I'll write a bit about the sculpting and painting projects in a few days. I'm still gathering parts for the foundry and a larger brake drum forge. But in the meantime, here are a few of the other projects that I have going on at the house.
First up... the soup can forge.
Or in my case the coffee can forge.
Here are the gathered parts. A 1 lb. coffee can, 2 L straps, a 1/2" x 2" black iron nipple, and 2 nuts and bolts. I followed the instructions and assembled the forge shell. Total cost of materials was $5 plus the coffee and a scrap block of wood.
The refractory liner was a bit of a problem. I used the plaster of paris and sand mix the video recommended. The first batch was way too dry and wouldn't stick together. The second was way too wet and wouldn't hold its shape.
The third was just right. Or so I thought. Once it was in the can it still had trouble keeping it's shape so I put a PVC form inside and let it cure a while.
Then I placed it in the oven for a slow drying cure at about 250 degrees. I took it out 2 hours later to check on it and there were several cracks in the lining. It seems that a combination of cold basement temperature and too much water in the mix allowed for a lot of shrinkage. So I chipped the liner out, cleaned up the can and let the project sit for a day.
My next liner was made of a 50/50 mixture of sand and scratch coat plaster. I mixed it to the specifications of the foundry liner and used a Paul Mitchell hair product bottle for the form. Thanks, Susan. :)
That seemed to work out well. I have a solid refractory liner with no cracks or shrinkage. I let that cure for a day and headed to the basement for a slow burn with the torch.
All seemed to be going well until the torch started sputtering and I removed it to check things out. Evidently the shutoff valve hasn't survived the test of time. Imagine my surprise as flames started shooting out of it while I was turning it off. I haven't moved that fast in years.
Ok. Off to Harbor Freight later to grab some new equipment.
The second project is to make bio-fuel briquettes for any time of low fuel consumption stove. Here's one of the two rocket stove models that I want to make this month.
There is another larger version that uses a 5 gallon bucket as a form for the shell, but that one will have to wait a few weeks.
Anyway... back to the fuel. Briquettes of fuel can be made for these stoves by compressing waste paper, sawdust, etc. One of the projects on my honey-do list during December was to shred a mountain of Susan's old bills and other sensitive documents. I ended up with 2 1/2 garbage bags full of shredded paper that we usually take to the local recycling center.
Enter.... the bio-fuel press!
A standard caulk gun outfitted with a PVC tube and a few end caps becomes becomes the press. Holes were drilled into the tube to allow the excess water to escape. The caps are round furniture sliders. One has a groove ground in it to cover the front end. The other is ground to fit inside the tube and press from the back end. Simple enough and it uses a tool I already had and $2 of extra materials.
The idea behind the briquettes is pretty similar to paper making.
The shredded paper is soaked in water for a week. Then an optional binder like flour is added and the resulting slurry is pressed into the tube. I'm trying the first batch without binder to see if it is actually necessary. The briquettes are then set aside to dry for three weeks. Before they are burned.
Today is the last day of the soak. I'll be pressing the fuel later today or maybe tomorrow. I'll add pictures of them when I have them done. Actual burn tests will need to be done next month.
The cool parts of these projects are that they cost nearly nothing and they're mostly made from things I had on hand. We'll see how well it all works out in a few weeks. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please send them along.
Update: I did my first pressing tonight. It took about an hour and a half to make 30 6"-7" briquettes, start the next bucket of slurry and clean up my mess. I'm hoping for about an hour burn time for each one, but even 20-30 minutes each would be time well spent.