What Would You Make with a Mini Aluminum Foundry — 127 Comments

  1. A friend and I made one of these but used propane through the pipe…. it was hot enough to melt brass and even concrete…

  2. I would think casting some bullets would be a neat trick. Not quite a werewolf stopper but still it’s definitely something to try. Happy New Year to you and the family.

  3. Using a sand or custom made metal mold, you could make your own coin. It could be the size of a dollar coin or your palm with the tsp logo on one side maybe the motto or just “TSP” on the other. Then it could be something that participants to your workshops could get or it could be a part of some kind of prize.

  4. That’s pretty cool, but if you want to upsize the scale, still on a DIY basis, check out Dave Gingery’s books, which are all about diy machining, from foundry to making your own lathe out of self casted aluminum. Dave Gingery

    And since Gingery figured out a way to make a lathe, milling machine, drill press, and more out of aluminum, all I need to ask is: What machined metal items do you use every day?

    From a business manufacturing door and cabinet hardware, to hobby production of gun parts, you can get a lot out of a chunk of aluminum, especially when it gives you the power to shape steel.

  5. Here is a question for anyone that knows the answer.

    One could make a rough mold for something not that intricate like shingles for a roof. Not practical on a big scale for but say a tiny house type of project. Doing this with sand one at a time would be a big pain in the ass.

    But you could just buy one shingle you liked, make a concrete form, put concrete into it, push the shingle into it and make a form. Let the concrete harden and then dump in aluminum. Just by picking up cans over time you could make enough cast aluminum shingles for a tiny home. That would be uber awesome, but would the aluminum release from concrete?

    I don’t know about that part.

    If so for rough cast stuff where one side is flat, you could easily make concrete mold of anything you wanted to cast. Just a thought but something tells me the metal might bond with the form. Can’t find anything about it with googlefu, anyone know?

    • This sounds pretty dangerous.
      Concrete takes years to cure completely. Any moisture left in the concrete will flash to steam when you pour the aluminium. When that happens, the concrete will explode sending chunks of hot concrete everywhere.

      Sand casting is done with sand. What if you took a number of shingles, and pressed them into a large area of sand, and poured multiple “cavities” at a time?

      Molds are also made from cast iron because it handles the heat better than other types of steel.

      • I left out a couple of things that are important.

        Aluminium is heavy. It’s nearly the same weight as concrete. Make sure your tiny house can handle that much weight. (10 cubic inches per pound)

        Also, when cast iron molds are made, they have draft included on the side walls to allow the part to come out of the mold.

        BTW, I own a tool and die shop. We build plastic injection molds mostly, but I’ve built some die cast and sand cast molds as well.

      • That is beyond awesome, the simple wood stamping press he made to but grooves in the aluminum is an incredible improvement over just using the flat piece of aluminum. THIS IS a great way to shingle your tinyhouse on the cheap.


      • That’s really neat! Does anyone know if putting a staple through the shingle is the right way to do this though? I thought you needed hidden/covered fasteners for metal roofs? With traditional shingles you try to have every nail covered except for the top row, and then you caulk over those, right?

      • There are only two things stopping you from using staples to attach those shingles.

        1) Galvanic Corrosion – When you have two metals rubbing against each other, especially in wet environments like near the edge of a shingle, eventually one metal corrodes. The way you stop that from occurring is you use a fastener of the same metal as that which you are working with. The alternative is that the system is designed so no metal touches another metal directly, whether that’s by using specifically coated nails or screws, or specially fitted gaskets. It’s the reason why on metal roofs you should always use the manufacturer fasteners, no matter how much of a ripoff it seems sometimes. You can also effectively stop it by making a completely dry environment, which isn’t always possible, and is unlikely when you have such short shingles.

        2) The Strength of Staples – When you install them correctly, you can definitely hold a roof shingle with a staple. If however you are outside of FEMA wind zone 1 (i.e. the design wind load on your building is above 130 mph), I would highly suggest you use another fastener. Staples are easy to install, but much weaker than a good roofing nail. Roofing nails do come in aluminum, but even better would be overising a hole in the shingle, and driving a plastic round cap nail right in the middle of it so it’s held by the plastic cap instead of the nail.

        Personally, if I were to install these shingles, I’d drill out 3 or 4 holes at the top of every single one, and install them using a plastic round cap nail that was slightly smaller than the hole, doing my utmost to make sure that the two metals did not touch.

        If you were determined to use staples, I’d run a couple tests to see if insulated staples kept the two metals apart, easiest would be to staple one shingle to a thin piece of plywood that the staple would go through, and after “simulating” wear and tear by trying to move the shingle a bit, I’d see if there was an electric flow with a multimeter and measure continuity. If it didn’t work I’d use an Aluminum staple and hope for the best.

      • Rather than drill a hole in each aluminum sheet after you flatten it, could you instead add sharp punches to your form that would pierce the sheet as you flatten it?

        • Sure could!

          Punching would probably be better actually. Both from a layer and structurally to the aluminum.

    • Aluminum would not have to be as thick as concrete to make shingles. So while weight is equal per volume as concrete the thickness would be less. Also the ability to go fairly long would also come in handy.

      • @John Exactly! At say 1/8th-1/4th of an inch they would be like an armor plated roof but not that heavy. My thought now is find a tile I like and just rough cast in sand. As long as the box is level you will get a flat level back side of the shingle. I was also thinking going long as well, with the right sized box you could us one shingle and make a form just by repeating it several times.

        The big thing is how fing cool this would look and how cheap it would really be to do. I did some math and the truth is with a similar amount of cans you could just sell them to the recycler and then buy “proper shingles” but nothing as cool, long lasting and awesome as a cast aluminum roof!

    • The guy in the video made his forge from sand and paster-of-paris. Could you use the same ingredients and technique to make a mold?

