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Building a Bronze Casting Furnace


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• The Lost Wax Casting Process
• Wax: An Overview
• Ceramic Slurry Dipping Schedule
• The Sandcasting Process
• The Chasing Process
• Methods for Joining Bronze
• Patinas
• Investment Casting: 1930-1950
• Project #2: Sandcasting a Bas Relief Bronze Plaque
• How to Build a Bronze Casting Furnace
• Foundry Safety
• Furnace Lighting Procedure
• Project #1: Direct Wax Sculpture, Ceramic Shell

This article is an account of constructing a small bronze casting furnace. I
am putting it here for educational purposes only. Should you attempt to
build a furnace like this one, I am not responsible for ommissions,
mistakes, or errors that may lead to injury or death. Building and operating
a furnace without proper knowledge and a good dose of common sense
can lead to injury or death! Read up on safety procedures before using this
or any furnace. Dangers inculde propane explosions, severe burns, carbon
monoxide poisoning to name a few. To start, take a look at my safety page
and Furnace Lighting Procedures.

Also take a look at my Forge Page

I'm also a blade-smith and have made several forges using similar materials and techniques as
this furnace. The main difference is a smaller sized freon tank rather then the 5 gal propane tank.

I was invited to teach a seminar on

furnace building for a foundry class at
El Camino College. I took pictures
during the seminar and combined it
with pics of my own furnace to create
this article with the intent of using it at
other seminars. Thus it is written as a
"How To" article, meant to be
combined with the seminar, which
includes discussions on safety and
proper use of the furnace.

The furnace we built is a small helium

tank furnace, capable of melting 30 lbs

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Building a Bronze Casting Furnace

of bronze in about 40 minutes. This is

exactly the same furnace I use in my
own studio.

The features of this furnace are:

1. Melts 30 lbs of bronze in 30-40

2. Uses a party helium tank (the
same size as a 5 gal propane
3. Inexpensive to make: under
4. Lightweight and portable
5. An easy weekend build

If you have questions or comments please contact me at:

I'd love to hear from you!

Building a furnace for the Home Foundry:

Capable fo melting up to 30 lbs of Bronze
This furnace is able to melt 25 lbs of bronze in about 30 minutes. It has a maximum
capacity of 30 lb. of bronze or 10 lb. of aluminum (a #10 crucible just fits). The pictures
here are from a class I did where we built 3 furnaces. Think of this as a recipe for building
the furnace, there are many variations you may use depending on our skills, the tools in
your shop and availability of materials. If you follow certain basic principles the furnace
will work just fine.

Basic Principles for Building a Furnace

1) A furnace body is mainly an enclosure to hold the heat that the burner puts out. The
steel shell does not hold in any heat, it is the refractory that holds in the heat (the lining
inside the furnace shell). The body could be made of screen and it will work the same, it’s
only purpose is to hold the refractory in place.

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2) The burner should come in at an angle (see diagram #1) so the flame forms a vortex or
whirlwind around the crucible. This distributes the heat evenly and does not overheat the
side of the crucible.

3) The refractory you use must be able to take the heat within the furnace. Bronze is poured
at around 2100 degrees F, but the furnace lining (especially where the flame is hitting it)
gets much hotter. The lining on my furnace should take 2700 degrees. You cannot use plain
concrete or substitutes, this can be dangerous. 2300°F ceramic blanket can be used, but
expect a shorter life.

4) Every place there is a leak (i.e. flame shoots our from a hole or gap in the refractory)
heat is lost. The less holes there are the better, but NOT from the point of view of melting
the metal. The amount of heat lost from a small hole or two in the furnace is nothing
compared to the amount of BTU's (heat energy) the burner puts out. The danger is that a
flame shooting out the side will catch something on fire or worse, burn a hole in the
propane line. Therefore, you should make the lining fit well - an easy thing to do, especially
with ceramic fiber and castable refractory.

5) There must be a hole in the top of the furnace to prevent back-pressure from building up
(especially important with a venturi burner). This hole also allows metal to be lowered into
the furnace with a pair of tongs (not dropped!).

