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Can a steel casting
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  whynot

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Posted: November 17 2010 at 11:58am | IP Logged Quote whynot

be made from an Aluminum base-object? My understanding is that I can make a backyard furnace that will melt aluminum, but not steel.  I need the end products made of steel. Not many of them, maybe a few dozen, tops.
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  weaponeer

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Posted: November 17 2010 at 12:17pm | IP Logged Quote weaponeer

You would have to explain the project and the requirements.  the tensile of aluminum may or may not work, but it can be used for nearly anything (even a barrel as proven by a member)
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  whynot

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Posted: November 17 2010 at 1:07pm | IP Logged Quote whynot

pistol frames, revolvers, at 44 special type pressures.
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  weaponeer

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Posted: November 17 2010 at 1:24pm | IP Logged Quote weaponeer

whynot wrote:
pistol frames, revolvers, at 44 special type pressures.

The frame would be fine if you designed it correctly but I would not trust most aluminum cylinders as they don't hold up to +P very long

the good news is you can buy used cylinders cheap from several sources.

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  Holloway

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Posted: November 17 2010 at 4:37pm | IP Logged Quote Holloway

You can melt steel. You just need a furnace that can reach 2500°F. Check out http://www.backyardmetalcasting.com/index.html Scroll down and look at the left side. There is a section on melting iron.
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  RVM45

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Posted: November 17 2010 at 5:33pm | IP Logged Quote RVM45

Aluminum requires relatively low temps. Then comes Brass and Bronze. The Aluminum Bronzes have some Home Gunbuilders scampering wildly to experiment.

Iron requires a much higher temp--but it is not a difficult metal to cast cleanly.

Steel requires an even higher temp than Iron--and Steel is not the least bit "Mold Friendly" for the home casre--that is to say, castings made of Steel will be prone to voids; cracking; etc--unless one takes some very special pains.

Try out these guys--they have a whole Forum devoted to casting:

http://www.backyardmetalcasting.com/forums/index.php?sid=b29 50a3ecc24d8d70670609a1e16118c


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  orions_hammer

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Posted: November 18 2010 at 1:58am | IP Logged Quote orions_hammer

I've found casting to be a surprisingly tricky art to get right, but one look at that shiny silvery liquid metal is enough to get you hooked for life!

I don't have the numbers for 44 special handy, but my notes show a 44 magnum has a SAAMI pressure of 36KPSI.  At that pressure, even perfectly fabricated and tempered 70KPSI aluminum would have to be 1.03" OD around each chamber (over 0.5" walls) to contain the cartridge on firing.  That'd be fine for a thompson-center style single shot, but quite beefy for a revolver's cylinder.  Similarly, an aluminum top strap would need a cross section area of 0.1 square inches (e.g., 0.2" x 0.5") to hold back the 6000lbs of back-thrust from the cartridge.  Cast iron has lower shock resistance and tensile strength than aluminum, so would have to be even bigger. 

There's nothing wrong with a Big F'n Revolver, of course, and this is making me want to build one!

The typical material choice for revolver parts is a medium to high-carbon steel, like 4140, heat-treated to over 100KPSI tensile.  It is possible to cast 4140; I understand the US-made TAPCO G2 AK FCG are investment-cast.  A typical process there would be:
  • Start with a positive model in any easy-to-machine material, such as aluminum.
  • Cast a negative RTV mold.
  • Injection-mold wax positives in the RTV mold.
  • Dip the wax positives in a refractory slurry ("investment") to form a ceramic shell.
  • Burn the wax from the shell, drive off moisture, and partially fuse the shell in a low-temperature (1000F) kiln.
  • Pour a crucible of white-hot flaming 4140 steel (about 2900F!) into the shell.
  • Scrape off the shell from the new 4140 parts.
And folks actually do this in their backyards!  I've accidentally melted the corners of my mild steel crucibles while trying to melt aluminum in my coal-fired furnace, so the temperatures are achievable. 

I've wondered about using thermite to cast steel (metallic iron is reduced while oxidizing the aluminum in thermite), but I don't think I'd trust the resulting steel alloy for anything performance-critical; Hart (1910) lists 60KPSI as a typical thermite mild-steel ultimate strength.
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  Chris42

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Posted: January 17 2012 at 9:41am | IP Logged Quote Chris42

Steel can be melted in the backyard, as it was done here:
http://ronreil.abana.org/Furnace.shtml

It is not something that is safely done like buying a car and driving it off the lot.

Making a useful mold is described above by Orions Hammer. A rammed sand mold could also be used.

I have been casting aluminum, brass and bronze for some years and have yet to try iron or steel. Given my experience (I teach college level metal work) I would consider building and using the furnace described in the link above. I would be hesitant suggesting someone try and start their casting experience with the heats involved with iron and steel.

For rough reference, here are some metal melt temperatures:

Aluminum 1200-1500 degrees F
Brass/bronze 1800-2200 F.
Iron/steel      2800-3100 F.

A short story to appreciate what you might be dealing with -

I recently (last week) toured a manufacturer that uses salt that is melted to a liquid for heat treating metal. The salt bath is maintained at 400 F. A few years ago they had an accident. A part was introduced into the salt bath and the part had some moisture/water in it. The moisture exploded and showered an individual with liquid salt. The burns were severe enough that he did not recover and died at the hospital.

ANY moisture on metal that is put into a hot crucible has the potential of exploding like this. Water expands 1600x when it changes into steam. Extreme heat makes it expand extremely fast.

I do not intend to dissuade you from casting, I just want you to be aware of the dangers and respect what you are doing.

There is a market for people that can cast metals. Steel is rarely cast at home. You can make money at it. Don't take it lightly.
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  joewy

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Posted: February 05 2012 at 12:58am | IP Logged Quote joewy

Dont confuse steel with cast iron.  Cast Iron isnt hard but it is difficult to get right in your backyard without inoculants such as ferro silicon. Then even if you doi cast it, it wont be soft and and machinable. It will be harder than your tool steel. It will require heat treating at the very least.

First off there are manny different casting alloys for steel. They are not the same as the wrought alloys such as A36.  You cant just melt steel srap and use it.

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  OldCoot

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Posted: February 24 2013 at 11:48am | IP Logged Quote OldCoot

Steel melt is not that tricky.  I use a graphite crucible and line current with a steel electrode to melt scrap.  It's a 100-amp circuit, and it runs up the electric bill in a hurryl, but it melts steel, and with a bit of care, you can come pretty close to getting the alloy you are after, so far as carbon content is concerned, with that kind of home brew rig.  Max melt in my rig is about twelve pounds, but it lets me get blanks ready for forging.

As some of you note, an aluminum cylinder isn't a great notion.  However, an aluminum cylinder with steel chamber liners will handle 17 KPSI .38 loads, so it ought to do okay with the .44 Special.
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  midmichigun

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Posted: February 25 2013 at 11:24am | IP Logged Quote midmichigun

Old Coot,

Would you break out your post into a different thread? I would VERY much like to see your operation!!

Especially if you have any photos of the work you are doing!!!

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  northumbrian

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Posted: February 25 2013 at 2:10pm | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

midmichigun wrote:

Old Coot,


Would you break out your post into a different thread? I would VERY much like to see your operation!!


Especially if you have any photos of the work you are doing!!!



I'll second that, I'd like to see it too
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  earlebishop

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Posted: February 27 2013 at 4:54am | IP Logged Quote earlebishop

*raises hand*

Thirds!

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