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Thread: Aluminum Skeleton Project Furnace and Tool Builds

  1. #1

    Aluminum Skeleton Project Furnace and Tool Builds

    Hey everyone! I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've spent this past week building my furnace and crucible tongs to go along with my already completed propane burner. I will be posting my builds for those three tools here. This post will be super long because it will also serve as a rough draft for my written report for school. Criticism and questions are absolutely welcome!

    But before I get to anything else, many "thank you"s must be made.

    Firstly, huge thanks to DavidF, FishBonzWVa and Zapins and the rest of the awesome people that made this possible by helping plan this all on my other post.. Thank you!

    Secondly, I would like to thank Mr. Smith and Mr. Mentzer from Lancaster Foundry Supply for supplying me with my materials. Mr. Smith helped me source the correct materials and finish planning while Mr. Mentzer met with me when I drove up to Lancaster, PA from Baltimore, MD. Mr. Mentzer took a huge portion out of his day to answer my questions, check over my plans and even gave me a tour of the warehouse while teaching me a TON about the metal casting process. Thank you for your time and expertise gentleman!

    Thirdly, I couldn't have done this without the help of three of my teachers, Mr. Shang, Mr. Conn and Mr. Smith, helping me plan this project and letting me use their shops and classrooms as work space.

    Lastly and most importantly, I have to thank one of the amazing guys working at my school's transportation department, Mr. Ronnie. He has been kind enough to take time out of his day every single afternoon to help me put this project together. Without him, I wouldn't have been able to use the industrial welding, drilling and cutting tools needed to complete my tools. He even allowed me to come down any afternoon to work and I can't thank him enough for his time, patience and for teaching me about the different tools in the work shop. He's solved more problems on this project than I can count and has allowed me to move quickly through the building process while still creating functioning tools. Hopefully we'll be working together throughout the project because his knowledge and craftsmanship has opened up a lot of possibilities. Thank you, Mr. Ronnie.


    Burner


    Imgur Album

    The burner was a recreation of Turner Forge's propane burner.

    Materials

    Tools : hand drill or drill press, 1/16 in. and 3/8 in. bit and a wrench.

    - 1 x Half inch to three eighth inch brass flare (3/8 in. - 1/2 in.)
    - 1 x Half inch to half inch brass gas shut off valve (1/2 in. - 1/2 in.)
    - 1 x Half inch to half inch iron male to female elbow (1/2 in. - 1/2 in.)
    - 1 x Half inch to one eighth brass reducer (1/2 in. - 1/8 in.)
    - 1 x One eighth to one eighth brass nipple (1/8 in. - 1/8 in. x 4 in.)
    - 2 x One eighth brass cap (1/8 in.)
    - 1 x One inch iron plug (1 in.)
    - 1 x One inch iron tee pipe (1 in. 1 in. 1 in.)
    - 2 x One inch to three fourths iron reducer (1 in. - 3/4 in.)
    - 1 x Twelve inch with three fourths end steel male nipple (3/4 in. 12 in. 3/4 in.)
    - 1 x One inch to one and a half inch iron reducer (1 in. - 1 1/2 in.)
    - 1 x Teflon tape
    - 1 x Propane regulator and metal braided hose combo with three eighth inch female connection (3/8 in.)
    - 1 x Propane tanks

    Procedures

    I mostly followed the steps shown by Turner Forge with only slight tweaks by me. I choose this design because it's made from basic plumbing parts from Home Depot and Lowe's and can be assembled without welding. This was before I realized I had a reliable way to weld but I like this design anyway.

    Preparation

    1. Drill 1/16 bit hole into the middle of the top of one of the 1/8 in. brass caps. Put the other one aside for now.
    2. Drill 3/8 bit hole into the middle of the top of the 1 in. iron cap.
    3. Take 1/8 in. brass nipple and push it into the hole made in the 1 in. iron cap until only the threads are sticking out of the top of the cap. Use a rubber mallet gently to force it into the snug fit while still trying to avoid destroying the threads on the nipple.

