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Old 11-15-2014, 07:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default scrap copper tank

I don't post much here, but I skim the DIY quite often.
I collect and restore Metaframe style aquariums for myself and friends, and I recently missed an uber rare hex metaframe style tank on ebay. Got me thinking that I should just build one.

Instead of stainless, I used about 12 feet of 1/2 type M scrap copper pipe, and salvaged roofing sheet, which I had handy.


Link to cross eyed 3D shot (cross you eyes to view).
http://www.rickwrench.com/images-sou...x-3d-1400w.jpg

To get strips from copper pipe you anneal the pipe, split it lengthwise and flatten it. The strips never come out perfectly straight, so I went to work with the hammer, using extra ball end shots to straighten any curves out. The resulting edges were straight enough to clean up on the belt sander and split.
1/2" type M copper pipe gives you a strip just a bit shy of 2" wide, 028" thick. After clean up, it's about 1.75" wide.
I split that for the vertical legs on the tank, so about 7/8" wide.
Folds were made, mostly, on a cheap Harbor Freight bench brake. To connect everything, I soldered/sweated in most joints with silver bearing solder, and brazed a few of the critical joints.
Glass is cheap Home Depot sourced panes, cut at home and bedded in with black Dow Corning 795. DC-795 looks a lot like the tar/gilsonite used on old metaframe tanks after clean up.
Since the tank is copper (toxic to fish and snails) the DC-795 filled all joints between glass panes, no copper exposed to water.

The hood is made of salvaged roofing copper (16 oz.), and fitted with a DIY LED array (eighty four 5630 SMD's, 2 amps at 12v).



I had cast some zinc dragon-fish for legs for the tank, but they were somewhat out of scale for the tank. Too big. And they had some steam marks anyway as the molds had sat around for a while after burnout (so, back into the pot). The small fish finial on top works though.



I should have taken some "in process" shots... but I didn't.
All in, including the DIY light hood, about $30.00 in materials, and maybe 12-14 build hours spread out over several weeks. Eventually the verdigris/patina will even up, or I may just "age" it with ammonia and seal it.

Now, what to put in it.

Rick
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Old 11-16-2014, 07:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

This is remarkable!

Your challenge in stocking this will be the shape and how to filter it. How large is the tank? I can see a very simple design of a clump of vallisneria or giant hairgrass in the middle or on one side you choose as the "back". Or maybe a nice tall piece of wood covered with epiphytes. . .
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Old 11-16-2014, 10:32 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

That is a really nice job you did on the tank. I like the LED light combo with the antique looking tank.

Do you have any pictures of the other tanks you've worked on?

Also, you mentioned metal casting? I also do metal casting. Looks like you used a sand mold for the feet? Do you do lost wax as well? Any chance you could post some pictures of your furnace/foundry setup? Us casters are few and far between.

Have you seen the forum over at http://www.alloyavenue.com ? There are a lot of metal casting people over there with lots of interesting projects.
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Old 11-16-2014, 09:39 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

I've been considering a dense monoculture of vals. But stuffed absolutely full of anubias has crossed my mind, too.
For fish, probably elassoma species.

The zinc fish legs were lost wax process. What looks like coarse sand marks all over the base in the picture are actually steam marks. I'd done the burnout a few days previous (poor planning), and the molds picked up some moisture while sitting around. The top turned out fine. I use a pretty typical DIY propane furnace and a hot plate powered burnout oven. Nothing special.
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Old 11-18-2014, 09:25 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

I loove that antique look of your tank. It would look fantastic with the correct room decor.

Reminds me of an tank I picked up when I was a teenager. It was at an estate sale and I got it for pocket change atr the time. The entire tank frame and bottom was mad of one piece of Cast Iron that was extremly decorative with dragons in in all four of the Edges. The top was open but had a rim roughly 2" wide and 3" tall with more ornate patterns of what were probably supposed to be Koi. I installed a Glass bottom as I did not water exposed to the iron for fear of excess iron toxicity. The base or stand was made of wood with similar carved patterns. The all the wood and iron work had an interesting finish that would be probably close to faux gold leaf with a brownish nearly black shadowing in the relief areas.

Outside dimension were roughly 32" long. 24" front to back, and 42" tall. But with the way it was constructed it only held about 35 gallons.

