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Kang

Kang's Kreations - Molten Metal Madness

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IMG_20170807_075507162.jpg

Mom and Dad seemed to like these cast aluminum portraits of their grandchildren when they opened them this morning. They are harder to recognize up close, so I had fun watching them have that 'magic eye' poster type moment of sudden recognition. :)

 

Wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday...

 

Kang

 

Edited by Kang
Replaced broken pic links with uploads... That do not look as shiny as IRL
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A couple days ago I ordered some plaster crafts molds from a website. There are several companies selling the same molds; I used the one I had seen recommended.

 

The plan is to use the molds to cast plaster patterns to ram up in sand molds so I can make metal versions. The molds I ordered are:

 

- skull shaped ashtray

- decorative box with separate lid

- decorative light switch cover

- festive poinsettia candle holder

 

Screenshot_20170126-084706_zpsoooplnim.p

 

I hope this screenshot pic works for everyone - it was this or a forbidden commercial link... I had trouble uploading it to my pic bucket site, which happens to be blocked from this PC. Not in a file format I use often either. If it is not showing up, try image searching the descriptions above adding "plaster molds", and at least the skull and the box should pop up.

 

Anyhow, I am hopeful that these should make for some fun metal casting projects! Looking forward to their arrival. More pix when they get here and I start making patterns. Which I won't have to wait for spring to get going on.

 

If casting the light switch covers in metal works out well (a little concerned that the shrinkage of the cooling metal will cause the screw holes to not line up right, etc.), I might try casting a bunch of plaster copies to mount on a "match plate" (aka pattern board) so I can cast multiple metal copies in a single mold that is quick and easy to ram up. I have not made a match plate before, and I think that would be good practice. If it works, it should make it a fairly quick thing to cast enough for all the light switches in my house.

 

Mostly looking forward to casting the skull ashtray though. I gave up smoking a couple years ago, but for some reason I just love casting metal skulls... Should make nice gifts for some of my friends who still do smoke, or just to use as Hallowe'en candy dishes or something.

 

 

Kang

Edited by Kang
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Update:  Due to bad weather at the sender's end, it took about 10 days for the shipping tracking link that came with my order's receipt to stop saying "Will ship in 4-7 days".  But now that it has.  I got a new tracking code once it shipped, and I can now see that it bounced around California a bit, then to Kentucky, and is now en-route to Montreal here in Canada.  So Hopefully I should have my new molds within the next few days!

 

I normally resist ordering things online, but following the tracking info as my package gradually makes its way to me is actually more fun than I thought it would be...  I'm starting to get excited about pouring those plaster patterns!

 

Kang

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Well, when I got home on Friday there was a note in my mailbox saying to come pick up my parcel at the PO...

 

Long story short, here are the first plaster test castings. A few little bubbles in most of them some of which you may be able to see I filled in with wood filler putty. Not as smooth as the plaster straight out of the mold, but once I put on a couple coats of shellack I think they would work well. I was watching some videos of plaster casting last night and I think I have figured out a couple of tricks to help eliminate those bubbles, such as pouring only part of the mold and swishing the plaster around in it while it begins to set up. The candle holder in particular is one I plan to use this on heavily, otherwise it will be a solid rouhly dome like shape instead of having a hollow bottom, ie. even thickness throughout. If I can swish plaster around in there long enough to build up a plaster shell that is empty in the middle (bowl-shaped, in essence) when held upside down, the even thickness will mean I have less shrinkage defects in the metal copies to worry about eliminating via mold design. An alternative would be to carve a hollow section in the bottom of the solid plaster casting, but why waste the stuff? Save a little molten metal this way too...

 

I think I will try to get my hands on some harder plaster though, to give them a better chance of surviving being rammed up in a sand mold. I have maybe 1/3 of a big box of Merlin's Magic not-dental plaster, which was great durable stuff when it was new and being used to pour HirstArts molds, but after a decade or so sitting out in my shed, what remains of it is past its prime. I used it to make coreboxes for my axe patterns and the latest one didn't come out feeling too strong... Should be able to make cores in it, but that doesn't require very hard treatment... So I am back to plaster of Paris for these tests. I'll have to spend some time looking into learning what is available locally. There might be a hobby shop somewhere in town that sells hydrocal or the like...

 

IMG_20170213_060301437_zps9psnyy2k.jpg

 

IMG_20170213_060253175_HDR_zpsi6satrvn.j

 

 

 

Kang

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Big thanks to CanuckOtter who, as it turns out, works about a 3 minute dogsled ride from where I do (small world!), and was willing to part with an extra 100# bag of Hydrostone that happened to be lying around.  Turns out there is no local supplier.  It is a little over a year old, but I tested some and the castings came out great, so it's definitely still good.  And I got to meet another forum member in person for the first time (far as I know, and however briefly).  I did not get murdered in a parking lot and tossed into the Ottawa river, so that was a nice bonus as well!  Guess Otter's one of the good ones...   