    Gas Delivery System

    1. To avoid repetition, Telfon tape will be used on all threads in the gas delivery system to avoid leaks and a hand wrench will be used to tighten joints. ALWAYS wrap the tape clockwise when putting it on threads.
    2. Take the un-drilled cap and tighten it on. This will stop the gas flow so a leak test can be done after the gas delivery system is assembled. Having two of these caps allows you to disassembled the piece in the future and recheck for leaks.
    3. Attach 1/2 in. - 1/8 in. reducer to the end of the 1/8 in. nipple.
    4. Attach 1/2 in. - 1/2 in. male to female elbow to to the end of the 1/2 in. - 1/8 in. reducer.
    5. Attach 1/2 in. - 1/2 in. shut off valve. Rotate so it is easily accessible.
    6. Attach 3/8 in. - 1/2 in flare to the end of the 1/2 in. - 1/2 in. shut off valve.
    7. Attach your propane house to the 3/8 in. - 1/2 in flare and use Windex or soapy water to conduct a leak test. Fix leaks and then replace the solid 1/8 in. cap with the drilled on and tighten well and conduct a leak test for the 1/8 in. cap.

    Assemble

    1. Teflon will no longer be needed for joints at this point.
    2. Attach 1 in. 1 in. 1 in. tee pipe to 1 in. plug of the gas delivery system.
    3. Attach one of the 1 in. - 3/4 in. reducer to the outlet opposite to the entrance of the gas delivery system.
    4. Attach 3/4 in. 12 in. 3/4 in. male nipple to the 1 in. - 3/4 in. reducer.
    5. Attach the other 1 in. - 3/4 in. reducer to the end of the 3/4 in. 12 in. 3/4 in. male nipple.
    6. Attach 1 in. - 1 1/2 in. reducer to the 1 in. - 3/4 in. reducer.

    IMG_3289.jpg

    Set Up

    I simply placed my torch on a cinder block with the propane tank placed as far away as possible and let it fire away. I posted this on my other thread but I'll link it here again. It works pretty well. I probably need to drill some holes in the tee pipe for some more air but I'm pretty happy how it turned out.




    Forge

    Imgur Album

    My forge was inspired by FishBonzWva forge.

    Materials

    Tools : hand drill, 1/4 bit, varying hole saws, philip's head screw driver, wrench, metal hammer, nail, 5 gallon plastic bucket, small plastic containers, 1/2 measuring cup, brushes of varying sizes and a whisk.

    - Sixteen inch diameter steel waste container (16 in.)
    - Eight feet of two feet by 1 inch Kaowool (8 ft. of 2 ft. - 1 in.)
    - Ten pounds of Satanite (10 lbs)
    - Package of twenty-five quarter inch by two and a half inch bolts with matching nuts (25 of 1/4 in. - 2 1/2 in.)
    - 25 extra nuts for the one fourth bolts (1/4 in.)
    - Fifty one inch washers (50 of 1 in.)
    - 2 x Firebricks

    IMG_3180.jpg

    Drawing and Calculations

    IMG_3301.jpg

    Procedures

    Preparation

    1. Drill a 3 in. diameter hole in the side of the metal bucket. The bottom of the hole should start 3 3/4 in. from the bottom of the bucket. Burner hole.
    2. Drill a 1 in. diameter hole in the middle of the bottom of the bucket. Spill hole.
    3. Drill a 4 in. diameter hole in the lid of the bucket. Vent hole.
    4. File down sharp edges of these three holes.
    5. Measure and cut Kaowool to specified portions.
    - 2 x 12 in. diameter circles for floor.
    - 2 x 16 in. diameter circles for lid.
    - 2 x 48 in. x 12 in. x 1 in. strips of Kaowool for walls.
    - 1 x 40 in. x 2 in 1 in. strip for floor. This does not have to be continuous, just long enough to fill in the gap between the side of the floor piece and the wall.
    Note : putting a container over squares of Kaowool and cutting off the excess is a good way to get a nice round circle. Find round two round objects on with a 16 in. diameter and the other with a 12 in. diameter.

