Friday, 22 May 2009


The starting sand
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
Yesterday I got some bentonite clay in the post from ebay.

So in the evening I started sorting out the sand that I rescued from the preschool sandpit. As you can see it's full of bark chips, twigs and leaves. I gradually sieved it through a garden sieve and then a kitchen sieve (bought for the purpose).

Now, through Yahoo groups I've found that it might be the wrong sort of sand as it's not sharp sand. But on the plus side I've found there is a foundry in my local area that sounds all arty and interesting so I'll give them a ring later and see if I can scrounge some sand and hopefully advice as well!


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Bentonite clay

My cunning plan is slowly working. I've been listing things I don't need on ebay to generate enough money to buy the things that I absolutely can't make, scrounge or recycle. So I've just sold two books, which has given me enough in paypal to buy 750g of bentonite clay which should make proper foundry green sand for casting.

I'm hoping to make some jewellery without a crucible just by putting catch trays under the next burn, with green sand in and designs pressed in that I can then turn into jewellery...


Saturday, 16 May 2009

Charcoal and Copper

Isn't the internet great? When I was a student 20 years ago the internet was basically user-groups. Now, with everything else, the most useful bits are sometimes forums and yahoo! groups. I've just been told that my aluminium will flow better with 5%-6% copper added to make an alloy. That's just saved me a lot of experimentation and googling so thanks guys!

Also I've now found that bioregional charcoal has moved to Sainsbury's from B&Q. It's twice the cost but it says that it supports coppicing and local charcoal production. I'll do some quick googling to check it's all true, but I expect that's the direction I'm going in. Either that or scrounge some wood and start a fire for charcoal. I've done it before, so I know how to do it. It's just another stage that I hoped to bypass this time!

So off to Freecycle to keep an eye out for any copper scrap and firewood. Plus an old wheelbarrow for making a charcoal clamp. I'm also asking around to see if I know any plumbers who could collect pipe offcuts for me. I do have some pipe in the garage that I could use if need be.

Thanks for comments and followers!



Friday, 15 May 2009

Flickr set

Here's a link to my set of photos on Flickr. I'll blog when I add photos but may not always get around to putting every photo across on here.



Thursday, 14 May 2009



Finally I've got a bit of peace and quiet to properly explain what this blog is for.

I have this project to investigate whether it would be possible to cast my own statues out of molten aluminium from drinks cans. I've already started and have comments spread between different forums and Flickr. So I've started this blog to bring everything together in one place. I'll put some of my Flickr pictures up on here, but they're all in one set so if you click on one to get to Flickr, you'll be able to see all the rest.

My initial thinking was that the Bronze Age started some 5,000 years ago, so surely it should be quite easy by now. I've always had an interest in pre-history so that inspired me to look into early forms of casting and that led me on to the subject of coffee can foundries. While my current foundry isn't made in a coffee can per se, it is still very primitive and basic and does manage to melt aluminium using charcoal as a fuel and without any air being forced in to drive up the temperature.

The other side of the project is the actual making of the statues. Here, I am using Das air setting modelling clay to make an original statue. When I'm happy with this then I will use some sort of silicone rubber mix, usually used in candle mould making, to make a rubber mould of it. This will be used to produce wax blanks, like candles without wicks. These wax statues will be packed in foundry sand and baked in an oven, which will melt the wax. Finally I'll take the blocks with the sand in and pour in molten aluminium, which will (hopefully) produce statues. My inspiration for the statue design is the Willendorf Venus, and other goddess statues of that era.

In this way, the whole project will tie together very modern ideas, like drinks cans and aluminium, with older ones, from both the Bronze Age, and then even further back into the Stone Age, to evoke something 25,000 years old. It is also a very direct link to recycling. I've shown several friends the lump of aluminium and they've been very interested. It's so different to most people's experience of recycling, which is sending stuff away in a lorry never to be seen again. Here, it's real and direct. I'm collecting my own cans, from friends and colleagues and trying to pick one up as rubbish each day as well.

Pure metal

Pure metal
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
This is the final outcome that I wanted from stage one - pure metal to go into a crucible for stage two.


An initial test post before I start to pull together all the information about this project. Probably when the children are asleep!