Making your own leads… (It doesn’t have to be a “weighty” subject).
There comes a time in every boat fisherman’s life when he wants to take a crack at making his own leads. There is definitely a certain satisfaction in knocking a mold apart and watching a £2-50 lead fall out. All glistening and shiny, they look forever like a bar of silver, and if current scientific calculations are correct, they may start costing the same. For such is the demand throughout the world, that with a current annual production of around 8 million tonnes, the current usage rate will see it run out in only forty years. I strongly suggest you start stockpiling your leads as soon as possible. Although luckily around half that production figure comes from recycled lead. So what makes this material so popular?
Obviously from the angler’s point of view it drags your bait to the sea bed so it can be offered to your intended species where they feed naturally. Its density means you only need a small amount to get hard on the bottom, especially important in areas of strong tides. Although it does occur in nature, Lead is usually found in ore, with Zinc, Silver and Copper, although some of the ore can only contain a mere 10% of lead. The material has been used for centuries. It is malleable, easy to melt, corrosion resistant, easy to extract and work with. In Alchemy terms, it is thought to be the oldest metal associated with the planet Saturn. It is used in large quantities on sailing yachts, where the high density makes it ideal to use on the ballast keel, which in turn prevents the yacht blowing right over in a gale. It blocks X-rays, so is used in shielding in hospital use. And of course we all know the term…”Eat lead sucker”, connected to a shootout at the OK corral, or on the gangland streets of Los Angeles. In fact lead shot was used for the guns of yesteryear, made by dropping molten lead off a “Shot Tower”, so it burst into tiny pieces on hitting the ground.
And then we have sea anglers who want it for lead weights. Anyone who fishes a wreck or reef for Conger and Ling knows only too well how you can soon get through your lead stock by snagging up. Many years I was out aboard Bernard Hunkin’s wreck boat “Eileen” from Mevagissey moved right round the boat to avoid snagging up continually. It never worked, and I lost eleven sets of gear that day, which is why I recall it. So I generally like to have a good stock of weights and molds, simply because I like my baits hard on the seabed for the better fish, and I don’t want to pay tackle shop prices. Some anglers buy the lead, but by the time you pay for gas to melt it, you may as well stay with the shop bought version. To make it pay you need the lead free, and don’t even think of going near the church roof! My roofer is actually getting loads of property insurance work, where thieves have been sending children onto gullies and flat roof areas SIX STORIES UP, to strip off lead flashing which they sell for scrap. It is getting so bad he has been told to replace it not with lead, but triple layer roof felt, to prevent it being stolen again.
So, you need to set yourself up with some lead making kit, and believe me, once you find a source of free lead you will be churning them out like a production line. Here’s a couple of tips.Phone a few plumbers, who almost certainly stockpile their lead to sell for scrap. They might give you a better price if you offer to collect it yourself. Also try tyre fitters, who will sometimes reclaim clip-on lead wheel balancing weights. Or I even read of a gun club that uses air gun pellets. If you offer to clear the pellets up after a shoot you might get it for nothing! I get mine from my own property repairs, generally split flashing, and water piping. Lead has a melting point of 327.46degrees C, and its density is 11.35g.cm.And here’s a bit more techno on the material. Its symbol is Pb, the atomic number is 82, and it has the highest number of all stable elements.Right, that all sounds great, but it is also a poisonous metal that can damage nervous connections (especially in young children) and can cause brain ands blood disorders. It is a potent Neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissue over time. Lead poisoning has even been documented by ancient China, Greece, and the Romans.
You need good ventilation when melting, so even if you do it in a garage, it will pay to keep the door ajar, otherwise there is a chance of “Metal Fume Fever”, which apparently feels like a bad case of the flu. I did read of someone melting lead in an old metal paint pot….What? …. and Why? A good Iron or aluminium saucepan is sufficient as both have a higher melting point than the lead. Imagine having a heat so hot you burn through the paint pot, and molten lead blasts everywhere! There is no excuse, as proper equipment can be purchased right here in Southern England, details at the end of this article. So here we go on how to make your own lead weights.
