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Steam Casting for Pewter


#1

I was asked off list, again by a list member that was worried
that the list would not like or benefit by a question about steam
casting or something simple. I am getting several every night off
list, so I am fairly sure that other would like the same
but are affraid of asking on the list. So, please,
use the list, members that do not have any interest in steam
casting can delete it quickly as I do about many things that are
far above the jewelry making that I do. I am a silversmith and
caster, but I enjoy alot on this list that is way beyond what I
do, I delete the rest.

The question was can you do pewter casting with the steam
process and the answer is: “yes”. However, there are some changes
that will have to be made for pewter. I will try to cover those
changes as we go.

A reminder that we will also discuss more on the new list at
Jewelrymaking@listbot.com for the beginners, amatures, small
quys (like me), rockhounds where no question is too simple or
unwanted. –

Don Norris @Donald_Norris PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO
80517


#2

I was asked off list, again by a list member that was worried
that the list would not like or benefit by a question about steam
casting or something simple.

For all you lurkers and beginners out there, a little bit of
advice (or several…)

  1. The only really dumb questions are those that should have
    been asked, but were not. Don’t be embarassed to ask questions
    here on Orchid, rec.crafts.jewelry, or any other net forum, or in
    a class, or of those you know, for fear of boring the group or
    asking overly simply questions, or whatever. THAT is dumb. The
    questions may indeed be simple to answer, or obvious to those who
    already know the answer. But ALL of us were also once
    beginners, with similar questions.

  2. Sometimes you learn the most from making mistakes, or being
    wrong. If you’ve an opinion or an answer to a question, don’t be
    shy. If you’re wrong, those who think they know different will
    tell you. No harm in that, and you learn something. If you’re
    right, and some tell you you are wrong, then before it ends, THEY
    will learn something. And we all have a nice conversation doing
    it. The principal also applies in the shop itself. You
    sometimes learn more from having things go wrong, so you have to
    figure out how to get it to work right, and why, etc. If it just
    goes right the first time, you’ve learned only that, with little
    supporting info about why, or what can go wrong. So don’t be
    afraid to make mistakes, or be wrong. Great way to learn. And
    everyone you read on this, or other lists, has at some times,
    (usually Many times) been wrong, both in public and private.
    Don’t worry about it.

  3. The concept that one must only ask or post messages that
    will be sufficiently weighty to be of great interest to all on
    the list is just silly. We’re all here with our own viewpoints,
    varying degrees of expertise or percieved expertise, and what the
    heck. We’re all here reading stuff on the computer instead of
    working on the bench actually making things. It’s both a
    learning opportunity, a teaching opportunity, and a great way to
    get out of having to spend some time actually being productive…
    Don’t be shy. Don’t feel you must make sense or display lofty
    levels of intellect… Heck, without some beginners to ask
    simple questions how and then, the rest of us would have less
    chances to impress ourselves with our knowledge… (grin) We
    NEED you beginners around here, asking us for our help. Makes
    us feel good… And sometimes, with just a little luck, we might
    even give you some useful info now and then. If you don’t ask,
    or somehow feel you should only ask in a group or list
    specifically devoted to beginners, then you’re just missing the
    whole point of a forum like Orchid. There is no such thing as a
    question or problem that is too simple or too basic, or too
    idiotic, so long as it’s at least remotely “on topic”.

Cheers.

Peter Rowe


#3

How about some of the others that use different methods of
casting give us dummies to casting a step by step run down on how
to do it and the advantages/disadvantages of each method.

Thanks
Dave


#4

You can also do 1 off pewter castings in certain Silicone
rubbers “Gravity poured” with good success provided that the items
is vented (from the lowest area)going back up towards the pour
area at the top of the mold( do not vent into the pouring area,
but next to it).the vents should be v shaped knife cut lines
about 1 mm in width. Vent all areas that do not fill well… and
allow the mold to cool between pours or the rubber will
deteriorate.You can use many types of pewter based alloys.Pewter
is in actual fact pure tin… but be careful as many people state
that something is pewter, when in fact it may have other alloys
including possibly Lead. This is an excellent method of
converting your wax into a metal model with no equipment beyond a
torch and a crucible for melting and allows you to keep your wax
carving.You can also use heat cured silicone molds to pour
into(Vulcanized) Dan Grandi


#5

I don’t consider myself a ‘dummy’ but I have never cast pewter
and would welcome (esp. details) on how to go about
it.

Lorri Ferguson
fredlori@worldnet.att.net


#6
How about some of the others that use different methods of
casting give us dummies to casting a step by step run down on how
to do it and the advantages/disadvantages of each method.

Good idea, David. I would love to see that! I am too busy with
the steam casting thing. I want every one to know that steam
casting is just a good very cheap way to get started for a
beginner. It can be used to pay for other equipment: vacuum or
centrifigal, or both. After steam casting I do plan to continue
class on the new list for beginners.

Don Norris
@Donald_Norris
PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517


#7

Pretty easy to do. Pewter melts so low you can cast it into
almost anything that doesn’t actually burn. People cast pewter
routinely into molds made of the RTV silicone rubbers (be sure
it’s a silicone, not all RTV’s are). You can also use normal
casting investment, for lost wax. Cast it with the mold just
warm enough so you know the pewter isn’t going to hit a bunch of
water. Warm to the touch is fine. Doesn’t need to be hotter.
You can cast it in well dried room temp plaster of paris too, if
you’ve made a mold of something like a clay form. Remember,
though, that plaster of paris won’t take the temps needed to
burn out a wax model, so it’s not for lost wax casting.
Traditional pewtersmiths sometimes would make molds for things
like handles of coffee/tea pots simply by cutting them out of
wood, or plywood. You can cast several rough forms in the wood
before it’s started to char too much to hold the detail (these
are intended to be filed and refined a good deal after casting,
usually… Use a decent soft soldering flux (zinc chloride type)
when melting the pewter, and skim the dross off the molten pool
just before you pour the mold. There are better, specific
casting fluxes for tin alloys, but the zinc chloride has always
worked well enough for me. Pewter solidifies slowly enough that
usually, a plain gravity pour is just fine. You can use a vacuum
or centrifuge if you’ve got one, and results will be better.
Remember to let the machine spin down completely by itself. If
you stop it early, the pewter may still be molten, and will just
pour back out again.

Hope this helps.

Peter Rowe


#8

Vent your mold well, have it 50 degrees less than pewter melt
temp and pour after scraping sludge from crucible, put a wet
thermal or rag [watch for fire] and cover with a board of
sufficient weight on top of the mold and wait to cool. That
should be it…

John the ‘RINGMAN’

PS
the vents should end inside the mold except for two which should
be on the outside top across about the size of the 0…


#9
I don't consider myself a 'dummy' but I have never cast pewter
and would welcome (esp. details) on how to go about
it.

Lorri, I will cover casting small pewter piece with steam as we
go along. I worked for one of the largest pewter casting
companies in the USA for three years. Steam is not the best way
to cast pewter, but is the cheapest!

Don Norris
@Donald_Norris
PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517


#10
 You can use many types of pewter based alloys.Pewter is in
actual fact pure tin... but be careful as many people state
that something is pewter, when in fact it  may have other
alloys including  possibly Lead. 

Hi, Don

My references say that pewter is always an alloy. Older pewters
were tin-lead in around 4-1 proportions. Modern pewter is
approximately 91% tin, 7.5% antimony, 1.5% copper, but there are
variations.

Al
mailto:@Alan_Balmer


#11

When I was in school, working in pewter was looked down upon.
Apparently, pewter can contaminate your work surface, or
something like that? It was recommended that, if you were to work
in pewter, you set up a separate work station for this. I do not
know any details, and I could perhaps just be remembering this
all wrong. Can anyone supply me with the deeper knowledge :wink:
Regards, Kirsten in PA


#12
It was recommended that, if you were to work

in pewter, you set up a separate work station for this. I do not
know any details, and I could perhaps just be remembering this
all wrong.

You remember correctly. Do not use the same tools when working
with pewter. It should be kept seperate from all your other
metals. It is mostly tin 91%. with a 7.5 % antimony and copper
1.5%, and melts at around 435’. The lead was outlawed quite a
few ago. I first learned it in '77 in Connecticut, and have done
it again here in school-SDSU with visiting instructor Fred
Fenster, who is well known for his pewter work. Maybe someone
else knows where he is. Might search the internet for him. I do
have an old paperback book from Dover Publications, 180 Varick
St. NY NY 10014, called “Pewter-Working” and it has a chapter on
casting which you might find useful. Louise-- San Diego
@lgillin1


#13

Kirsten,

The problem is that pewter (tin), and for that matter similar
metals like lead, if placed on a piece of silver, copper, gold
alloys, or the like, and then heated to the normal soldering or
annealing temps for those other metals, will melt long before
that point, and in essence, burn into the other metals. So if
you work pewter in the same area as you also work silver, you
run the risk of little bits of pewter, such as filings, etc,
being on your silver when you solder or anneal it. Even little
tiny filings will leave deep pits in the silver. Larger bits can
burn holes right through a piece of thin sheet metal. This is
generally not something you wanted to happen. Thus the need to
keep pewter and similar low melting metals (including soft
solders like stay brite, tix, tin/lead, etc) seperate from your
work with higher melting metals.

You don’t absolutely need to have a seperate bench to work with
pewter, if you’re careful to clean up completely when switching
between metals. But it’s a lot safer to use a seperate area if
you can do so. At the very least, use seperate soldering
pads/surfaces, solder pics, and the like… Be sure, also that
your files, used with pewter, don’t retain bits of pewter in the
teeth which could then come out later and contaminate your
precious metals. It’s easy to do by accident, and the scars that
result can be a royal pain to clean up again.

A somewhat similar situation, by the way, also pertains to
working with platinum. In this case, platinum can be similarly
contaminated by filings and other bits of gold or silver, which
will burn into the platinum if heated to the normal soldering and
annealing temps of platinum.

Hope this helps.

Peter Rowe


#14

pewter has lead… It contaminates nobel metals as lead wants
to include itself in the alloy and compromises the structure of
the nobel metals. never lead solder silver or gold…
The ringman


#15

Antique pewters sometimes contained lead. Modern pewter does
not. It’s mostly tin, with a bit of antimony and copper. The
tin will contaminate other metals just as readily as does lead.

Peter Rowe


#16

pewter has lead… It contaminates nobel metals as lead wants
to include itself in the alloy and compromises the structure of
the nobel metals. never lead solder silver or gold…
The ringman

I’ve just started to work with pewter. In my reading I keep
seeing that pewter no longer contains any lead, not since some
time in 1700. They say that pewter contains 91% tin, 7%
antimony, and 2% copper. They continue to say that its not a
good idea to use the same tools that are used for your silver and
gold. Is this still the case? Frances


#17

Francis: Sorry about the misI repair antique
Jewelry and some of the pewter contained Lead, later on I ran
into some homemade pieces that were alloyed with an old recipe so
that is not always the case. The antimony and tin are also lead
like in their behavior causing the metal to be compromised. Again
My apoligies. Ringman


#18

Yes. tin melts in the same low range as does lead. Both
metals, if sitting on a piece of gold or silver that is being
heated to the annealing or soldering temps for gold or silver,
will melt their way deeply into that metal, causing significant
scaring. The biggest difference is that lead added to an alloy
of silver of gold can make it less workable and even brittle.
Tin is not quite so damaging as an actual alloy constutuent.