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How To Make The Mini Metal Foundry

Things aren't always what they might appearto be. For example, this decorative houseplant you're looking at, is actually an artfullydisguised, metal melting furnace. In this project we're using equal parts of sandand plaster, to make a simple backyard foundry, that's powerful enough to melt scrap metalin seconds, but still pleasant enough keep around for decoration. Let's start this project with a big bagof play sand, and some plaster of paris. Both of which you can find at your local hardwarestore, for under $20. We're also gonna need a 10 quart steel bucket, and a tableclothto cover anything important, because chances

are this is going to get a bit messy. I foundthat this 2.5 quart bucket can be used for measuring the ingredients, but it'll alsoserves a more important purpose that you'll see in just a second. Now the recipe I'musing for this makeshift refractory lining, is 134 buckets full (21 cups) of plasterof paris, 134 buckets full (21 cups) of sand. And 114 buckets, filled (15 cups)with water. The moment the water touches the dry mix, the clock starts ticking and we'veonly got about 15 minutes before it all hardens up. So let's get busy mixing everythingtogether. It's really important to get all the dry powder wet, and work out any lumpsas quickly as possible. And after mixing for

a couple of minutes, it should be fairly runny,and roughly all the same color. Now when you're convinced there aren't any clumps of powderleft in the bucket, the refractory mix is ready for pouring. So let's carefully transferit to the steel bucket as slowly as practical, to minimize the splattering. There shouldbe just enough fluid to fill the bucket about 3� from the top, and now if we bring backour plastic measuring bucket, we can use it to form the center of the foundry. I filledmy bucket with water, to give it a bit of weight, but anything like sand or rocks willwork as well. And you can see that as we push the bucket into the center, the mixture risesupward, but it doesn't spill out. Now it's

obvious that the mix is already starting tofirm up, so let's try working the bucket up and down a few times, to help level itbefore it sets. And all we have to do now, is hold still for 2 to 3 minutes. This willgive the plaster just enough time to harden, so the bucket stays in place,even when welet go. Alright, time for a little cleanup. Everything will still need about an hour toreally harden up, but the plaster's still soft enough that we can clean and shape itto look really good. And while we're here we may as well wipe the bucket down as well.Now I've found that if we dampen a rag and gently drag it around the top, the surfacecleans up really nicely, and gets a cool texture

in the process. When it looks the way youwant it too, simply leave it for about an hour. Now while we're waiting, why don'twe turn this old steel fire extinguisher, into a custom crucible. You can tell it'smade from steel because when we hold a magnet to it, it sticks. And magnets won't do thatto aluminum. I depressurized the tank and unscrewed the valve from the top, to makeit safe and easy to cut in half with a hacksaw. Which you can see just happened in less thana minute. Now the bottom part of the extinguisher is what we want for the crucible, becauseit's basically a steel cup 3� in diameter, and 5� tall. That's going to be perfectfor our custom backyard foundry. At this point,

the plaster should be pretty well set, solet's dump the water from the bucket, then use something like a pair of channel locks,to grip one edge of the pail, and pull gently toward the center. Now if we grip it withboth hands and give it a bit of a twist, you can see the whole bucket pops loose, and pullsright out. This just created an amazingly smooth surface, which gives this makeshiftfoundry, a surprisingly professional look. The only features we're missing now, arean air supply port, and a lid, so let's make those next. Now I found a 138� (35mm)hole saw was the perfect size for accomodating this 1� steel tubing, and if we center themetal cutting blade with the top line on the

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