Safety is paramount in lead making. Here is what you should use. A pair of long sleeved welding or farrier gloves, which you can generally pick up quite cheaply at DIY tool centres. Plastic eye protection, again, easily purchased. You can buy a custom made, gas fired crucible for melting lead from a roofing supply specialist, or try the contact at the end of this copy. I did a quick scan of other ways of melting lead and found an American version that seemed to incorporate the mold into an electric heating unit. Research revealed these can burn out, and are really only suitable in the American market for making small weights like jig heads. Over there in our deeper, tidal waters we need up to 2lb to get down in the current. Better to use the saucepan or customised crucible. I personally use saucepans and ladles with a lip, melting the lead on a gas burner I take off my boat. It has two burners, so I can run two pots at the same time. Now listen to this part very carefully. You simple cannot afford to be in any part of a moist environment. Molten lead and water go together about as well as Mr Nitro and Mr Glycerine .It explodes into a hundred droplets. I have had it happen once, when I used damp sand to stand my copper tubing in, fortunately in my kitchen when the wife was out. In went the pour of molten lead….”KAPOW”!!! Out exploded a hundred droplets of molten lead. All over the kitchen, burning my jumper, eyebrows (good job eye protection) hair, jeans, trainers, kitchen counter etc. The smell hung about for days. So if you clean your lead, it must be absolutely moisture-free, as must the entire work area. If you are in the garage the floor may be dry, if not put the mold and cooker on a dry wood board.
Put your sections of lead in the saucepan, and if you have some lead covered wire cable, strip out the rubber otherwise you’ll have the fire brigade round for the smoke and smell. Keep your gas up high, and when the lead melts it goes from silver to a shiny rainbow hue. You may have some residue from impurities, which you can gently draw to one side using a long handled screwdriver. The molds must be hot, so I often pre-heat mine for the first pour, which might/might not be hot enough to take. If it doesn’t, and cools before the full pour goes in, wait till a set occurs, empty and do it again. Invariably after a couple of pours it will be hot enough, and the molten lead slides in smoothly. If you use a saucepan, avoid loose plastic handles due to the weight of the lead, and avoid metal handles, which can conduct the heat. Wood is perfect, but don’t overload the weight so you have difficulty pouring.
If you get in the run of things its possible to keep four molds hot for pours at any one time. But here’s my tip. Make them different sizes, say 1lb downwards, and fill the largest first, leaving any leftovers to top up the smallest mold to avoid wastage. If you have any leftover molten lead from a pour, don’t pour it out to cool, as the heat of lead already melted will help melt the next batch you put in faster. Make sure you lower the next sections in carefully with pliers. Don’t drop them in, as although dense, you might get some splashback. Both the heating element and the molds should be on a good, solid surface, and keep your distances of pot-to-mold as short and trouble free as possible. You don’t want to have the melt at one end of the garage, and your molds at the other. Walking anywhere you might trip, fall or spill. For that reason I don’t even do my lead making on my workbench, I do it on the floor of the garage for safety.
When you have a selection of leads taken from the molds you will see there is a “tag” end of over pour that lies in the neck of the mold and is joined to the lead. When set, remove all these with snips or pliers and place them back in the pan for remelting. After several pours you will also notice imperfection materials building up in the pan. I then pour it all out on the dry concrete to separate the lead from the rubbish. Remember even the rubbish will be hot, so be careful. One of the main problems with lead making failure is that people forget to secure the mold together. I use special wire cramps that spring around one end, and also sprung scissor grip jaws specially designed for clamping together, otherwise the molten lead will just slide between the edge of the mold onto the floor. Once you get the system going, using a variety of mold sizes and the correct loops for each one, you can knock over 100 leads in a couple of evenings. At an average cost of 80p a lead you have just saved yourself about £65, allowing for the gas you have used, and cost of loops. For uptiding, remember you can also buy molds that can make 4/5/6 ounce or large wired grip leads. And for the Coalfish and Pollack anglers, you can buy jig head molds which will save you a fortune when wreck fishing. Making your own weights is quite satisfying, and you don’t feel the same financial pain when you get hung up in the seabed or wreck. So if you want to boost your stocks before the forty years arrives and we run out, try your own molds and melting equipment from Lead Molds.D.B.Angling Supplies, 30 Vancouver Road. Sovereign.
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.