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Crossbows - Everything about Building, Modding, and Using your Crossbow Gear

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    When to Cast or Mill

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    When to Cast or Mill Empty When to Cast or Mill

    Post by Shawn G Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:14 pm

    Hello All:

    I'm new to the forum. I have run a search and couldn't find a specific thread on my questions so if there is one, sorry. Can anyone provide insight when it is a better practice to cast metal parts for a crossbow (e.g., trigger mechanism, roller nut, aluminum framing, sights, etc.) and when it is better practice to mill the piece from solid stock? I'm assuming that prods should be forged (by someone who knows what they are doing).  

    As a follow up, if you are just starting out building a small hobbyist shop, would it be advisable to buy a furnace that can melt at least bronze (tin and copper) and aluminum (and ideally steel) or buy a milling machine or lathe (I read here that a lathe is the correct choice for machines but I thought lathes can only work with symmetrical pieces along the relevant axis, which means it wouldn't work for a roller nut and certain trigger mechanisms, correct?) (I probably will enroll in a community college course on machining if I go that route before any major purchase as you can see I'm not that knowledgable). 

    If I go the furnace route, what crucible capacity would be sufficient to build an aluminum frame for a full sized crossbow (which should be the largest piece cast other than a prod, which, I assume, should not be cast at all)?  I found this company online for furnaces that seem to fit the bill at http://devil-forge.com/metal-melting-furnace/ I'd assume the 5-10 kg size is more than enough, but is the 1- 2 kg too small? 

    I'm sorry for all the questions, but appreciate any insights that can be provided.
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    When to Cast or Mill Empty Re: When to Cast or Mill

    Post by phuphuphnik Tue Mar 10, 2015 7:30 am

    It looks like two different questions here. First, even with castings there is usually some machining afterwords. You can make a nice skeleton stock with just files, drill, and bandsaw. Personally, if you're making an aluminum stock, why not go fiberglass or carbon?

    If given the choice between a foundry and a mill, I'd take the mill. Plus then you can save all the chips for when you build the foundry.

    I'm in the process of researching a foundry, I like the Gingery Foundry. I have plenty of oil to fire it with. 

    These are the tools I'd have in my model shop:
    6-9" lathe, 6-8" belt sander, drill press, small mill, buffing wheels, band saw, assorted wood working tools, forge/anvil.
    Right now I'm doing without the sander, and my lathe is up on blocks. A foundry is on my list, but keep in mind the overhead of all the stock, mold making stuff, and the heat.
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    Post by Gnome Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:31 am

    Welcome to the forum, Shawn. I think you'll find that the folks on this forum that use advanced equipment had the equipment, or at least had access to it, before embarking on this pursuit. My advise would be to start with what you have and what you know and expand from there- get the sawdust and metal chips flying and the tools will sort themselves out.
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    Post by mac Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:29 am

    Shawn,

    Since nobody's mentioned it, I guess I will.  Foundry equipment is different for different materials.  You need much higher temperatures for copper alloys than you need for aluminum.  The set up can be fundamentally the same, but you just need "more of it".

    On the other hand, casting iron is a different thing.  It requires a lot more heat than copper alloys.  There are not very many guys who have iron foundry capabilities in their home shops. 

    You will notice I said "iron" rather than "steel".  Steel casting is more difficult yet. It requires even higher temperatures than iron, and even then there is usually some sort of pressure needed to get it to flow into the molds.   I'm not sure I have ever heard of a home shop steel foundry. 

    I don't want to discourage you, but you need to have a sense of perspective about casting. All of these things are possible, but casting bronze is twice as difficult as casting aluminum, casting iron is five times as difficult as casting bronze, and casting steel is ten times as difficult as casting iron. These numbers are all ex recto, of course, but you get the idea.

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    When to Cast or Mill Empty Re: When to Cast or Mill

    Post by Geezer Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:17 pm

    "Ex Recto"  Verily Magister Roberto, we are mightily amused.  Geezer.
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    Post by kenh Thu Mar 12, 2015 8:07 am

    ex-recto  Suspect lol!  yeeeeaahhhh
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    Post by Shawn G Thu Mar 12, 2015 11:09 am

    Everyone:

    Thanks for your insights. I appreciate it very much. I'm pretty much leaning towards milling at this point based on your collective comments and the fact that I can find courses on it at the local community college compared to casting. My experience is pretty much limited to building self longbows by hand. I have some good woodworking tools but wanted to start working on the metal side. 

    Mac- is it possible for a home setup to create a enough heat to forge iron or steel (I'm talking about shaping commercial grade stock, not trying to create steel with iron and charcoal) or are home setups not hot enough for that application as well? (I have access to blacksmithing classes in my area as well.)
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    Post by mac Thu Mar 12, 2015 11:38 am

    Shawn,

    Forging iron or steel is a piece of cake compared to casting them.  Black smiths did it for centuries with charcoal forges.  Modernly, it can be done with a variety of heat sources.  Some use coal or charcoal forges, others use gas fired forges.  Folks who only do it occasionally sometimes use a torch.

    It all happens at much lower temperatures than casting, and the heat can be localized, so you don't need nearly so much of it.

    If you go to Youtube and search for blacksmith, you will find enough videos to keep you amused for days, and you can't help but learn something as well.

    Likewise, you can also find videos on casting, and that's worth doing as well.

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