How to Cast Thermite for Practical Purposes
There are many variants to thermite mixtures depending on its intended use. However, this article will focus on a general formula that can be used to start a fire or burn through metal. All you need is some aluminum, iron oxide and plaster of Paris along with an ice cube tray or empty film canister.
You can either take aluminum from foil or cans and grind it in a coffee grinder, or you can purchase powder from almost any hardware store. You can also easily find it online. While it is okay to grind your own aluminum, there is a good chance that the material will contain some impurities that may alter the characteristics of how it burns. Some people prefer this option as it can lead to bigger sparks, but it can also lead to a less efficient product.
You can easily buy iron oxide, which is essentially rust powder. You can also make your own by placing some magnets in the bottom of a jar or container before inserting some steel wool. Add some water and then more steel wool. The magnet will keep the material from floating and allow the water to convert the wool into rust. Add about ¼ cup of bleach and ¼ cup of vinegar to the mixture and let sit overnight. The finished product will resemble a pasty substance. Pour it into a coffee filter and allow to dry for a day.
The general proportion for this particular project is 3 parts of iron oxide to 2 parts aluminum powder. Then mix 2 parts of plaster of Paris to the aluminum/oxide product. Thoroughly mix the three ingredients until they are blended evenly. It is essential that everything is evenly disbursed otherwise it may not ignite properly later. You also need to add a little bit of water in order to activate the plaster of Paris, so refer to the guidelines on the packaging to get the proportions right based on how much plaster you use.
The mixture will be pasty and dry quickly, so it’s important to have the items nearby that you will use to create the molds. Ice cube trays and film canisters are popular options due to their size, but you can choose larger or smaller items as well. Pack the paste into the empty spaces and let rest until the mixture completely dries. The time that is required for the thermite to set will vary based on the consistency of the mixture as well as the size of the item you are using.
You can light with a long match or lighter as needed and it will produce a hot and sparkly flame. It is important that you take appropriate steps to protect yourself as it is lit. Make sure that you set the thermite where you want it to be used before lighting.
You can also modify this mixture to provide a little bit of adhesion to surfaces along with a fuse. Take 8 parts of aluminum powder, 3 parts of iron oxide and blend it with 4 parts of clay. Insert a magnesium strip into the soft substance to use as a fuse. You can stick it on a metallic surface, light and stand back while it eats through the material.
This and other variants of thermite have limitless practical applications, especially in an off-the-grid situation. Try it out for yourself, feel free to improvise or research further, and see how it can prove to be an invaluable resource to have at your disposal.