  6. This looks like info from the backyard metal casting site I checked out awhile ago. I think an answer for using concrete as a mold would be to look into something called kiln wash available at most pottery supply houses. You might also find a more suitable multi-use mold material there too since aluminum melts at a lower temperature than the firing temperature for stoneware or porcelain clays.

  7. Melting glass is a bit trickier since it is susceptible to thermal shock when heating and cooling. It has to be annealed or let to cool for a longer time since the surface cools faster than the inside, shrinking at different rates, and likely to explode. I learned this the hard way when using a Hot Head torch to make small glass art pieces. This is a bit off topic but if it’s glass you want to work with, use a MAPP gas torch, borosilicate glass (Pyrex) and an old electric wok filled with vermiculite and turned up to maximum heat to anneal the finished glass piece. Oh, and lots of research, caution, and common sense as I can assure you that fingernails burn just like a match if you’re not careful!

  8. i have been thinking about doing this for some time to create anything from training knives, pistol grips, AK fore grips, casting trinkets carved out of wax, challenge coins to even casting parts to replace cheap plastic parts that wear or break easily.

  9. I would love to cast a drive wheel for a homemade belt grinder. The crucible would also be great for doing pewter accents on tomahawk handles and casting bullets.

  10. As for something cool to make with this, I looked at the backyard metal casting info to find a way to cast my sculptures in an economical – read “sellable” way since bronze foundry casting is crazy expensive and not likely to yield much of a profit margin, if at all. Custom motorcycle shops use this sort of method with casting sand to make one-off decorative elements for their bikes.

  11. Ron and Karen Hood did a great series of DVDs on this. I used the lost wax method to cast a Hunger Games necklace for my daughter.

  12. I dont know anything about it yet but of the top of my head I reckon you could probably make belt buckles, arrow heads, tent pegs, net needles, buttons, cutlery, spoon fishing lures, spear heads. Not all perfect ideas but a bit of a brainstorm. You can make small roofing shingles out of alluminum cans without melting them by cutting the ends off,opening up and flattening the side and compressing it into shape between two plates of something harder by tightening bolts that go through the two plates. Saw it on youtube somewhere they did it to make a roof for a chicken pen.

  13. Knowing how to cast metal is a good skill to have. Once you start looking around it is amazing how many things are cast and that gives you the option to replace them with something you made.

    One thing not addressed in the video and, in my opinion, is the real skill you need to learn is mold making. For one-offs and prototyping it is hard to beat green sand casting.

  14. I’m thinking that making old school gears, sprockets, and 1800 style machine parts would be the way to go.

    Just have to work out a material in which to make molds from.

    I’m also thinking that making a typical mold for making a simple aluminum bar of a specific length would be useful.. then you could either weld those or use them for making other items out of by drilling holes and such.

  15. Knife scales would be pretty darn cool. With some skill, you could also re-cast a low stress gear (like one of the plastic gears in the anti shudder valve on an 06 TDI Jetta, as a totally non-specific example) with a broken tooth in a grid down situation. You could hot form this stuff into just about any plastic while it’s cooling to create a permenant bond. Glock frame stippling from hell? LOL.

    Most of these cans are a low strength alloy, and barely that. Like 98% aluminum. It’s going to be quite a bit weaker than the 6061 or 2024 you can get at your local hardware store. And no temper either especially after melting and casting. Like steel, temper is a BIG deal with aluminum. So casting an AR upper is going to be problematic, but it might be a solution for repairing one. How about use as an adhesive “warm weld” between two other aluminum parts?

  16. Just like Jerry mentioned, green sand or oil sand casting is quite a technique to master. A relative of mine used to buy and sell antiques. Frequently the cheapest best furniture had hardware missing. She got to know a guy who was very good with sand casting in a variety of metals to copy/replace the hardware to make the piece sellable. As far as I know this antique hardware replacement caster kept very busy with other antique dealer clients.

  17. You could also use this to make a knife. It might have to be modified a bit. I’ve seen where a person used a mailbox . Lined it with something that looked like concret. Then used a propain torch that got hot enough to melt and shape the metal into a knife. Also I have seen ones made using a shop vac to get the flames hot.

    I have been thinking about doing something in this relm. However my wife says I’m going to burn down the whole nieborhood.

  18. I would also experiment with printing 3D plastic molds with my soon to arrive peachy printer ( that can print ping-pong ball weight prints with minimal resin, and see if packing sand around the plastic mold and letting the mold burn out when pouring molten aluminum would work. I would print toys, board game pieces (I have a known market for that), coat hooks, kitchen utensils, and anything I can imagine.

  19. How about using this technique to create your own coins for the local micro economy or perhaps creating badges to use as recognition symbols post SHTF?

  20. You can’t 3D scan and print ceramic molds, and I believe sand casting is the common way to mold for molten metals in a foundry.

  21. I think pouring it through some type of screen from an elevated platform to make buckshot would be pretty doable?

  22. Why not make fish hooks and sinkers?

    Or jewelry like rings?

    Trivets maybe?

    Make sure you save the pull tab off the top of the cans. People make chain mail type bracelets and fish hooks out of them. I have also seen them used as guy line adjusters.

  23. Over at Permies there was some talk of using a rocket stove. Could it not be easy enough to just use a rocket stove for low melt metals and skip the blower and charcoal?

    • That was my initial thought as well. I am pretty sure that Paul mentioned that in the RMH DVD set. This is an awesome idea nonetheless!

  24. The King of Random has a lot of great videos for preppers I’ve been following him on Youtube for the last year or so. I was thinking along the same lines as others, making bullets. If it melts aluminum it should do the same for lead and other soft metals. Also, hi everyone, my first time posting after finding this site a couple of weeks ago.

  25. Here’s another. I’m building a hop spider (for brewing, look it up). Basically a system to suspend stainless fine mesh screen filter in boiling wort to infuse delicious hops. Currently, I’ll be sewing the sheet of mesh into a cylinder with 32 gauge stainless wire. But what if you could just pour an aluminum strip down the stainless mesh screen! Now you have a weld and a brace!

