Most twelve-year-old’s idea of a crazy project is building a Lego car or a tree house. Mine was to build a backyard foundry. I’m not sure where I got the idea from, but I think it was seeing an advertisement for Dave Gingery’s series of books in the back of Popular Mechanics. Dave Gingery created a whole series of instructional booklets and plans for the home machinist. He had books on how to build just about any piece of equipment from lathes to band saws to foundries.
Fortunately I had a father who, when presented with the idea of his twelve-year-old heating aluminum to a liquid state, not only encouraged me, but helped me gather all the necessary equipment. He also kept an eye on me, ensuring I didn’t end up in the ER’s burn unit or on an episode of “World’s Most Bizarre Backyard Accidents.”
The Actual furnace was made from a large popcorn can lined with a sand/fire clay mix, and heated with charcoal. We used a blower motor from a discarded dishwasher to raise the furnace temperature high enough to melt aluminum. My dad came up with the clever idea of using a stainless steel camping mug as a crucible. The end result was pretty similar to what you see below.