Casting aluminum

Interesting thread on Casting Strength found here.

Now, if you want to experiment with casting an alloy of ths type, here’s how to get out cheap;-) Find somebody who does punch work and ask them to save the slugs for you. I have a 5 gal bucket of 3003 slugs that are 3/8×3/4″ ovals, punched out at a buddy’s shop. It is the perfect size for the crucible, doesn’t require breaking up, melts really fast, and being a weldable alloy, it flows and pours like you wish everything would.

Once cast, it machines just like 3003; soft, gummy, and gooey. It makes very solid castings using the lost foam process in dry sand. Much better than scrap waterpump housings and old VW pistons. That may be the best alloy for you to use, actually. It’s soft enough to avoid cracking and, as we all know is just rediculously easy to weld. It’s not as strong as 6061, but you’ll have a really tough time making a set of castings up that will mate well under load with 6061 T6 without the casting being as big as the engine block.


I worked for a few years with two guys who built custom racing bike frames as a side business. Short of going to graphite composite, their preference was alloy steel tube that was silver sodlered at the joints. They used reinforcement at joints by using two tube sizes that nested and put on a tube seat of the larger tube and then inserted in the frame member to get a double wall at structural joints. They also used swaged tube that was thinner wall at midspan and heavier wall at the tube joints. The swaged tube was strictly special order only.

the reason for using silver solder was to avoid destroying the wrought grain structure at the joint. TIG welding would change the grain structure from wrought to cast structure where the metal melted, making a much weaker joint.

From experience with truck frames in the 70’s, aluminum is no substitute for steel. Aluminum truck frames were made to reduce weight and increase payload in log and flatbed trucks. However, the aluminum frames inevitably cracked and had to have reinforcing plates installed, which made the frame heavier than the steel version and still prone to cracking. It is also much less stiff than steel by a factor of at least 3.

Last thing, 6061-T6 is cast, wrought, solution annealed and then precipitation hardened. The grain structure is not quite cast, but some of the wrought structure goes away during the solution anneal. Casting 6061-T6 with a precipitation hardening process won’t be quite as strong as the T6 processing, but will be better than as-cast and will machine better. There is another type of processing, T8, which is cast, wrough, solution annealed, wrought again and then precipitation hardened which comes out stronger and harder than T6, but no stiffer.

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