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Picture of Lead / Pewter Casting at home
How to cast lead / pewter at home using what you have around you.

I needed some lead balls for using in a homemade ball mill and they are too expensive to buy and I had some lead kicking around in the shed so I figured I would cast my own.

At this point it is worth noting that lead is poisonous so be careful.

you can cast pewter in the same method as I have shown for the lead.
 
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Step 1: What you will need

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what you will need

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some lead, I used roofing lead off cuts

plaster or other casting media

non-drying modelling clay

old tin can

biscuit tin or somewhere to put scrap molten lead

an old teaspoon

long handle pliers

1 x G clamps

a shallow muffin tin or somewhere to put excess molten lead

hacksaw or tin snips to cut off excess lead

old scissors for cutting lead

petroleum jelly

Step 2: Making a mould

I need a mould for pouring molten lead in to unfortunately the best thing for this is a metal mould but they cost money unless you have a home foundry to cast your own. I decided that I would use what I know and make it from plaster which I had kicking around.

using my non-drying modelling clay I made a ball of roughly the right size, then made a rough cone which will form my sprue.

I cut it in half and lay one half on my desk.

Make a small ball and cut that in half and place the 2 halves on either side of the part to be cast, make them staggered, these will form our key for the mould making sure it will only fit together in the correct way and aligned correctly.

using the modelling clay build walls all the way round the part but make sure the bottom of the cone/sprue is butted up to one of the walls.

mix up your plaster to the consistency of thick cream, only mix up enough for this half of the mould, pour this in to the mould all the way to the top of the walls.

Agitate (shake gently) the mix to dispel any bubbles.

let your plaster harden then remove the walls and turn the mould over.

remove the small ball parts we used for the key, and then using a hobby knife carve off the edges of the key points so there's no overlap.

now place the other half of the part on top of the one in the plaster, line it up and push down lightly to make it stick.

now build walls again high enough so they come above the highest point of the part.

coat the plaster and the 2nd half of the part in a thin coat of petroleum jelly, this will act as a release agent and stop the plaster sticking to its self so we can separate the 2 halves.

now mix up some more plaster and pour it in to the 2nd half, agitate again and then wait for it to harden.

once its hard remove the walls and separate the mould, remove the clay from the mould.

now you can wait for a couple of days for the mould to dry out or you can cheat, pop the 2 halves on a baking tray separately, pop in a cold oven then put the oven on low and leave for a few hours to get the water out the moulds.

do not cast with wet / damp moulds, they will crack/crumble or explode.

Step 3: Prepare your lead

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while your mould is in the oven you can prepare your lead

I'm using roofing lead off cuts so it's easy enough to cut up with some old scissors.

you need to make small pieces so you can gradually fill your crucible (tin can)

Step 4: The melt

take your tin can and squeeze one end so its pointy, this will be your pouring spout.

pop your can on the small ring of your hob on high heat, pop about 5 or 6 bits of lead in.

your can will smoke to start with as it burns off the coating inside the can, this will stop after a few minutes.

important note here, do not put too many pieces in at once you will freeze the melt, e.g. it will solidify and take a while to melt again.

slowly add up to 4 pieces at a time, waiting for each batch to melt before adding the next, you can check if they are melted by poking the pieces you have put in.

don't put too much lead in your crucible otherwise you may not be able to pick it up safely. only melt what you need maybe a little more to be sure you have enough.

once all your lead has melted, leave it for a few minutes to super heat, this will give you extra time for your pour.

using your spoon, bend it so you can get it in the crucible, hold it with the pliers and skim off the debris floating on the top this is known as dross. tap your spoon in the biscuit tin to get rid of the dross.

to pick up the crucible use the long pliers.

those who have done casting before might be tempted to put in salt to help as a flux, don't do this it produces too much gas, don't put anything in the metal its fine without it.

Step 5: The pour

if your plaster mould is cold, warm it up gently in the oven, this will help protect the mould somewhat from thermal shock. e.g. it shattering, or exploding.

do your pour outside for safety.

hold your mould together using a clamp.

pick up your crucible and take it to your mould, put it down next to your mould and adjust your grip so you're ready to pour.

pour slowly in to your mould, it should be a steady trickle, too fast and the air inside will bubble and splash lead everywhere and create gas pockets.

make sure you fill your mould up to the top of the sprue, this is important as when the metal cools it will shrink this sprue will help feed the mould making sure you don't get dips or voids.

once you have filled the mould return the crucible to the hob and turn the heat down, you just want to keep it liquid, you can turn it back up when you want to add more lead.

wait for a few minutes for the lead to cool in the mould, you can then release the clamp and remove one half of the mould.

using the pliers grab hold of the sprue and wiggle the cast and it should release.

