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Thread: how to make aluminium rod

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    how to make aluminium rod

    Hi. Any ideas about how can I make aluminium rod of 0.5cm (0.2in) diameter and 2m (80in) long? I have scrap aluminium. I would like to make it using simplest and cheapest way, without having to buy anything from store.

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    square profile, or round, or something else?
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    Aluminium melts at about 660C, so if you are brave and very safety concious there are guides out there on how to cast it yourself using backyard equipment you probably already have lying around. Obviously be very careful if you do and read all the safety guides twice.

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    It is round, Mudskipper.

    Shaula, I thought about casting, but to cast something thin and long (2m!), I am not sure. You think it is possible? and how? I know how casting works, I have done it before, but how to do this one ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by roboticmhd View Post
    It is round, Mudskipper.

    Shaula, I thought about casting, but to cast something thin and long (2m!), I am not sure. You think it is possible? and how? I know how casting works, I have done it before, but how to do this one ?
    Round would be hard - I was going to suggest sand casting but 2m and round is difficult with that. That kind of length makes a mould hard work too. Not sure there is an easy way to cast in that case.

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    Something that diameter and length properly qualifies more as "wire" than rod. Places that make it commercially would extrude it or draw it. You can't. You probably can't make it by other means, either, if you actually want it very round.
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    Quote Originally Posted by roboticmhd View Post
    Hi. Any ideas about how can I make aluminium rod of 0.5cm (0.2in) diameter and 2m (80in) long? I have scrap aluminium. I would like to make it using simplest and cheapest way, without having to buy anything from store.
    I know you said you don't want to buy anything, but you can buy 2 meter lengths in just about any diameter for a few US dollars. I found this with about 30 seconds of googling.
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    Ok, You might be wondering why I need that rod (or wire). Actually I don't have plans for it yet. I know I can buy it very cheap, but I am interested in making aluminium rod (or wire) of given specifications by using 1500s-1600s methods, the way they were doing it back then, when there were no mass production and machines we have today. (I know they probably did not have much aluminium in those days, but I have aluminium and not copper.)
    Last edited by roboticmhd; 2017-Sep-25 at 08:25 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by roboticmhd View Post
    Hi. Any ideas about how can I make aluminium rod of 0.5cm (0.2in) diameter and 2m (80in) long? I have scrap aluminium. I would like to make it using simplest and cheapest way, without having to buy anything from store.

    Stock that size probably needs to be extruded. A short piece with that diameter could be turned, but a piece that long and thin would be quite difficult. You would probably be better off buying it from a good hardware store or a metal supplier.


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    Last edited by swampyankee; 2017-Sep-25 at 08:54 PM.

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    Wiki was my friend. Here is an article which describes the manufacture of wire in ancient times.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire

    My educated guess is that a thin rod such as you are describing is typically made by such drawing techniques.

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    Quote Originally Posted by roboticmhd View Post
    Ok, You might be wondering why I need that rod (or wire). Actually I don't have plans for it yet. I know I can buy it very cheap, but I am interested in making aluminium rod (or wire) of given specifications by using 1500s-1600s methods, the way they were doing it back then, when there were no mass production and machines we have today. (I know they probably did not have much aluminium in those days, but I have aluminium and not copper.)
    Ok, that puts an entirely different spin on it! I'm a mechanical engineer but am not sure how I'd tackle such a project. Commercially, as I said earlier, it would either be drawn (pulled through a die) or extruded (pushed through a die). Depending on your skills and equipment, you might be able to make a drawing die - or series of dies - out of hard steel. Certainly beyond my skills! The diameter you've chosen seems to me to be on the cusp between drawing and extruding, but drawing would probably be more practical for an amateur.

    You may be able to forge it into the basic shape then finish it, but I'm not sure. More information is needed:
    1. What skills do you have?
    2. What equipment/tools do you have?
    3. What kind of aluminum do you have?
    4. What kind of final product do you want -- accuracy of diameter, finish, strength, etc.?
    5. What form of aluminum do you have?

    I'd probably begin by heating it and attempting to hand-forge the basic shape.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Ok, that puts an entirely different spin on it! I'm a mechanical engineer but am not sure how I'd tackle such a project. Commercially, as I said earlier, it would either be drawn (pulled through a die) or extruded (pushed through a die). Depending on your skills and equipment, you might be able to make a drawing die - or series of dies - out of hard steel. Certainly beyond my skills! The diameter you've chosen seems to me to be on the cusp between drawing and extruding, but drawing would probably be more practical for an amateur.

