Can You Melt Obsidian and Cast a Sword?

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14:00   |   Aug 04, 2018


Can You Melt Obsidian and Cast a Sword?
Can You Melt Obsidian and Cast a Sword? thumb Can You Melt Obsidian and Cast a Sword? thumb Can You Melt Obsidian and Cast a Sword? thumb


  • Over the past few months
  • I've been working on this video as a follow-up to user comments on a previous video on if it's possible to cast obsidian.
  • This proved to be a major challenge that took six attempts, broke multiple crucibles and two different kilns.
  • But I didn't want to stop until I finally had success at casting obsidian.
  • Previously I made obsidian blade by knapping, which is kind of a Stone Age technology.
  • But a lot of people wanted to see me try and do actual casting with obsidian.
  • Which is something that's pretty difficult because actual obsidian doesn't melt until over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Which is something that's very hard to achieve.
  • So while looking for this I realized that you can actually cast glass using sand and a similar method that I used for the aluminum
  • But because I can't melt the actual obsidian,
  • I need to grind it up into small little particles,
  • mix it with the flux and then melt it. And hopefully then I can cast it into some form of knife
  • Obsidian is largely made of silica like regular glass but also has an unknown mixture of other impurities in it as well.
  • That can make its melting point difficult to work with. Melting straight obsidian is potentially possible
  • But would likely result in a very thick viscous substance
  • That'd be hard to work with especially to cast
  • my early attempts at glass making also had a fair amount of impurities which made it really difficult to work with so
  • The solution to this is flux
  • Which is adding chemicals with lower melting points that make the entire solution melt easier and be fluid enough to cast
  • so the thing with knapping is that when you fracture it you're able to create potentially razor thin blades that are a
  • Molecule thick you. Can't quite reach the same sharpness by just sharpening glass itself
  • But you should be able get something close and it's also probably gonna be pretty
  • Brittle as even this is brittle itself and it has wood reinforcing and holding it
  • So let's give it a shot. First up is grinding the obsidian, melting it down and see if this is even feasible
  • I used a ball mill to grind it to a fine powder in a liquid solution, which I then need to boil off.
  • One of the biggest pains is getting a crucible
  • That's just big enough to hold a large enough volume, but still fits inside the rather small kiln
  • As it heats the Obsidian and flux tend to boil over some and unfortunately in these smaller crucibles nearly everything spilled out
  • For this first test it looked like the Obsidian and flux may have separated, which means this might not be feasible
  • Also enough spilled out and burned through the insulation until it broke the kiln's coil making the kiln unusable
  • Next I tried a larger batch using a more flexibly designed kiln that I could scale up to fit a larger crucible
  • (whispered) I uh, suck at this
  • It's melted all the way through.
  • For an initial small test knife
  • I carved a model out of styrofoam and then packed it into the sand
  • Once poured the hot glass will burn off the styrofoam and fill in its place
  • Like regular glass, if my cast obsidian cools too rapidly it'll fracture and shatter
  • So I took a note from the compound we used when we made glass with Grant last year and picked up a bag of vermiculite.
  • Which can act as an insulator to allow the glass to slowly cool
  • Alright, lets give this a shot.
  • Unfortunately that wasn't enough and it still ended up shattering
  • But the most interesting result was that the remelted obsidian turned out fairly transparent with just a slight amber color
  • This is likely due to the flux which probably added to the transparency
  • But this also might be related to how this glass is formed versus the original obsidian
  • Which raises an interesting question on if this compound could even be considered obsidian anymore
  • Regrinding this glass, I started a new batch, but this time, assuming it got more clear because of the flux
  • I thought I'd attempt to counteract it by adding some new impurities back in
  • specifically added in some metals that are often used in glass making to dye glass black: nickel and chromium
  • Which gave it a nice dark color very similar to what it started with
  • Now to cast it. (talking about fluffy cat) Usually she just lays in the grass and eats it.