I considered it very impractical at the time as any water hitting the frame immediate produced water marks, and I could not come up with a great way to light the tanks. After about a year I traded it in for a brand new metal frame 55 gallon tank with lights and a stand.

Today I wish I still had it as it is probably worth many times what I got for it. It would also be a great conversation piece if I set it up with emerged plants rather than submerged plants and fish.
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Old 11-18-2014, 03:37 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

rick, I'd love to see pictures of any of your other castings or your furnace setup. Lost wax metal casters are something of a rarity so when I get the chance to see a fellow caster's work and setup it makes for a good time

What coating did you use for the lost wax? Investment, ceramic shell, plaster of paris, or another coating?

Did you carve the wax yourself or did you buy premade patterns? The fish legs are very nicely done.

I've never worked with zinc before. How does it compare with aluminum, and silicon bronze?

I just recently bought a jewelry kiln and a centrifugal casting machine which should allow me to do very small and thin items (even leaves and flowers). I'll be trying it out this weekend with any luck.

Here are some of my lost wax castings:

Here is a picture of one of my furnaces :










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Old 11-18-2014, 08:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

wow when I look at items like this from both of you, I think two things.
1. Someone has a lot of talent.
2. Someone has a lot of spare time.
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Old 11-19-2014, 12:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

I repaired a small Jewel tank years back, about 5g, cast bronze mounted on a marble base. Needed one glass pane and the sealing material replaced. The glass had the top edges exposed, rounded, and fire polished. I replaced the busted glass with a borosilicate pane, sanded the exposed edge round and carefully torched it. The frame was very ornate. I should have probably pulled some molds off the base frame and uprights while I had it.

I'll post up some pics of my casting setup shortly - I'll have to take them first though.
I used to photo document everything I make, but in the past few years I seem to have fallen out of the habit.

Nice cast pieces in those pics. Are the hippo and hummer copper?

My wax patterns are pulled from silicone molds of things I want to copy or hand carved masters. I've got a pretty good collection of master molds at this point. Sometimes I do one shot organic stuff; tiny pine cones, acorns, etc. Small stuff burns out just as easily as wax after several hours at 1200f.
I usually do investment casting, with homemade investment (plaster/silica sand/fireclay) reinforced with wire loops and poured into beer cups or quart sized plastic paint cups. I can't burn out much bigger than that right now.
The zinc fish were simple gravity casts.
Zinc is cheap, easy and low temp (750-800f). You don't want to overheat it. The fumes from overheating aren't so good for you. I pour a home brew alloy version, something between Zamak and ZA-8 with 4-8% aluminum and 1-2% copper dissolved into the soup. Pours a bit easier they say. I have no idea what the final alloy percentages are. Scrap zinc is usually Zamak 3. When I dissolve in the aluminum and copper, a lot of aluminum ends up in the dross on that initial melt. The ingots made from this don't seem to have this problem.
It does pour easy, though I wasn't too pleased with how those first two fish came out. The top part is ok, but the bottom part is pretty steam pocked.
I pour aluminum into investment molds, too. I have a big tub of (diy) Petrobond and flasks still in storage. Someday, when I really do have some spare time...
I also steam cast small bronze and brass pieces, melting with a torch. My current furnace won't get hot enough for a bigger pour of bronze.

Rick
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Old 11-19-2014, 06:29 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
I repaired a small Jewel tank years back, about 5g, cast bronze mounted on a marble base. Needed one glass pane and the sealing material replaced. The glass had the top edges exposed, rounded, and fire polished. I replaced the busted glass with a borosilicate pane, sanded the exposed edge round and carefully torched it. The frame was very ornate. I should have probably pulled some molds off the base frame and uprights while I had it.
That sounds amazing. Any chance of a pic of that tank job?

I've got to admit, I've never really given stylized aquariums much thought, but after seeing your copper one above I think I might have to try my hand at a few.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
I'll post up some pics of my casting setup shortly - I'll have to take them first though.
I used to photo document everything I make, but in the past few years I seem to have fallen out of the habit.
Great! I'm looking forwards to the pics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
Nice cast pieces in those pics. Are the hippo and hummer copper?
All the castings (except the ring) are silicon bronze with varying amounts of silicon in the alloy. The bird and hippo had a medium amount of silicon in them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
My wax patterns are pulled from silicone molds of things I want to copy or hand carved masters. I've got a pretty good collection of master molds at this point. Sometimes I do one shot organic stuff; tiny pine cones, acorns, etc. Small stuff burns out just as easily as wax after several hours at 1200f.
I usually do investment casting, with homemade investment (plaster/silica sand/fireclay) reinforced with wire loops and poured into beer cups or quart sized plastic paint cups. I can't burn out much bigger than that right now.
Do you make block silicone molds or do you make fiber glass or POP backed molds? I've been using block molds which unfortunately use up a lot of the silicone rubber compared with proper fiberglass backed molds. Its too bad the stuff costs an arm and a leg or it wouldn't matter.