Step 6: Finishing

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Now all that is left to do, once they are cooled, is to tidy them up.

using a hacksaw or some tin snips cut off the sprue as close to the part as you can.

using a file clean up the edges and the cut where the sprue was.

you can pop the sprue you cut off back in to the crucible.

if you have finished casting pour the remaining lead in to the muffin pan to form an ingot which can be melted down the next time you want to cast something in lead.
sachinp74 months ago

i studying about lead casting,, nd cast from lead acid baterries,,we can produce upto 95% of lead from an baterry but the problem is antimony and salenium,,how can i reduce these two element..both have high melting point than lead,,if we are going to reduce antimony so lead will ixidised ,,and either going to cast lead,,,so the recovery in only 60%,,,so what can i do,,,

pls help me,,to figure out the problem,,

n1cod3mus (author)  sachinp74 months ago
Honestly, i have no idea, I didn't study chemistry at school :-( probably best to google it.
dragonthc6 months ago

could you use silicone as a mold? It's supposed to have heat resistance up to 700º F

n1cod3mus (author)  dragonthc6 months ago
I guess so, never tried it, there is silicone that will work well with heat
ken.bird.5819 months ago

would I be able to cast molten pewter onto a fissured table top that has been made out of wood? The voids are linear streams where the wood has decayed. The rest of the lumber is sound and hard.

n1cod3mus (author)  ken.bird.5819 months ago

hmmmm, maybe, I would soak the wood first to prevent burning, and then quench the metal right after pouring by pouring cold water on it. I would try it out on a test piece of wood first.

MarkH13 n1cod3mus6 months ago

Please don't do this, you will end up very sorry and probably inside an ambulance! Moisture and hot lead do not mix, in fact they result in an explosion - usually meaning boiling hot lead being sprayed all over. Wood really isn't the best type of mold - rather look at using ceramics (not plaster of paris) or one of the commercially available mix kits.

PamBensman9 months ago

I have about 50lb.s of pewter plates. They are scratched beyond saving I was wondering if I melt them, could I use them for making jewelry?

n1cod3mus (author)  PamBensman9 months ago
I can't see why not, you could make molds out of plaster, as long as you heat the molds before you pour they should come out well.

when you have done some post them up here, it would be nice to see.

try a bracelet you could do that flat then bend it to shape afterwards should be nice and easy.
PamBensman9 months ago

I have about 50lb.s of pewter plates. They are scratched beyond saving I was wondering if I melt them, could I use them for making jewelry?

Mikey85671 year ago

I cast lead fishing sinkers and here's a few tips:

#1 Avoid moisture (water) on or in the lead, causes explosion (liquid lead every where, including you if close enough)

#2 Preheat your molds if you can. Helps with flow and gets rid of moisture.

#3 If your going to do a lot of casting take your bulk lead and make ingots first. This helps two ways. It allows you to get ride of the impurities and also makes adding lead to your pot easier. Typical ingot casting pan is cornbread cast iron pan. You can also use stainless steel measuring cups (allows to to make any size ingots based on what your doing).

#4 Wear long sleeve shirts, welding gloves, and some sort of face protection (face shield). If your casting outdoors (Preferred) a simple dusk mast will be fine as long as you have airflow and your not hovering right over the melting pot a lot. Of course the level of protection is up to you. You feel you need a respirator then use one.

Lead is a poisonous heavy metal that over the many years of use has been linked to many deaths and cause of many illnesses. It is being phased out thru the USA (Starting to ban the use of lead in fishing weights, lead bullets, and other stuff). The use of lead is entirly up to you, but please check your local and state laws concerning it and it's use.

One phrase I always live by "When in doubt, check it out!"

HBU2 years ago
Safety Note -- As a jeweler, I appreciate the qualities of pewter. The problem is that lead is a heavy metal poison and should be handled approiately.
Do not melt lead without very good ventilation and/or appropriate respiratory protection.
Always wear an apron and a work shirt that you can take off so as not to minimize cross contamination when working lead and lead based white metals.
Also, look for "Britannia" metal. It is a lead free pewter that works really easily.

Just my 2 cents for what I consider to be one of the top 10 coolest sites on the net.
jayb13 years ago
Find old car batterys. Empty the Acid out into a plastic bucket. Mix up some drain cleaner.(draino) Pour it into the battery shake it up a bit. Then pour the contents into the Acid in the plastic bucket. This will neutralize the Acid in the battery case & the bucket. Smash open the battery & there you have lead. Put a little Draino in the pot when you melt the lead, otherwise it tends to be acidic & will slowly eat through the bottom of your tinnie, (boat)

That's what we did when we were kids. There's nothing wrong with us, with us, with us. ;-)

Go to your local fishing store. They have sinker moulds, if you just want round lead balls. Don't put a greasy wire through where normally the holes would be.

Mr. Jay. You are absolutely right!
Tired of working with molten lead. If it were so poisonous, I would be killed by lead poisoning.
Cezsaria3 years ago
Casting is fun! Very nice instructable.

