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Old 01-29-2010   #1
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Default Melting Aluminum Cans

So my fellow employees and I at my work go through at least 50 cans of pop/energy drink/Arizona iced tea and other cans a week. So we came up with this idea to melt them into ingots so we can stock pile them in a more convenient way. A quick Google search brought me to www.backyardmetalcasting.com and I soon found out that it was a very common thing for people to do. I found instructions and ingredients to make the furnace to melt the aluminum in. So here goes my adventure in making a homemade furnace to melt aluminum cans.

Read this entire tutorial before going out and doing it please.

Several things are needed to do this project:
Steel bucket or pot with lid
Torch capable of at least 1500 + degrees + fuel, in my case propane
Coffee can
Pipe that is min diameter of torch tip and between 4-10 inches in length
Mixing bucket/wheel barrow
One 50 pound bag of Portland cement
One 50 pound bag of silica or all purpose sand
One 50 pound bag of fireclay
One bag of perlite
-(note, if you are making a smaller furnace then you donít need the 50 pound bags)
8-12 sheet metal self tapping screws
packing stick
crucible that can withstand 1500 + degrees

I made a few calls around to try to find the ingredients needed. There are four basic things needed to create what is called refractory. It is a heat resistant mixture for casting aluminum and other metals. Homemade refractory is only really good for temperatures needed for aluminum. It cannot withstand heat needed to melt steel and iron so a professional mix is needed for that.
The four ingredients are:

Perlite (1.5 parts) Lowes <$4 for one bag



Portland Cement (1.5 parts) Lowes <$5 for $48 lbs
Silica sand (2 parts) Lowes I used all purpose sand since I couldnít find this type of sand <$4 for 50 lbs



Fireclay (2 parts) Clay art center in town <$7 for 50 lbs


A SAFETY NOTE. When mixing these ingredients please do it out in the open and wear a safety mask so you do not breathe in the cement dust as this can be very harmful to your lungs.


The first three are mixed together first, then moistened to a soft, dough texture.




Then the fireclay is added with a bit more water added. I mixed this all in a wheel barrow.



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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Old 01-29-2010   #2
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

You will need a casing to mold the furnace in. You can use any type of pot used to small trees or a steel bucket. I chose the bucket route: $15.99 for 6 gal w/lid



I saw on the website that the guy used screws as a sort of support to keep the refractory in the bucket. So I got some screws and just did 8 spaced up and down along the side. I did this for the lid also by screwing them down from the top:




Of course you do not want to mix the refractory before you prep the bucket or what ever you are using. This includes cutting a hole in the bucket and using a sort of pipe, whatever size you need, to keep an opening for the torch. I had some old exhaust pipe extenders lying around so I used that as my pipe.

I do not have the torch in my possession right now so I have no clue how big the head is but it is right here:

- Harbor Freight Tools - Quality Tools at the Lowest Prices

You have quite a bit of working time with this stuff but donít push it. I did a few scoops from a small bowl at a time into the bucket, and then packed it down with a stick. This is important because if there are any air pockets then it can cause the furnace to explode because of the expanding air. That is really the only danger I have heard of so far. So pack well!!
Build it up then when you are at the top I leveled it out with a straight piece of wood. Do the same thing for the lid. You do not need the cone that I have in my lid, only a chimney hole. I just use this cone because it was laying in a box in my garage so I grabbed it and put a few screws in it. It belongs to a spot light but I donít think my dad will need it.

Once you pack it all in, the coffee can will not come out; I realized this and think it will be fine. Iím not sure what it is made of but I guess I will find out.

Anyhow, this is how my furnace is standing right now:






Pretty solid and very heavy. It need to sit for a few days to cure. In the mean time I will be waiting for my torch to come which will be Tuesday.

For the crucible, I tried finding large enough steel pipe to fit 2.5Ē cans in but could not since I wanted about a 3 inch pipe. So I turned to the clay art center in my town and they pointed me towards making a ceramic crucible. They said I will need a refractory they make and will need to sculpt it into the shape I want. Then heat it up and get rid of the moisture in the oven at 212 degrees for a couple hours. And finally fire it in the furnace until it is glowing red, then let it cool down and it will be good to go. I canít make this until my torch gets here so I am at a stand still right now. I will update the thread once I get the torch and start making the crucible.

Thanks for reading!

Quote:
Originally Posted by storm View Post
I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency

Last edited by Austin; 01-29-2010 at 12:44 AM..
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Old 01-29-2010   #3
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

If you're doing that with plans to sell it for scrap later you just cut it's value in 1/2....if not more.
Scrap yards won't want it because they think you threw in steel or something heavier to fudge on the weight.

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Old 01-29-2010   #4
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Quote:
Originally Posted by UNBROKEN View Post
If you're doing that with plans to sell it for scrap later you just cut it's value in 1/2....if not more.
Scrap yards won't want it because they think you threw in steel or something heavier to fudge on the weight.
well that was our intentions but it wasn't the main goal. That sucks they think that though. It will still be fun to melt metal haha.

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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Old 01-29-2010   #5
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Very nice DIY. And since you'll have liquid Aluminum to splash around, you're not far away from making some cool cast art sculptures.
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Old 01-29-2010   #6
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

If you can refine this to make aluminum billet, you can then cnc parts. WIN.

