Saturday, September 24, 2005

Third Pig

With the aid of a new burner powered by a 907 cartridge of Calor Gaz it only took an hour to melt and cast a pig of lead weighing about 12 kilos, but the bread pan in which the pig was made already shows signs of deterioration. It has two bumps which I inadvertently did when extricating the cold lead by the use of a wooden mallet. At this rate I’ll have to buy at least another two pans for casting seven more pigs for the completion of my initial batch of ten.

I’m learning slowly by my mistakes; therefore anyone intent on making lead ballast; please learn from my painful errors.

Take the time to weigh the lead which should be chopped into small pieces before casting the first pig. When the lead is fully molten and the dross floating on the top has been removed with a wooden spoon, make a mental note where the level of the lead is on the saucepan; that will enable you to make subsequent pigs all the same weight without the need to weigh the lead – simply keep adding lead until the correct level is reached, and use gloves to avoid contact with it, as lead is poisonous by absorption through the skin.

For thin lead such as the sheet type used for flashing tiles on roofs, cut it into small pieces with old garden shears, but for more solid lead like old plumbing pipes, saw them into manageable bits by means of a band saw with large teeth; note that saws with small teeth, such as hacksaws, are not a bit of good for the job because they clog up and jam. To help saw lead more easily lubricate the blade with ordinary oil.

Make sure your saucepan for melting the lead is not too large for the burner; otherwise the lead will remain cool on the sides of the pan where the heat cannot reach by conduction. I discovered this when I tried to melt lead in a large galvanized bucket. Also allow the first small quantity of lead to melt thoroughly before adding more lead. As the bulk of it becomes molten, more and more un-melted lead can progressively be added until the final amount is arrived at.

A saucepan with two handles is better than one having a single handle, because it is easier to control and lift when pouring the molten lead slowly into the mould. By the way, dig a hole in the ground the exact size and shape of the bread pan, so that it can be supported horizontally with no chance of spilling the liquefied lead.

Your lead will melt more quickly if the pan is covered with a lid which can also be used as a shield when adding more lead to protect your eyes from spattering. As an additional precaution, wear goggles.

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