What Is A Crucible?
By Kristin Arzt| 6.22.2021
What are crucibles?
A crucible is a vessel in which metallic elements are melted to be cast into new objects or to create a new alloy. Crucibles are traditionally made from ceramic materials, which can withstand very high temperatures. The material of your crucible should always have a much higher melting point than that of the materials you are heating. They may also be made of steel or iron to melt softer metals such as aluminum and zinc because these metals melt at a temperature below that of the crucible material.
The earliest known crucibles were found in Eastern Europe and Iran, dating back to 6000 B.C. The metalworking process almost always begins with the casting or reshaping of metals using a crucible, and the original techniques remain largely unchanged from the last 8,000 years. Today, modern crucibles are commonly used in laboratories used to melt or burn solid chemicals over a burner.
What are crucibles used for?
Crucibles have been used for thousands of years to make alloys and cast metals. To melt metal inside of a crucible, the materials are placed inside and heated until they reach their melting point. You can make a new alloy by melting a combination of materials with other elements inside of the crucible. For example, rose gold is the result of heating gold and copper, and white gold is a combination of gold and silver. Melting down iron with carbon or silicon results in steel or silicon steel. The final resulting alloy often has increased strength and durability.
Melting down materials is also an effective way to reuse scrap materials. Metals are one of the world’s most recyclable materials because they can easily be cast into new objects or combined into new alloys.
Examples and pictures of crucibles
Ceramic crucibles are made from kiln-fired clay and are stable at high temperatures. They have been used in metalworking for over 7000 years. Modern ceramic crucibles are often manufactured with clay and graphite to ensure durability.
Clay graphite crucible
Graphite crucibles are primarily used to cast both non-ferrous and ferrous metals because they are non-reactive and able to withstand extremely high temperatures.
Most commonly used in modern laboratories, silicon-carbide crucibles are resistant to extremely high temperatures and are not chemically reactive, delivering uncontaminated results.
Steel crucibles can be used to melt metals with a lower melting point such as aluminum and zinc. They are inexpensive and easy to work with. However, they may easily scale and flake, thus contaminating your final alloy.
How The Crucible got its name
The Crucible is named after and figuratively pays tribute to a crucible because it is a place where you can ignite your own creativity and transform your ideas into something entirely new.
“Things go in as a solid, are transformed into a liquid, only to be poured into a mold and take on a completely different form. It is a vessel for change and that really symbolizes what The Crucible is.”
-Ismael Plasencia, Community Program Manager
At The Crucible, you will find a community of makers from all skill levels, backgrounds, and ages. Within our 19 different art departments and 56,000 square feet, you will find a melting pot of ideas, art forms, and creative exploration. There are a number of ways you can support the active, creative community of The Crucible by taking a class, volunteering your time, and more!
Watch the video below to hear how Crucible faculty, students, and staff describe a crucible.
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