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Melting Aluminum

Old 12-18-2020, 03:28 PM
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Default Melting Aluminum

I moved into a house with a 100 year terra cotta tile roof about 4 years ago. The first two winters I had avalanches of snow slide off of the roof. My house is three stories tall, and no one has been underneath of these avalanches but I could easily see this causing a concussion, if not something worse.

So I spent a year casually researching snow rail/clip options and consulting with my roofer who is well regarded in the area and specializes in tile and slate roofs. I learned the while my tile manufacturer is still in business, my tile profile is very unique and is no longer in production. Due to the rarity of the tile profile, there are no tile systems designed specifically for my roof. Additionally, my roofer advised against clip systems since he said that dont stop all avalanches and can lead to broken tiles. Currently I pay him about $500 every time a few tiles break to source used tiles and replace the broken ones.

The conclusion I came to is that I need to make my own snow rail system. What it will look like is a cast aluminum tile with an integrated block that provides a flat spot to attach aluminum angle to via self tapping screws. The aluminum tiles will be screwed or bolted to the roof rafters. Ideally, 1 every 3-4.

i made the mold and sourced aluminum shavings from a machine shop. I also purchased a crucible, gloves, and made a tool to lift and pour the crucible with molten aluminum.

What is best and cheapest way to melt aluminum for casting? My goal is to make ~30 tiles and each will weight 1-2lbs.
Old 12-18-2020, 03:35 PM
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I don't know how big your crucible is but a rosebud torch tip with a propane tank and propane regulator puts out A LOT of heat. I have a propane burner for boiling crabs that also puts out a lot, but not nearly as much as that rosebud.
Old 12-18-2020, 03:49 PM
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Rosebud torch as stated, or a cutting torch. I melted aluminum pistons years ago to fill voids in a cylinder head years ago with cutting torch and worked real good, and put the pot or crucible on top of a burner also to keep heat in the pot...
Old 12-18-2020, 07:14 PM
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Before you reinvent the wheel. No way any of these could work?
https://www.rockymountainsnowguards....-and-clay-tile

Old 12-18-2020, 07:20 PM
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Ill do some research on the torch. I was thinking some sort of furnace or forge would be better. I had access to a homemade forge for a little while and did a dry run. I was able to melt aluminum but it required a ton of coal, mainly because the heat from the forge rose to the atmosphere. I was going to make a lid for the forge but then the owner sold it. So Im back to the drawing board.
Old 12-18-2020, 07:54 PM
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some fire bricks stacked up around the crucible and a torch run up into it should work
Old 12-18-2020, 09:48 PM
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Insulated crucible with koawool very simple
Old 12-19-2020, 02:25 AM
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Propane weedburner + firebricks stacked around your crucible to block wind & contas in heat.
Heat your mold before you pour into it.
Old 12-19-2020, 02:29 AM
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want to accelerate the process - use more weedburners
Old 12-19-2020, 05:23 AM
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Just a word of caution - if there is ANY Moisture near the aluminum, especially in the mold, you could have a catastrophic explosion. This is a lot more than a simple steam explosion. It involves hydrogen liberated from the water due to high temperature electrolysis and some other complex reactions that nucleate the hydrogen. One tiny spec of rust or other metallic oxide in the molten aluminum and moisture in the mold and kaboom, your 1-2 lb of aluminum will wipe the work area clean and barren for a radius of about 20-25 ft. We’re talking bare earth destruction. Look up how the MOAB (GBU-43) works but keep in mind, that uses solid metallic powders, not molten liquid. Or, look on You Tube for molten aluminum explosions. If I was doing this, my “mold” would get as many BTU’s of preheat and time as my melt crucible.

You aren’t just playing with fire, you’re accidentally playing at the edge of the technology behind the most powerful non-nuclear weapons in the US and Russian arsenals.


Old 12-19-2020, 05:34 AM
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Need pictures. Tried this a few times. Aluminum melts pretty easy.
Old 12-19-2020, 05:45 AM
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many years ago I worked in a magnesium production plant.
there was a incident where a large crucible of molten mag was dumped in a unloading bay instead of the furness .
when the molten mag ran down into a storm drain there were some large explosions,
manway covers went flying and some building roofs caught on fire.
it was an exciting night
I had no idea aluminum would do something similar

Last edited by 99yam40; 12-19-2020 at 06:07 AM.
Old 12-19-2020, 06:30 AM
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Im confused why this isnt just being milled?
Old 12-19-2020, 07:17 AM
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My understanding is propane heated crucible with the crucible preheated before slowly adding the aluminum plus a little borax. There is also the issue of making a correct mold. I have seen this process at one of my customers, their heat was electric and they did casting from a lot of different metals. My biggest concern would be having the right safety gear so you don't seriously hurt your self if something go wrong. At over 1200 *F the melted aluminum would be a serious hazard.

Just looked and home use kits are available on-line and of course that includes Amazon.

Edit: while reading these sources on line I kept seeing the warning (like mentioned above) about the dangers of any amount of water.
Old 12-19-2020, 07:27 AM
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Not sure how many you intend to smelt at a time, but a farriers forge can reach the heat needed. They are insulated, using either fire bricks or rock wool I believe and generally operate on a 20lb propane tank. Something to check out.
Old 12-19-2020, 08:56 AM
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Get them made professionally,aluminum is fairly easy to cast if you have the alloy right, melt temps right and have the right flux etc. I am part owner / manager of a non ferrous marine foundry and we cast aluminum parts regularly.
Old 12-19-2020, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by bjm9818 View Post
Before you reinvent the wheel. No way any of these could work?
This type of snow guard is for flat, shake style tiles. I have Spanish style ludowici tiles that have a unique profile. To most, the tile looks like your normal run of the mill Spanish tile, but putting the incorrect tile in is like using the wrong puzzle piece. It would sit correctly and mesh with the other tiles.
Old 12-19-2020, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by WPBTH View Post
Im confused why this isnt just being milled?
I dont have a mill, plus this would be significant amount of material to remove. Id have to start with a block of aluminum that is probably 8 x 14 and 3 thick.

Edit: I did reach out to a connection at a sheet metal
shop to explore having a thinner aluminum tile formed but again, it was going to be a significant amount of work that they werent willing to undertake.
Old 12-19-2020, 09:38 PM
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Put it in the microwave....


Old 12-19-2020, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by duke460 View Post
Need pictures. Tried this a few times. Aluminum melts pretty easy.
Id love to post pictures and links but this is only my 6th post. Ugh hate the 10 post rule

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