The most noticeable item in any backyard foundry is the furnace. This is no surprise really, because without the furnace the entire metal casting operation would be nonexistent. The furnace can take really any size and form depending upon the need and budget of the metal caster. What really makes home metal casting furnaces really unique is how many of them come into creation.
Sure there are plenty of companies that will gladly sell furnaces for the hobby metal caster and while this can be a viable solution to your furnace needs many metal casters prefer another method.
Making your own furnace is not as far fetched as it may seem and if you already a Do It Yourselfer, chances are you will have the needed skills and tools in your workshop or garage already. There are a variety of reasons why people make their own furnaces. The most common reason is fulfilling a need.
Many hobbyist and metal workers find out, to their dismay, that the local commercial foundries can not make the needed part or if they do, they feel the need to charge an outrageous sum. Not to mention the fact that the traditional methods of metal casting is quickly becoming forgotten as the industry turns to electric furnaces. So many hobbyists find that constructing their own furnace is an absolute necessity and a great way to preserve a piece of craftsman history. The artisans who use metal casting to create sculptures and other pieces find that making their own furnace grants them a greater amount of control over the entire process. This is actually how many people get into metal casting to begin with.
Most likely, your first furnace is going to be a small and rather simple one. There is really no need to run before you can walk when it comes to something that will be using intense heat and melting iron which can be rather dangerous.
Home made furnaces have been constructed from coffee cans to trash cans or sheet metal welded together. While there are a few components that really should be bought like the retractor to line the furnace walls which should be resistant to high temperature for a prolonged period of time along with special connectors and regulators, most of the furnace can be created in your own home. You should be able to find most of the components that you can not make at hardware stores or plumbing supply stores for relatively cheap.
Along with the furnace parts you will also need to buy a crucible which will hold the metal as it melts along with the appropriate tools that you will use to handle the crucible. While you are at it you might as well buy all the safety equipment like gloves, protective eye wear, and leather shoes. There is other safety equipment that you will need depending on the type of work and the type of furnace you are going to make.
Most likely, your first furnace is going to be a simple cupola variation. The cupola furnace which is going to resemble a smoke stack is a simple design and is relatively easy to make for anyone with mild craft skill. This type of furnace will not require a crucible since you will be able to pour the molten metal from the furnace itself into a ladle that can then be poured into the mold.
DIY casting furnaces are a great way to connect yourself with your metal casting work giving you more control. While building the furnace can be complicated at first, once you delve into it you will find the experience enjoyable and fascinating.