The Foundry: Part 1 – The First Casting

So we had our aim, and a basic design based off we saw in the videos we had watched. Now we needed to start the process of making it. We made a list of materials we might need, and had a basic look around on the internet, and off we went to the shops. During our travels we visited Screwfix, Wickes, B&Q, Hobbycraft and even Homebase. There were some pretty simple things we needed. Listed below:

  • Sand
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Drill (and drill bits)
  • Steel bucket
  • Safety Goggles
  • Safety Gloves
  • smaller plastic bucket
  • cheap measuring jug

Some of these items you might already own, (and we did) but it was listed as things we needed to complete this stage of the project.

Safety Notice (don’t ignore)

At this point I am going to stress a couple of those boring safety points. We have worked with some materials that could be considered quite dangerous if improperly used. So use safety gloves wherever possible (these can be as cheap as £1.50 in some stores, so there is no excuse!) and goggles and masks are a good idea, especially with dust, and when drilling. If you don’t understand why these are needed, maybe you should stop reading at this point.

Location

We would recommend thinking about where you do this project, there is the potential for spillage of plaster of paris, and that can ruin surfaces; so kitchens are probably out of the question. We recommend outside on a nice sunny day. Its always a good idea to be in a nice open area with plenty of ventilation, even when not working with toxic chemicals, it’s just good practice. We chose out outbuilding, its airy, already has paint stains, and contains all the tools we need as it doubles up as a basic workshop.

The Making

So let’s get on to the bit you care about how we made the foundry. The method starts with mixing together a mixture of 3.5 parts plaster of paris, 3.5 parts sand, and 2.5 parts water. This can be scaled up or down depending on how much you need to make to fill your bucket. We used a standard 14 litre bucket, and a standard liquid measuring jug to mix parts.

14 litre bucket
a 14 litre steel bucket found at most hardware stores
measuring jug
standard measuring jug

A few good tips to add in at this point. You should probably get some friends for this project, a few extra hands can be really useful. while we were making ours, we had one person stirring the mix, and another adding in the parts. Notice below, how many hands are in the images. The other point is to add the sand and plaster of paris before the water. As soon as the water is added, the mix will start the process of setting and you need to get that stuff mixed as fast as possible before it gets too hard. The last point is to mix this a lot, you want it to be thoroughly mixed together, else it could separate in the drying process.

Also, it would be a good idea to wear gloves at this point in the making, plaster of paris can cause burns if it gets in contact with the skin. Read the packaging first, and be careful when handling the powder and the mix.

mixing it together
Mixing it all together

While the mix is almost at its fully ready state, somebody needs to get the smaller plastic bucket, and fill it mostly with water. The amount of water used will depend on your buckets and mix. The water makes it much easier to hold the smaller bucket in place while the main mixture sets. If you get it right, it should not need much force to keep it in place until sufficiently hard.

placing the inner bucket
Placing the inner bucket

Once it is held in place for around 5 minutes it should be hard enough to let go of. if not, it may need to be held longer. You could always put heavy items on top to keep it in place. After a while it should look like the one below. Able to be left without touching, slowly drying.

still drying
Waiting for the mix to dry, but it still hold the inner bucket

Remember that at this stage, it still needs to be left for a long time before we actually take the bucket out, preferably for 24 hours, but it will depend on the mix you made, your climate, the temperature, all manner of things. We recommend leaving it overnight. When you touch the top of the mix, if it is moving then it isn’t ready yet.

The next stage is very fragile though. First empty all the water out of the inner bucket. Then we used a pair of pliers to slowly move the sides of the bucket away from the newly set mix. The bucket was slightly damaged, but with patience it is possible to remove the inner bucket to leave your new fire hole. If it doesn’t collapse in on itself it’s considered a success!

finished
The finished article, ready for fire

Thanks for reading this post, I hope to be posting some more updates about our foundry in the coming weeks, so watch this space. Also, if you have been making your own foundry, leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.

We are Making a Foundry!

So the new term of university is here, and we have a couple of weeks to settle into our new house. As a house we felt we needed a big project to get us going, to inspire a bit of teamwork in us, and we think we have found it! After seeing this video by Grant Thompson, we have been inspired to make a similar forge. So, over the next couple of weeks, this is what we will be making. As much as this will be a little homemade enterprise, we should be learning about business skills, basic accounting, and some safety stuff along the way; so it wont all be fun! The idea is to achieve, maybe inspire, and to make something that works, but let’s just see how this ends up.

Finding Black Hill Trig Point

Our latest family summer holiday took us to the wonderful world of Herefordshire. After a trip through lots of tiny roads, meeting lots of tractors going the other way, we arrived in a cute little village called Craswall. After settling in, and looking round, the one part of the landscape that was very noticeable was the giant hill next to us.

black hill as we climb
The view from the side of Black Hill

Well obviously we had to climb it! Plus, once I looked at the map and found out there was a trig point at the top, we had a goal. As you can see from the image, there is a ridge going up to the top. We started at the side of the ridge. Our plan was to walk along the base to a car park, where there was a clear route up the hill.

view from the car park
The view from the car park

They call this hill the ‘cat’s back’ because it apparently looks like a cat ready to pounce when you look at it from afar. I could’t see the resemblance. Does that mean we climbed its bum? This was a bit of a hill for us though, we aren’t in practice, so we took a few rests along the way (admiring the view obviously). The view from the top was definitely worth it though. The fact it was a clear day meant we could see all the way to satellite station just outside Hereford. It was one of those views you could take hundreds of pictures of. Here are a few of mine, as we travelled along the ridge to the very top.

The view from the top towards hereford
The view from the top, you can almost see Hereford in the distance
from the top, the black mountains
The view from the top, of the black mountain ridge
when we looked backwards
The view we got when we looked backwards from the top

A bit about the landscape of the area. As you can kind of see from the images, we are right on the edge of the brecon beacons, to the east of the Black Mountains. This particular part is a ridge with very steep sides, and lots of rocky parts along the path. I believe this is known as a rocky knife edge. Whereas on the north side of the hill (other side of the trig point) its much more boggy, with gentle slopes. Much like the landscape of Dartmoor. in the images below you can see the difference between the ridge and the slopes.

the ridge
my aunt attempting photographic poses on the ridge
the final ascent
the final ascent, as the slopes get less steep

After a long old trip, we got to the top. and found the trig point. As they usually are, in the middle of a puddle. It hadn’t even been raining! Although it had been extremely windy (20mph by some readings). We stayed there for a little while, but the wind turned out to be too much, so we got our pictures and got out of there. Lucky that the may didn’t blow away in the wind!

the trig point
finally, the trig point we were looking for

After that we made our way swiftly down the hill, and back to the house for a pint and a bit of Olympics on the TV.