Books and Equipment for the Home Foundry

Home enthusiasts discuss their Foundry & Casting work.

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MattMa01
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Joined: Wed Jul 10, 2013 10:35 pm

Books and Equipment for the Home Foundry

Post by MattMa01 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:41 am

I'm interested in foundry work for some hobby projects of mine. Are there any good books anyone could recommend I read? Specifically I am interested in pattern making for projects like steam engines, as well as some interest in investment casting for some smaller projects I have planned.

On the equipment side. Is it feasible to build a small furnace capable of reaching the temperatures to melt iron and steel?

Harold_V
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Re: Books and Equipment for the Home Foundry

Post by Harold_V » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:19 am

MattMa01 wrote:I'm interested in foundry work for some hobby projects of mine. Are there any good books anyone could recommend I read? Specifically I am interested in pattern making for projects like steam engines, as well as some interest in investment casting for some smaller projects I have planned.
Lindsay used to sell several books pertaining to foundry and pattern making, but he has gone out of business. If you follow this link
http://www.lindsaybks.com/link1.html
then click on the Your Old Time Book Store button, near the top, you may be successful in buying some of the titles.
On the equipment side. Is it feasible to build a small furnace capable of reaching the temperatures to melt iron and steel?
While it's possible, I'm not convinced you'd enjoy much success. Cast iron can be melted in a crucible furnace, but it must be one of excellent design, so it's able to achieve the required temperatures. Most gas fired furnaces struggle to do so, plus melting iron in a graphite clay or silicon carbide crucible (both are common) alters the chemical composition of the charge, so the resulting iron may not be satisfactory. All in all, not a good thing.

If you're interested in doing cast iron, you may wish to investigate a cupola. You'd have to have a source for coke and limestone, but they were used for a long time to melt iron. Note that they are very dirty to operate (air quality).

So far as melting steel is concerned, that's most likely out of the question for you, if for no other reason, the high temperature required. An arc furnace would work, or an induction furnace, should you be fortunate enough to have one at your disposal.

I'd recommend you get your feet wet by building a small crucible furnace, one fired by either natural gas or propane. With that furnace you can melt aluminum, brass, bronze and copper. It would familiarize you with foundry practice, making the transition to iron or steel safer.
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

MattMa01
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Re: Books and Equipment for the Home Foundry

Post by MattMa01 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:52 am

If you're interested in doing cast iron, you may wish to investigate a cupola. You'd have to have a source for coke and limestone, but they were used for a long time to melt iron. Note that they are very dirty to operate (air quality).

What about using charcoal? I think it would be much easier to get than coke. I use plenty of hardwood lump in my Weber Grill. Or does charcoal not get hot enough for cast iron temperatures?

Bronze is actually what I would intend to cast for some of my first projects. Mostly small objects. Amongst other things I have blueprints for the Colt 1851 Navy revolver and I think an investment cast ordnance bronze frame would be perfect for such a project. Many companies sell replicas with brass frames but I have heard horror stories about how brass frames can stretch and crack under the pressure of firing.

In a perfect world, I would like to find a way to cast the revolver frames in steel if that's at all possible for me.

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steamin10
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Re: Books and Equipment for the Home Foundry

Post by steamin10 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:18 am

IMHO books by C.W. Ammen describe the entire process with various titles givng a slightly diferent focus.

Brass is easier to work and actually fairly easy to make such black powder frames. Steel is usually billet forged, and not cast.

Charcoal is undesirable for iron and steel as it gives too much chance for carbides to form from the sulfur available. Metalurgical coke has most all the volitiles driven off, reducing this problem. Brass and Bronze are much less sensative to sulfur, and can pass with that heat source. I use LP as a fuel, as it is easy to control the flow and thus the heat inputs. Natural gas in a blown furnace will work well, if you can get the supply volume.

Do your homework and read everything available to you before you light a fire, as you may find the costs of furnace and materials to start with too expnesive. For onesy, twosee, type things, it would be better to create the pattern or shell mold and let the pros do the pouring, unless your usage will offset the cost over time.
Big Dave, former Millwright, Electrician, Environmental conditioning, and back yard Fixxit guy. Now retired, persuing boats, trains, and broken relics.
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