  26. All,
    I have done this. Back when I was in Michigan. I made several foundries to melt aluminum. I can backup what one reader said, Dave Gingery IS THE MAN (his books) to read on making a small back yard foundry. Here is his best book on the subject on amazon.

    He even has a book on making crucibles on amazon.

    An old fire extinguisher cut down will work as seen in the video. Eventually it will burn out. One thing he said, he said that you could put in cans that even had a little liquid in them. This you CANNOT DO. Water is the enemy of molten metal. It hits the molten metal, instantly expands into steam and blows molten metal everywhere, right out the top and onto you looking down at it. This is something you do not want to do. So no liquid in your soda cans please!

    I made mine also burn with propane from a BBQ tank, but how to do that is beyond this simple posting, but its straight forward. Charcoal will work just great for starting out melting aluminum.

    As far as the aluminum shingle go. You have the perfect material right in the soda can for a shingle. Just cut the top and bottom off and then cut the cylinder, roll it out flat and you have a great aluminum shingle from a soda can, right at the perfect thickness. You do not need to pour a shingle, but if you want to, go ahead and try it. You’ll learn a lot by doing.

    You can also use plaster of paris for making molds, its cheap, easy to get and easy to work with and depending on how thick it is, the mold will last a long time. You can use concrete as well but you have to be very very careful. ANYTHING you mix with water will have 2 forms of water in it. ADsorbtion and ABsorbtion of water (see the D in one and the B in the other). one is water like you’d have in a sponge. This will be water in the concrete. The other are water molecules stuck on the chemical that make up your mold, in the case of concrete, it will be water stuck on the Calcium and Magnesium Carbonate. Both of these waters can be released at high temp and cause a ‘steam explosion’ with your molten aluminum just as you are pouring the aluminum into the mold. This is easy to fix. Just fire your molds in the kiln, with out the center crucible, with just a layer of charcoal under it. Get it up to red heat and then let it cool down. You will now have removed all of the absorbed water as well as the waters of hydration that would of been a problem for you at red heat. There will still be some waters of hydration stuck on the concrete molecules, but they won’t come off until you are well near or above 2000F, aluminum melts at about 1100F, depending on the alloy, and you usually get it up to about 1300 to 1400F to pour it. At these temps, once you have baked your mold, you will be just fine.

    Note: one I bet you did not know, you can also make your molds out of silicone, yup, the stuff in the tubes at home depot. This is really good for making small things where you might want a high level of detail on them.

    I will tell you on a further note, one of the reasons I JUST LOVE mold making and foundry work is that it is the heart of wealth creation. If you mold a candle, you are creating wealth, if you are melting and molding aluminum, you are creating wealth. The Chrysler Foundry in Indianapolis Indiana had a saying, “We are the only place in the company that really makes something, everyone else just assembles stuff.” This is a true statement, hard to visualize for many, but think on it. The Chrysler Foundry was melting steel and making engines. Which went to Mound Road engine plant in Detroit Mich and they machined them and made them into working engines that then went across the street to the Dodge Assembly plant where they put them into trucks. The assembly plant does just that. Assembles parts. You might think this creates wealth, but it does not. Ask any real economist and I think he can explain it better than I can.

    I cannot say enough good things about what you will learn and do when you make a small foundry and melt and pour aluminum. Even if you are just pouring it into little bear molds as seen in the excellent video, you will learn a lot. Someday you might find out that you need something special, and you’ll make a mold and then pour aluminum into it, let it cool, then you’ll take your drill and file (or grinder) to it and make it into the final shape of what you needed.

    Going further, you need to read up on mold making, you can make your own cope (top of mold) and drag (bottom of mold) for a mold, get some foundry sand, ram it over your item you want to mold, then separate the cope and the drag and make a sprue (what your pour the aluminum into) and a riser (the exit for the aluminum in the mold) and you’ll pour in your aluminum.

    Lindsay book use to be the place to buy the best books there are on casting and mold making, but they retired and went out of business, you can get many of the Lindsay books here:

    Once you have mastered melting and pouring aluminum into steel molds (muffin pans etc…) then you can start looking at making your own molds from the books at the link above.

    Wow… I just wrote alot, sorry, but its a subject that I love and I want to encourage you, along with Jack, to do this. Its awesome.

    Happy New Year my friends.

    • Good post Steve, the only reason the system held it for moderation is it had more than two links in it though. Length wasn’t the issue.

      On the soda in the cans, I think the guy basically meant one thing and said another and it could be a danger for sure.

      Two totally different any liquids of any type do not go together well, when one has different properties than the other at high temps. To see this you don’t need a foundry, all you need to do is look at some turkey frying disasters. Take a turkey that wasn’t fully thawed, shove it in 425 degree oil and the water that goes to steam long before that temp, BOOM!

      In 91 I was in Honduras and we were burning off all the old diesel fuel as we were getting ready to break the camp down and go back to Panama. Being bored as you get in the field after 6 months we were tossing pebbles into half full 50 gallon drums burning the fuel. It made cool effects, little eruptions of fuel, harmless based on where we had them.

      Well 2nd LTs get a bad wrap but at times it is earned! One of the LTs comes by thinks what we are doing is cool and tosses in a half full can of soda! Me and another guy grab him by the jacket and dragged him as fast as we could, likely saved him some severe burns, took about 2 seconds for that thing to send burning globs of fuel about 20 feet up and rain it down all around us.

      Given the back yard engineering level of the producer of the video, I think he meant

      No need to worry about residue and wash out the cans. Not that liquid soda was okay. Though the way he said it, yea, the unknowing could get hurt. Perhaps someone should point out to him, that a small text disclaimer at that point in the video for clarification might be a good idea?

      • Jack you might want to check out the myfordboy youtube channel.

        He has a number of videos about how to do sand casting.

      • Although Dave is gone, his son Vince has taken over the business and still continues to publish books and videos at:
        For anyone who thinks they may have to bootstrap themselves from scratch, as well as those who just like building things from scratch with their own hands, these books, or the single compendium is a must for the library.

