrofoam and putting it to better use.

The process starts by combining the EPS styrofoam with a solvent called D-limonene. This was specifically chosen due to its low toxicity and ease of use. The solvent liquifies the solid foam and the air bubbles are then allowed to make their way out of the solution. If it’s desired to create a coloured end product, it’s noted that this can be achieved by using other plastic items to provide colour at this stage, such as a red Solo cup.

It’s a slow process thanks to the choice of solvent, but it makes the process much more palatable to carry out in the average home lab setup. It’s possible to then perform casting operations or further work with the recovered material, which could have some interesting applications. It’s not the first plastics recycling project we’ve seen, either – check out this full setup.

[Thanks to Adric for the tip!]