The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The power of ice

Freeze damage close up of alluminum pot

I left this large pot out all winter and somehow the lid blew off and filled up with water.

Big mistake!

I'm not sure why I didn't put it away in the barn back in the was fine like that the last 3 winters, but I guess these cold spells of 2011 were just too much for its made in China construciton.

I'll do a bit of research before we find a replacement. The size was perfect for dunking chickens in on processing day, but maybe aluminum wasn't the best metal for this application.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Good luck finding something made in America. American's and other americanized countries kept wanting things cheaper--now they have it. Now you really and truly have to hunt to find anything that is worth the money you pay for it.

I'd say look for a small SS steam kettle. A lot of them have been phased out of industrial food places. OR, ask someone with a "still" where you might find a copper kettle the size you need. I haven't seen anything the size you have there outside a fire company carnival food stand. That's thought, ask your local fire company auxiliary.

Comment by vester Mon Feb 14 18:00:40 2011

The pot in question came from a turkey fryer kit my mom found at a yard sale and handed down to us 4 or 5 years ago. Copper is a good idea if we can find it and it's not too expensive.

Cheaper is not always better when it comes to things like this, but in all fairness it should have never had the opportunity to freeze with water sitting in the bottom.

Ice can be very powerful thing.

I remember seeing a documentary about a guy who discovered that ice with saw dust in it was so strong it was bullet proof.

Comment by mark Mon Feb 14 19:28:28 2011
If you can manage to make it flat on the bottom as it was before, perhaps someone local can weld aluminum for you. That looks like too large of a pot to give up on it.
Comment by zimmy Mon Feb 14 21:02:10 2011
You can probably find someone to hammer it back in and weld up the split for cheaper than a new pot that size.
Comment by Shannon Tue Feb 15 03:51:17 2011

Thanks for the idea.

We have a small MIG welder....but my limited experience with it has shown that if the metal is too thin the welder will just melt through it....although there would be nothing to lose in giving it a try....I think you may have just talked me into a future experiment the next time I bring out that welder to fix a lawn mower wheel.

Comment by mark Tue Feb 15 07:54:11 2011

I've been toying around with using kegs (with an added water heater element) to store up to 15g of non-frozen water for chickens. They might just be good for your application as well, as they're stainless steel, have a decent opening size once you cut the top with an angle grinder. And it's fairly easy to put a ball valve on the bottom for drainage. Homebrewers like myself also use them in making beer as boil kettles.

You can often get them at the scrap yard, or call up a brewery selling dented ones.

Comment by jezter6 Tue Feb 15 09:47:02 2011

Hammering the bottem flat might become easier if you heat up the bottom with a torch first. This will change the temper of the material and remove age and strain hardening.

Most mig welding machines are set up for steel be default, and will probably not feed the thinner and softer aluminum wires that you need. The metal shops that I know have special machines for welding aluminum. Pete's Top 10 Tips sums up what you need to know.

TIG welding (where you manually feed the wire next to the torch) is better suited for thin and non-ferro metals.

If the pot is only used for boiling water, soldering might work as well.

Your pot doesn't seem to have seams? So it is probably made by either metal spinning or deep-drawing (I suspect the latter). Unfortunately, in a deep drawn product, the bottom is the thinnest piece of the part. Which makes welding it without a making holes tricky.

Comment by Roland_Smith Tue Feb 15 13:20:17 2011
Oh man, I've been searching for a pot like that for ages! I'm going to explore the beer keg idea some posted above - although I'm sure stainless will be expensive, even if only purchased as scrap.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Tue Feb 15 16:32:44 2011
Fascinating ideas, everybody! I don't know if a keg could be used to heat the water? Sounds like figuring out a way to weld or solder the pot is probably our best bet.
Comment by anna Tue Feb 15 16:53:26 2011

The more I think about it the more I like the soldering idea.

I agree with Rolland that the bottom is too thin for an amatuer to weld without burning a hole through it......but....if I soldered an old frying pan to the bottom it might hold...or the solder might melt if it gets too hot.....

I've seen pictures of moonshine stills that use a stainless steel beer keg, but have heard reports that the stainless steel takes quite a while to heat up.

Comment by mark Tue Feb 15 18:13:30 2011
Our pot came as part of a deep fat turkey frier kit that Mark's mom found at a yard sale. They were so trendy a few years ago that the kits are relatively easy to pick up cheap, at least here in the U.S.
Comment by anna Tue Feb 15 18:32:28 2011

Mark, have you thought about brazing a plate over the bottom? If you used a brass brazing rod (filler) it would only melt around 1650 F. So you should even be able to use the pot even for deep-frying.

The thing is though, that you need a fairly close fitting parts for good brazing joints. It might be easier to just cut off the old bottom, and braze on a new plate of aluminium.

OTOH, brazing can be as strong as welding. E.g. the tubes of bicycle frames are sometimes brazed (a technique known as fillet brazing. Looks good too)

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Feb 16 12:17:00 2011

Seems I spoke too soon. Aluminium has a lower melting point than brass. :-) It looks like brazing is probably out.

Soldering with a lead-free solder might work, but I don't think you could use the pot for deep-frying then, since these solders melt around 200 ˚C, while the boiling point of many vegetable oils is higher (up to 300 ˚C).

Boiling water in it (at 100 ˚C at normal atmospheric pressure) should be OK, I think.

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Feb 16 12:32:09 2011
Brazing sounded cool! Too bad it wouldn't stand up to the heat. We'd be happy to just boil water, so soldering might still be in. Very good point about steering free of lead in the solder...
Comment by anna Thu Feb 17 10:43:52 2011

Yes, SS is a little longer to heat up than aluminum. However, in the same token, it holds heat slightly better and is much more durable.

Usually you can find a keg on craigslist for about the cost of the keg deposit fee (or just go get a keg for a party). It's not 100% legal to do so, but many people do it. It's up to your own moral standards on that.

Used keg, probably ~$50. If you get one already cut and a valve in the bottom for draining, usually costs around $100-150 from homebrewer types.

Depending on how your heating it, you can also wrap insulation around the exterior to retain heat...just have to watch if you're using a propane burner that any insulation is high enough not to catch direct fire from the flame/heat. If you put a hot water heater electric burner on the inside, you're pretty safe there (that's the point where I'd be thinking about heated 15g chicken waterers).

Comment by jezter6 Thu Feb 17 11:28:32 2011

Aliminium pots indeed heat up quicker. This is because the thermal conductivity of aluminium is about four times as large as that of steel. Interestingly, the specific heat capacity of aluminium is larger than that of steel. It takes about twice as much energy to heat a pound of aluminum than it takes to heat a pound of steel. Of course an aluminum pot will probably be lighter than a steel one.

The water/sawdust mixture you refer to is called pykrete. It is a excellent demonstration of how a composite material can work better than its constituents. If you replace te sawdust with old newspaper, you get a material that the Mythbusters called "super pykrete", which is even stronger.

Comment by Roland_Smith Thu Feb 17 15:40:54 2011

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