    IMG_3187.jpg

    Lid

    1. Use a sharpie to mark out holes in the lid for the bolts to hold the Kaowool on.
    2. Use a hammer and nail to make a dent on each marking for the tip of the drill to catch onto.
    3. Use the hand drill to make 1/4 in. holes at each marking and file off excess metal.
    4. Place a bolt into each hole and fasten with a washer and nut.
    5. Apply red paint to the tip of each bolt, line up your 12 in. Kaowool circle and pressure down to the mark the Kaowool. Repeat step with the other piece.
    6. Cut a slit at each red dot on the Kaowool. Line up the Kaowool with the lid and press the bolts through their corresponding slits. Repeat step with the other piece.
    7. Fasten down the Kaowool layers with a washer and nut.
    8. Use the rim of the hole in the lip to cut out the vent hole.

    IMG_3191.jpg

    Body

    1. Line the bottom of the bucket with the two 12 in. diameter pieces of Kaowool and pack 1 in. x 2 in. strip around the edge. Pack down to make sure it's even.
    2. Line the side of the bucket with one of the 48 in. strip. Mark where the Kaowool overlaps, remove, cut and reinstall. Do this until the layer is tightly packed to the side of the bucket and repeat for the second layer.
    3. Push a 5-gallon bucket into the furnace to push Kaowool to the walls and floor.
    4. Hold down the area around the burner hole and cut a hole diagonally into the Kaowool wall so the propane torch blows along the wall and swirls when it is fired.

    IMG_3195.jpg

    Satanite

    The Satanite was an easy material to work with. It mixed easily with water and the only hard part was learning to get the right consistency. It was simple to apply after the first layer; the first layer was pretty difficult but that was probably just me learning how to use the stuff. I had a total of three layers on the lid and four layers on the body with additional patches to fix cracks. I allowed the Satanite to dry over night before firing. Each time, I heated the furnace up in gradually longer burns until the stone set. Some of the middle layers looked gorgeous while the functional one I have now looks messy. O well. It'll probably turn grey at the top when I add more air and get to hotter temps in the future.

    U]Set Up[/U]

    I used two firebricks to make a plinth. I took the first brick and used a file to round out its edges so it could fit inside the forge and cut two additional pieces for the side. I got it to glow if that means anything.

    Then
    IMG_3218.jpg IMG_3219.jpg

    Now
    IMG_3263.jpg IMG_3269.jpg



    IMG_3253.jpg IMG_3252.jpg


    Crucible Tongs


    Imgur Album

    My goal with these crucible tongs was to avoid having to use both lifting AND pouring tongs so I made a hybrid. I spent a lot of time thinking about the design while reading various threads. Thank you!

    Materials

    - 3 x Thirty-six inches of three fourths steel bar (108 in. of 3/4 in.)
    - 2 x Thirty-six inches of one eighth steel flat (72 in. of 1/8 in.)

    Drawing and Calculations

    IMG_3298.jpg

    Procedures

    Preparation

    Tools : Mig or Tig welder, saw blade, file

    Pieces

    Bar
    - Long Arm : 36"
    - Short Arm : 22"
    - Legs : 13" 13"
    - Top : 8"
    - Handle : 6"
    - Stop : 2"
    - Lock : 2"
    - Bottoms : 1" 1"
    - Spacers : 0.5" 0.5"

    Flat
    - Angled : 5" 5"
    - Curved : 10" 10" 10" 10"

    1. Marked the steel bars to be cut into the correct segments with the saw blade.
    - #1 bar : 36"
    - #2 bar : 22" 8" 1" 1" 0.5" 0.5"
    - #3 bar : 13" 13" 6" 2" 2"
    - #1 flat : 10" 10" 10"
    - #2 flat : 10" 5" 5"
    2. Cut a 14 degree slant on the two 1" pieces. This is so a metal flat can be placed at an angle later.
    3. Assemble the pieces to check for errors; I found out that I wanted the short handle to be a little shorter so I could grip the larger side. Edited down the short arm length from 26" to 22".

