Introduction: Simple Pewter Casting

How to cast pewter into simple Hardboard/MDF moulds. This is a method for simple shaped objects with no undercuts. Its my first instructable so go easy on me!
Stuff needed:
Small sheet of hardboard, any off cuts will do.
A fretsaw (hand or powered)
Leadfree pewter, which you can buy online.
Hacksaw.
Blowtorch, or small camping stove.
Files.
Sandpaper.
Wood glue.
A clip for the hairslide or a piece of dowel about pencil sized.
Solder and soldering iron or pencil torch.
Polishing wheel or dremmel.

Step 1:

Step 2: Making the Hardboard Mould

Here I make a hairslide using 4mm thick hardboard for the mould. The hairslide is about 9x3 cm so as you can see from the photo the board for the mould is a bit bigger. First thing to do is cut  three boards to roughly the same size and then using a fret saw cut the oval out of the first board, give the edges a bit of a sand to smooth out any rough bits. It helps to make a tester in card to see if you like the shape.
Place the first board onto the next board and draw around the oval shape, next draw the waves within this oval shape onto the board, cut the waves out with the fretsaw and lightly sandpaper. Thin down the waves with sandpaper so that they are about 2mm thick, use wood glue to attach the wave shapes to a piece of board as in the photo. So what you have is a three part mould, an oval shape that drops over the wave shape and then a flat back. Cut a v shape in the top of the oval as in the photo and file a groove in the back board with a round file, this is for pouring pewter into when the mould is put together. Make sure the smooth side of the Hardboard face each other not the rough side.

Step 3: Put Mould Together

So now you have the three pieces for the mould, you need to clamp them together with clamps or soft wire, with the pouring slot at the top. Use wood blocks or bricks to hold the mould upright and stable. See the photo. Make sure there are no gaps between the boards that pewter could run out from.
So we are ready for the casting.

Step 4: Casting

Before melting the pewter make sure you wear saftey glasses and leather gloves, pewter melts at a low temp. but still gives a nasty burn. Cast in a well ventilated area on a flame proof surface with a fire extinguisher handy, make sure the mould is dry, as moisture will make the pewter spit back. Take your time and keep the work area uncluttered so spilled metal doesnt start a fire.( as you can see in the photo I dont practice what I preach !)

I use a blowlamp to melt leadfree pewter in an old tarnished spoon (low tech) the pewter doesnt stick to the spoon and it pours small amounts well. You can melt using a small camping stove which should melt the pewter in less than a minute.
When the Pewter is liquid, pour slowly into the slot in the top of the mould, be ready for metal that will run out from the top when its full and also trapped air can cause hot metal to blow back. (wear the goggles and gloves, and or a face mask.)

Step 5: Let Cool & Open the Mould

After about 15 minutes it should be cool enough to take the mould apart  and see what youve got. If cool enough remove the casting from the mould, it might stick a bit, but a bit of careful levering with a screwdriver should sort it out. There will be a sprue of pewter at the top from where you poured in, this can be cut off with a hacksaw. If it looks good clean off rough marks with files and your ready for polishing. If things didnt go well you might have to change the mould slightly, on the plus side you can just melt down the casting and try again, so no metal is lost.
I use a polishing mop in a drill stand and start with coarse paiste and work through to fine, then I give a final polish with silver polish (brasso) You can use a dremmel type tool with a polishing head or wet & dry paper working to a fine grit and then go to silver polish.

Step 6: Solder on the Clip

This hairslide uses a clip that solders to the back, it could be riveted on using copper rivets or two holes could be drilled for a dowel to be passed through. The pewter bends easily to form the shape of the slide.
To solder the clip I use leadfree solder on the back of the clip and then I place the front of the hairslide onto a damp sponge or rag.
I then place the clip on the back of the hairslide and sweat solder the clip in place, the damp rag stops the heat from soldering burning through to the front.
Give everything another clean up and your done. This method of casting pewter can be used for lots of simple designs with no undercuts. Once you get more undercuts you need to cast into silicone moulds. The Hardboard should last for quite a few castings and hold up well to the heat, but it will burn if you catch it with the torch.
Safety first, make sure to wear gloves and goggles and be aware that pewter will burn, please dont send me pics of horrible burns or a hole where your house used to be!  If your not sure of something stop and have a read up on it and then start again. Its my first go at an instructable so go easy on me, Im happy to answer questions and alter the make where needed. Have fun.

