Cast Iron

by admin on January 16, 2010

Cast Iron

Cast Iron

Iron Casting, Iron Melting, and Iron Furnace Information

Many believe that iron casting is just simply out of reach for small furnaces but this is not the case. While alloys like aluminum are more prevalent in home foundries. Artists and hobbyists have also used brass, bronze, and even iron to fulfill their casting needs.

Industrial foundries commonly use iron for a variety of items like cookware, like cast iron pans, and even bridges. Casting iron provides an easy and effective method of making such large structural pieces and even smaller pieces for around the home.

The most common furnace type used by home foundries is the cupola furnace. The cupola is a basic furnace type that does not need a crucible as it allows the caster to pour the molten metal directly from the furnace into a ladle which is then poured into the mold. Cupola furnaces resemble smoke stacks and can be home made for those with enough confidence and some mechanical know-how to attempt it. The fuels used to heat the metal in a cupola furnace depend on the caster's resources and preference. Many will use propane and some will use coal. There are a select few that will use waste material such as old scraps of metal and the powder at the bottom of bags of barbecue coal to fuel the cupola. For iron many would recommend the use of propane, but there have been some casters that have succeeded with waste material. Don't be afraid to experiment with different fuel types to find the perfect fit for your furnace and need.

Finding a source of iron can be difficult and a trip to the scrap yard might be in order. This is just one of the exciting ventures that metal casting can provide you. After you locate your iron you will need to prepare your mold. This is assuming you have a pattern in mind that you want to cast. If not, then go ahead and figure something out even if it’s a small piece in order to test your iron casting ability. Since sand casting is the most popular casting method you might want to use it for the iron casting especially if you are familiar with the method and not with iron. 

After making the sand mold and placing the runner for the molten iron you will melt the metal. The melting point of iron is 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit or about 1538 degree Celsius. Since all metals melt at different temperatures don't be impatient if iron takes longer to melt and don't be surprised if it’s quicker.

When the molten iron is ready you are going to pour some into a ladle and the pour that into the sand mold. The sand mold is held in place by the cope and drag, which is the top and bottom part of the mold. The runners are in place in the mold to allow the molten iron a place to enter. When the iron is cool, remove the cast from the sand carefully and there you have a cast of iron.

As with all metal casts, you will need to follow the appropriate safety steps to avoid any accidents. Accidents with molten metal will always be very painful so make sure you wear gloves, jeans, boots, and a long sleeve shirt. You may also want a heavy duty leather apron and a pair of goggles.

Iron casting is a great way to create restoration items or pieces for around the home and even for artistic purposes.

About the Author

Go to Metal Casting Zone to get your free ebook on Metal Casting at http://www.metalcastingzone.com. Metal Casting Zone also has a Metal Casting Forum, Metal Casting Information, and a Metal Casting Blog that can all be found at http://www.metalcastingzone.com. Go to http://www.metalcastingzone.com to see the latest information on Metal Casting that has been added.

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Seasoning A Cast-Iron Pan

How do you effectively clean cast iron?

My great grandmother just sent over a few old cast iron skillets and a kettle - and a good number of them have old grease and rust on them. They also have some worn off over time - is there any effective method to clean them? We want to keep them in the best condition possible, any information is helpful.

Thank you for all answers, they're all appreciated.

Initial cleaning with (soapless) steel wool and cooking oil (do NOT use oven cleaner, WD40, or any solvent/oil you're not willing to eat!) to remove all rust. (Alternately, you can burn the pans, as others have suggested, but if you don't have a location for a bonfire, steel wool is the way to go.) Rinse under HOT water if needed. If you really must, you can use soap at this stage, just to get the skillet clean. However, never, never, use soap or detergent on your skillets after you get them cleaned and seasoned. It damages the coating of oil you're trying to build up, and the taste of soap tends to "stick" to a seasoned pan... which doesn't make your food taste very good. 😛

Dry thoroughly and heat on low heat over burner to make sure no water remains.

Season skillets by coating lightly (ALL surfaces, inside and out) with oil or lard (don't use butter for this). Place the pans, upside down, in a 350 degree oven for an hour (I'd put a baking sheet on the rack right below, just in case you get drips), then turn heat down to 200 and leave for several hours. Let cool. You might want to repeat this step 2-3 times to speed up the seasoning process.

For the first month or so of use, cook only low-acid, high-fat foods in the skillets. Preferably bacon. Lots of grease and low sticking potential. 🙂

Subsequent Cleaning: Unless food is stuck to the skillet, don't try to wash it. Just wipe it out with a clean cloth or paper towel. Add a light coating of oil or lard and hang back up.

If a skillet has something stuck to it, scrape gently with a plastic scraper or scrub under hot water with a nylon-bristled brush. Do NOT scrub with steel wool, unless you want to go back and reseason the thing from the beginning. If you wash the skillet, use only hot water, no soap or detergent. Dry thoroughly and heat on low heat over burner to make sure no water remains. Once dry, but while still warm, coat skillet with a thin layer of oil or lard and hang back up.

If food burns to the skillet (which may happen once in a while), while the skillet is HOT, pour BOILING water in and scrape the bottom gently with a plastic or wooden spatula until the food releases. Whatever you do, never, never put COLD water in a HOT skillet-- and don't scoop a hot cast iron pan off the stove and drop it in a sink of cold water! The iron can, and will, shatter.

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