Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Foundry: Initial Progress and Uncertainty

2-13-13

2 years ago, my brother showed me this website called backyardmetalcasting.com.  Being in shop class at the time and having done some casting, I wanted in on the action.  The idea of recycling your own metal and casting stuff in your backyard sounds all too appealing to pass up right?
Well 2 years later, all I can say is: you can't say "success" without first saying "sucks".

The furnace turned out fine, constructed out of a water heater tank, insulated with 3000 degree refractory cement.  Welding the tank was a whole fiasco on its own because of my terrible cutting torch abilities.  Simply put, it involved a lot of tack welding and hammering, and a lot of filing. 
Ugly welds
Preparation to burn out the cement forms
The burner is the problematic part.  Used cooking oil is considerably hard to ignite.  I tried the burner shown on the website, and had unsuccess.  Next, I chose to build a more complicated burner which involves compressed air to atomize the oil.  To this day, I have not sustained operation of the furnace with vegetable oil which was my goal.  I have had one successful melt running on mostly diesel.  I tried to run it again on diesel and I couldn't get it to stay lit.

They say persistence always overcomes resistance which is true, this burner situation is persisting to perplex me.  I've come home after experimenting with the furnace many times claiming I want to quit the foundry altogether and go into basket weaving or something.  But right now my ultimatum is this: wood powered furnace, with a bicycle powered blower for airflow.  With the amount of wood I find on the side of the road, I could probably do one firing per week.  Plus, working with oil and diesel is becoming more and more vexing.  I just feel like I need to go back to basics with something I am confident in... and wood is that solution.



The whole setup


The new burner in position
Some foundry tools; pouring shank, ingot tray, tongs, and skimming spoon
This was only wood burning
CONTINUE TO PART 2 -- First Success

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