Human beings have been using metals since Neolithic times, but the metals our ancient ancestors used were the type that was found in free form, i.e. metals like gold and silver. Other metals, like copper, had to be extracted, usually by high heat, from the ore.
In this short article, we’ll look at how to get the aluminum, out of aluminum cans. Aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth. However, extracting the original metal, from the ore, is a very energy intense process, involving high temperatures of over 3600 F (2000 C) and a lot of electricity. Fortunately for preppers, this process has already been carried out for us and the result is a lot of thrown away aluminum cans. We can use those cans to get at the aluminum and create our own ingots, ready for use in making other metal objects depending on what you’ll need for survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
What You’ll Need:
- A load of used aluminum cans (such as drink cans)
- Charcoal for fuel
- Metal bucket with lid (furnace)
- Long metal tube for aeration (about 10 inches long)
- Something to act as the crucible -this needs to be temperature resistant, so made of steel – for example a sawn off small propane cylinder
- Something to add air to the furnace (if you’ve electricity, a hairdryer is perfect, otherwise some sort of bellows)
- A method of lighting the fuel (ideally a propane gas torch)
- Long tongs (very important as this gets hot!) the type you use for barbecues will work
Preparing the Furnace
You’ll need to cut a hole into the metal bucket that the metal tube fits into. Use duct tape or silicon to ensure a good fit. Fit the metal tube into the hole – this will be where you blow the air into the bucket.
You’ll need to pour the molten metal out of the crucible, so try and form a lip on one side. Place the crucible into the middle of the bucket and surround it with the charcoal fuel so it becomes a tight fit.
Related: Free Heating – How To Build a Solar Heater Using Aluminum Cans
Melting the Aluminum Cans
Crush your aluminum cans and place them into the crucible into the middle of your furnace.
Light the charcoal fuel using your propane torch, or similar. The charcoal will start to glow red. Put the lid on and start to blow air into the furnace. This will increase the heat within the furnace and start to melt the aluminum cans.
The cans melt really quickly if the temperature of the furnace is high enough.
Once melted you need to pour off the molten metal.
Aluminum cans usually have all sorts of decoration on them and this forms a lot of gunk when you melt the cans. This tends to float to the top of the melt and become a hardened mass, which means that you can pour the aluminum through the gunk into a mold.
- This involves high temperatures; if you’ve got some leather gauntlets, use those to protect your hands.
- Be careful pulling the crucible out as steel can dissolve in molten aluminum.
- Try to pour the molten metal over sand. There is a risk of small explosions if you accidentally drop the molten aluminum onto concrete (it ends up superheating the moisture in the concrete and bang!).
This article was inspired from Survival Life. Please visit their website by clicking on the link.
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As an electrician who has worked in an environment where fumes from the repair was ever present. Most were unpleasant but the danger of inhaling is something always on my mind. What dangers are present and should be considered for attention when melting the aluminum. What are the signs that something is wrong and what are some of the ways we can avoid the problems? Thanks!
why pour ingots ? i would advise getting a 5 gallon bucket of water and placing a 3 foot long metal pipe simular to a stove pipe of about 6 inch diameter verticualy into the water and pour the molten metal through the pipe into the water. much better would be to pour it threw a funnel to narrow the stream of molten metal. if you have beads of metal instead of a big solid block, you can reduce the amount of energy required to melt the metal fo make your casting, by not melting a lot of extra metal.
people want to cast ingots from scrap lead when it would be much better to make SHOT such as bird shot, squirel shot or buck shot. this not only creates a saleable product that will always be in high demand for sale or barter from today to far in the future but why melt 5 pounds of lead or any metal if you are only going to use 4 pounds of it at a time. just how many projectiles can you pour in any 1 pour depends on how many molds you have ready to pour into! wasted energy is wasted time or wasted resources.
I still do this about twice a year for copper, tin, aluminum, silver etc.
I’ll make them into thin bricks until I have enough for a talent, then I’ll bury it on my property.