Awesome Aluminum Anodizing!

On November 16th, 2013 we had an Aluminum Anodizing Workshop led by Frankie Flood. We had about 16 members in the workshop, which ran from 10am to 6pm. That seems like a long class, but the first few hours were really dedicated to learning all about the process, and about working with metal.
We learned about annealing metal, about forming it and shaping it, and how to add texture, and ping it with a hammer, and buffing and polishing, and about the anodizing process, and the dying of metal, and how to add resist, and the sealing process.
After Frankie dropped all the knowledge on us, we had the rest of the workshop to make things. Everyone got busy, first cutting pieces of metal, and then doing whatever they wanted with it. When a piece was ready it went into the first bath for 15 minutes, then a second bath for 5 minutes, and then it sat in a rinse until we had enough to anodize, which we did every 45 minutes or so. Almost everyone left the class with a few pieces (or one totally awesome piece.)
The Anodizing Bath
There was a lot of interest in the workshop, so we may run another one (if Frankie is willing!) and we’re also talking about permanently adding anodizing to the capabilities of the space.
Metal Shop
We also want to give a big thanks to Frankie for teaching us, and to Michael for organizing the class. Everyone had a good time, learned a lot, and walked away with some nice looking pieces of metal.
Orange Metal

Forming Metal

Buffing Metal

Dye Baths

Squishing Metal

Note: See Frankie’s post for a ton more photos!

Hot Stuff! Aluminum Pour Night.


To quote the Iron Worker on THE SIMPSONS,  ”Hot stuff, coming through!”
I was pretty excited that I finally made it down to the Milwaukee Makerspace last night to attend an aluminum pour! I’ve seen a couple of the videos and really wanted to get in on some of that hot metal casting. I have what’s called a “speed-ring”, a metal ring that holds a soft-box for photographic lighting, and I wanted to make a copy of it.

So far, much of the casting has been using a “lost-styrofoam” method. A shape is carved from foam and set in sand, and the aluminum melts the foam as it’s poured in. But I wanted a COPY of an existing item. I asked Bret about it, and he said we could try an experiment of pretty much just pressing the ring down into some sand. An X channel was then added in the middle as a point for the aluminum to pour into and spread out into the shape.

I built a wood box for my item, and we filled it with oily sand, packed it in there, and added the X-trough. My item didn’t pull out of the sand quite as well as I had hoped, but hey, it’s an experiment…

Outside, the aluminum furnace was roaring away, heating aluminum to a delightful orange liquid. The first pour made it through Kevin’s FEAR art piece, my piece, and another members. Later, a second pour took care of Phil’s hand-casting series (which turned out great!)  and the rest went into an ingot mold.

Once my piece was cool enough, we pulled it out to take a look at the results. Not perfect, but not bad for a first time, and an experimental casting at that. There was quite a bit of extra metal, but most of that could be easily trimmed off with the bandsaw. Other members were taking photos of their work. It was obvious that everyone was pretty proud of their individual castings. Even without being the one pouring out twenty pounds of molten metal, it was still a pretty macho experience just to be part of.

If you too want to come play with crazy hot metal, come on down to the Makerspace next time we do an aluminum pour!

Makerspace Aluminum Casting Foundry

I arrived at the Makerspace on Thursday without an idea of what I would cast in metal, and in less than two hours I was removing my piece from the steaming petrobond! Check out the fruit of two hours of labor cast in metal!

That’s right! The Milwaukee Makerspace had its first (and second) aluminum pour on Thursday! Thanks to the hard work of several members, the Makerspace now has a fully functional aluminum casting foundry.  The custom built propane and diesel powered furnace melted an entire #16 crucible of aluminum in less than 20 minutes.  Check out Brant’s video to see our fearless foundry foreman leading the two pours!

To get the foundry running quickly, we’ve started out by using a lost-styrofoam casting method.  That is, styrofoam is carved into the desired shape and then a sprue and vents are attached with hot glue(!).  This assembly is placed in a wooden form, and is surrounded by tightly packed petrobond, an oil bonded, reusable sand.   Then, the molten aluminum is poured directly onto the styrofoam sprue.  The styrofoam is instantly vaporized by the 1250 degree Fahrenheit aluminum, which fills the void in the petrobond formerly occupied by the styrofoam. The air and perhaps even some of the styrofoam residue escapes from the mold through the vents.  We’ll be phasing in bonded sand and lost wax casting soon, so stay tuned for those details.

Eventually we’ll be having aluminum casting classes; however, we’re definitely going to be having aluminum pours on alternate Thursday evenings for the next few months.  Join our mailing list / google group to get more details.  Metal pours are spectacular to watch, so feel free to stop by to see the action around 7 or 8 pm, or join the Makerspace and participate!