|Sometime during January 2003, I got the crazy idea that I could melt metal (aluminum) at home. I decided to try out a very simple experiment first as a proof of concept. At a local hardware store I found a handheld torch boasting 1300 degrees C off a propane/butane mix. This is more than sufficient for melting aluminum (which melts at 660 C in its pure form).|
|I got the torch, a stainless steel cup, a bag of silica sand, a little cast iron "takoyaki" tray to pour the aluminum into (it's kind of like a little tiny muffin tray), a pair of barbecue tongs, and of course a pair of thick gloves. The image shows the cup, sand, burner, takoyaki tray, and some of the very small aluminum "pigs" that I eventually made.|
My procedure was extremely simple. I poured sand into a big plastic bowl and then put the cup into the sand. I put a small scrap of aluminum pot lid into the cup and blasted the scrap from above with the torch. The scrap turned kind of a dull gray color and crumpled up. When I poked at it with a little stainless steel kitchen utensil, I saw a little bead of liquid aluminum! It was kind of neat seeing the stainless steel cup turn orange too. (Note to self: do not ever, ever again try to pick up cup with no gloves, even if cup is not orange!)
It didn't take long to melt the little piece of scrap. I scraped off the dross with the little stainless steel tool and poured the liquid into the takoyaki tray. It worked! Not much aluminum, but I proved that I could do it.
After the scrap of pot lid, I tried some extruded aluminum scrap and some aluminum can pieces. I was able to get a little bit of liquid aluminum from both, but the cans smoked a lot, made some green fire, and produced a lot of dross. Free source of aluminum perhaps, but very messy to work with.
Although I was successful in creating some molten metal, I wasn't able to maintain enough heat in the cup to keep much aluminum liquid. Next step: a furnace.
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