 

It was a little bit strange driving up to a complete stranger standing on the sidewalk and us simultaneously asking each other if our names were Kang and CanuckOtter...  Luckily I guessed right on the first try thanks to the map I'd been sent.  Not sure how many guys got asked if they were Kang before I got there though... 

 

Anyhow, I have rebagged all of the Hydrostone into 11 large zip-locking freezer bags which I plan to store inside a sealed plastic 5-gallon hardware store bucket or two.  Those are not actually airtight (my molding sand dries out inside them over the winter), but I figure they are close enough when you consider I'm also zipping the stuff up in those freezer bags.  It just has to be a better system than how I failed to keep my Merlin's Magic fresh - an open cardboard box with a bag of MM that is just sort of loosely twisted shut inside it...

 

Resisting rambling on forever here, suffice it to say I will post pictures of some of the hydrostone and PoP sandcasting patterns I've cast so far when I get a chance to upload some to my bucket and link to them here.  Mrs. Kang's new job is in evening shift mode and wreaking havoc with my accustomed hobby time and weekly game nights (we have 2 young kids).  Still, it beats unemployment and she is happier in her job than I have seen her in years, so I call that a big win for the Kang family, even if it does mean you guys will have to wait a bit for the new plaster pix and some of the plaster casting tricks I learned recently on youtube...

 

Hey what do you know, this hasn't turned into a full blown novella after all.  Heck, it's barely even a novelette! 

 

You're welcome.  :)

 

Oh yeah, also, I 'm totally going to start my HirstArts modular dungeon project back up.  It's been on the back burner completely untouched since the day I discovered DIY metal casting and got fully obsessed, but now is the time to get it gong again, while Balerion the Black dread (my big waste-oil-fired melting furnace) is still snowed into my shed out back making casting metal an impossibility.

 

Kang

Edited by Kang
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A friend of mine told me he wants to buy my bronze axe!  The one I posted at the very start of this thread.  I did not make it to sell; I cast metal stricly for fun and as a way to learn new skills and to make decorations and other useful things for myself.  But I am happy about this, as the foundry hobby gets a little expensive to practice sometimes, and this means that when I make another axe (just waiting or all the snow to melt) that is IMO better designed, I will be able to keep it for myself.  Aluminum bronze isn't cheap stuff after all...  I can afford to have that much alloy tied up in one axe, but not twice as much tied up in two of them.  I only have so many hands to swing axes with at any one time, after all.  It's for a friend, so I only asked for enough to cover my costs for the bronze itself, plus a little extra for the time I have invested in the pattern-making and finishing, and the ongoing costs of maintaining my homemade foundry equipment.  

 

Anyhow, I got all excited that someone thought my work was worth paying for, and decided it needed some more work before I am ready to hand it over.  The original blade was too convex; it wanted to deflect too often when I was chopping a hard log in two last fall.  That was OK when it was my own homemade axe and my own toes at risk, but not good enough to sell.  So I re-ground the edge it so it is sharper and more acute; should perform much better and a little safer now.  And hopefully still have enough thickness to make a decent splitter as well.  I reground the reverse facing adze-like bit too; that bit was never any use but now I think I have fixed it to some extent. 

 

So now that I had ground it back, I had to re-harden the edge(s).  This is done by hammering.  Cold, not hot like blacksmithing.  Originally I went easy on this as i was afraid of marring my work with ugly hammer marks, but I figured since I was never fully happy with how that had gone down, I might as well sack up and just get to it, stop my worrying and try to make some progress.  If it got ruined by hammering on it incorrectly, I could always re-melt it and cast another.

 

But you know what?  I think it looks 100 times better than ever now!  Definitely something to be said for not letting your fears stop you from trying new things.  Not only did I hammer the crap out of the edges to compress and harden the bronze, but once that was done I also then switched to my ball peen hammer and gave the whole blade a crazy all-over bashing.  Not sure what came over me, but it worked out. This camouflaged the crude hammer marks I had made near the edge (possibly visible as light lines running parallel to the edge in the pic), and also gave the whole thing a really nice dimpled finish that completely took me by surprise; it was far easier and IMO much nicer looking than trying to give it a high mirror polish with the limited tools I have in my little hobby foundry workshop.  A few hammer marks can be a good thing, as it turns out.  At the very least it lets you know it is a hand made item...

