Whether you're making a ring or if you want to cast a part for your DIY machine, metal melting is the first step.
Having the right tools is essential to safely melting metal in your shop.
Metals can be melted using tools like a butane hand torch, propane torch, jewelry soldering hand torch, hot air gun, and melting furnaces. These devices gradually increase the temperature of the metal until it transforms from metal to liquid state, making it easy to mold them into desired shapes.
This article discusses different metal melting tools, the difference between melting and smelting, and sheds some light on selecting the right tool for your application.
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Metal Melting Tools: Essential Ones
Metal melting is a metal processing technique that generally requires a heat source to raise the temperature and melt the metal workpiece.
Apart from the heat source, there are various other tools required to get started with your metalworking hobby.
These tools include a crucible, ladle, tongs, and a mold to solidify the molten metal in the desired shape.
A crucible is a container that holds the metal to be melted.
It is placed inside the furnace, where the heat melts the metal placed inside the crucible. Hence, a crucible should be able to withstand extreme temperatures without melting.
Generally, crucibles are made of lead or cast iron. While lead crucibles can withstand extreme temperatures, cast-iron crucibles are suitable for melting metals with lower melting temperatures.
A ladle is a tool that is used to transfer the molten metal from the crucible and pour it into the mold.
Generally, when melting large quantities of metal, it is not feasible to carry the crucible to the mold, hence a ladle is used as a spoon to pour molten metal from the crucible into the mold.
Ladles are of two types, small-sized spoon-shaped ladles or large, industrial ladles with handles to carry from both sides.
Generally, a small-sized cast-iron or lead ladle is suitable for DIY projects.
Metal melting involves very high temperatures, making it necessary to use tongs for handling hot workpieces and equipment.
Tongs are used for placing the metal workpiece inside the crucible when the furnace is operating.
Apart from that, tongs are also used to hold the crucible steady when using a blow torch to melt the metal for DIY projects.
Mold is the equipment required for shaping the molten metal.
The hot metal is poured into the mold and allowed to cool down. This results in solidifying of metal in the desired shape.
Generally, sand molds are used for casting intricate shapes, whereas simple lead molds are used for general shapes like coins, bars, rods, etc.
Heating Tools Used for Melting Metal
|Induction Furnace||Over $1,000|
|Jewelry soldering hand torch||around $200|
|Hot air gun||$15–$40|
|Microwave Melting Furnace||$100–$150|
When you think about metal melting systems, the first picture that comes to your mind is that of a huge furnace.
Even though this is true, it is interesting to know that metal melting can also be achieved by using small, hand-held tools.
These hand-held tools are small in size but are capable of producing high heat to melt the metal workpiece.
The Crucible furnace is one of the oldest tools used for melting metal for industrial and DIY applications.
It is a cylindrical shaped furnace lined with heat-resistant liners to protect the inner surface from high temperatures.
These furnaces come in varying sizes, from bench mount furnaces to massive industrial furnaces.
A propane melting furnace is a widely used melting furnace by DIY enthusiasts. It uses propane gas to fire the furnace and melt the metal workpieces.
Crucible furnaces can be used to achieve a temperature of around 2700℉, making them suitable for melting a variety of metals like copper, silver, gold, etc.
A complete kit of propane-fired crucible furnace can cost around $200 to $400.
Suitable for melting metal up to 5kg
Maximum temperature capability of 2700°F
There are two types of electric furnaces - one that uses an electric arc and the other that uses the principle of household electric heating.
An electric arc furnace is suitable for large-scale industrial applications with a minimum of 1 tonne capacity.
When the metal to be melted is brought close to a current-carrying electrode, an arc is produced. This arc heats the metal. This working principle is similar to electric welding.
Whereas the small-scale electric furnace uses the household heating principle, in which the heat is produced when current is passed through a resistor.
With the proper calibration of power and resistor elements, you can melt different types of metals.
Generally, electric furnaces for small-scale applications cost around $300 to $600.
Suitable for melting up to 3kg of Gold
Maximum temperature capability of 2000°F
The induction furnace works on the principle of an induction heater.
It consists of a copper winding over the inner crucible, which induces eddy currents in the metal, thereby heating it.
This ensures uniform heating of the metal, and as the metal is not exposed to the heat source, the possibility of contamination is less.
Therefore, it is best suited for melting precious metals like silver, gold, etc.
Apart from that, a powerful induction furnace is capable of achieving a temperature of over 2500 ℉, making it suitable for melting steel.
Due to its complex construction and high melting ability, an induction furnace can cost over $1000.
Maximum temperature capability of 2192°F
Suitable for smelting, melting, annealing, brazing, etc.
A propane torch is a tool that uses propane, a hydrocarbon gas, as a fuel and an ignitor to produce a flame.
These torches are the most commonly used heat source for DIY metalworking projects.
They come in handy while performing small-scale welding, brazing, or soldering.
Propane torches come in varying sizes, from hand-held ones to large-sized industrial torches with propane tanks.
A hand-held propane torch is a small-sized propane cylinder fitted with a regulator and a torch nozzle.
The intensity of gas flow is regulated by the regulator and an external ignitor is used to initiate the flame.