  • So I'm gonna try and cast this toy Roman sword in obsidian but I don't want the handle to be obsidian
  • So I'm gonna cut that off
  • Unfortunately by the time it came to pour it, my crucible had cracked and the majority of the obsidian had leaked out
  • While I reset again for another attempt I was curious to do another experiment to see what would happen
  • If you try to melt just straight rocks of obsidian
  • This resulted in a interesting formation of a foamy mess
  • Likely caused by off-gassing of compounds like water that'd previously been trapped in the obsidian
  • The semi molten obsidian adhered to the crucibles as well as the sides of the kiln which unfortunately caused this kiln to break as well
  • But in the interim I had fixed the first kiln and gotten a better fitting crucible. So let's keep going
  • Collecting as much of the previous attempt as I could
  • Plus adding some more crushed obsidian
  • And some more flux I'm ready to go again
  • This time with a very promising pour
  • Alright, moment of truth to see if the sword is in one piece
  • I've had mixed results so far with the vermiculite of
  • Some things still shattering in it, some things not
  • Let's see what we got
  • Dreams shattered dreams
  • Refusing to give up
  • I brought my setup to glassmaking studio FOCI
  • Where I could throw my final result into their annealing chamber and not risk it shattering
  • Okay, so got a weird reaction in the last attempt where it got really bubbly when we poured it
  • not sure exactly why, there might've been some cracks that formed when I transferred the mold or
  • There might have just been more humidity in the air that made it damp and caused a reaction
  • I'd like to polish this, it'd probably break up if I try to grind it and shine it up. So
  • We're gonna go over there. Give a one more shot to do it the right way previously
  • I added a little bit of a tang to attach a handle to it easier
  • But that's kind of flimsy so I'm a little worried how well that'll hold up. So I think I'm just gonna do the whole thing obsidian,
  • So I'm just super gluing the handle back on sand cast it once more I hopefully will finally have the obsidian sword
  • Not very strong
  • Working with FOCI, I learned how sand casting for glass is done a slightly different way
  • Instead of packing the sand tightly around the mold you lightly place the mold into the sand and pack it only along the edge
  • The idea is to allow the air to escape through the sand so it doesn't bubble up through the glass like it did last time
  • Then they also torch the sand to leave a fine layer of carbon on top. So the glass can better release from it
  • So after six attempts, I finally managed to cast a full obsidian blade. Unfortunately in the annealing process it got a little cracked and
  • Probably can't polish it off and put a nice edge on it, unfortunately
  • I took quite a bit of flux in order to make it cast-able which made it a bit difficult to actually temper
  • It's kind of messed up the whole annealing and made it a bit weaker, so it's more ceremonial at this point.
  • despite all the mythology around obsidian, it's really fragile, just glass and uh...
  • So put it through a whole different process than how the obsidian originally formed, which is evident when it became pretty
  • transparent at one point and then I had to add the additional dyes in order to turn it back into black. So it's
  • kind of debatable if this is obsidian, but it's definitely made from obsidian
  • and uh,
  • took a lot of attempts, though I finally made it
  • So this took six attempts and
  • broke two crucibles and two kilns. Just fixed this guy and last time this crucible cracked it leaked the obsidian all over it and
  • Eroded and did a ton of damage
  • Fortunately, it's still working at this point
  • But I don't want to push my luck too much so as much as I enjoy making unprofitable videos and I'm gonna call it
  • at this point
  • say it's complete
  • So now that I've cast the glass next I'm gonna move on to a different mineral, actually try and do
  • actual metals with some copper and make bronze
  • So I'll do that in uh...
  • In a while
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  • Thanks for watching

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I took some user comments way to seriously and figured out what it would take to melt obsidian and sand cast it into a sword.

Thanks for FOCI Glass Studio for their help with this project. They are a Non-Profit Studio in Minneapolis which teaches Glass Blowing Classes from Beginner to Expert! https://www.mnglassart.org

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