stejens

I want to melt copper

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stejens   

Hello all,

I am from the UK and very new to this, I have been looking for a good forum to get advice and learn, this seems like an active place :)

I am looking to buy or build a foundry to melt copper/brass, and use the molten metals to make castings. I have a hobby which is metal detecting, and with this hobby I collect so much scrap metal that I would like to work with it, so melting it all down and making cool things out of it seems the best route, and incredibly fun too.

I have watched many videos on foundry builds, using coal or gas, the gas ones seem to be the cleanest, but after watching many there seems to be debate on what materials are better or more longstanding ceramic linings vs kaowool and the like. The wool seems to be hard to get hold of here, I went to my local DIY store and they don't stock it, they just have wire wool.

Also it seems difficult to find the perfect guide on how to make one, what gas to buy, hoses, burners (etc). I guess I am only looking for a small one to start off with, enough space to melt copper/brass the size of a soda can, in the garden.

Are there any complete lists of things to buy that you can recommend for this? I was looking at my local gas bottle supplier that have 3.6kg - 13kg bottles, and then I got stuck on what size burners fit them and if it's too little or too much for the size of furnace that I need.

Any help appreciated.

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You probably want to be at alloyavenue.com a set of forums for metal casters. (used to be called backyardmetalcasting.com)

Kaowool is probably much more easily sourced from a place that does boiler repair NOT a DIY store.  You do use boilers in the UK do you not? I had thought they were more common over there than here in the USA.

Size of the bottles do not matter much if you are willing to hook several up at the same time.  See if there is a break on refill costs for volume and that you can transport them legally.

I would not suggest coal due to issues with neighbors; charcoal, coke or propane tends to cut down on the groups of villagers carrying pitchforks and tourches wanting to discuss your hobby with you...

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melting brass means careful control of temp, the zinc burns off at only a few degrees above the melting point and that will lead to metal fume fever which can put you and anyone else in the hospital or even in a wooden box.

copper really likes oxygen so unless you want your castings to look like a sponge keep the oxygen out if you can

always get the proper PPE and use it, always use proper crucibles, they are cheap compared to the cost of an accident

diy stores wont stock what you need, try places that do pottery kilns or ebay

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stejens   

Thanks for replies, @Thomas I will check it out :)

@Dwarf, I have heard about this fume fever, a mask will suffice?, I have bucket loads of brass shells and ordinance that I would need to melt down at some stage, but maybe for now I stick to copper until I have learnt more about the brass.

I am happy to use proper tools and crucibles, cost is not an issue.

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yes a mask will help if it either gets clean air from another location or uses bottled air, also make sure the fumes dont get breathed in by anyone else nearby, you should be able to get decent PPE for under a grand.

casting is much more dangerous than forging even though you are working at much lower temps, one drop of water / sweat falling into a crucible can send a few kilos of molten metal with explosive force into your face, a friend nearly lost an eye and had half his face scarred due to an accident melting ali, the metal got within 2mm of his eyeball, he was wearing safety goggles but should have also had an air fed face shield on too.

also never work on concrete, work on dry sand

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Actually if money is available---take a casting class somewhere!  It's especially good to see what PPE and how to use it!  I took my brass casting class at a local Uni as an out of hours class at the Fine Arts Department.  Massive help and would have been cheap at 4 times the price! (and was a lot of fun! we started making molds and casting day 1)

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Frosty   

Welcome aboard Stejens, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many Iforge members live within visiting distance. Telling us once in one post won't stick in anybody's memory once we open another thread.

Take a casting class, any molten metal is inherently dangerous on many levels. One cubic inch of 212f water turns into 1,600 cubic inches of 212f. steam with great force. 350f. steam expands more than 2,000x the expansion rate of the phase change goes up with temp. 

There are procedures you need to follow like your life depends on it and not all are intuitively obvious. Some are head scratchers until you've seen what can go wrong. A good class includes safety movies that'll scare heck out of you. 

Casting is fun but it's DANGEROUS, do NOT try to teach yourself casting by watching online videos, YouTube is NOT YOUR FRIEND! Once your knowledge base and skills set reach a proficient level Youtube is full of useful information but the majority is DO NOT DO THAT! :o

Frosty The Lucky.

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11 hours ago, stejens said:

I am happy to use proper tools and crucibles, cost is not an issue.

