Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Fire Ecology

Titanium knives
I have a burning desire to cast titanium.

Ah ha ha. I just realized there was a pun there.

No, really I do. A lot of casters will tell you the ultimate casting experience is cast iron. While I agree cast iron is extremely sexy,  I have a major hard-on for the look of titanium. It looks like steel but without the rust. Problem is, titanium is chemically highly reactive. In its molten state, it will eat through most refractory materials such as alumina, silica, or magnesia. As a result, a technique known as skull melting is used. This involves keeping a section of solid titanium metal interposed between the melt (done with an electric arc) and the crucible walls.
Titanium melts at about 3000 degrees F. Because titanium is reactive with oxygen, a normal atmosphere cannot be used. Typically, the melt occurs in a neutral argon atmosphere or a vacuum.

So, I wish to engage in vacuum induction skull melting, dude.
Vacuum Induction Skull Melting of Titanium

Ain't gonna happen. Darn it. So, I'm stuck with just the regular old casting of either aluminum or bronze at a measly 2000 degrees F with plain old fire.

The weird thing I noticed the other day, walking up to the library, was the bricks. Yeah, stupid, I know, but looking at the bricks that the library was made of, I realized they all were made with fire.

Then I noticed the concrete walls. The glass in the windows. The metal frames of the doors. All made with fire. The asphalt parking lot. Fire.

Fire! Almost every freaking thing we make is made with fire!

I mean, looking around, I'm surprised we have any carbon or oxygen left! (Of course, that's silly. Its just that all our stuff around us looks like a lot of stuff to us little fire-domesticating monkeys).

I don't know, it's just I've never really thought about it in an all-encompassing way before. It struck me as rather amazing, how much fire we use.

Speaking of which, my niece just got done with an engineering project involving converting human waste into carbon fuel. She never mentioned it to me, probably because I would have made fun of her and her poop project. (I would have too). It's featured on the Discovery Channel, which you can watch right here .

I think, though, I'd rather they put it all back in the earth. Do the terra preta thing with it, instead of burning it.

Kind of like the ethanol projects, it all used to be food. And I think that burning food for fuel is pretty fucking stupid.


  1. Yeah, but it's all cow food. I don't think they're burning sweet corn.

    and fire is cool.

  2. Makes a person wonder what's important...