Making knives at home has become a popular hobby, thanks partly to reality TV and the free time and idle hands afforded by lockdowns. Depending on how far you get into the hobby, builds can range from assembling and finishing a kit with pre-forged parts, to actual blacksmithing with a hammer and anvil. But pretty much every build includes steel from a commercial supplier.
Not this one. Rather than buy his metal from the usual sources, [Thoisoi]’s first stop was an iron mine in the Italian Alps, where he picked up a chunk of iron ore — magnetite, to be precise. Smelting one’s own iron from raw ore and alloying it into steel is generally not a backyard project thanks to the high temperatures needed, a problem [Thoisoi] solved with the magic of thermite. The iron oxide and aluminum in the thermite mix react in an exceptionally exothermic manner to generate elemental iron, which under controlled conditions can be captured as a more or less pure ingot, ready for forging.
After a test with commercially obtained iron oxide, [Thoisoi] tried his pulverized magnetite. And thanks to the addition of goodies like graphite, manganese, nickel, silicon, and chromium, he was eventually able to create a sizable lump of 402 stainless steel. He turned the metal over to an actual blacksmith for rough forging; it sure seemed to act like steel on the anvil. The finished knife looks good and performs well, and the blade has the characteristic look of stainless. Not a bad result, and all at the cost of a couple of clay flowerpots.
Continue reading “This Stainless Steel Knife Build Starts With Raw Iron Ore”
No matter how many syllables you use to say it, aluminum is one of the most useful industrial metals we have. Lightweight, strong, easily alloyed, highly conductive, and easy to machine, cast, and extrude, aluminum has found its way into virtually every industrial process and commercial product imaginable.
Modern life would be impossible without aluminum, and yet the silver metal has been in widespread use only for about the last 100 years. There was a time not all that long ago that aluminum dinnerware was a status symbol, and it was once literally worth more than its weight in gold. The reason behind its one-time rarity lies in the effort needed to extract the abundant element from the rocks that carry it, as well as the energy to do so. The forces that locked aluminum away from human use until recently have been overcome, and the chemistry and engineering needed to do that are worth looking into in our next installment of “Mining and Refining.”
Continue reading “Mining And Refining: From Red Dirt To Aluminum”
Some people order their raw materials from a factory, missing out on 99% of the fun… or suffering, we’re not sure which. To make that call, you need to look in on the process [IllyriaD] used to collect magnetite sand and turn it into a wicked-looking chef’s knife.
This began by collecting 150 pounds (!) of magnetic dirt from dry lake beds while hiking using a magnet pickup tool with release lever that he got from Harbor Freight. Several repeated magnetic refining passes separated the black ore from non-metallic sands ready for the furnace that he built. That is used to fire up the raw materials using 150 pounds of charcoal, changing the chemical composition by adding carbon and resulting in a gnarly lump of iron known as a bloom.
From there, it’s just a matter of beating the iron bloom into submission over at the anvil. [IllyriaD] details the process of flattening it out to a bar shape, then folding it over. Seven total folds are made for 128 layers, and in the gallery there’s a fantastic image that captures the striation when viewed on end. After being sharpened and polished, you can see where the bevel descends through those layers.
It’s delightful to see people working through the old ways and proving you don’t need a factory, as long as your true goal is to explore the process itself. Does this leave you wanting even more? [IllyriaD] left some insight about the process in the comments of the reddit thread. You probably also want to check out the tile-roofed hut built by [PrimitiveTechnology] without any modern tools.
It is not uncommon for a Hackaday writer to trawl the comments section of a given article, looking for insights or to learn something new. Often, those with experience in various fields will share kernels of knowledge or raise questions on a particular topic. Recently, I happened to be glazing over an article on aluminium casting with interest, given my own experience in the field. One comment in particular caught my eye.
And no, the water won’t cause a steam explosion. There’s a guy on youtube (myfordlover, I think) who disproves that myth with molten iron, pouring the iron into water, pouring water into a ladle of molten iron and so on. We’ll be happy to do a video demonstrating this with aluminum if so desired.
Having worked for some time in an aluminium die casting plant, I sincerely hope [John] did not attempt this feat. While there are a number of YouTube videos showing that this can be done without calamity, there are many showing the exact opposite. Mixing molten aluminium and water often ends very poorly, causing serious injury or even fatalities in the workplace. Let’s dive deeper to see why that is.
Continue reading “Water And Molten Aluminium Is A Dangerous Combination”
Scientists found a surprising amount of lead in a glacier. They were studying atmospheric pollution by sampling ice cores taken from Alpine glaciers. The surprising part is that they found more lead in strata from the late 13th century than they had in those deposited at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Surely mediaeval times were supposed to be more about knights in shining armour than dark satanic mills, what on earth was going on? Why was the lead industry in overdrive in an age when a wooden water wheel represented high technology?
The answer lies in the lead smelting methods used a thousand miles away from that glacier, and in the martyrdom of a mediaeval saint.
Continue reading “How Can Heavy Metal Fly?”
When I went to a hacker camp in the Netherlands in February I was expecting to spend a few days in a comfortable venue with a bunch of friends, drink some beer, see a chiptune gig, and say “Ooh!” a lot at the exciting projects people brought along. I did all of those things, but I also opened the door to something unexpected. The folks from RevSpace in the Hague brought along their portable forge, and before long I found myself working a piece of hot rebar while wearing comically unsuitable clothing. One thing led to another, and I received an invite to come along and see another metalworking project of theirs: to go form ore to ornamental technology all in one weekend.
From Dirt To Space is a collaboration between Dutch hackerspaces with a simple aim: to take iron ore and process it into a component that will be launched into space. The full project is to be attempted at the German CCCamp hacker camp in August, but to test the equipment and techniques a trial run was required. Thus I found myself in a Le Shuttle car transporter train in the Channel Tunnel, headed for the Hack42 hackerspace in Arnhem where all the parties involved would convene.
Continue reading “From Dirt To Space, Backyard Iron Smelting Hackerspace Style”
Microwave ovens are a treasure trove of useful parts: transformers, an HV capacitor, a piezo speaker, and a high torque motor, to name just a few. In a new twist, [Rulof Maker] strips all that out and uses just the metal case to make a furnace for melting aluminum, copper and bronze.
His heat source is a quartet of 110 volt, 450 watt quartz heating elements which he mounts inside in the back. To reduce heat loss, he lines the walls with ceramic fiber insulation. Unfortunately, that includes covering the inside of the window, so there’s no pressing your nose against the glass while you watch the aluminum pieces turn to liquid. If you’re going to try making one of these yourself then you may want to consider adding a fuse.
It does the job though. In around nine minutes he melts enough scrap aluminum in a stainless steel bowl to pour into a mold for a test piece. But don’t take our word for it, see for yourself in the video below.
If want more information on what useful parts are inside then check out this primer. Or you can leave the parts in and use the oven as is for melting lead, but keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Continue reading “A Different Use For Microwave Oven: Melting Aluminum”