    Halves

    I used stands, clamps and levels to hold the metal in the right place for good welds. This description of welds will be crude because our own plan was to just following the pictures and looking at it set up seen in the clamp photo.

    DISCLOSURE : If my design looks weird, maybe it's because I'm left handed and this seemed like the most comfortable set up for me.

    1. Weld one of the 13" legs to the end left side of the 36" arm to form an L
    2. Weld one of the 1" bottoms to the side of the bottom of the 13" leg facing inwards.
    3. Weld one of the 5" bottom to the side of the 13" leg and the 1" bottom at the angle given by the slanted 1" bottom. Use crucible to check if adjustments are needed.
    4. Weld the 2" stop bar under the long arm 18" from the handle end of the 36" long arm.
    5. Weld the 8" top bar to the 13" leg on the 36" arm just above where the crucible sits.
    6. Weld the other 13" leg to the top of the 22" short arm to form an L.
    7. Weld the other 1" bottom on the opposite end and side of the bar of the 22" short arm on the 13 leg.
    8. Weld the other 5" bottom to the side of the 13" leg and the 1" bottom at the angle given by the slanted 1" bottom. Use crucible to check if adjustments are needed.
    9. Weld 6" handle onto the side of the 22" short arm so that if placed together with the spacing for the a10 crucible, there are two 6" handles at the end of the tongs.

    Hinge and Claws

    1. After assembling the halves, bend the 10" flats around a pipe with pliers for a loose curve. Two of these curved bars sit on the slanted bars attached to the legs on each half to hold the bottom of the crucible while the other two curved bars are placed higher up to hold the top of the crucible.
    2. It is easier to curve the bars to the correct place on the crucible while the halves are together and must be bolted together to create a hinge.
    3. To the create the hinge with a bolt, place the crucible inside of the halves and squeeze them around the crucible. Mark the location of a good fit, remove the crucible and readjust the halves the same way when the crucible was inside.
    4. Tape the halves together so the hole can be drilled through all at once. Mark a 1/4 in. hole through the side of the halves and drill through both the short and long arm.
    5. Place a washer on each side of the halves and one in between and then twist the bolt in and cap it off with a nut. Cut off the excess of the bolt.
    6. While we're at the drill press, drill another 1/4 in. hole through the top of the long arm and through on of the 2 in. bar piece to create a hinge for the locking mechanism; a swiveling bar out of a bolt, small washers and a nut. This locks the moving arm in place so it can't open during transport.
    6. Place the crucible in the loose claws and hold it in there while the end of the claws are pressed in by a vice that slowly curves the flat steel bars around the crucible. Cut off excess metal if need. Be careful not to squeeze and crack the crucible. Leave a tiny bit of room for expansion.
    7. Clean up welds with a file. So. Much. Filing.

    Set Up

    So all in all they turned out pretty good. They hold they crucible firmly and I can handle placing the crucible in and out of the furnace even with a hunk of aluminum in it; it still need to cut this chunk down but it's a good practice weight. I will be applying rubber handles on the end of the arms for extra protection.



    IMG_3274.jpg

    Crucible in Tongs - Copy.jpg

    I'm going back after spring break to apply high-temperature, anti-corrosive paint for my burner, forge and crucible tongs. I'm thinking about going black for the lid and tongs while making the furnace body orange.
    So, thoughts? I'll be back in the morning for make a Imgur photo dump, parse this for errors and rewrite drawing so they don't look so bad. Cheers!
    Last edited by Menth; 03-12-2017 at 03:31 PM.