    You may be able to forge it into the basic shape then finish it, but I'm not sure. More information is needed:
    1. What skills do you have?
    2. What equipment/tools do you have?
    3. What kind of aluminum do you have?
    4. What kind of final product do you want -- accuracy of diameter, finish, strength, etc.?
    5. What form of aluminum do you have?

    I'd probably begin by heating it and attempting to hand-forge the basic shape.
    I'd tackle it by subbing it out to somebody else

    Aluminum would probably need to be annealed several times, as I think it work hardens pretty quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by roboticmhd View Post
    I am interested in making aluminium rod (or wire) of given specifications by using 1500s-1600s methods, the way they were doing it back then
    They were not doing aluminum back then:
    Although ancient Greeks and Romans used aluminium salts as dyeing mordants and as astringents for dressing wounds, metallic aluminium was not refined until the modern era. Alum, a salt of aluminium and potassium, is still used as a styptic. In 1782, Guyton de Morveau suggested calling the "base" of (i.e., the metallic element in) alum alumine.[82] In 1808, Humphry Davy identified the existence of a metal base of alum, which he at first termed alumium and later aluminum...

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    Squink,

    I think he knows aluminum wasn't around in the 16th Century; he wants to draw it into wire using 16th Century methods because he has aluminum hanging around.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I think he knows aluminum wasn't around in the 16th Century; he wants to draw it into wire using 16th Century methods because he has aluminum hanging around.
    Yes, although I'm not sure that those methods will work that well on aluminum. It's got different characteristics than iron or copper. On the other hand, I've heard pretty good things about this book. The techniques would be more modern than medieval, but it provides instructions to build an entire working metal shop from scrap aluminum.
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Ok, that puts an entirely different spin on it! I'm a mechanical engineer but am not sure how I'd tackle such a project. Commercially, as I said earlier, it would either be drawn (pulled through a die) or extruded (pushed through a die). Depending on your skills and equipment, you might be able to make a drawing die - or series of dies - out of hard steel. Certainly beyond my skills! The diameter you've chosen seems to me to be on the cusp between drawing and extruding, but drawing would probably be more practical for an amateur.

    You may be able to forge it into the basic shape then finish it, but I'm not sure. More information is needed:
    1. What skills do you have?
    2. What equipment/tools do you have?
    3. What kind of aluminum do you have?
    4. What kind of final product do you want -- accuracy of diameter, finish, strength, etc.?
    5. What form of aluminum do you have?

    I'd probably begin by heating it and attempting to hand-forge the basic shape.
    1. some experience with aluminium casting (though not pattern making)
    2. casting equipment
    3.5. scrap aluminium, cut aluminium, some broken cookware aluminium parts...
    4. i want it to be 4.9-5.1mm diameter and 1.9-2.1m long, finish and strength dont matter much for now, but it should not be too weak of course

    Trebuchet, say I made the die and casted aluminium 2cm diamter and 13cm long shape(approx. same volume as final product, slightly higher) with a shape at the to grip , but how to draw it, how to pull it ? using pliers ?

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    You'll need mechanical assistance to pull it through the die, I think. A "come-along", for instance. And have the stock at least uncomfortably warm. I don't think you'll get from 2cm to .5cm in one pass either. Probably no more than 10% reduction in diameter per pass.
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    unlike copper it is hard to join aluminium by mechanical pressure, you mentioned several pieces, it's because of the stable oxide on the surfaces.
    If they had aluminium back then, which they did not, I think they might have worked it by hitting it. I have in mind the process of impact back extrusion (modern) which combines heating and working by being very fast. If you hit aluminium with a hammer on an anvil you can get some success but if you have an alloy rather than pure aluminium, you will get work hardening which then will crack and air will get the the crack so it won't join up again even if you heat it. Pure aluminium is much more malleable. You could combine alternate heating and hitting to make a thick rod. However I think I would go with casting first. If you made a long trough in wood with a suitable groove, melt the aluminium and cunningly hold back the oxide scum on top with a tap beneath the surface you should be able to easily run a 2m long rod if your groove is level and insulating so that it cools slowly. Then an anvil and hammer would allow some shape correction to make an aluminium arrow for example. It is quite easy to melt aluminium in a steel pan but take care as advised earlier.
    sicut vis videre esto
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    I know absolutely nothing about this, but ...

    I can't imagine it requiring less than a dozen passes through
    progressively smaller dies.

    I'd think that if you want to end up with a good 2-meter length,
    you would start with at least 3 or 4 meters.