Comments

author
Building+Books made it!(author)2011-11-22

Very well written instructable with a clear set of instructions.

As a person who casts as a precious metals fabricator I'd like to add a my 2 cents.

1) What you also can do is put a layer of carbon on the interior of your mould. You can do this by using any dirty flame (kerosine flame, or a very bright Yellow/ Orange flame on an adjustable oxygen/fuel gas torch, etc...).
This will give you a nice and smooth, non-stick surface in which to cast.
Obviously you can do without as this instructable proves.

2) when you are casting into your mould it is best to keep the flame on the molten metal as you pour. This prevents any oxidation and discolouring from forming and also helps reduce rapid heat loss in your molten metal. Also it slows down the cooling and setting of the metal in the actual mould (rapid setting of the metal creates a large crystal structure which can break away from itself as it sets - Cracking forming around the sprue and holes/ pits appearing when you polish)

author
crazyg made it!(author)2017-01-28

nice tips

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Sanjeeve made it!(author)2017-04-28

but it could be betta

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crazyg made it!(author)2017-01-28

been making an embossing stamp. with lead. how does pewter compare with lead. in terms of detail hardness and melting point. I'm not fussed about alleged toxicity issues because I was born in the 80s so iv built up a resistance.

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jshelton8 made it!(author)2017-01-07

Simple and to the point, thank you. But I'm lucky to have a small Cnc for the mould design.

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lazemaple made it!(author)2014-05-27

very nice, thank you.

When making your mould several tiny air channels should be cut radiating out from the mould for air to escape through. On a mould this size three per side would work best. This prevents any air pockets or blow back/burping through the pouring hole which could potentially burn someone.

author
ThisIsMyNameOK made it!(author)2015-08-19

Great advice, but it is not entirely true that modern pewter contains no lead. It depends on where you buy it. To be safe you should only buy pewter from a reliable source. And as the saying goes, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of suspiciously cheap pewter. One example of this is the "pewter figurines" often sold in dollar stores, which are almost pure lead.

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razzadaboss made it!(author)2015-05-11

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lensman888 made it!(author)2014-05-23

A warning to anyone going to try this: If you're using old pewter mugs, cutlery, etc., be aware that they could well contain lead - and that's not good to handle, ingest, etc. Modern pewter contains no lead.

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Chissy made it!(author)2012-07-06

Excellent instructable, I'm hoping to get into casting by trying pewter casting first. This has given me some wonderful ideas! Thanks for sharing!

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wedo4u made it!(author)2012-01-29

Great tutorial. Can you tell me the cheapest place to find Pewter?

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jlvashon made it!(author)2011-11-27

Thank you. I'm a rank beginner and your instructions were clear and really made sense. I think I can do it. jal

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windswept+and+interesting made it!(author)2011-11-28

Thanks, let me know how you get on
Cheers

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jlvashon made it!(author)2011-11-29

Sorry, didn't even know I was on "cheers." ?? jal

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rickharris made it!(author)2011-11-17

excellent - I have done this many times at school with children - You are safe with a little care.

Suggest pouring the hot metal over a small tray filled with dry sand so if any is spilt it isn't going to run off the table and down the front of you.

author
windswept+and+interesting made it!(author)2011-11-18

Thanks for the reply, the sand sounds like a good idea.

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Building+Books made it!(author)2011-11-22

I'd suggest doing away with the sand though. Once sand gets into your metal it becomes difficult to get out. Just a bowl/ tray would work fine.

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windswept+and+interesting made it!(author)2011-11-20

Hi folks, Ive added a couple of pics of soldering, hope that helps.

author
webman3802 made it!(author)2011-11-17

Very nice. As you learn new skills and techniques, please feel free to create more instructables. I'd be interested to read about some more advanced molding and casting.

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webman3802 made it!(author)2011-11-17

It'd be nice to hear a little more detail (with photos) about attaching the clip, or photos of the dowel holder.

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windswept+and+interesting made it!(author)2011-11-18

this weekend I will take some pics of soldering, the clip & add this.
Cheers

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windswept+and+interesting made it!(author)2011-11-18

Will do, thanks for the comments.

author
dkop1 made it!(author)2011-11-18

Nice 'Ible! well written.

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Bio: "Imagination is more important than knowledge" Im a compulsive maker, I make something everyday. I live in Cornwall England right at the bottom of the ... More »
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