I have always had an admiration for what I call redneck ingenuity—basically the ability to make do or get by with something on the ultimate cheap. Often it means a total lack of sophistication, but it gets the job done. Last Saturday I witnessed a classic example of redneck ingenuity.
It was warm and clear, and feeling a bit of cabin fever, I dropped by a neighbor’s place to visit. As I pulled into his yard, I saw what is in the photo above: a stepladder with a weed burner torch held vertically by a piece of baling twine over an iron pot full of wheelweights. The fire was pouring directly into the iron pot, which rested on a railroad tie plate, normally used to set the rail upon the tie.
As the wheelweights liquefied, my buddy, Bill, would scrape the clips and trash from the surface of the melt and discard them. Then he turned off the weed burner torch and carefully lifted the pot and decanted the melt into waiting ingot molds. I laughed out loud, as he did, and I complimented him on his redneck engineering. “You know,” he said, “I’ve always done things the cheapest way possible my whole life. A smart guy would have a regular furnace. I still cast on a Coleman stove, but it’s too slow for this kind of stuff. I just thought I’d try it, and it works!”
His sometimes disheveled appearance and country ways belie his intelligence. Bill is one of the smartest and most analytical guys I know.
I looked over his set up, and crude as it was, I could find nothing that would constitute a safety issue. The set up was outside with plenty of ventilation. Bill used a long-handled spoon to add wheelweights, skim the trash and stir the mix. He was careful to inspect the wheelweights for anything that should not go into the pot. When it came time to pour ingots, he cut the source of heat. Crude? Yep! Effective? Undeniably! Cheap? Oh, yeah! God bless redneck ingenuity!