 

So here it is, all finished up.  Well, the side that's showing in the pic anyhow.  The far side and the top & bottom edge still need the same treatment to be honest.  I'll have to cut the handle off to do the bottom and some of the top, but no big deal, the handle is a standard cheap sledge hammer handle from my local hardware store, not like it is a hand picked and carved piece of hickory from the campsite that spawned my casting obsession or anything.  I'm saving that stick for the next axe!  :)

 

I thought this might serve as an interesting reference photo for anyone painting minis with bronze weapons or armor.  It'd be really interesting to see someone paint a mini with bronze gear to give it the look of a dimpled finish like this, or it could also be helpful maybe just as a general colour reference for bronze, be it NMM or otherwise.  Aluminum bronze is a little bit more silvery than traditional tin bronze, but I think most gamers would not know the difference...  I chose it over other backyard-castable alloys because aluminum bronze is tough stuff compared to other bronzes.  I'm not trying to create historically accurate reproductions after all; the world already has a Neil Burridge...  My bronze axes (ok, so far it is just "axe") are meant to be fantasy-inspired art, but to me it is a little more important that they be functional tools first, the kind of thing I can bring on a camping trip for cutting firewood.

 

So, as promised, a pic of the new finish I hammered into it.  Enjoy, let me know what you think, and again, hopefully it'll make a helpful painting reference for somone's minis:

 

IMG_20170326_190853328.jpg

 

Shiny!  :)

 

Kang

Edited by Kang
Restored the lost image...
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Thanks TS!   I do plan on testing this one out as a thrower.  I even have a couple big round slices of tree trunk I've been saving to use as targets... One thing I was considering earlier was putting a shorter handle on this axe, more like a hatchet - or a 'hawk, as you say. 

 

We have a couple of different axe throwing businesses here in Ottawa; I know a couple guys who went and tried it, I'm told it's a huge amount of fun, but I checked and they won't allow me to bring my own axe with me - insurance concerns, I gather.  Why allowing you to bring your own beer and wine to drink while hurling sharp metal objects around is fine but bringing your own sharp throwable object isn't is mystifying, but their house their rules I suppose. I'll just have to try it for free in my backyard instead.  :)

 

The other axe pattern I have ready to mold up and cast is for a full sized axe blade, unlike this smaller one.  I figured making a matched axe & hatchet set might be a fun project.  I guess I'll leave the type of replacement handle that gets put on this one up to the guy who will end up with it... 

 

The beauty of greensand casting is that selling this one, even with a full size axe handle on it, doesn't mean that creating a matched set with one just like this being the hatchet is going to mean a lot of extra work or expense - my molding sand can be reused indefinitely with only a little water needing to be added regularly to replace evaporative losses, and ramming up a new mold only takes a few minutes.  Once the snow is all gone and my pouring area isn't icy or muddy anymore, I can decide to make another one like this at any time, and be pouring it within 90 minutes or so.  Less if I got the mold right on the first try...  Heck, I could build a large flask and cast one of each in a single pour if I was really eager, I'm sure my #12 crucible has the capacity to handle it.  This means I can still do the matched set on a whim if I want.  A bit of work on the pattern for this one first would be good though, so that less grinding of the casting itself would be needed... 

 

Kang 

 

PS.  No news is good news as far as your lost wax efforts are concerned, yes?  Hope that is going well.

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3 hours ago, Kang said:

PS.  No news is good news as far as your lost wax efforts are concerned, yes?  Hope that is going well.

 

Oh, quite well.  I'm still doing it and learning a lot. Unfortunately (from a showing standpoint), I have been casting pieces that will be featured on a few minis in Bones IV, so I have to keep it under wraps.

 

Usually when I go quite in the Sculpting section, it is because I am working on stuff I can't show.

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"Pieces that will be featured on a few minis" actually makes me even more curious than if you'd just said "minis"!  :)

 

Looking forward to the wraps coming off...

 

Kang

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Over the weekend instead of getting out and casting something as I have been dying to do for months, I realized I still have a few things to prepare before that can happen...

 

I made a new flask big enough to cast the next bronze axe I plan to make, which will be a little different design than the first one.  Should be nice and big enough for any of the stuff I have in mind so far this season, actually.  Making it was fun, I got to go to my friend's house and use his big planer (whirling blades of death) to even out the parting line surfaces.  The flask is almost complete in the pic, only the alignment hardware remains to me built and added.  That is to ensure that the mold is beiong closed up properly, not with the top rotated 90* from where it belongs, nor turned the correct way but with half of the axe offset from the other half by a few 16ths or whatever.