  2. #2
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    It's looking good.
    One thing I see, you are running your burner too hard. Throttle it down to get a swirl around the crucible. If the flame shoots out the vent you will have lots of gas trapped in the melt. Temper your crucible by bringing it to red hot before use. That will give you practice dialing in the burner.
    Something as a bonus to this project...you've picked up some life skills, welding, metal fab and hands on, brains on, problem solving.
    Good work.
    Bones

  3. #3
    Senior Member Zapins's Avatar
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    Looks like a good setup. Nice job putting it all together. Do you have a video of how the lifting tongs work? I don't understand how they close. Nice job on bending the curved part to fit the crucible. I had trouble with that part. Took me quite a while to get the right curvature.

    The flame in the furnace video looks a bit rich, meaning you should either turn down the propane or (better) add an air blower to give it more oxygen to burn lower down into the furnace. The hottest part of most of the flames in that video are outside the furnace, the blue part of the flame that is filling the inside of the furnace isn't as hot as around the yellow cone just above the blue flame. Adding air will pull the flames back inside the furnace and increase the temperature a lot, possibly even doubling it. You can use sound as your guide. The louder the furnace is the more power it has. Basically it should sound like a jet engine and you should feel the vibration in the ground through your feet. You shouldn't be able to hear someone talking normally if you are within about 10 feet of the furnace.

    Adding extra air might not matter as much for melting aluminum but it is much more important for bronze & higher melting alloys. Also, you'll get faster melting times and more efficient use of the propane.

    When are you going to do a test pour video?? I'm on the edge of my seat man.

    Oh also, the paint will probably burn off over time. At least it did on my furnace and I used the 2000F engine spray paint stuff. But then again I didn't use insulating ceramic blanket so who knows maybe that will keep the heat off the paint!

  4. #4
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    Great progress.
    A good mentor is your greatest asset!

    Pete

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by FishbonzWVa View Post
    It's looking good.
    One thing I see, you are running your burner too hard. Throttle it down to get a swirl around the crucible. If the flame shoots out the vent you will have lots of gas trapped in the melt. Temper your crucible by bringing it to red hot before use. That will give you practice dialing in the burner.
    Something as a bonus to this project...you've picked up some life skills, welding, metal fab and hands on, brains on, problem solving.
    Good work.
    Yeah I was actually running the gas pretty high so I could get the nice swirl. My bad. But even with the propane much lower, a lot of it was combusting outside the vent hole. I'll post a couple of ideas for a fix to this in my reply to Zapins.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Zapins View Post
    Looks like a good setup. Nice job putting it all together. Do you have a video of how the lifting tongs work? I don't understand how they close. Nice job on bending the curved part to fit the crucible. I had trouble with that part. Took me quite a while to get the right curvature.

    The flame in the furnace video looks a bit rich, meaning you should either turn down the propane or (better) add an air blower to give it more oxygen to burn lower down into the furnace. The hottest part of most of the flames in that video are outside the furnace, the blue part of the flame that is filling the inside of the furnace isn't as hot as around the yellow cone just above the blue flame. Adding air will pull the flames back inside the furnace and increase the temperature a lot, possibly even doubling it. You can use sound as your guide. The louder the furnace is the more power it has. Basically it should sound like a jet engine and you should feel the vibration in the ground through your feet. You shouldn't be able to hear someone talking normally if you are within about 10 feet of the furnace.

    Adding extra air might not matter as much for melting aluminum but it is much more important for bronze & higher melting alloys. Also, you'll get faster melting times and more efficient use of the propane.

    When are you going to do a test pour video?? I'm on the edge of my seat man.

    Oh also, the paint will probably burn off over time. At least it did on my furnace and I used the 2000F engine spray paint stuff. But then again I didn't use insulating ceramic blanket so who knows maybe that will keep the heat off the paint!
    Hey! The crucible tongs are super easy to use. I didn't know how I was going to curve the metal so Mr. Ronnie found a round pipe in the shop and just bent it around to get the start of the curve. We used a vice and a hammer to make adjustments around the crucible after we welded them on.