      • Steve–

        Thanks for the WEALTH of information! I love listening to all your shows and answers on the expert council.

        Off topic… I have built a battery bank with the Schumacher battery charger and an inverter. Thanks for the info!

        My wife and I have also started a fuel-reserve and rotation program. It has recently saved our tails since my employer messed up my paycheck shorting me $125 (my normal fuel budget for the pay period). Because we have fuel in reserve, this is going to be nothing more than a minor annoyance. Thanks to you and Jack for the episodes on how to store fuel!

    • On liquids in the cans I both read it in a book and heard it from guys who worked in the steel mills:

      “You can put water on steel but you cannot put steel on water.”

      IOW, if the water has a clear escape it will just boil off, if the metal is on top of the water then the water will be trapped and the expanding steam will cause the effects you both say.

      About the water in the cans, what I think he is saying is there is no need to dry the metal as a few drops will boil off as the metal melts. Water is less dense than Aluminum and the boiling point is lower, so some leftover Pepsi will just boil away. But yes, don’t throw water in needlessly.

      How I read it anyways.

      • Duffman… I hate to be a buzz kill, and I hate to sound a little assholeish (my fault) but you made 2 very very incorrect statements about something that could get someone seriously hurt. Please forgive my directness, its not aimed at you but aimed at the people that gave you an old wives tale. I’m only making this correction because someone could get seriously hurt. First the water on steel and not steel on water is 100% hogwash. ( I’m not yelling, please follow along )

        Molten steel will be at 2800F or higher and the molten aluminum will be at 1100F to 1400F, in that range. What you are describing in your statement above about water boiling off is describing water on a pan cake griddle. That’s going to be around 300F or there abouts. Heat transfer by thermal radiation goes up to the 4th power of distance. So when you get twice as close, you get 2^4th power (16) times more heat. Halve that again and you get another 16 times more heat transfer, so 16 * 16 is 256 more heat transfer. A pancake griddle at 300F and 1400F aluminum, let alone 2800F melted steel is a WHOLE WORLD DIFFERENT. Saying that the water or the pepsi will just boil off is not a statement that is in the world of temperatures at 1400F and this is leading to the old wives tale you mentioned and what can get people hurt. Let me explain quickly for all those reading.

        See…when a drop of water hits molten aluminum, its got thermal radiation heat transfer and its got conductive heat transfer. Water vapor is thermally emmissive, so it can take in the heat from the thermal radiation. So the heat transfer to the water droplet, and then the heat transfer to the steam is HUGE. I’m talking hundreds of thousands times more heat at the surface of the aluminum than your hand 3 feet over the pot. When that droplet of water hits the molten metal it will BE LIKE C4 GOING OFF !!! No joke. If you’ve seen mythbusters you have seen C4 the explosive going off. Its instant. The water droplet on top of the molten 1400F aluminum will expand to over 1800 TIMES its liquid volume into steam and it will do this in milliseconds and that steam explosion is instant and will expand into the molten metal just like you shot a bullet into the molten metal. The metal will splash in all directions probably at near 100 feet per second. It will hit anyone near and then THEY WILL have extreme thermal conductivity from the liquid metal in direct contact with their skin. They will get the crap burned out of them if the metal hits their face or skin. 1400F aluminum is higher in temperature than the glowing red stove burner of an electric stove, and you’d never touch that and you can imagine how bad the burn would be. Instant 3rd degree burns through the skin.

        So Duffman, please don’t think I’m yelling at you, I’m not. Someone else gave you wrong information. Its just that this subject of melting metal is so darn serious when it comes to the safety aspects of it. You said you were not creative yet you’ve made wonderful contributions to this great thread on melting metal. Please do NOT let my words in this small post deter you from making any more comments.

        Your friend,

      • Now boys you are both right but it might put an eye out if tested.

        If water contacted aluminum and IF it had “clear escape” it would likely do absolutely nothing except turn to vapor.


        When you put a can into molten aluminum there is a VERY good chance that some of the water/soda/beer/backwash will not boil off before the can becomes encased in the existing aluminum and it itself melting.

        Now as Steve pointed out, you get one drop surrounded by molten metal and it most certainly does NOT have a clear escape so it absolutely will create one.

        If you had tiny amounts of moisture in the cans it would not be worth the worry, but if you could jiggle it and hear anything I’d dump em out. Trust me I have seen the alternative, you don’t want to.

    • OMG… I did not know he died… from his website, it looks like he died almost 10 years ago. Wow… I guess as long as your books are being published and read and enjoyed, you are still alive.


  27. I searched for the video of how he made the foundry, as he says in the video above, is on his website, but I could not find the video of how he made the foundry and what materials he used…. if someone can find that video, or found that video, would you please publish the link here so myself and others can see the video of what method he used for making the small charcoal foundry.


  28. One of the first comments on the video is from the author, he is currently re-editing the how-to video, but I can’t wait to see that either! 🙂

  29. Oh hell yeah – very cool! The first thing that came to mind was tools or tool handles but then all kinds of things came to mind. I guess, depending on the metal and use, you could make a mold of a broken part using the broken part, and then clean it up for use. Jewelry, toys, cooking utensils,……all kinds of possibilities.

  30. I wrote a really long post, about how to use concrete or plaster of paris or silicone for a mold and lots of other methods but its so long its awaiting moderation from Jack.


  31. Also look up Flower Pot Furnace for a very simple version of this. It uses charcoal and a blow dryer to get the temperature up to melting AL. With practice brass and copper might work too.

    • Brass melts at 1650F to 1725F depending on the zinc content, which means its pour temperatures would have to be about 150 to 200F higher. copper melts at about 1975F. Both of these temps are really stretching what the charcoal furnace can do and are about 10x harder to work with than molten aluminum.

