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Scratch Lathe

In the words of Adam Savage, “Failure is always an option.”  I don’t typically photograph my failures, but in this case my failure was such a resounding success that it had to be recorded.

I tried to make a lathe.  I tried to make one from nothing but heat and scrap metal.  That’s right, I melted down aluminum and cast it in sand in my garage.  It was ambitious, it was complicated, it was doomed to complete failure, and it was glorious.  It came as a big surprise to me that aluminum can be melted with little more than a shopvac, some charcoal and a coffee can.

One of the parts.  It is made of insulation foam and hot glue, the idea being that I would bury it in sand and the molten aluminum would vaporize and replace the form of the foam with its incredible heat.  The screws are my laziness showing–if I cast the part with screws in it, I reasoned that I wouldn’t have to drill and tap holes.  I was a little wrong there.

One of the end results.  A foam copy and the metal version.  As you can see, the shape of the foam didn’t quite allow the liquid metal to trickle all the way in, leaving a nub where the little projection should be.  One of many problems beleaguering this project.  I ended up scrapping the whole thing, and chalking it up to experience.  It was fantastic fun, and something I may return to someday, if I think of a really cool project idea. Until then, I’ll buy my stock in bars and sheets and cut it and attach it together mechanically like any reasonable-minded fellow.

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