Sunday, September 25, 2011

Aluminum Love

While my clay sushi sculpture is drying for the next week, we went ahead and started the first steps of our next project, since sitting around for a week waiting for clay to dry is stupid and pointless. 

"I'm ready for my closeup."
For project #2 we finally got to use metal.  We have done projects with wood, clay, and wire, but never with solid metal... UNTIL NOW! I'm not sure why I have wanted to work with metal so badly.  Maybe it is the RPG fan in me.  Maybe I am the descendant of a great blacksmith. Perhaps I was a dwarf in a past life, living underground and supporting the war effort with armaments. Whatever the case may be, I like working with liquid metal.  It is manly and fun and I think everyone should try it at least once.

This is the mold I carved where the metal will be poured. (It is the kanji for love, reversed, of course.)
The molds that we are using to pour the molten aluminum into are made of sand, believe it or not.  Apparently they have a device in one of the labs at the Visual Arts Annex at OSU that is capable of compressing sand into little rock-like bricks that can easily be carved out into virtually any shape imaginable.  The sand carving portion of the project lasted not even one whole class period, so it's all molded and ready for its new metal friend.

Everyone's molds, waiting for the liquid aluminum.
Now, this project is a little different from the others in that not everyone will be melting and pouring their own metal; I will be doing it for everyone. (With the help of the professor, of course.)  You see, it takes quite a while to get the furnace hot enough to melt aluminum (we waited until about 1350 F) and it cools fairly quickly, leaving little time for 13 students to pour their own metal.  So, because I possessed the necessary qualities, (leather boots) I was chosen to help with the pouring.

Here are some of the tools used:
Crucible picker-upper.
Crucible carrier/pouring device.

Open furnace with melted and non-melted aluminum.
I was not aware of how much protective gear I would have to wear when signing up for this mini-apprenticeship.  I had a leather apron, leather jacket, spats, bandana, leather gloves and heat shield mask; pretty much a whole cow.  It was nice and toasty underneath all of that, but I got a taste of the heat coming from the furnace from turning my head to the side and I'm fairly certain I would have been hotter without it. :)

Matt checking the metal's temperature and me, very much aware of my lack of health insurance.
Pulling the red-hot crucible out of the furnace.
Pouring the metal into the molds.
I think that for the most part, things turned out well.  I didn't visit the hospital and neither did any of the onlookers so I declare that it was a success.  I can now add metalworking experience to my resume.
"For how long?" "About one minute..."
Matt and me, surveying our work.
The leftover metal was poured into these molds to melt and use another day.
Everyone's metal, after cooling.
Did mine turn out alright? You'll have to tune in next time for the answer. :)

It's not my own custom made suit of armor, but I still think it is pretty awesome.  I'll put some pictures of the finished product online once all of the black, crusty sand is removed and the metal is sufficiently polished.



  1. I'm glad you're a blacksmith now...I hate having to wait on that other bearded twin stuck behind that black rock.

  2. Awesome James! Now I know what items I'm supposed to wear when we melt alum in the back yard!

  3. Paul, I hated that twin too... always getting stuck there. Just make me a tempered sword already!