      I have 2 electric ceramic kilns and I did melt down a bunch of crushed copper pipe in it and made a 7 pound disk in the bottom of a stainless steel stock pot (cheap one like you get at big lots). The pot was basically destroyed, and only good for one melting, for aluminum it would of worked forever.

      With that said, ZINC and Lead are two metals that you can melt in the charcoal furnace and get good results with. While zinc vapors are not nearly as harmful as lead, you want to avoid both. If using lead, just keep in mind that you don’t need to blast it to a high heat to melt it… just melt it and pour it. There are even small pot melters used for casting bullets that you can buy and melt with for learning. Lead tire weights will work great in this. Lead melts at only 625F, so its really easy to get there.

      Here is a link to metals that actually melt in boiling water. yes.. they do exist. Some are rare type metals, others are alloys of lead.


  32. Not a fan of such things- but challenge coins/medallions.
    Or, TSP collectible merch……. 😀

  33. Another thing they use for crucibles instead of an old fire extinguisher is an old car oil filter with the base cut off. I bought plans for making a furnace out of a popcorn tin. Appropriate for this time of year. Do a google search.

    • I”ve seen several on youtube made out of 20lb propane tanks cut in half… one had a burner hooked up through the bottom of the wall and heated with another propane tank. Fire extinguisher cut in half as well…

    • @Alan and @Jake as I started looking into this I have a hard time with any make your own crucibles because a graphite one big enough for any back yard need is only about 30 bucks.

      I just watched a kid have his homemade crucible blow out and dump molten aluminum all into his ELECTRIC furnace.

      Good to know you can make some stuff like old gas canisters and fire extinguishers into a crucible. In a PAW that would be a good bit of knowledge but while dogs and cats are still producing proper offspring it might just be worth a few bucks for the right tool for the right job.

      • Yeah, I saw the same vid… I really can’t believe he tried a tin can a second time. His “stainless steel” version was paper thin… thanks for the head’s up on the crucible find.

    • I have 2 potter kilns, that I do not use for pottery, but for high temperature experiments and even some small foundry work. Pottery kilns very easily melt aluminum. Aluminum melts around 1100F and you pour it around 1300F to 1400F and the kiln gets up to 2300F to 2400F. I have melted up to 7 pounds of copper in mine and made a huge copper disk. I got both of mine off of craigslist, one for $150, one for $250.

      I really think I do not need them anymore, and I’m trying to clean up. If a TSPer is in the Pittsburgh area, you can have one for free from me if you want to use it for melting furnace. You have to come and pick it up.

      p.s. Aluminum rims are a good source of aluminum, but they are hard to work with because you have to cut them or break them up some how into smaller pieces for easy melting. The soda cans are perfect for a beginner. One step at a time, graduate up one step at a time. You are working with high temps and molten aluminum. You need to be careful, thus my suggestion for one step at a time. You learn as you go.

  34. Cast Aluminum pipe [I doubt the technique is going to differ from the old cast-lead pipes used for plumbing, but I’ve yet to research it.] So many things I need it for, so little budget to buy the stuff pre-made.

    In-fact… I might actually do an Earthtube setup with this.

  35. I slept on it and as I am not very creative I was thinking how about something simple like just get a mold and make something decorative? Mold of a dog breed, or for kids their name? For an executive or company owner, how about their company name as a paperweight or more?

    What would you trade for something like the TSP logo in solid aluminum?

    Thinking this way, it might be something a person could sell on etsy. How often do you see solid aluminum crafts? Hollow yes, solid rarely if ever, just too expensive.

    I have probably 30lbs of cans in my basement I was going to take to the scrap yard, now I may try making something. Might try to find a mold of a labrador and make a few to try and sell that way.

    • Duffman, for a person who says he’s not creative you certainly have some good ideas. I think aluminum doggie things would sell very well on etsy and other places. I looked on amazon and found plenty of dog molds

      Most of these are silcone, which, depending on what type of silicone, will take the poured aluminum, so someone will have to try it on one. If it does not take the aluminum well, what you do is make a copy, you pour plaster off paris (or hydrocal, ultracal or other ‘gypsum’ substance) into the silicon molds and you get your doggie pieces. When it hardens you take them out, take a brush of brush on a very very thin layer of petroleum jelly. This is your mold release agent, you then pour a bunch of plaster of paris into a small container and you dip in your plaster dog shape into the plaster of paris so its almost submerged. I should ad, when you make the first doggie shapes, put a loop of string in the shape, so it makes it easy to pull it out. Now, let your plaster harden, which, depending on your plaster and your water, can be low double digit minutes, pull on the string and pull out your doggie shape. You now have a plaster of paris (or concrete) doggie mold. Let it dry over night, then put it in your kiln and fire it up to a low red heat to drive off the waters of absorbtion and adsorbtion.

      You now have your own plaster of paris copy of something you bought on amazon that you can pour liquid aluminum into. I hope this makes sense.

      Looking on youtube, there is a TREASURE of videos about mold making. What I just described is a very basic method.

      I love this thread.

  36. The guy says he made the foundry in a previous video, I searched but could not find it in his uploads. Has anyone else found it?

  37. I have been following him for a year and haven’t seen it. I like his welder from a transformer out of a microwave.

  38. I’ve got a friend who makes old car parts from sand casts and sells them on ebay, mostly pre-30’s and Land Rover impossible to find parts. He had an old Oldsmobile and needed a part and searched for years when he found it he had to bid nearly $800 for a $40 part, and had a dozen people who got outbid contact him for the part.

    It was this opportunity he saw a chance to make some extra money by having it made, but having 100 made was not cost effective. That’s when he found the backyardcasting site and made his own Nat Gas foundry and after a few weeks got perfect enough casts, he’s well known now in the rare parts biz where people will send him things to recreate.

    And just another note, he started by looking at wanted ads to see what people were looking for and what he could make from aluminum. He’s expanded into other metals now too, and even some plastic vacuum forming which is really cool too.

    • Vacuum forming is a GREAT way of making parts and items. Very easy to do with thing sheets of plastic, a heat lamp(s), a homemade table with vacuum holes in it and a shop vac. If you read some books on mold making and or watch the youtube videos, you’ll stumble across vacuum forming, its a great way of making copies of stuff, that you can then make in plaster, to then pour aluminum into.

      Found a ton of great stuff on doing it at home on youtube.


  39. I have been doing these sand castings for a few years making all kinds of odds and ends. It works with silver and brass as well. You can make your own crucibles as well that stand up to the high heat. My flasks are all home made from wood patterns. there are plenty of resources on the internet to assist. fire clay can be used as parting dust and you can make your own sand, although I prefer the red fine sane.

  40. Another great thing to try is lost foam. You carve a piece of foam to the shape you want, add a sprue, put it in a metal container and fill with sand. When you pour the metal, it vaporizes the foam and takes the shape. it’s a one time mold, but is useful for prototyping. If you have a metal lathe and drill press, being able to cast metal opens up a whole world. I have made motorcycle gas tank badges, knife hilts. valve covers, etc. Another good, cheap metal is pot metal. Low melting point, very strong and can be poured in thin sections.

  41. I would make aluminum irripans for my food forest. Will be planting thousands of trees on all the acreage and it would save some money and give me some experience to make some longer lasting irripans out of aluminum I could source locally and for free. I would also consider casting poles for use in homemade hoop houses if possible

    • I did not know what irripan was, so I googled it. Wow…great idea for Trees.

      The irripan would be hard to cast with aluminum, it would be called a ‘big pour’, the mold for it would also be very complex, however… the irripan is perfect to be vacuum formed from ABS plastic sheets.

      You can literally buy an irripan, put it in the vacuum former, and vacuum form your plastic right around it, you could easily do 1 a minute.

      I posted a link earlier to “home vacuum forming” on youtube. It is really easy to do. You can make it yourself out of wood from home depot, a shop vac, some heat lamps and sheets of ABS (or other) plastic that you purchase from a plastic supply business.


      • Steven you have me thinking now. I just need to see what I need to build a vacuformer large enough to copy irripans, source a plastic shouldn’t be very hard. Polystyrene? ABS Plastic? Hmm, I wonder how much irripans are…….

        • $60 ebay, $70 amazon. Looks like the same one, can’t tell if its metal or painted plastic. Start with ABS plastic sheets, you’ll have to watch the youtube vids to get the other plastics and you’ll have to experiment with the thicknesses.

          With pricing like this, you’ll have a good market, also, they are NOT everyone on the net, so far, only 2 places have I found them, ebay and amazon, and I was using googles search feature for shopping items, that usually pulls up everything. So you should have a wide open market.


        • Here is the thing, of course IrriPan is Trademarked and you’d not sell using their name anyway.

          Next the IrriPan isn’t patented, it has patents on parts of it, which you’d have to research.

          The most likely things are the exact shape and to some degree mimics of it. The other is likely the chemical composition of the material which is designed to cause condensation to form and keep the ground cool.

          Likely you could get around the first (drip pans are not new and Tal-Ya didn’t invent them. So you could easily design your own drip pan and have no issues, as you are using pure aluminum I don’t think the other patents would apply.

          Two issues though.

          1. Making them from aluminum even can based salvage is likely to not be as cost effective as the originals. Time, energy and the base salvage value of the cans would eat away at things.

          I can buy 100 IrriPans for 425 dollars. Likely you’d have to sell at double the cost to make a profit. And that by itself might be doable if it were not for #2.

          2. Aluminum gets hot in the sun, VERY HOT, really, really, really burn your ass, sizzle when you drop it in water hot. This likely isn’t going to keep the ground cool. It will likely bake it.

          So how do you stay in this niche and accommodate these issues?

          My thought, go smaller, focus on the gardener and scale accordingly.

          Imagine something similar in function to an irripan but only say about the size of notebook paper 8x11ish. Now paint it with a decent quality insulative paint. Since this is aluminum it will also need to be primed with etching primer but at small size it won’t be a big deal.

          Okay now watch the mind of Jack work. Best customers for this, the niche? Square foot gardeners!

          Now there are only 4 main and relatively useful patterns for SFG, if someone wanted to be a pain in the ass you could charge 80% for custom patterns.

          The patterns are all of course 12×12 inches. They are one hole in the middle, four holes in a square and three rows of three.

          Standard Bed is 4×4 or 16 squares. To make your life easy package them accordingly. Minimum order of 4 and you get 4 of one patter per purchase. So if I want all tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, etc. for a bed I just order 4 one holers. These will also be most popular for non SF gardeners.

          The cheapest way to produce them would be not with a furnace and casting but with sheet aluminum and a press, but those would be cheap and flimsy.

          At 1 foot square you could use enough cans per square to make them say 1/8th of an inch, they would be bad to the bone last forever tough at that thickness.

          Now that is a great model, and it can go from a back yard foundry to a main stream business in time. I would TM and patent as much as you can with that, OR do some sort of open source deal that does what is known as an honor royalty.

          How would that work, well I just created it in my head.

          Publish everything open source and when you do request anyone using them for commercial purposes should pay you as the inventor a token amount. 5 cents a unit.

          Then on your site as the creator, publish a Nice and Naughty list. This costs nothing to enforce and lets the market decide. It is such a niche product that consumers are going to care about right and wrong. But even such a niche could become a 6 figure business.

          It is also highly shippable, what would one way about 6-8 ounces, call it a half a pound.

          16 in a box, 12×12 would be 8 pounds. I just bet there is a flat rate box they would fit in, because of course you would make them nest nicely.

          Now if you can make a prototype, I just bet this would blow up on Kickstarter or similar.

        • There was a Kickstarter project (called the Seeding Square – ) for a square foot gardening template early last summer. It didn’t gain enough backers to succeed, but did attract enough off-KS investors to get off the ground otherwise. It’s a one-size fits all design, though, so something simpler (and likely less expensive than the $30CAD pricetag for a Seeding Square) could probably find a market.

