Since Neolithic times, human beings have used metals, but the metals used by our ancient ancestors were the type found in free-form, i.e. metals such as gold and silver. Other metals, such as copper, had to be extracted from the ore, generally by high heat.
We’ll look at how to get the metal out of aluminum cans in this short post. The most common metal on earth is aluminum. Extracting the original metal from the ore, however, is a very energy-intensive process involving over 3600 F (2000 C) high temperatures and a lot of electricity. Fortunately, this process has already been carried out for us for the preppers and the result is a lot of thrown away aluminum cans. We can use these cans to get into the aluminum and make our own ingots, ready for use in creating other metal artifacts depending on what you need in a post-apocalyptic world for survival.
What You’ll Need:
- A load of used aluminum cans (such as drink cans)
- Charcoal for fuel
- Metal bucket with lid (furnace)
- Long metal tube for aeration (about 10 inches long)
- Something to act as the crucible -this needs to be temperature resistant, so made of steel – for example a sawn off small propane cylinder
- Something to add air to the furnace (if you’ve electricity, a hairdryer is perfect, otherwise some sort of bellows)
- A method of lighting the fuel (ideally a propane gas torch)
- Long tongs (very important as this gets hot!) the type you use for barbecues will work.
Preparing the Furnace
You will have to cut a hole in the metal bucket into which the metal tube fits in. To ensure a good fit, use a duct tape or silicone. Drop the metal tube into the cavity-that’s where you blow the air into the container.
You’re going to have to pour the molten metal out of the crucible, so try to form a lip on one side. Place the crucible in the middle of the seal and surround it with the charcoal fuel to make it a tight fit.
Related: Aluminum Cans Uses for Preppers
Melting the Aluminum Cans
Crush your aluminum cans in the middle of your furnace and place them in the crucible.
Using your propane torch or any similar, light up the charcoal fire. The charcoal will start glowing red. Put the lid on and begin blowing air into the furnace. This will boost heat inside the furnace and will start melting the aluminum cans.
When the furnace temperature is high enough, the cans melt very easily.
Once the molten metal has been melted, you need to pour it off.
Aluminum cans usually have all kinds of decoration on them and when you melt the cans this forms a lot of gunk. This tends to float to the top of the melt and turn into a hardened mass which means you can pour the aluminum into a mold through the gunk.
- This involves high temperatures; if you have some gauntlets in leather, use those to protect your hands.
- Pull the crucible out carefully, as steel in molten aluminum will dissolve.
- Try pouring the molten metal over sand. There is a risk of small explosions if you accidentally drop the molten aluminum onto concrete(it ends up overheating the concrete moisture and bang!).