I've honestly not had the best of luck with POP molds. I've tried them several times with various additives and it never seems to work out. The molds always crumble to dust when heated up in the furnace. It may be because the furnace runs too hot for POP and burns the material. What % of each of the components do you use for your molds?

I use ceramic shell now which works extremely well. I've also found that you can mix up a small tub of the stuff and you can let it settle out. As long as it doesn't dry out you can re-suspend the slurry and use it again. It actually keeps for months like that as long as it is covered well. I bought a 50 lb bag of slurry and a 5g bucket of the binder and it has lasted me roughly 5 years now and I'm only half way through it. I think I spent about $200 for all 4 bags of fused silica sand/slurry/binder and a 50 lb bag of casting wax. A good investment I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
The zinc fish were simple gravity casts.
Zinc is cheap, easy and low temp (750-800f). You don't want to overheat it. The fumes from overheating aren't so good for you. I pour a home brew alloy version, something between Zamak and ZA-8 with 4-8% aluminum and 1-2% copper dissolved into the soup. Pours a bit easier they say. I have no idea what the final alloy percentages are. Scrap zinc is usually Zamak 3. When I dissolve in the aluminum and copper, a lot of aluminum ends up in the dross on that initial melt. The ingots made from this don't seem to have this problem.
It does pour easy, though I wasn't too pleased with how those first two fish came out. The top part is ok, but the bottom part is pretty steam pocked.
Yeah, zinc fume fever. I had a bit of that once after burning off the galvanized coating on an item I was heating. Not a fun experience. I've also noticed that ingots generally tend to behave much better than the first time you alloy the metal together. Probably because most of the impurities are skimmed off and removed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
I pour aluminum into investment molds, too. I have a big tub of (diy) Petrobond and flasks still in storage. Someday, when I really do have some spare time...
Hmm yeah, I built myself several flasks and made myself some greensand way back when I started casting, but I quickly found that you can't get the same level of detail/flexibility with sand as you can with lost wax. The main issue with bronze casting (and casting in general) is shrinkage porosity for me. I'm still working on spruing things correctly to prevent the issue. It is particularly a problem for me since I'm pretty terrible at brazing/welding. All my attempts seem to cause the joint to weep some kind of greeny white salt for months after the welding. Not sure what causes it, nobody has been able to explain it to me or how to stop it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickwrench View Post
I also steam cast small bronze and brass pieces, melting with a torch. My current furnace won't get hot enough for a bigger pour of bronze.
Rick
I've been getting into casting smaller things recently (jewelry). My time has been pretty limited over the last few months due to all the studying I have to do so small items it will be until my schedule lightens up next semester. Though I plan on casting a few nice items with my main furnace over Christmas.

Have you been on alloyavenue's forum? They have a lot of really interesting casting projects going on over there. A highly active forum with a good small community of casters.

Just this last week I managed to buy a centrifugal casting machine and a mini-kiln which will allow me to burn out molds inside instead of having to sit out in the cold for several hours. I'm looking forwards to trying it out this weekend.





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Old 11-20-2014, 07:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: scrap copper tank

I don't have any pics of the Jewel, and it's currently in storage about 200 miles from me, but it was a small "Jewel #90". There were some pics of it on the viaquaria.com forum before that one slipped away into the ether last year. Doing some reading - and it turns out the upright were cast iron pieces that were just painted bronze. Hmm.

I make silicone block molds. It's a waste of silicone, but I don't cast that often and if I don't use it up it gets too thick to use after six or eight months. So either way...
I don't do a ton of casting, more of a "beat the metal into submission with a hammer" type. Lots of sheet copper, brass, CRS and 3003 aluminum, turned into platters, bowls, ladles (also out of scrap pipe), 3-4 quart risotto pans, car bodies, etc.
Yep, too many hobbies.
I'll try to get some pics up of the furnace.

Rick
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