A propane torch can produce a flame that has a temperature of around 3600℉ to 4600℉,
Generally, a small-size propane torch can cost you around $50.
Suitable for melting, soldering, etc.
3-year limited warranty
A butane torch is a tool that uses LPG and a certain percentage of butane gas as fuel.
But what sets them apart from propane torches?
Unlike propane flame, the flame of a butane torch can reach a temperature of around 2600℉.
As a result, these torches are used for melting very thin pieces of aluminum and copper.
The torches are an ideal choice for household repairs like plumbing, brazing, etc., where extremely high temperatures are not required.
Though butane torches are handy and less harmful, they are inefficient when temperatures drop below 30℉.
Generally, a butane torch is available for around $14–$40.
Max. temperature of 2500°F, suitable for soldering
1-year limited warranty
Jeweler's Soldering Torch
Jewelry soldering hand torches are versatile and work from small-sized earrings to large-sized jewelry like cuff bracelets.
These torches produce a flame of around 6000℉ that can melt silver up to 3 oz.
Its flexibility to use different gases like oxy-acetylene, butane, and propane makes it a favorite among professional jewelers.
They come in different-sized tips, which are chosen based on the gas combination and the size of the project.
A complete kit of jeweler's soldering torch can cost around $200.
Can handle a maximum temperature of 6000℉
Included nozzle heads of different sizes for different applications
Hot air gun
Hot air guns, also known as heat guns, are high-power devices that give out a stream of high-temperature air that can melt or weld different materials.
Temperature can be set based on the material worked upon, making it easier to operate.
The temperature of the air emitted by a hot air gun ranges from around 200℉ to 1000℉.
These devices are commonly used for soldering and reworking the circuit components.
Based on the application, the air stream can be concentrated by varying the nozzle size.
Generally, a hot air gun can cost around $15 to $40.
Temperature range of 752℉-1112℉
Suitable for melting solder for re-working
Microwave Melting Furnace
You might find it surprising that the microwave you use for cooking can melt metals.
Although not officially available, microwave melting furnace provides a cheap alternative for DIY projects.
However, it can be dangerous and requires extreme caution at all times.
To make a DIY microwave melting furnace, all you need to do is to remove the rotating plate and replace it with bricks that form the hearth inside the microwave.
These bricks prevent the inner lining of the microwave from catching fire. Apart from that, Ceramic fiber wool is also an excellent insulator to protect the walls of the microwave.
A microwave melting furnace can produce temperatures as high as 1832℉, suitable for melting aluminum and silver.
Generally, domestic microwave series D or E that have a power rating of over 850W are best suited for making a DIY furnace.
You can find a used microwave for around $100 and transform it into a cheap and affordable furnace.
How to Choose the Correct Metal Melting Tools
|Gold and silver melting||1800℉||Butane or propane flame||Lesser temperatures. Ability to work with small jewelry pieces.|
|Pipe joining using filler metals||1500℉ to 2000℉||Butane or propane torch with air||Application of heat concentrated on the joint without damage to the surrounding metal.|
|Hot riveting||1500℉ to 3000℉||Butane or propane torch||Uses metals of a wide range of melting points, from copper to carbon steel.|
|Forging and casting of cutting tools.||1000℉ to 5000℉||Furnace||Materials vary from low melting point high-speed steel to high melting point tungsten carbide|
|Soldering of electronic parts||200℉ to 930℉||Hot air gun||Heat applied to melt the solder without burning the electronic components|
The selection of the right melting tool depends upon the required temperature and accessibility of the part to be melted.
While furnaces provide the most favorable melting conditions, they cannot be used for remote melting operations like pipe joining, where the filler metal is to be melted and applied.
Therefore, a propane or a butane torch is best suited for such applications due to their high portability.
Similarly, a hot air gun is suitable for applications where a comparatively lower temperature is required and where direct flame cannot be applied to the workpiece, such as for soldering.
On the other hand, furnaces are best suited to melt large quantities of metal for industrial applications.
Induction furnaces minimize the risk of contamination, making them ideal for melting precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, etc.
Although metal melting is generally performed in furnaces, you can also use a blow torch to melt small pieces of metal for DIY projects.
When selecting the torch for your application, it is important to consider that both butane and propane torches can perform similar operations, but a propane torch is comparatively faster due to its higher temperature.
Similarly, when selecting the furnace, gas furnaces are ideal for industrial applications, while electric and induction furnaces are best suited for DIY projects.
On the other hand, a microwave furnace is not commercially available and is a DIY project to reuse your old microwave for melting metal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between smelting and melting?
The difference between smelting and melting is that smelting is the process of extracting the metal from its ore by heating it beyond its melting point, whereas melting is the process of changing the form of the metal from solid to liquid.
Which metals are easy to melt?
Metals such as brass, aluminum, tin, etc., have comparatively lower melting points and are best suited for DIY metal melting projects.
Can we recycle aluminum cans?
Yes, you can melt aluminum cans and recycle them to make DIY projects. You can melt aluminum in a furnace by heating it to a temperature of 1220℉ (melting point of aluminum).