    Added this to the build post as well.



    As I replied to FishbonzWVa, I was running the propane pretty hard to get a big flame for the video. But even when turning it down, a lot was coming out the top and when the lid was on, combusting outside of the vent hole.



    I have a couple ideas for solutions and would like input on which ever option you think is best.

    1. Drill holes in the 1 in 1 in 1 in tee pipe to allow more air in.
    2. Upgrade the tee pipe to a 1.5 in 1.5 in 1.5 in tee pipe.
    3. Upgrade the tee pipe to a 1.5 in 1.5 in 1.5 in tee pipe and drill holes in it.
    4. Make a forced air blower for the 1 in 1 in 1 in tee pipe out of a hair dryer.
    5. Make a forced air blower for the 1 in 1 in 1 in tee pipe out of a computer fan. I think this is the most difficult but I have a few old computers fans so maybe its worth a shot if the other four options don't work.

    I am so ready for a test pour! I have a chunk of aluminum already cut off my ingot. I need to to cut it in half again so its safe for the crucible.

    IMG_3294.jpg

    I am ordering safety equipment today so it arrives after spring break. How do these look?

    Apron : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...A27H153XYWTSLJ
    Gloves : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...A13PRKMVKLJGWH
    Helmet : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...A232XZDPZN5ID6

    The last thing I have to build are the boxes. I am finishing doing the planning today. I already have wood screws from a different project so all I have to do is drive down to Lowe's and grab some wood and have it cut up at school.
    I'm also going through my plan for the actual pour and will have some questions about that after I have thought about how much I understand about the actual pour. I also need to finish buying all the odds and ends.

    Thank you for making this possible.

  7. #7
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    Did you have the crucible in the furnace for the last video?
    That flame looks pretty lazy.
    Bones

  8. #8
    Just updated the post with some Imgur albums. Enjoy.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by FishbonzWVa View Post
    Did you have the crucible in the furnace for the last video?
    That flame looks pretty lazy.
    No, the crucible has not been in the furnace while it is on yet. Ideas on fixing the flame? The propane is turned pretty low in that video as well.
    Last edited by Menth; 03-12-2017 at 12:27 AM.

  9. #9
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    In the swirling vid it looks like the flare is at the outside of the bucket, can you advance it up to the wall of the furnace?
    Another question, have you tried the tongs with crucible in the furnace? I'm concerned with space due to the straight walls at the bottom straps. Most are built curved in so you can open them and clear the crucible.

    Edit:
    Option 2: Remove the flare, insert the tube up to 1/2" from the wall and move it to get a good flame.
    Stuff wool around the tube to seal it.
    Last edited by FishbonzWVa; 03-11-2017 at 11:58 PM.
    Bones

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by FishbonzWVa View Post
    In the swirling vid it looks like the flare is at the outside of the bucket, can you advance it up to the wall of the furnace?
    Another question, have you tried the tongs with crucible in the furnace? I'm concerned with space due to the straight walls at the bottom straps. Most are built curved in so you can open them and clear the crucible.

    Edit:
    Option 2: Remove the flare, insert the tube up to 1/2" from the wall and move it to get a good flame.
    Stuff wool around the tube to seal it.
    It will be seen when I post the drawn plans, but I planned the forge around the tongs after sizing the tongs to the crucible. I knew I needed about an inch of space on each side of my tools to actually get them in and grip the crucible and take it out. I attempted to account for this in my planning and crafted my tongs to the exact measurements. It was a relief when I tested the tongs out last night and found that they fit perfectly into the forge and pick up the crucible inside without banging into the walls. I will have someone film me picking the crucible out of the forge and post it here.

    The end of my flare is just up to the wall of the inside of the forge if it is pushed all the way in and is set at an angle so the flame swirls. The flare seals the gap so there is no leakage to the outside.
    Would you still suggest removing the flare? Should I put extra holes in my existing tee pipe as a quick fix for air flow?

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