Please also mark the tins/spoons/pans in some way so that they are never used for foodstuffs again by accident!!
n1cod3mus (author)  Cezsaria3 years ago
thats not going to be an issue, the tin ends up blue at the bottom and has lead stuck to the bottom, just a little. and the spoon is bent
ak47freak3 years ago
where did you find the lead?
n1cod3mus (author)  ak47freak3 years ago
they were off cuts, i got them off my dad who collected a lot of it years ago, you could try asking a builder is he has some off cuts but some times they keep it and sell it to a scrap yard.
in the us, we don't use much lead in homes anymore. wheel weights are lead. pry them off of old car rims, and cut out the steel rim clip.
n1cod3mus (author)  handyhippie653 years ago
intresting, what do they use for flashings?
for roof flashings around vent pipes we have a product that has an aluminum, or steel plate that mounts to the roof, and a neoprene gasket that fits around the pipe with a water tight seal. i replace the old lead ones that leak all of the time. most other flashing is made with either aluminum, or a neoprene membrane with adhesive on both side that seals around fasteners. the epa has regulated the use of lead in homes, in both paint, and materials. i have worked on some old houses that still had lead plumbing, but we haven't used it in decades. i know in europe they still have buildings with lead roofs. never saw one here.
Old fishing weights can be made of lead.
LancasterPA3 years ago
You must be single and live alone. When I was a kid, my mom would have shot me for doing this on her stove. Now my wife would kill me just the same. I think maybe a single burner stove out side would be needed for this. I may just try this to make diving weights using a muffin top tin like you did. I think I will try to heat it with a propane torch in a tin can. Good Photos.
n1cod3mus (author)  LancasterPA3 years ago
I would have used a camping stove but i couldnt find it, my cooker is right by the back door so fumes are not an issue.

my mrs is really understanding she knows i do mental stuff now and then and has come to accept it.
At first I melted scrap lead into ingots using a charcoal BBQ and a hair dryer as blower. I got a 2 metre metal tube & put one end in the fire and the hair dryer blowing in the other end (so the girlfriend's plastic hair dryer was not melted). I just set the cast iron pot in the fire. The charcoal melted lead fast & easily. I melted 100 kg of scrap with charcoal before changing to the camp stove. Altogether my $6 cast iron pot has melted about 900 kg of lead. 8 kg in the iron pot is as much molten metal as I can safely lift and pour. Some people use ladles which is easier but takes longer.
lead + cooking tin = geeeeeennniiiiiiuuuusss
ernie6663 years ago
You could just buy some steel bearing balls
Ball mills usually need to have "non sparking" balls...
n1cod3mus (author)  MK1Jack3 years ago
give that man a star, yes most people use ball mills to grind materials for pyrotechnics, so you dont want any sparks otherwise you could blow your self up.

and I also wanted to use what I had around me, and I'm out of work at the moment so I dont have the money spare to buy ball bearings for test.
hammer98763 years ago
So you shouldn't be breathing in or licking fingers when working with lead?

Or rather, you should be wearing respiratory protection and gloves to avoid being poisoned?

Yikes!
ak47freak3 years ago
would it be possible to pre-heat the mold in an oven/toaster oven to try and reduce the effects of heat shock?
n1cod3mus (author)  ak47freak3 years ago
thats exactly what i did when i started but between casts it cooled too much, i should have put it back in the oven betwen casts
Trike Lover3 years ago
Thanks for this Instructable. From my own experience I would not recommend melting lead indoors. Lead fumes are both toxic and stinky.

A Coleman stove and a small inexpensive cast iron pot work well outdoors. Proper clothing and safety gear are a must - long sleeves,shirt buttoned, long pants, leather boots or shoes, good gloves, and most importantly eye and/or face protection. Some people also recommend a lead respirator mask - they are not expensive, and melting lead does produce a lot of fumes.

A good rule to follow is: never add cold scrap to a pot of molten lead. Some scrap - range lead or wheel weights, for instance - has holes or voids that may trap water. Adding these to the melted lead can cause molten metal to spatter - sometimes violently - from the pot.

Rule of thumb: Fill the pot, melt it, then pour the pot empty. You can then safely refill the pot with fresh scrap, and do another melt/pour cycle.

Thanks for the writeup. Casting can be enjoyable and useful. Have fun and stay safe.
Austringer3 years ago
If you're casting modern pewter (90 Tin, 9 Antimony, 1 Copper) the fumes are not that much of an issue. Lead - yeah - well ventilated space, activated charcoal respirator, don't get your metal any hotter than you need to. (If it turns a slip of printer paper a golden brown after 15 seconds or so, it should be good.)

The big safety issue is making sure the plaster is REALLY DRY. If you have a drop of free water in there it will boil, and you'll get a very exciting demonstration that steam has a volume of more than 1200 times the same amount of water. Don't ask me how I know this.
otsillac3 years ago
must wear respiratory protection to avoid inhaling fumes.
wire-nut3 years ago
Make sure wash your hands, also dross is easy inhale.
n1cod3mus (author)  wire-nut3 years ago
yes indeed, dont eat food or put your fingers near your mouth without washing your hands first