This flask is 12" X 12" on the interior, ie. bigger than I have ever rammed up and poured before.  I may have explained this somewhere above, but TLDR: A "flask" in sand casting is the 2-part bottomless and topless box that the mold gets made in. 

 

I also made patterns to mold the gating; shown in the pic here you should be able to see a sprue well (site under the prue to catch loose sand and reduce turbulence in the mold), a deep narrow runner (said to be a good shape for casting copper alloys), and two gates a little less deep where the metal will go into the castnigs themselves.  The pic shows it all upside down, and it is only the bottom half of the mold (called the drag); the pieces that will be molded in the top half (the cope) are also shown here.  But the gating is the part between the axe and the other doodad, which is a pattern for a small bronze anvil that I will use to peen the cutting edge to hardness (this is called "work-hardening" and is done because bronze does not generally harden with heat treatment like high carbon steel) after sharpening. 

 

The pic shows roughly how the flask and patterns will be laid out when I ram up the drag with green sand.  Once that is done, I'll flip it over, put on the top halves of the patterns using the alignment dowels you can see in the pic, and proceed to ram up the cope with the sprue pattern in place on top of its well.

 

IMG_20170423_210256199_zpsvwcxdhhk.jpg

 

If we get some decent weather next weekend I may get the chance to actually cast the new axe at last, or at least cast something...  I have some new patterns for casting in aluminum lined up and ready to go too, though I may build some gating patterns for those as well, since aluminum likes shallow wide gating where copper likes it narrow and deep.  In the past I have just carved the gating out of the packed sand after the mold is rammed up, but molding the gating using patterns like this is supposed to get you less loose sand inside the mold and smoother passages for the metal to pass through, ie. better castings.

 

Kang

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No pictures this time.

 

Well, the weather did not co-operate very well; still no first casting day of 2017 to report.

 

I did get my new, bigger flask completed - added the alignment hardware and some skinny "ribs" on the inside surfaces to help the sand not drop out when I open the molds and lift/flip its halves.

 

I made some gating patterns for aluminum castings - short and wide, as opposed to the tall and skinny gating patterns for copper alloys that I made for casting the next bronze axe (see previous post).  I don't know why the different alloys prefer different shaped gating, but a guy on the casting forum who used to me a journeyman molder for the US Navy recommended these shapes for gating used to cast different metals, and I have seen enough of his work to trust his advice.  I'll use the same sprue well shown in the previous piosts in the new gating for bronze.  It's a little deeper than it needs to be for Al, but it should work.  I did not paint or seal the new gating for aluminum, thinking perhaps the weather would relent and let me get going - I did not want the gating to still be sticky with half-dried lacquer spray if I needed it all of a sudden - but I believe it has been sanded smooth enough to use anyhow.  Now that the weekend is over, I'll probably paint them before next weekend and hope things work out better then.  Week-night melts are technically possible I guess, but I prefer to have lots of extra time when melting in case of complications, and the time between putting the kids and myself to bed when we all have to go to school or work the next day grows ever shorter as the years go by...

 

I also freshened up my molding sand.  Did not use Big Bucket Mull the almost-muller seen running in a couple of video clips upthread, as it is still put away in another shed and also partially disassembled for some planned tweaking that hasn't happened yet; I used a paint mixer bit on my drill instead, which worked quite well for mixing in a little more water.  I found it best to mix maybe 1/3 of a 5 gallon bucket at a time.  I own 100lbs of green sand, which works out to 2 full 5g buckets, so this didn't take too long.

 

I have pretty much decided to cast the aluminum skull-shaped ashtray (or candy dish to you vapers and PC types) first this year.  Ease back into things with a nice low-key aluminum melt, is the idea - bronze still feels pretty new to me, makes me slightly nervous to think about melting it again (yet also kind of excited)...  So I made sure the new gating and the pattern fit OK in the new flask, which they do.  In this case the runner will be in the drag (under the mold's parting line) just like in the pic above of the new gating patterns for bronze, but unlike in that pic, the gates will be in the cope (above the parting line).  I will take some pix of the mold when I ram it up, which should clarify all of this if needed.  This should help the gating skim any dross off as it passes through the runner; the idea is that it should float and stick to the top of the runner before the metal rises high enough in the mold to begin to fill the gates above.  Possibly I should have done the same with the gating for bronze, but instead I went with a simpler design with all the gating in the drag, which should still work well.  Did this for some boring technical reasons, probably not worth explaining here.  Unless anyone asks - I am always happy to ramble on about this stuff more if given even the slightest bit of encouragement... :)   Otherwise just call me lazy, and that is close enough to the truth as makes no matter...

 

Anyhow, maybe next weekend...  Wish me luck. And dry weather!

 

Kang

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