Repost: Metal Casting 101 Rocked!

Bringing back some old stuff  from the deep web to support a new venture. This post was pre-kwartzlab, back when we were nomadic makers, building the community, under the temporary MakeKW banner.  So cool to see the same spirit in action today, five years later, at kwartzlab.  Proud?  Yer damned right I am.  -DW





James Taylor sang “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain” and we sure saw lots of both on Sunday during our metal casting meetup at Gus’ place.  In true Maker spirit we all just figured out how to make it work and it was a blast.  It was my first metal cast and it provided many “wow” moments.  (video shot by Natalie Silvanovich –thanks Nat!)

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Gus gave us a backgrounder indoors on what we were about to do.  The ideas was to split a cuttlefish bone, carve a design into one half, including a sprue to serve as a channel for the molten metal.  Then you put the bone sandwich back together, heat your lead-free solder in stainless steel ladle and pour it in.  Simple and magic.

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We had a good turnout.  Just the right size of group for our first crack at this meetup.

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Gus had cool samples of his past work to show.  This mold is made from soapstone.

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Then out to the yard to get to work.  Gus, I swear it looked very sunny when I suggested we go outside.

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This goes in…

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here for melting.

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Pawel and Natalie cracking open the tools.

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Michael, S. & S. are hacksawing some cuttlefish bones for molds.

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The proverbial bowl of cherries juxtaposed among the tools.  Followed shortly by the sky opening up in a rain of biblical proportion.  So inside we go to Gus’ secret lair, where the work continued.

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After three attempts at pressing plastic gears into the cuttlefish and breaking every mold (Hulk smash!), I decided to free-style with the dental picks.  Going for a sun design here.  It was necessary to add the risers (the channels that go up and hook up with the sprue (main channel to top of mold) ) so I could get metal to the upward point rays from the sun.  That’s the physics of this thing.  It’s quite relaxing to carve this stuff.

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Ben was also busy.

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Just about ready to pour.

And here I am cracking the mold open.  (video credit: Nat again!)

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Open the mold after cooling and: magic.

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Hey!  It kinda sorta worked!  I’ll admit the skinny rays of the sun were a bit of a stretch for my first casting, but what the heck.  I was delighted with this result.  Gus suggested not polishing or trimming this piece since it was my first.  Keep it for future reference.  Good idea.

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Eric poured into a cool RTV (rubbery stuff) mold that he brought with him..

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It worked out quite well.  Good detail.  And a highly reusable mold.

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Gus even called in another expert, Pierre, to show us some of his stuff.  Here’s a mold made from plywood and packed with jeweller’s sand.  Silver was cast into this mold.  Cool.

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This busy guy was pouring for three Makers!

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who were coming up with all sorts of ideas.

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Pawel was able to successfully repour this key after the mold leaked on the first try.  Nice!

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Jay and Susan kept a close eye on the activity.  I understand Jay is a die-cast expert, so hopefully he can share some of that with us in the future.

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And we’ll end with the generous fellow that made this meetup possible.  Thanks to Gus and his family for letting us invade their home.  And thanks to all you makers that signed up and came out and supported the meetup.  Your enthusiasm, curiosity, and money make this stuff possible.

Do you have some knowledge you could share meetup-style?  Contact me.  I’m putting together a template/design pattern for meetups having learned a few things organizing my second one so far.  You bring the domain-specific knowledge and we’ll get some volunteers to sort out the logistics.

Does this look like fun to you?  Join the KWartzLab hacker space and do all sorts of diverse stuff with us.  I’m happy to answer any questions about KWartzLab.  Just email me.

Make: meetups a priority.

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