Everyday Aluminum: Winter Fun with the Metal of Kings

By the end of February, most of us in the northern climes of the United States are suffering from a terminal case of cabin fever. We become desperate to chase away the Winter doldrums and somehow fill in the dragging hours with something—anything!—to do until Spring finally rolls around.

Aluminum to the rescue! In previous blogs we have written about the numerous elemental physical properties of aluminum, including its lightness, strength, malleability, corrosion-resistance, and so on. These properties are the reason we use this uniquely versatile metal for our T-slot extruded aluminum profiles, aquarium stands, workbenches, enclosures, and other products.

But “all work and no play…,” as they say. Those same unique properties can be applied to at-home activities that are sure to keep you occupied for the remainder of the Winter. Best of all—it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. While aluminum may be the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust, once upon it time it was also one of the most valuable (hence the moniker, “Metal of Kings”). It wasn’t until the discovery of the Hall-Heroult smelting process in 1886 that this abundant metal could be inexpensively produced on a large-scale basis for the general consumer market.

So break out the aluminum foil and let’s have some fun!

Have a Ball

Or, more to the point, make a ball. How big a ball can you make out of aluminum foil? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest aluminum ball ever was made in 1987 by Richard Roman of Alliance, Ohio. It weighed 1,615 pounds. Can you beat that?!

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you might try your hand at crafting one of those beautiful polished Japanese aluminum balls that are all the rage on the Internet:

Do the Can-can

Aluminum cans
Get creative with cans!

If you have a bunch of beverage cans stored in the garage awaiting delivery to the local recycling center, you could while away a few hours stacking them into towers, forts, castles, dragons, or whatever your Game-of-Thrones-inclined heart desires.

And speaking of world records, the longest continuous chain of aluminum cans ever constructed used 66,343 drink containers and measured over 5 miles in length. It was created by the Aluminum Association at the Brown County Fairgrounds, Green Bay, Wisconsin, on September 7, 2011.

Prepare for Halloween

Amuse your family and scare the pets by putting together a winning “Aluminum Man” costume. It would be like Marvel’s Iron Man, except a lot shinier.

Build a Boat

Even if you can’t afford a real cruise, at least you still have the power of make-believe. Here are instructions for building a functioning floating boat entirely out of aluminum foil, suitable for bathtub sailing.

Get Creative

Majesty of Justice statue by Carl Paul Jennewein
Majesty of Justice (source)
As we pointed out in an earlier blog, aluminum is a wonderful medium for all kinds of art. This does not mean you need to create gigantic statuary like the 12½-foot-tall cast aluminum sculpture of the Majesty of Justice by Carl Paul Jennewein, which is located in the Great Hall of the R.F. Kennedy Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. (His female counterpart, The Spirit of Justice, stands nearby.) For that you would need an industrial foundry.

How about a little aluminum origami instead? As most people know, a piece of paper can be folded and re-folded over itself only about 7 or 8 times. But thanks to its strength and malleability, aluminum foil can be folded many more times than that. Think of the possibilities!

Aluminum origami

Listen to Music

But not just any music. It has to be music recorded on aluminum discs. You see, back in the early days of phonographic recording (circa 1920s–1930s) bare aluminum discs were sometimes used in certain types of studios. Alas, with the advent of World War II, aluminum became designated as a critical war material, and so many of these antique recording perished in the scrap metal drives to aid the war effort. Fortunately, however, a stash of such discs was recently discovered which had somehow escaped this fate. You can listen to these long lost BBC music performances and radio broadcasts at the Greenbank Records website.

And if all else fails…

Go to a Museum

But not just any museum. It has to be a museum made of aluminum! Yes, there is such a thing. Here are two suggestions:

Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle, Washington
Described as the “most complex exterior skin ever devised for a building,” this Frank Gehry-designed landmark features an outside surface constructed of thousands of curvilinear panels and assemblies made of steel and fluorocarbon-coated aluminum.

Museo Soumaya, Mexico City, Mexico
Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, this striking six-story building is covered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles.

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