New Member from NH

Discussion in 'New member introductions' started by Fasttrack, May 22, 2023.

  1. Fasttrack

    Fasttrack Copper

    Hello from NH!

    I've got a diverse background as a machinist, engineer, and physicist. One of my passions is restoring old machine tools and my personal collection of lathes, milling machines, and shapers tips the scales at a little over 65,000 lbs - almost entirely cast iron! Consequently, I have a lot of experience welding and brazing cast iron but I've never done any casting.

    I'm interested in casting machine parts as well as casting straightedges and other tools for precision scraping. I've been reading old texts on the subject (e.g. from the 1910s and earlier!) figuring that the technology back then was more relevant to a home foundry than modern day foundry practices. But I'm a complete novice.

    As much as I'd love to jump right into the deep end with a large furnace doing 100 lb. pours, I'm practical enough to realize that's a recipe for disaster. So I'm thinking I will start small and try casting some mortise lock parts. I'm remodeling an 1890s house and I'd like to preserve the old mortise lock sets on all the doors but the innards are pretty worn out.

    Anyway, very glad to have found this forum. Tons of valuable information and a community of like minded people. I'm sure I'll have lots of questions as I actually start building and - hopefully - pouring!
    Tobho Mott likes this.
  2. Tops

    Tops Silver

    Welcome aboard! We do like pictures of old machine tools and projects and stuff... :)
  3. Al2O3

    Al2O3 Administrator Staff Member

    Welcome fasttrack.

    I designed and spec'd castings for many years and also did quite a bit of pattern work but I didnt start actually casting myself at home until 7 years ago because I previously had friends with foundries and could always mooch off them for molding and pouring metal. I cast mostly autmotive and machine parts and I started with the notion I'd be pouring 60lbs of aluminum right off the bat. My first purchase was an A60 crucible as pictured at the left of my Avatar.

    I didn't actually pour with the A60 for the first time until three years ago and in fact am doing an A60 pour today, and am glad I spent a few years casting smaller parts and making my foundry equipment because everything gets more challenging for a hobbyist as the castings get larger and the failures can be more painful......better to get your processes developed with more managable parts. Along the way I picked up lost foam casting, and that's pretty much all I do these days, but that's another story.

    Given your machinery habit, I'm guessing you'll be looking to cast iron. If so, you should search Melterskelter's posts. He's been pouring iron straight edges for a few years now.

  4. Fasttrack

    Fasttrack Copper

    Thanks guys! Yes, primarily interested in casting iron (eventually - anyway). I've been reading through some of Melterskelter's posts. Very much in line with what I'd like to do.

    I'm working on remodeling this house at the moment and haven't been doing much on my many machine related projects. Here's a little snap shot of a project lathe I picked up at auction a couple years ago. It's joining 3 other Pacemaker lathes and a Monarch 10EE. My wife has since banned me from attending machine tool auctions... at least until I finish work on the house :)

    Last edited: May 24, 2023
    Rocketman likes this.
  5. Al2O3

    Al2O3 Administrator Staff Member

    I'd love to have the shop space for just one (let alone four), especially the 10EE. My grandfather had a very nice one in his shop. There may not be a single casting on that machine within the reach of the typical hobbyst.

  6. Fasttrack

    Fasttrack Copper

    Being a novice in the world of foundry work, I'm no qualified to offer an opinion on what is within the reach of a hobbyist but the 10EE is definitely a fine machine. One of the best small lathes ever produced, IMO. Mine was a project and still needs some work but I had the pleasure of running one in tip-top shape at a previous job.
  7. Ironsides

    Ironsides Silver

    Another member here tried to start of with big pours of iron and failed. He now does 10 kg pours of iron successfully so it is better to start small. My first iron pour with a larger crucible was a failure because the iron was not hot enough. Getting iron hot enough to pour requires a few experiments to get it right. Kelly was right failures can be painful but bigger failures can be even more painful.
  8. Welcome aboard. It sounds like you have the right mindset, background, and experience to help you have some some fun in this field and likely make some contributions to the art.

    I too have a EE and love it. Some of the smaller parts are doable in the home shop. Compounds, cross slides, tail stocks, levers (I made a tailstock lever to replace a broken one on mine) and bits and pieces in the drive train come to mind. If you decide to pour a 1000 pound main body casting segment or a headstock, please invite us all to watch!

    The biggest stumbling block most people seem to encounter is the problem of tuning their furnace to get it hot enough. There seems to be a general reluctance to believe that modest fuel flow balanced by modest combustion air so that only a very faint flame is escaping the vent is the key. We have seen people persisting in blasting lots of fuel and air into the furnace with impressive flames shooting out but still not achieving good melting temps. I know that , on the face of it, it seems counterintuitive to throttle back, but it seems to be the key in my limited experience. An immersion pyrometer is very useful and I always use one, but a pretty reliable physical sign of adequate heat is a shiny surface on the melted iron that does not “scum” over after skimming and some roiling of the metal is also occurring at around 2550F.

    Oh, and if you don’t fail, you are being too conventional!

    Fasttrack likes this.
  9. Fasttrack

    Fasttrack Copper

    Thanks for all the welcomes!

    Denis, did you start any threads detailing your setup / furnace build? I've found some great writeups from Kelly on his electric furnace build but would be interested to learn more about your setup. Maybe I'm not very proficient with the search tool here, but I'm just turning up tons of posts you've made on other people's threads rather than narrowing it down to threads you've started.

    Still in info gathering mode, trying to soak up as much as I can. Just picked up a used copy of Audel's "Oil Burners" text from the 1980s but some interesting stuff in there. Out in my neck of the woods, there are plenty of used oil burners from steam boilers / hydronic heat. I might try repurposing one, maybe even try running it on a blend of centrifuged waste oil and diesel / heating oil. If I'm tuning things correctly so I've just got that faint flame out the top, what kind of fuel rate should I expect to burn if I've got a furnace for, say, an A8 or A10 crucible? And is that a reasonable starting size or should I go smaller like an A6?

    Anyway, thanks again for the welcome. There's such a tremendous amount of stuff to learn. I'm practically giddy with the thought of it. Really cool blend of engineering, trade-skill, manual labor, artistic ability, experience ... and of course that primordial draw of heat and fire!

  10. Here is a thread concerning the initial build and some improvements made down the line.


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