These days, you don’t have to work in a foundry to learn about the process or cast your own metal parts, and I’m not talking about making jewelry or art, either, I mean making truly functional metal castings for use in machinery. There’s a fairly active group of folks casting metal as a hobby, and for those of you who truly love machinery, this might be something to add to your skill set.
Back in 1980, David Gingery wrote a now famous series of little books showing you how to build a machine shop, starting by creating a charcoal foundry in Book 1, then using the foundry to cast the pieces necessary to build a metal lathe with a 7 inch swing and 12 inches between centers, then a shaper, a milling machine, a drill press, a dividing head and finally a sheet metal brake. Hand tools and a 3/8″ drill are all that’s necessary to get things started, the lathe is used to machine parts once it’s built, even some of the parts to complete itself. I don’t know of many instances of all of the tools in the book series being built by readers, but here’s one fellow’s experience building the lathe.
A comment in the previous article, points to Kevin Cameron’s interesting article about casting in the February Cycle World, noting numerous difficulties encountered while casting engine parts. Mentioned in the article is a book, Castings, by John Campbell, which takes an in depth look at the process, but you don’t have to get into that much technical detail to learn enough to try your own hand at it.
Most of you may not have any interest in these early stages of the building process, but judging from comments, it sounds like a few of you already do a bit of metal casting. It’s a skill more people should be aware of and something some young guys would probably find challenging and fun, what young boy wouldn’t want to see hot molten puddles of metal? Kids really do enjoy learning if you treat them like adults and give them a chance to get involved in something substantial. If you plan to give this a try, make sure you get some young people involved and tell us how it turned out. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to follow in Aniket’s footsteps, designing and building your own engine, or build one like John Tangerås and his T900. If you do, be sure to write in with lots of photos.