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Old 01-29-2010   #7
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

or make it into aluminum foil hats

sorry 4m, couldn't resist.
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Old 01-29-2010   #8
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

That's a lot of tinfoil

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Old 01-29-2010   #9
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Thicker foil might work better? Surprised the nutters haven't upgraded to riveted pop cans yet.
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Old 01-29-2010   #10
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Haha yeah if the scrapyard won't give me much for the aluminum then i will find something to do with it.

I forgot to add that the coffee can amounts i used to measure out the ingredients was by far not enough.

for example:

The fire clay was measured out into 2 parts, so 2 coffee cans full and so on for the others. This was just enough to get partway up the coffee can in the steel bucket. I had to make about two more batches but with a smaller bowl. I would say you need at least twice as much mixture than i had. So double up on it.

I just got the refractory for the crucible today and i was walking around the clay art center and saw they had the same torch for $35 from harbor freight that i ordered. Which i would have paid that much to get it right then. They also had large, cast iron torch tips also but were more spendy. Hopefully the harbor freight torch works well enough. If not i will make my own with the parts available at the store.

Edit: i talked to the guys at my work and they said that the scrapyard they went to can test whether it is all aluminum or not. Either with a magnet to try to pick it up or measure the volume vs mass of the blocks. So this may work out nicely after all.

Quote:
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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Old 01-30-2010   #11
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

I ended up getting the torch today in the mail..totally not expecting that. I got some propane and fired this baby up. Man does it shoot a flame. At max it will do nearly a 2 foot flame out the tip. Here are some pics of it in the furnace:





If i put the lid on, it muffles the fire and goes out...I need to find a way to put some vents in the side.

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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Old 01-30-2010   #12
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

drinking all that soda is very bad for you.

The Amazing Statistics and Dangers of Soda Pop

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Old 01-30-2010   #13
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

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Originally Posted by 60ndown View Post
drinking all that soda is very bad for you.

The Amazing Statistics and Dangers of Soda Pop

It's a good thing I'm not the one drinking all of that! Haha. I will only have a pop once every few days. Its the other guys that drink it all. And a lot of the times they are at least half full but they forgot whos it is so it gets abandoned.

I haven't melted any aluminum yet because i still need to make the crucible. That will be for tomorrow. Pics will come once it is finished.

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Old 02-03-2010   #14
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Finally got the crucible to work and not explode. Here are some pictures.


















+ YouTube Video
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I am going to melt some cans today and will post a few videos of it or maybe just one haha depends on how long it takes.

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Old 02-03-2010   #15
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

I have one of those flame throwers for burning off weeds, I can assure you that you will burn more in propane than you will recoup in recycling money. Those things are hogs.

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Old 02-03-2010   #16
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Quote:
Originally Posted by chad View Post
I have one of those flame throwers for burning off weeds, I can assure you that you will burn more in propane than you will recoup in recycling money. Those things are hogs.
yeah i know it has almost gone through the entire bottle. I'm not relying on recouping my money anyways. It is just something fun to do and get a few bucks out of it.

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You frighten me............
Why is that?

I can assure you I have been around fire and burning things since i was a little kid. I know very well what fire can do and the dangers involved with it.

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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Old 02-03-2010   #17
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Hope that metal can isn't anodized and getting hot... very bad health wise... Welders aren't supposed to work with it without full respirators...
Kewl project though.

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Old 02-03-2010   #18
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

looks galvanized, even worse.

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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

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looks galvanized, even worse.
THAT'S what I meant... galvanized... heating galvanized = bad

I had something I was going to pay a welder to do that was galvanized... and he said @$%#, NO -he wouldn't weld it!

OSHA link: Occupational (OSHA) and Environmental Hazards: galvanized steel fumes, melting point of zinc, zinc oxide

Maybe the hot lid on that thing would be the worst... I wouldn't go snorting zink oxide fumes with that thing.
Looks like you got it pretty well insulated...

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Old 02-03-2010   #20
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ziggy View Post
Hope that metal can isn't anodized and getting hot... very bad health wise... Welders aren't supposed to work with it without full respirators...
Kewl project though.

Are you talking about the garbage can it is in? the outside? It is galvanized but it doesn't get hot enough to put off any fumes. You can put your hand on it for several seconds without it burning you. The refractory insulates it pretty well.

IIRC i tempted it at < 140 degrees.

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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Old 02-04-2010   #21
 
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

Did I miss a step? I never saw you melt any cans.
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Old 02-04-2010   #22
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

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Originally Posted by Vega-LE View Post
Did I miss a step? I never saw you melt any cans.
I did that today. I just haven't uploaded the videos yet. I will do that in about ten minutes.

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Old 02-04-2010   #23
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

videos as promised:

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Quote:
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I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

You should start a gold business. Advertise that you buy gold jewelry and watches for cash.
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Old 02-04-2010   #25
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Default Re: Melting Aluminum Cans

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Originally Posted by Vega-LE View Post
You should start a gold business. Advertise that you buy gold jewelry and watches for cash.

Haha problem would be getting the cash at first lol.

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Originally Posted by storm View Post
I had my 6-channel amp's opamp and power supply upgraded to better quality parts / grades. The SQ turned out fantastic after some burn-in. Resolution was greatly improved with excellent transparency
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