      • I just looked at that $60 ebay auction, they want $45 for shipping !!! Also, irripan is (TM), the word appears to be trademarked, or so they are using it that way, a quick search of the PTO .gov website will verify that.


        • I see that it is TM, it is also patented. So, what can be done to make it “different” so as not to infringe upon the patent? Sure I can ripe it off and make a replica no problem, all I have to do is build a vacuform system. I see that there are tons of YouTube vids, I’ll burn my HughesNet bandwidth watching them….I’ll just read and look at pics on Google search results.

        • I like the SFG idea as a niche market. I could make them out of aluminum flashing and painting them (pain in the ass), or I could vacuform them out of ABS, Polystrene, Styrene or some other plastic. They could also be injection molded, but start-up would be very costly for equipment (I think), but the pellets would be cheap and any color could be done. There is a local place that could do the injection molding, they make sucker rod caps for us at work. They are a full service plastics production company. Now I am really thinking.

        • These parts don’t lend themselves to injection molding very well. The ones in the pictures I saw are vacuum formed.

          An injection mold to build a one foot part like this is gonna cost you around $20,000. The parts will be cheaper than vacuum formed though.

          I’ve built a few vacuum molds. They’re gonna be cheaper, maybe around 5 grand.

          I design and build plastic injection molds for a living. If you wanna go that route, let me know and I’ll help you design the part so it is moldable.

      • Chainsaw,
        I know someone who is very good at patents, an experts at looking at their claims and finding a route around them. Can you send me patent number or a PDF of the patent, my email is on in the upper right.

        Its hard to patent ‘a pan’ that collects rain water. Part of the answer will be in you making your own mold for the vac forming. This can be actually carved out of wood, or you can have someone draw it up in a CAD system and a rapid prototype house 3D print it and then use that as the mold, or an original that you make molds from. There is a world of possibilities. They do not seem to be pushing the marketing of their irripans very aggressively, and they have some false claims, such that it provides more ‘sunshine’ to the plant. yeah..right.


        • Oh Steve, yes, they do increase light to the plant, by a very passive and simple means, they reflect light better than the ground.

          The irripan is a bad ass product, I love them. We trialed them and they had a tremendous increase on plant survival and health and that was compared to both living and sheet mulching. They are really an establishment tool.

          If I put in 1000 trees at 20 dollars a tree, material, labor, irrigation, etc. and 750 survive (about average really in harsh climates) well I end up with 750 trees for 20,000 dollars.

          If I put in 1000 trees at 24.00 each (4 bucks for the irripan) I have now spent more money sure but my survival rate based on what we have observed is closer to 97%.

          I have now spent 24,000 dollars for 970 trees, my cost per live tree two years in (they are likely to make it now) is about 25 dollars a tree. With no irripans my cost is 20,000/750 or 26.50 roughly a tree.

          Okay so just on per tree I win but it isn’t that simple. Because I end up with MORE trees. I also am likely to end up with much quicker and healthy growth. My orchard will likely hit full production 2 to 3 years earlier.

          These are real numbers from real trials. On a smaller scale but we always test at small scale first.

  42. You can use aluminum to coat optics (or anything else reasonably durable that can survive in a vacuum).

    You may want to learn how to grind your own lenses and optical mirrors and know (at least in theory) how to place an enduring reflective coating on a glass surface. It would make that solar oven scream for mercy! 🙂 Such a mirror could also be used to create hot water and steam.

    Remember that a true optical mirror is not like the mirror hanging on your wall. You want the reflective coating on the surface of the glass (or whatever surface you have)… not on the back of the glass like household mirrors have.

    Maybe it’s a little overkill but I thought I’d bring it up. Making an optical mirror is within the abilities of high schoolers. Optical lenses take some experience.

    This video is a tour of an aluminum evaporator a fellow built himself to coat optical mirrors. It doesn’t look cheap but it does look like a DIY project for someone really, really obsessive.

    Alex Shrugged

  43. Find a source for worn out military gun parts (primarily barrels).. make custom tactical shot glasses to sell to the gun community (I bet there’s a market of people out there who would pay for a shot glass that has seen combat).

  44. Way back in the 70’s (jr. high shop class) we where taught some basic aluminum casting using sand molds. It’s not hard with the right “stuff” at your disposal. We made wall ornaments, coasters and ashtrays.

    I was thinking about combining this melting process with some copper tubing to create absorber plates for solar collectors.

  45. Coolest thing would be a Dolarean… most practical for the homestead would be a shovel 🙂

  46. You could use concrete as a form, just dust it with talcum powder to keep the aluminum from sticking. A plater form would work better, finer grain and less apt to spall and crack from the heat of the molten metal.
    Another neat trick is carving forms from styrofoam. Bury it in sand so the top is even with the surface, then pour in the molten aluminium. It burns off the styrofoam and cools enough when it contacts the sand to maintain the form. Let cool and you have a casting of whatever you carved.

  47. Letter openers or training knives take a knife blank from say knife kits .com press it into what ever you are wanting to use as a mold even find someone with a 3d printer to make a custom one with tsp or handle like a ant. And make a beer Stine out of beer cans.

  48. check out this ceiling tile in foam:×20/dp/B004L67EBC/ref=sr_1_133?ie=UTF8&qid=1420233930&sr=8-133&keywords=Styrofoam

    and another:×20/dp/B005GXAVT6/ref=sr_1_157?ie=UTF8&qid=1420233974&sr=8-157&keywords=Styrofoam

    how about a hollow aluminum ball? Put two of these together and create a ball…

    not sure you’d want a solid bell:

    hmmm, for house address?

    for the laaaaydeees…
    (actually this is made of silicone)

    everyone needs a few skulls:

    big rings:

    good one – horseshoes!

  49. I was thinking about all the hardware such as shelf brackets and so forth that could easily be made. While some ones mentioned how it really isn’t cost effective. It is a skill that could be leveraged out to other areas. A first step into cast iron for instance. I remember when I lived in the Dominican Republic I needed a new oil pan for a car and the lead time was going to be a couple of weeks. However they told me an aluminum one was available in a day. I realize now that some one just custom cast one for me. Either way I was on the road the next day.

  50. Could you use a cinder block rocket stove having steal rods going across inside of the chimney to set the crusable on and could a small cast iron pot be used for that?

    • Chris. The rocket stove can get close to the temperatures needed, but it does not have the VOLUME of heat required. It takes a lot of energy to melt aluminum, I guess you could call it the FLOW of the heat, how much flow, like a river, do you have. The rocket stove is more of a stream of heat than river of heat. That is one of the things that makes a rocket stove so darn efficient for cooking, its that its putting just enough heat exactly on the point needed for the cooking to be done. Its sprays the heat on the bottom of the pan or the pot, where as an open fire would spray the heat in all directions, 360 degrees, and up onto the pot. So that’s what the rocket stove is.

      The rocket stove is not a light saber, BUT… burning charcoal, with a blower on it from the bottom UP IS A LIGHT SABER, or the closest thing you’ll get to its power in year 2015. Air blown onto charcoal is a RIVER OF HEAT, a fast flowing one and one with temperatures far higher than a rocket stove can achieve.

      Air blown onto charcoal IS the advancement that made hand worked iron possible. Before that it could not be made by hand. This is for small qty iron making before the industrial revolution. That is how powerful it is. When you have a fan blowing it (hair dryer, shop vac in reverse) its even more powerful than a black smiths forge.

      In fact…. its CLOSE to what created the industrial revolution, with a few changes to air blown onto charcoal, you have the Bessemer process that make cheap steel affordable and the dawn of the industrial revolution.

      If you’d like to see the AWESOME Rocket Stove I have as well as the WOOD GAS Gasifier Wood Stoves I have ( I think I repeated myself in that sentence) then please look here:
      One of them, has a 3 watt fan that powers it and its called the Super Dragon for a reason, because it just blows fire. I have a short video up there of it that you just have to see to believe.


  51. I made one of the Gingery foundries about fifteen years ago. Steve Chastain has written several books about building larger foundaries that are capable of casting iron or steel. These are useful skill sets – particularly if your homestead already has a decent shop with metal working tools like lathes, milling machines, and metal cutting bandsaws.

    You don’t necessarily need a torch to make the crucible – a chop saw, a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade or even a hack saw could do the job. You could use a small cast iron pot as a crucible.

    You do need to pay close attention to safety – mostly for preventing fires and burns.

  52. Jack you said while propagating comfrey fire ants got in to the pots. Anthill = mold not shire if a market but cool to look at just don’t set yard on fire.

  53. One thing you could make is a simple metal plate that goes over a campfire dispersing the heat for cooking. It saves the pots and pans from abuse and can keep foods warm in the pot over long periods of time if it is thick enough.

    Of course, if you are in the middle of an emergency and you need to fire up the foundry to produce a better cooking surface, you have already solved several BIGGER problems and now you are just showing off. 🙂

    The point is to learn how to do it and have confidence that you could do such a thing if you had to. Plus it looks like fun.

  54. I looked at the videos Steven Harris suggested and lost a good 2 hours. It was fascinating. I want a metal lathe now but my wife won’t let me put it in the living room. Curse you, Steven Harris! 🙂

    Back to writing history.

  55. So here is an idea

    Fill a tupperwear tote with damp sand.

    Stick the top of your head into it. Sink your head in as deep as where your hat would ride on your head. That is your sand casting. Fill with molten aluminum.

    Fill the indentation in the sand with aluminum – Essentially make a custom casting of your cranium. Nobody else is going to be able to do it.

    Set the casting on your closet shelf (or where ever). Use it to hold your cowboy hat or other hats. It keeps its shape that way. You can not just set that type of a hat on it’s brim – it loses its shape. Even hanging it on a peg really isn’t good. Serious cowboy hat wearers put them on a styrofoam head – but this casting would keep the hats shape perfect for you – custom in every way. It’s light, and won’t stain and it’s custom fit. Your hat will fit perfectly every time, even when it gets put away while still wet.

    • This is a fantastic idea, and I have a cowboy hat, but make sure you cover the casting as Aluminum Oxide will put black inside all your hat brims.

      This is the right direction though. I would think 3000 Series Aluminum is too weak to make common hand tools (someone mentioned making a shovel), the oxide messes with most other uses (note the cans come with an inner plastic coating), like mugs/steins, so what you make has to be so specialized that no one else would make it for you. So obscure car parts, obscure machine tools, personalized lettering and anything else that can be made thick enough to overcome the relatively low material strength. (Most aluminum tools are 6000 series which I think has twice the strength.)

  56. I have made a foundry before when I was in the Army. It was fun and I used it for knives and spear points things of that nature. If I had an Aluminum foundry I would use it to reproduce parts that I found necessary. I would actually learn more about foundry work and the limits and methodologies of use to increase my ability to do more on my own. I would learn more about sand casting etc. thus,… when something broke and the replacement part was 200$ I would fire up the foundry and re-cast the part for cents on the dollar.

  57. A light saber to give to Steven Harris.
    Has to have light saber 1234 on the side.

    Just kidding but did gust find a suppler of coal nearby add a small fan and I’ll see what I get.
    Thanks to Steven for the suggestions.

    • I don’t think coal will burn as hot as charcoal, but also please be careful as coal has a lot more noxious fumes. Also coal quality can vary widely, so you definitely will have easier predictability using charcoal.

      I’m no blacksmith, but I have a coal stove and I’ve gotten “coal” that barely burned.

  58. The video is now posted on king of random’s channel. Being a listener and a subscriber to both is how I found this that I missed back in December. Made a rough start of this last weekend with a buddy… should prove interesting and digging for more info. Will check out Dave and a few of the other links throughout comments.