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The Hobbyist's Guide to Casting Metal--2nd Edition (print)

The Hobbyist's Guide to Casting Metal--2nd Edition (print)

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Published by: toadster on Mar 18, 2011
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07/02/2013

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The type of fuel that you choose will dramatically influence both the amount of time you
spend and the cost of your furnace. Solid fuel, the most common type for beginning casters,
can use the cheapest furnace designs but is often (unless you have a free source of wood or
coal) the most expensive fuel per pound of metal melted. It leaves behind ash, requiring
messy, unpleasant work to clean up after a melting session.

Propane is very clean and very easy to use, but it is expensive. The cost of the tank, hose,
high-pressure regulator, and burner fittings will likely total at least $80-$100, and the fuel
itself is also expensive. The high cost of fuel necessitates spending extra money to make
the furnace more efficient, especially so at higher temperatures, which propane struggles to
reach. Natural gas may be slightly cheaper than propane, but is otherwise similar.

Waste oil is more difficult to burn cleanly than propane or solid fuels, but the fuel itself is
free, and the flame temperature is higher, which makes the melting of higher-temperature
metals easier and quicker. Furnaces can sacrifice a little efficiency without significant cost,
but they must be built with high-temperature materials to survive the oil flame's extreme
temperature, so they are usually not cheaper to build than propane furnaces. Building the
burner may be a significant cost in terms of both money and time, depending heavily on the
particular design.

Electric resistance heating is the cleanest of all and usually cheaper per pound of melt than
propane and solid fuels. However, the low maximum power input (limited by the breaker
or fuse on the circuit the furnace is plugged into) necessitates the most efficient and thus
most expensive designs, and the elements are costly as well. The cost of high-temperature
elements usually makes resistance melting above aluminum temperatures impractical.

Electric arc and induction furnaces can achieve very high temperatures, but the design of
the furnace and electrical control units is well beyond the scope of this book, and these
methods are generally not economical for melting on a budget.

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