Harvesting Copper from Microwave Ovens

Obsolete appliances were once a gold mine of parts, free for the taking with a few snips of your diagonal cutters. Times have changed, though, and most devices yield only a paltry supply of parts, so much so that only by harvesting raw materials can you get much value out of them. And so we have this example of reclaiming copper from used microwave ovens.

The primary source of copper in most microwaves is the transformer, which we usually see re-tasked for everything from spot welders to material handling electromagnets. But the transformer is not the only source of the red metal; [eWaste Ben] also harvests it from relay coils and the main coil and shading coils of the fan motor.  The bounty is melted down in an electric foundry and cast in a graphite mold into a lovely ingot.

Unless you’re into repeatedly casting copper trinkets, a large bar of reclaimed copper might not be something you have a burning need to possess. But bearing in mind that copper can go for about $2.50 a pound at the scrap yard, there’s some money to be made, especially with dead microwaves essentially free for the taking. As [Ben] points out, taking the extra step to melt and cast the copper harvested from microwaves makes no sense if all you’re going to do is sell the scrap, but it’s nice to know how to do it just the same.

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Pouring 1200° Tea: Foundry in a Fire Extinguisher

Let’s face it — the design of most home foundries leaves something to be desired. Most foundries are great at melting metal, but when it comes to pouring the melt, awkward handling can easily lead to horrific results. That’s why we appreciate the thought that went into this electric melting pot foundry.

Sure, electric foundries lack some of the sex-appeal of gas- or even charcoal-fueled foundries, but by eschewing the open flames and shooting sparks, [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] was able to integrate the crucible into the foundry body and create what looks for all the world like a Thermos bottle for molten aluminum.

The body is a decapitated fire extinguisher, while the crucible appears to just be a length of steel pipe. An electric stove heating element is wrapped around the crucible, PID control of which is taken care of by an external controller and solid state relay. Insulated with Pearlite and provided with a handle, pours are now as safe as making a nice cup of 1200° tea.

You’ll perhaps recall that [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] has a thing for electric foundries, although we have to say the fit and finish of the current work far exceeds his previous quick-and-dirty build using an old electric stove.

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Silicone Molds for Stove-Top Metal Casting

Casting metal parts from 3D-printed plastic or Styrofoam models is all the rage these days, and for good reason — casting is a way to turn one-offs into mass-produced parts. Seems like most of the metal casting projects we feature are aluminum in sand molds, though, so it’s refreshing to see a casting project using silicone molds to cast low-melting point metals.

Don’t get us wrong — sand-cast aluminum is a great method that can even be used to build a lathe from scratch. But not everyone wants to build a foundry and learn the sometimes fussy craft of creating sand molds. [Chris Deprisco] wanted to explore low-melting point bismuth alloys and set about making silicone rubber molds of a 3D-printed Maltese falcon. The bismuth-tin alloy, sold as a substitute for casting lead fishing weights, melts on at 281°F (138°C) and is cool enough for the mold to handle. Initial problems with bubbles in the cast led to a pressure vessel fix, and a dull, grainy surface was fixed by warming the mold before the pour. And unlike sand molds, silicone molds are reusable.

Of course if aluminum is still your material of choice, there’s no need for a complicated foundry. A tuna can, a loaf of bread, and a handful of play sand is all you need to make custom parts.

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The Tuna Fish Sandwich Foundry

Can you build a foundry out of a loaf of bread and a can of tuna fish? As it turns out, yes you can. And not only can you melt aluminum in said foundry but you can also make a mold from plain beach sand and cast a usable part.

Through the magic of backwoods engineering and that can-do Canadian attitude, [AvE] demonstrates in his inimitable style how a pyrolized loaf of sourdough bread can serve as a perfectly acceptable foundry, using a tuna can as a crucible. We covered [AvE]’s carbon foam creation process before and showed some of its amazing properties, including the refractory characteristics requisite for foundry service. Once reduced to carbon foam, the bread can easily handle the flame of a propane torch and contain the heat long enough to melt aluminum. And using nothing more than beach sand, [AvE] was able to lost-foam cast a knob-like part. Pretty impressive results for such a low-end, field expedient setup.

Normally we warn our more tender-eared readers about [AvE]’s colorful language, lest they succumb to the vapors when he lets the salt out. But he showed remarkable restraint with this one, even with his cutting mat aflame. Pretty SFW, so enjoy seeing what you can do with nothing.

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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.

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Celebrating a Subscriber Milestone with a Copper YouTube Play Button

YouTube channels unboxing their latest “Play Button Award,” a replica of the famous logo in silver, gold, or faux-diamond depending on the popularity of the channel, are getting passé. But a metalworking channel that makes its own copper Play Button award to celebrate 25,000 subs is something worth watching.

[Chris DePrisco] is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, working in various materials but with a strong focus on metalwork. He recently completed a beefy home-brew vertical milling center; we covered his attempt to leverage that platform by adding an extruder and turning it into a large bed 3D printer. For the Play Button build, [Chris] turned to the VMC to mill a mold from what appears to be a block of graphite; good luck cleaning that mess up. He melted copper scrap in a homemade electric furnace and poured it into the preheated mold — a solid tip for [The King of Random]’s next copper casting attempt. The rough blank was CNC machined and polished into the Play Button, and finally mounted behind glass neatly inked with paint pens in the versatile VMC. The final result is far nicer than any of the other Button awards, at least in our opinion.

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Hackaday Links: April 9, 2017

[Federico Musto], one of the Arduinos in the Arduino vs. Arduino saga (which finally came to an end last September) may have fabricated his academic record. This news comes from Wired, providing documents from the registrars at MIT and NYU stating [Musto] never attended these institutions. Since this story came out, [Musto] has edited his LinkedIn, listing his only academic credential as a kindergarten in Torino, Italy.

[shininglaser] built a tinnitus machine. What’s a tinnitus machine? It’s a device that, when activated, produces this sound: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. [shininglaser] built this tinnitus machine out of a pair of speakers, a cardboard box, a few batteries, and some sort of board with an epoxy-coated blob. We have no idea what the circuit looks like, but you could do this with any normal signal pulsing at around 15-18kHz (address pins on a CPU for bonus nerd cred) or a simple 555 timer.

This is a hackers bar. This bar in Roppongi, Tokyo is, “a place where you can enjoy live programming and business making…. The term ‘hacker’ is applied to someone who possesses top skills and knowledge to provide innovative and quick solutions even to the most difficult tasks.” It appears they have daily events/talks for JavaScript, Python, R, and Swift.

Captain Crunch needs our help. He’s facing some serious surgery, and even if it’s successful, there’s going to be a lot of stuff insurance doesn’t cover.

We can use Libreboot again. A few months ago, the Libreboot project left the GNU project after an issue with an employee at the Free Software Foundation. Hackaday chose not to report on this only because the accusations levied against the FSF were hearsay. I should emphasize this: the only reason we chose not to report on this is because the accusations were hearsay. Now the Libreboot project is under more democratic management and they’re working on the Thinkpad X220, the greatest Thinkpad of all time. Neat.

Here’s a quick and easy tip to get metal fume fever. Build a foundry out of a galvanized trash can! No, don’t worry about that galvanized coating, it’ll burn off. Oh, he’s doing this indoors. What’s carbon monoxide? Why am I sleepy?