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Old 05-11-2014, 06:22 PM
annabella1 annabella1 is offline
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Default Making cast iron

I have done small scale casting of precious metals for jewelry. I know that in some 3rd world countries they make crude cast iron cooking vessels. So I was thinking it might not be so difficult to make cast iron pans designed the way I want them. Anybody ever do any iron casting that can give me some ideas how feasible this would be?
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Old 05-11-2014, 08:31 PM
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DavidOH Male DavidOH is offline
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I've never made anything myself, but my brother worked in the steel mill for a number of years.
I saw some pelton wheels when I stopped by once. They were complex.

Some things don't look that hard. A good sand mold (lost wax) and a good oven with a few tools and you are in business.
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Old 05-11-2014, 11:33 PM
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Seems to me there's a lot of trouble involved in making the molds, danger & difficulty in working with a fire hot enough to melt iron, investing in vessels that can handle molten iron, etc etc for a limited production project.

It is probably more feasible & easier to get a cast iron pan close to what you need and adjust it a little with a grinder and welder.
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Old 05-16-2014, 09:41 PM
annabella1 annabella1 is offline
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DavidOH, yes lost wax was what I had in mind. I know I would have to build a casting kiln or forge in order to melt the iron. And although I have considerable experience in making small wax models, I've only used waste plaster molds and not sand molds. The questions I need answers to are.
Temp needed to melt iron, iron sources, best sprue locations, slow cooling (in oven) or natural cooling (room temp) or quick cooling, (I know it's not quick because iron is so brittle it would break).
Most of the precious metals I melted with a torch in a crucible. To get enough Iron to cast a whole pan that wouldn't work.
So anybody out there doing cast iron work?
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Old 05-18-2014, 03:43 PM
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recoilless_57mm Male recoilless_57mm is offline
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As a young man I use to help an old master foundry man that went off grid in the last century. He lived on a small income from making boot jacks, bells, tile packers, horse head hitchng posts and anything else that weighed less than 60 or so pounds. John's setup was very simple. His building was constructed of stacked up cement blocks with a tin roof held down by rocks. His floor was dry sand. You don't want a concrete floor in a foundry.

John used 55 gallon oil drums to make a cupola with a tuyere around the lower end to introduce air via a large blower. The inside of the cupola was lined with fire brick. It looked simple and crude to say the least. It worked very well I have to say. The day before he was going to use the cupola John would make a fire in it to dry it out. He would then charge it with some coke to get that burning. He then charged the furnace with more coke, limestone, and scrap iron and turned on the blower. Once the iron was melted he would tap the furnace and allow the iron to run into a crucible for pouring. John knew he was ready to pour the iron off when the iron started to run out the slag hole that was opposite and higher up than the iron tapping hole in the cupola. This method is very basic. You can use natural gas as a fuel or you can use electricity. They are both more expensive to say the least. If you are going to keep the cost down I would say coke is the way to go.

There were publications available from Lindsey publishing on how to do green sand casting, making crucibles and melting of iron. My personal opinion is, it is not as simple as heat it until it melts, pour it into a mold. You are dealing with a metal that is well over 2100 degrees F and in a large quantity to produce even a frying pan. The riser and combined runners will out weigh the finished pan. With iron, the thinner the cross section the faster you have to pour to fill the mold otherwise the iron will solidify to quickly giving you a failed pour. Iron weighs approx. .284 lbs per cubic inch. You will still have to flux the iron even if you are using broken up scrap iron to melt. The mold will have to be weighted down and a collar placed around the parting line for support of the green sand. A fair amount of steam and gas are given off when the hot metal is poured into the mold. this is generally an exciting moment. The finished product will be left in the mold until it has cooled for several hours. John usually left them cool until late evening if he poured in the morning or early afternoon. He was never in a hurry. After removing from the sand he would let them cool until the next day. Never quench cast iron.

Long story short I would look for a pan already made. It was great fun for me to work with this man. I have to admit I have been temped to build a cupola to see if I remembered all that he taught me. If you're determined to give this a go then I suggest you get Lindseys books, or go on a web site called Scribed for information. Perhaps there are some internet forums that follow this trade as well. This is not for the faint of heart. There are many dangers in melting iron. When mistakes happen you will have to keep a very cool head, no pun intended, to minimize injury or avoid it all together.

I hope this helped and good luck.

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Last edited by recoilless_57mm; 05-19-2014 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 05-20-2014, 01:46 AM
klamath klamath is offline
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I built a small foundry out of a old hot water tank and the burners I made up were propane and waste engine oil fueled. Took me awhile to figure out the waste oil burners that you see on the internet were for used cooking oil not used crankcase oil Had to heat the whole thing up with propane then switch to the oil and forced air. It was one black smoke generator until I got the fuel/air mixture right. It would melt bronze quit nicely. My intent was to get into melting iron and steel. As I found out steel is quite complicated and I decided it was beyond what I wanted to invest.
Someday I still want to do the cast iron but once you get into temps above 2000, things like crucibles get expensive.

I have melted up to 18 pounds of bronze and done lost wax, lost foam and sand casting. I made my own green sand from quarrying local sand and clay. A number of my hydroelectric turbines were made with lost wax and sand castings.

Like you I thought about making my own pans but was thinking about casting them out of silver due to the heat conduction properties of silver.....but then that old expense thing came up again

I have had a lot of fun with it all though.
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Old 05-20-2014, 04:10 PM
MichaelK Male MichaelK is offline
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I watched a youtube video about a guy casting dutch ovens out of aluminum. He also used sand casts as the mold. If you are not adverse to cooking with aluminum, it was much, much easier, because scrap aluminum is everywhere, and it's melting point is a thousand degrees lower than iron.
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Old 05-20-2014, 05:53 PM
Doninalaska Doninalaska is offline
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I had a friend who could do ANYTHING. His dad was once the head of craftsmen for Colonial Williamsburg. He had a foundry and did aluminum, brass and bronze casting, but he thought iron was too dangerous unless you have an overhead crane on a beam to handle the crucible. He used to make grave markers for show dogs and race horses out of bronze and brass, but he wouldn't do iron.
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Old 05-24-2014, 01:12 PM
annabella1 annabella1 is offline
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Doc: I've heard that welding cast iron is harder than casting cast iron, I've never really welded anything-- soldering yes again that was small pieces for Jewelry. But if you have welded cast iron, maybe you could give me some idea about the process, and I would look into learning to weld.
Charlie: Thanks for the information, I really appreciate it. I have some of Lindseys books and that is some of what made me think this might be possible. You must have learned a lot working for the foundry man, as a young man. This is exactly the information I was looking for and confirms my suspicions.
Klamath: I am so glad you didn't give up on your foundry. I always say it's not a mistake if we learn from it. I also considered silver, not for pots and pans but for cups and eating utensils, and it is really expensive. I even take special care to get the filings when I make Jewelry. Don't let any of it go to waste.
MichaelK: I have worked with aluminum and it is easy to cast. I have nothing against aluminum pots as far as health goes, but I don't like the taste of food cooked in aluminum.
Doninalaska: Wow, that kind of knowledge your friend had is great. I would love to be able to do all those things.
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