6) You must have a burner able to generate enough BTU’s (heat energy) to heat up the
furnace to the temperature you want faster then the furnace looses heat to the outside. In an
ideal world, a perfectly lined furnace (one that lets no heat out at all) could be heated to
2000 degrees F from a flame no bigger then a candle. In reality the flame must be a bit
bigger to do this. The burner in this furnace puts out between 135-200,000 BTU’s.

That’s the basics.

The steel body is made from a party helium tank (it is the same size as a 5 gal. propane tank
but helium is nonflammable). The bottom and top are lined with a castable refractory, and
the sides are lined with Ins-wool or any ceramic fiber blanket that will take 2300°F.

The burner is based on Ron Reils EZ-burners - the plans are on the internet and highly
recommended reading. They are updated frequently and should be looked at.

Tool and Part Lists

This list of tools and parts is off the top of my head, but should be fairly complete. There is
always some latitude, since many of the parts can be made from scrap laying about the

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MIG/TIG/oxy-acetylene torch for welding.

Something to cut off the top of the tank and angle iron (oxy-acetylene
torch or an angle grinder with cut-off wheel for the top and angle iron,
and a jig saw with metal cutting blades for the smaller holes)
Hack Saw or angle grinder with cut-off wheel
Sharpie pen


The furnace body:

(1) A disposable helium tank or empty freon tank - the same size as a 5
gal propane tank (DO NOT use a propane tank) - [furnace body]
(1) About 5’ of angle iron 1” to 1-1/2” wide - [legs &burner holder]
(1) About 1' of 1/4" rod, rebar would do fine - [hook]
(1) hinge (about 2-3”) - [lid hinge]
(1) 2" hose clamp - [to attach burner to burner holder]
15-20 roofing nails - [welded to lit to hold refractory]
(1) Bag castable refractory (Greenlit-45 (lighter, not as strong), Mizzou
40" x 10" Ceramic fiber blanket (2700°F maximum temperature
preferred, name brands are Inswool or Kaowool).


(1) 3/4” x 8” pipe nipple

(1) 1-1/2” x 3/4” reducer
(1) 1/8” nipple with pipe cap
(1) 1” x 5” pipe nipple
(1) #60 drill
(2) 3/16” bolts with a Drill and tap for that thread size
(1) propane hose with 1/4” fittings on either side
(1) Propane Regulator (0-30 lb. pressure)
(1) Propane fitting for attaching the regulator to the tank

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Cutting the Shell

1. Using a cutting torch, cut a hole in the top of the helium tank about 4 1/2” in diameter
(the exact size is not crucial).

2. Cut off the top of the tank just below the curve of the lid.

Two views of the helium tank cut off around the rim. On the right you can see the

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hole cut in the center of the top. Note the placement of the legs, hole for the burner,
and hinge.

Attaching the Legs

1. On a flat surface, place the bottom of the tank on a brick and weld the 4 legs onto the
bottom/side of the shell. Before welding sand off the paint where the welds will be using an
angle grinder and sanding disc.

A side view of the bottom half of the

furnace showing the legs welded in place.

Burner Attachment
1. An oval hole is then cut in the side of the shell about 4” above the very bottom of the
shell. This can be done when cutting off the top since an oxy-acetylene torch is best for
this. The hole should be about 1” tall and 2” wide - better too big then too small. Test it's
size with a 3/4" pipe, view the plans above and diagram #1 for positioning.

2. A 4” long piece of angle iron is welded to the edge of the hole. It should be angled as
shown in "diagram #1" at the top of the page. The burner will be attached with a hose
clamp to the angle iron.

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Here's a view of the hole cut with an oxy- A 4" piece of angle iron has been welded
acetylene torch. The hole should be set to the side of the hole. The hole has been
about 1" above the curve of the bottom of cleaned up with a grinder.
the tank.

A top view showing the angle of the

burner. Look at Diagram #1 at the top of
the page to see how the burner should be

Preparing the Lid

1. Weld a number of roofing nails onto the inside of the top to hold the refractory. A hinge
was welded to one side and the loop/latch to the other (a detail of making the loop is shown
in below).

A close-up showing the roofing nails A view of the lid with hinge, hook,
welded in place. The loop is also and nails. It is ready for the refractory
shown to the right side. to be poured in.