    I'm surprised that standard manufacturing processes are either
    extrusion or drawing. I would have imagined that it is always a
    combination of both simultaneously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I know absolutely nothing about this, but ...

    I can't imagine it requiring less than a dozen passes through
    progressively smaller dies.

    I'd think that if you want to end up with a good 2-meter length,
    you would start with at least 3 or 4 meters.

    I'm surprised that standard manufacturing processes are either
    extrusion or drawing. I would have imagined that it is always a
    combination of both simultaneously.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    I think you are right about modern processes, you use hydrostatic pressure up stream and controlled tension downstream and each stage heats the wire, although extrusions in pure al can go to final shape fairly quickly but those are not processes for a few centuries ago. It's amazing that spinning is one of the early technologies for making bowls and a great one to watch, rather like a potter with clay. But the OP may have alloyed al and that's harder in several senses.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I think you are right about modern processes, you use hydrostatic pressure up stream and controlled tension downstream and each stage heats the wire, although extrusions in pure al can go to final shape fairly quickly but those are not processes for a few centuries ago. It's amazing that spinning is one of the early technologies for making bowls and a great one to watch, rather like a potter with clay. But the OP may have alloyed al and that's harder in several senses.
    Almost certainly alloyed, I think. Casting would at least return it to the "O" or annealed condition. Probably need to re-anneal after each pass through a die, although I'm not familiar with the extent to which Al work hardens.
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Squink,

    I think he knows aluminum wasn't around in the 16th Century.
    I'm pretty sure that aluminum was around in the 16th century, and even earlier.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm pretty sure that aluminum was around in the 16th century, and even earlier.
    Around, yes. Available in elemental form, not so much until quite recently. It was a precious metal until the advent of cheap electricity. The Washington Monument is topped with a few kg of aluminum, for example. Wedding rings of aluminum were once popular, and not because of cheapness. A 2m rod of aluminum would have cost a king's ransom in the 1600s. Such a rod would probably have required more aluminum than had been smelted cumulatively up to that time in history.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geo Kaplan View Post
    Around, yes. Available in elemental form, not so much until quite recently. It was a precious metal until the advent of cheap electricity. The Washington Monument is topped with a few kg of aluminum, for example. Wedding rings of aluminum were once popular, and not because of cheapness. A 2m rod of aluminum would have cost a king's ransom in the 1600s. Such a rod would probably have required more aluminum than had been smelted cumulatively up to that time in history.
    Thanks for the interesting background. Actually I was aware that it wasn't available in readily useable form, which is why I inserted the smile into the post. But I didn't realize it was that expensive!
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Almost certainly alloyed, I think. Casting would at least return it to the "O" or annealed condition. Probably need to re-anneal after each pass through a die, although I'm not familiar with the extent to which Al work hardens.
    It depends a lot on which alloy obviously, copper in the mix makes it harden as in rivets, silicon common, makes the final piece harder and the grains tend to cause cracking but can be annealed. Pure as scrap unlikely unless its all window frames extruded, but the oxide is still a problem for reuse unless you melt it all down. Impact back extruded stuff like film cans and drink cans are pure. But high strength al is always an alloy.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    al requires el heat with out 02 so could not be made until they had an el furnace c about 1870


    to cast a rod at home today use a glass tube
    cast it full and break the tube off
    or drill a hole the size and as long as needed in a piece of wood
    and split the wood after casting the al

    or do a lostwax plaster mold shape the wax the size needed
    cover in plaster
    heat the mold to melt the wax
    pour in the al let cool
    and break out the plaster to get the al part
    btw aztex did gold and silver that way c1000 ace
    so it is period correct way but al is not correct before the late 1800's

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    Am I the only one the OP goes ahead and does this and give us pictures of the result?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Thanks for the interesting background. Actually I was aware that it wasn't available in readily useable form, which is why I inserted the smile into the post. But I didn't realize it was that expensive!
    To put its value into perspective: Napoleon had aluminum plates made to show off. They were worth more than gold.

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    I recall an entertaining fantasy story by Isaac Asimov (Prince Delightful and the Flameless Dragon) where the court wizard gives our bold hero a suit of armor "that is light and will not rust, because it's made of a magic metal called aluminum".
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

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    How to make accurate cubes out of aluminium, wood and stone ? (0.1mm accuracy required). Again using 16th-17th century tech at most. I have no idea about how that could be done. Crude cubes can be done using hand/eye precision, but how to make accurate ones ?
    Last edited by roboticmhd; 2017-Sep-30 at 02:04 PM.

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