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Casting Steel?


#1

I’ve been wondering - how would you go about casting small
quantities of steel in a small workshop? (By small I mean perhaps
50-500 grams.) I haven’t found any useful on this online,
despite extensive searching.

Can anyone recommend any websites, forums, mailing lists, journals,
or books? I have access to a university library.

Regards,
Sebastien Bailard
RepRap.org - self-replicating 3D printer project.


#2

http://www.backyardmetalcasting.com Is a good bet for all casting
needs for iron, steel, brasses, aluminum and other non precious
metals. Links and boards all many of questions that have been raised
about it.

Any books on casting by Ammen C W : Casting Iron, Metalcasting made
simple, The Metalcasters bible, The complete handbook of sand
casting. Building a gas fired Crucible Furnace, Lil Bertha both by
Gingery David J.

Foundrywork for the Amateur, by Asin B. Terry
USN Foundry Manual
Ornamental Metal Casting, by Whitmoyer R E

Run them thru Orchids book store, If not you can Find them reprints,
or current ones. Nation builder books, Or Lindsays Books.

glen

been there done that, and watched people trying to pour aluminum
wearing tennis shoes, they didn’t have rhythm when dancing. LOL


#3

Sebastian,

I am wondering if you found any regarding steel casting.
(You dad very little posted response to your question.) I am still
searching for someone to cast small quantities of my design in mild
carbon steel. Can YOU help ME at this point?

All Best,

Allen Howells
Indigo Designs


#4

Sebastian,

Call Techform in Washington State. Or ask any platinum caster if
they will cast this for you. If you can’t find anyone - give me a
call. I might be able to locate a commercial investment caster.

Best.
Paul Finelt, CIRM
PF Associates, LL.C.
http://www.finelt.com


#5

Allen,

I had crossposted the initial question to the hobbicast @
yahoogroups forum. Here is Doug Allen’s reply of how he does it,
which I found quite informative:

  As a knifemaker, blacksmith, and, yes, hobbycaster, I have
  fiddled a bit with steel casting. It is quite possible to do,
  even on a small scale, but you'll have a few more isues to deal
  with compared with the more usual aluminum and brass casting. 

  First off, you'll need to figure out what kind of steel to
  use. There are literally thousands, ranging from sible low
  carbon plain steels, almost purely iron with only a few trace
  elements to high-speed complex alloys, where iron plays second
  fiddle to vanadium, chromium, cobolt, and other exotics. 

  I cast a simple stainless steel, 304 I believe, for a guard,
  but I have also done a bit of wootz experementation (wootz is a
  high-carbon semi-cast steel that has pronounced carbon
  dentricles which make a wonderfu "watered silk" pattern in the
  final pie) and have studied enough ferrous metalurgy that I
  feel comfortable expanding beyond what I've actually done. 

  Iron has a great afinity for carbon, and the more carbon there
  in in a steel, vice other alloying agents, the lower the
  melting temperature. Hence, cast iron is easier to ast than
  pure iron, as it is several hundred degrees lower in
  temperature when poured -- hence the popularity to this day for
  cast iron of around 3-4% carbon. Most high carbon steel, such
  as used for knives, is around 1%, and most low carbon is
  around .1% (think car bodies and other sheet steels that will
  be deeply deformed during fabrication). 

  One aspect of this carbon affinity is that the longer it sits
  in contact with carbon, such as a clay-graphite crucible, the
  more carbon it will dissolve out, both changing the carbon
  content and lowering the temperature of the melt. But carbon
  can also be burned out, so if you leave it exposed while molten
  to an oxidizing atmosphere, you'll end up with carbon loss. 

  So, first you'll need a setup that can get your melt
  relatively quickly to the pour temperature, while keeping the
  steel away from atmosphere. For this, I used a small silicon
  carbide crucible with my steel stacked inside, along with some
  borax as a flux, and the whole thing sealed with a bit of
  kaowool and furnace cement, with a small hole (about 1 mm) left
  to prevent gas build up. To get it hot, I used a propane
  forge, blown, which I sealed up except for a small exit vent.
  This is similar to what I used for my wootz experements, and
  which I've seen other smiths use for various steel castings and
  wootz ingot melts. 

  To cast, I used an oil-bonded sand mold (commercial petrobond
  from our Sponsor) with plenty of sprue, venting, and so on --
  molten steel is incandescantly ho, and the oil bonded sand does
  produce a bit of smoke and outgassing. In fact, if I were to do
  steel casting in any quantity, I'd go with ceramic shell or
  greensand (bentonite based)to avoid the whole smoke and stink
  issue. 

  Even in thermonuclear toaster such as my forge it takes a
  while to melt. I had about a pound of steel, and iirc it took a
  good couple of hours before it just sloshed when shook -- for
  quite a while I could hear/feel a lump of something floating in
  the melt. 

  When you open the crucible, be prepared for sparks. Even with
  the low-carbon there was quite the sparkler effect when
  pouring, and at a demo where we had a crucible break during a
  wootz smelt it looked like quite the fireworks display. Use a
  fqaceshield, heat-resistant clothing, and all other precautions
  when dealing with molten, buring, hot stuff. 

  Also keep in mind, if you're going to be casting high carbon
  steel, that if it cools too fast, it may shatter under the
  stresses. OTOH, if you cool steel down too slow you'll get a
  lot of grain growth, which can only be removed by forging or
  really painstaiking heat treatment.

Casting steel seems to be a lot more challenging than bronze or
silver; I’ve decided to put the idea on hold for a while until I have
more experience. (Unreleated but cool aside: casting a pewter stool
at the beach:

http://www.pingmag.jp/2006/11/10/tokyo-design-week-2006-report

Regarding finding someone to cast your design, I don’t know. I would
check your local dental labs and blacksmiths. There may be forums or
websites where you could put the job up for a bid; I would ask for
leads to such job boards heRe: http://www.anvilfire.com/slacktub/ and
maybe ask the moderator of the internetdentalforum.net Tim Lane,
although I’m not sure if that’s a particularly good way of looking
into it.

You’ll probably have more success asking the swordsmith Rick Barrett,
who did the legwork for this when he found someone to cast the steel
pommel for his sword LongClaw:

http://www.barrettcustomknives.com/contemp_1

I’ll forward your email to him.

Regards,
Sebastien Bailard


#6

Allen,

I am still searching for someone to cast small quantities of my
design in mild carbon steel 

We specialize in casting small quantities of stainless steel for the
jewelry trade, primarily in 316L. We also offer 17-4 and
Cobalt-Chrome. You can get more on our website
techformcasting.com or feel free to give me a call at 503-652-5224.

I read Sebastian’s post as looking for academic resources for
casting steel versus a casting service…perhaps I misunderstood?

Teresa Frye
TechForm Advanced Casting Technology