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A close-up of the loops ready to be

welded to the front of the lid. You
only need one.

Pouring the Lid & Bottom of the forge

1. Castable refractory is used to line the bottom and top of the shell. It should take at least
2600°F and should be about 2-1/2" to 3” thick on the bottom.

2. Make a cardboard ring the size of the hole in the lid and tape it into place with duct tape.
Also make a 2" thick ring of cardboard and set on a piece of wood. This is to make a base
block to put the crucible on.

3. Mix enough castable for the lid and bottom, plus a little extra.

4. Fill the lid with refractory cement.

5. Pour the bottom of the furnace up to where the curve of the tank ends - this should be
about 1" below the burner hole in the side

6. Use any extra to make a base block.

In Los Angeles, refractory can be purchased through:

Harbison Walker Refractories

7831 Paramount Blvd., Pico Rivera, CA 90660
(562) 942-2151

Independent Foundry Supply Co

6463 Canning St, Los Angeles, CA 90040
(323) 725-1051

Harbison Walker should have outlets in all the major cities - they are a worldwide
manufacturer. Look up refractories on the internet, or in a phone book for local dealers.

Inswool can be purchased by the linear foot from the following websites by the linear foot
(it comes 24" wide). Also look on eBay - don't pay more then $6-8 per 2 cubic feet. I haven't
purchased through the following, but the prices seem good.

5 foot lengths (10 square feet), about $3/sq foot. Enough to line 2-3 furnaces.

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By the foot for $8 a linear foot (2 sq ft).

A piece of cardboard is bent into a Here the bottom is poured. In this furnace
circle and taped in place with duct I made an integral base block, but I
tape. Castable is poured into the top recommend making it separate so it's easy
and smoothed. to replace.

Hinge, Lid Rest and Lid Ring

1. When the cement is dry, place the lid on the body and weld the hinge to the body.

2. The loop has a bar which will stick down along the body. Weld two small bars to the body
on either side of the bar. This will align the lid when it is closed, while the loop can be used
to lift the lid with a hook.

2. Cut a small piece of angle iron (about 4” long) and weld it to the shell so the top rests on it
when open. Cut a disc of scrap sheet metal and weld it to the top of the angle iron rest (this
helps prevent the angle iron from denting the top and eventually cracking the refractory).

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On the left side of the furnace is the

lid rest welded below the hinge.

Lining the Shell

1. Cut a piece of 1" ceramic fiber blanket about 9" (measure the inside height of the
furnace) by about 40". Make sure it is long enough to fit tightly inside the furnace body.
Use a sharp knife or matte knife to cut it.

The dark ring shows the Ceramic This shot shows the Ceramic Blanket
Blanket lining. lining. In this case I think I used 2"
blanket (the inside measures 1-1/2",
1" is sufficient and leaves more room
for a crucible.

The Burner
I used the Ron Reil Burner shown below with the Bordeaux modification. Instead of a
short flared pipe shown at the end of the burner in the plans, I used a 6” long pipe that is
attached permanently to the furnace with a hose clamp to the angle iron that is welded to
the shell. The end of this pipe is flared. The burner is held in the flared nozzle using a
setscrew. Once the burner is set the right amount into the 6" flared end, mark the burner
pipe or put a hose clamp around it to act as a stop. A #60 drill, taps, etc. can be purchased
at OSH (Orchard Supply Warehouse).

Ron Reil’s website is:

The Reil EZ burner is shown below. Click on the schematic for a larger view:

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A very good pictoral description of building this burner is available on Brian Boorman's
website at:

Click on this schematic for a larger The burner. Simple construction, and very
view. efficient. In this burner I have a compressed air
quick connect - I wouldn't recommend one so
close to the burner since these are known to

Yup, it melts bronze. That's a #10 Here's the finished product.

crucible in there. I've done dozens of
pours over 20 lbs, and many smaller
pours out of this furnace.

I've recently noted that I'm getting a lot of hits on this page. If
you've built one of these furnaces, or have questions, please

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Building a Bronze Casting Furnace

drop me a line and give me some feedback!

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