Now There Are Two of Them

Remember when I mentioned that Snowball was planning on building a DIY backyard foundry to melt down aluminum cans into ingots for her maker friends to use? Well after a cart load of metal and plastic buckets, several bags of plaster and sand, three hack saws plus a couple of huge drill bits it has become a reality. It basically boils down to a large metal bucket with a fireproof lining and a hole drilled in the side where air is forced in by a hairdryer (I mentioned the DIY part, right?) to make a fire hot enough to melt pop cans, singe eyebrows from a distance and Goddess knows what else.

I don’t know if it was my rant about the hazardous chemical that had been spewed across the backyard from the fire extinguisher (ok, that was partly my fault) or my threat to call the city to see if we need to be re-zoned as industrial property but the result was Snowball figured out I was worried about this project of hers. Mostly I was worried that she was gonna burn off some vital part of her anatomy and I would be last-man-standing and have to drive her to the ER. It wouldn’t be the first time a similar situation has occurred.

As luck would have it, Snowball’s son who lives in Las Vegas, came to visit for a week a couple of days after the foundry was finished and Snowball decided to have him around to help work out the bugs on the maiden voyage of the thing. I was glad to have him around for this beginning too. Not only was he an Eagle Scout and knows about safety precautions (I guess it’s that “Always Prepared” thing) but he is working in an industry where when things go wrong people can get maimed or killed. To say he is safety conscious is an understatement. He was able to teach Snowball what she has to look out for and what safety equipment, such as safety glasses and welder’s gloves, to use.

Son-of-Snowball feeding the maw of the backyard foundry.
Son-of-Snowball feeding the maw of the backyard foundry as mom watches.

It turned out to be more than a bonding experience for the two of them. You should have seen the love light in both of them as they were feeding tens of pop cans into the red-hot maw of this thing. The cans would melt faster than ice cubes on a hot summer sidewalk. Both of them were realizing what they could do with the products from a foundry like this. Snowball was describing her designs for a whole line of jewelry using aluminum, silver and bismuth crystals. Son-of-Snowball, who had recently moved from an apartment to a house with a real backyard, was coming up with ways to make the foundry design better and where in his new place is the perfect spot for it.

They had a few bumps and misunderstanding along the way. For example, the learning experience of pouring the molten aluminum into muffin tins. It didn’t take long to realize the muffin tins were aluminum too when the bottom of the tins melted through. This was a lucky lesson to have before Snowball used the “Aluminum Ingot Mold” which she thought by that description was for making aluminum ingots while what it really meant was it was made of aluminum to be used for lead ingots. She’s been sticking to steel and graphite tools since then.

Son-of-Snowball is back home in the desert now building his own foundry. The one rule Snowball and I finally did agree on is that she can only use the foundry when someone else is around. It will usually be me. I’m by no means any kind of safety engineer but I can tell when someone is doing something dangerous. Plus, I know where the closest ER is and its only a few minutes away.