Try eBay UK for ceramic fiber blanket

Silicon bronze is the safe and sane metal for casting copper alloys. Safe? Yeah, that is the correct word for this subject. One of the really not fun games that have become popular with suppliers are masking reality with the use of names; for instance so called red brass imports typically contain around 8% lead; its fumes are far worse than zinc in toxicity! What newbie casters are constantly urged to do, is to sell their scrap metals, and by casting alloys, instead of playing a fool's game.

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One other possible issue: "I have bucket loads of brass shells and ordinance"  such things have been know in the past to possibly contain unfired components, it only take 1 partially left primer being added into a pool of brass to make one's life more difficult.

There was a case in the USA where a fellow was working on a cannon ball from the American Civil War, 1860's, and had it go off killing him.  Time often makes such things more dangerous not less.

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Frosty   

Thanks for mentioning alloy types and contents Mike it brought to mind how shell casings are made. They're made from a deep drawing alloy suitable for slug extrusion. A pellet of  cartridge "brass" is put in the die and a punch slams into it hard enough the alloy flows around the punch conforming to the die. The shell preform is pushed out into a final swage.

Deep draw alloys typically contain a significant % of lead as a lubricant and to lower the temp at which it softens. 

Sell the shells to a scrapper and buy a suitable casting alloy. Do this stuff in the safest manner possible! Death by lead poisoning isn't quite as bad as living a long life with a lead fried nervous system and brain. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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stejens   

Thanks for your advice, I understand the importance of safety and will probably seek a class at some point. I wanted to melt the lead I have first as it is easy to melt, I manged to melt the small pieces on the stove in a steel milk pan, with my t-shirt over my nose and mouth to not breathe anything in, probably not the safest option so I will definitely seek some safety information. I poured it into a tiny little mould, but it was not enough to do much with.

I just purchased one of those Rothenberger Superfire 2 blow torches from Amazon, that I figured will do the job for the small lead pieces I have. I also saw some micro forges on YouTube that used hand held blow torches that I thought I might try and build.

All the dangers you mention I had not really thought of, like the shell casings, I check that they have all been fired, and live ones I find gets handed in to the cops.

Always seems fun to me that I could potentially turn my scrap finds into something nice, made with the metals I personally find rather than buy casting alloy which would not be the same, but also as you mention there could be additional metals in them.

 

I am from Lowestoft in the UK.

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JHCC   
12 minutes ago, stejens said:

I manged to melt the small pieces on the stove in a steel milk pan, with my t-shirt over my nose and mouth to not breathe anything in, probably not the safest option

And the prize for "Understatement of the Month" goes to....

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16 minutes ago, stejens said:

 I manged to melt the small pieces on the stove in a steel milk pan, with my t-shirt over my nose and mouth to not breathe anything in, probably not the safest option so I will definitely seek some safety information.

Go and buy a hot plate and do it ouside. Still not the safest option, but it is way better than doing it in the house. They cost abput $10 American here at Walmart... if yall have those in th UK

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stejens   
1 minute ago, Tommie Hockett said:

Go and buy a hot plate and do it ouside. Still not the safest option, but it is way better than doing it in the house. They cost abput $10 American here at Walmart... if yall have those in th UK

That's how new I am to the hobby :P, I was looking to get one of those electrical 'LEE' melting pots for it, but then thought I'd look into making a 'do it all' one instead.

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Frosty   

Lead is really low temp melt and deserves it's own melter. It evaporates when melted and tends to get on everything. If you use the same melter for higher melt temps the remaining lead will vaporize more vigorously. 

Electric hot plate outside is a good plan, even a cheap one will boil lead if you over do it. 

By not breathing anything in through your T shirt . . . Are there a LOT of bugs where you live? That's about all that's good for.

Frosty The Lucky.

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As the news shows on a regular basis, (at least the online BBC does), munitions made during the world wars had a fairly bad failure rate; besides total failures there were partial failures as well and a lot of stuff they used is getting more touchy over time.  About the best thing that happens if one live primer sneaks into the crucible is that you have a brown y-front moment.  Splashing molten metal can take it from there to the A&E (ER in the USA) or the Coroner.

However there is something to be said about taking such items and making useful or artistic items out of them. I've seen trench art from WWI and WWII  and I remember reading about making cooking pots out of downed planes during the Vietnam war... BE CAREFUL!  Have you checked over at the alloyavenue.com yet?

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