Directly after my work in North Carolina was complete, I flew home and after a good nights sleep, we Watsons headed out with the local rock club the Cascade Mineralogical Society early in the morning for a field trip to the Greenwater area hunting agate, jasper, and common opal.
We mostly stayed on the main forest service roads and didn’t get into heavy 4wd trails until the last stop. Where I put the ranger in 4wd high just in case I needed some extra help getting through a couple snowbanks in the road. We probably did not need the help but it was insurance since the Rangers tires probably need to be replaced. I haven’t decided if I am going to do so, or pick up another full sized truck.
Around that point at least one low body clearance car turned back. And someone in a Prius actually made it!
All the way along the field trip the guides stopped along the way and showed us things, sometimes in specific areas, sometimes on just road cuts along the road.
Here are a few pictures we snapped on this adventure:
We had a ton of fun and brought back three five gallon buckets about half full of mostly common opal.
We wanted another try at the Hansen creek crystals, Saturday forecast was thunderstorms so we delayed until Sunday. Armed with our new equipment we headed back out we made it out of the house at the crack of….probably about 11am 😉
I took the gopro type camera out and made a video of the hike in, but after we got to the digging area I was too excited to document. Turns out the camera in its waterproof housing made the sound really really low. I may see if I can add subtitles or something, If I do Ill post the video later. For now you will have to do with a couple of screenshots I took and some after shots of our crystals.
At the dig area we tried one spot with limited success, but changed spots after a bit. I ended up donning my headlamp, using the new rock hammer and digging away at an existing hole under an old growth stump. I was digging the dirt and Jasmine and Jennifer and Kyle were all using the two screens we brought to sift the soil. I had a couple of minor cave-ins while I was digging and now I know why some people recommend hardhats. We found a bunch of small crystals a couple of them really clear and one Amethyst!
It turned out that the rock club had an outing that same day out to several areas we have been looking at but we did not know! We would have been able to use some of our new gear, looking forward to next time and finding something different!
Last night I had my first melt. I still haven’t finished the foundry burner, so I just used the weed burner. It did alright, but was probably wasteful. I ended up having to shim the lid up so I could get enough air forced in from the weed burner and the propane bottle started getting pretty cold which is an indication of using quite a bit of propane.
I started pretty slowly bringing the small crucible up to heat, my goal to try to draw out and dry out any water it might have absorbed. Hopefully by going slow we wouldn’t crack the crucible on the first melt. I have two crucibles, this one is the small one that I think I can manhandle with a pair of channel locks, until I build the pouring tongs I need.
I am not sure I can describe the feeling of excitement and nervousness that I had while the foundry was coming up to temp, was I ready for this? Was it going to work with just the weed burner? Did I have enough safety equipment? Was this a dumb idea to pour the small crucible with some channel locks? I took off the lid and things were glowing nicely. I understand why people use sunglasses at this stage now.
I added some small aluminum scrap I have been collecting from computers and misc things to start off, and put the lid back on. Then I added some aluminum extrusions I had picked up at a garage sale a couple of weeks back, it was surprising to watch the extrusions melt through the top and just slowly slide down into the puddle of molten aluminum. Each one might have taken four minutes, I called Jennifer and Jasmine out to watch.
I want to make ingot molds, I have a design picked out I would like to make, but for this first test melt…. I just went to Fred Meyer and picked out some mini-loaf pans and a muffin tray. I had just arrived and was having a look at one, when an older lady came by and espoused her undying love for those mini loaf pans, evidently they are just the right size and she could get 5-6 loafs out of a normal recipe, and especially now that she only had her and her husband left in the house… they were just the right size… I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was not going to use them for the intended purpose, that I was going to pour molten metal in them!
The first pour went well but I had forgot the teflon coating was going to burn off the pans and the bit of fire and smoke made it difficult to see for about five seconds. Once both were poured, I put the crucible back in the foundry, added some bell housing scrap I had cut from a transmission put the lid back on and then some more of that extrusion. It all melted super quickly and was really clean, I did not have to skim dross. I did one more pour. Two ingots and two muffins.
I ended up with almost ~#10.75 of aluminum, 4.881 Kilos, 4 in ingots and 2 in muffins.
I may take the wire wheel to one of these and sand it up, and polish it, just to see how it works up since these were my first ingots!
I started the cure on the foundry and with only the weedburner torch did the incremental heat, at the top end we were able to reach temps up to 1140 C which is a bit over 2000 f. At one point before that propane tank was empty It started to ice up, and I placed it in a tub of water to keep that from happening. The weed burning torch far exceeded my expectations. I cant wait until I get my burner up and running to see what it can do! Here are a few pictures:
After letting the core cure for several days I pulled the bucket out, or tried! It took quite a bit of work to remove the form from the core. Next steps I need to pull out the pvc from the drain hole and start the firing process.
This initial curing/firing schedule is unlike normal concrete curing. This initial firing is designed to allow for any water trapped to make its way out of the body of the furnace without cracking or spalling.
We will start by raising the temperature to about 200f and holding it. Then we will increase it by 200 degees per hour until we reach our goal of about 1800. At that point I will shut it down and try to cool it off as slowly as possible. If everything goes well in this initial firing, we should be good to go and can fire it up and start melting down aluminum, copper or brass to make into ingots.
On Monday I worked on getting the core ready to pour, this included drilling a hole for the tuyere in the keg and in the bucket I was using for a form. Once that was done I inserted the pipe and secured it with duct tape. I started mixing the cement and poured it into the form, then used a stick to try to make sure we had no large voids and then used a hand sander to try to vibrate any air bubbles out.
The greensand came in the post. One more thing to add for the foundry project. This is “Petrobond” Casting sand. It is supposed to hold its shape very well after packed, and not need to be mulled. I will need to build a cope and drag setup once I get the foundry closer to completion.
After a week or more of inactivity I got back on the foundry project. I managed to get some of the insulatory refractory cement mixed and put in place as the top and the base of the foundry. Next up will be cutting the holes for the tuyere in the side of the keg and form. Then placing the form in the center and pouring the core.
I have wanted to work with molten metal for quite a while, It is one of the myriad hobbies I have always wished to pursue. I had a taste of it when in High School, we were able to melt aluminum and then machine our pieces in the lathe.
I stumbled down the rabbit hole on youtube a few months ago watching people melt aluminum and other metals in home foundries with propane or waste oil and was mesmerized. It seemed like anyone could make a cheap one and use it, but the more I watched and learned the more I realized most of these were just falling apart after a few melts. I wanted something that would last for many pours. Then I found a set of videos that a fella had put together outlining his build and documenting the steps. I chose to model my foundry after his.
One of the reasons I really liked this design was the the burner. It is able to use propane or waste oil, peanut oil, diesel or just about anything combination of that sort of thing. For aluminum only propane will be needed, for other metals it will be great to have additional BTUs available. Here is the video of his burner followed by some of my pictures of mine so far: