Tin vs Lead

I have always had a block of lead around to test stamps, shape a piece of silver or use as a pusher in my press. I have also always known of the health hazard that is associated with lead. The last time that I recast my lead blocks to get all the dents out, I decided to look into tin as a substitute. Having never worked with tin, I need to ask those who have about the pros and cons of using tin in the place of lead for the purposes described above. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks…Rob

The blocks of tin that I’ve seen in my time have always been fairly hard and are not as soft as lead. There are lots of hardnesses and shapes of urethane blocks. Have you tried those? Especially with your hydraulic press.


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lead specks on silver eat into it when heated… I ruined some silver by having some lead on it… turned into gray powder…That’s not supposed to happen as some industrial silver solders contain lead. Does anyone know what happened?

Thanks Jeff…I have tried urethane, but it bounces when lead does not. I am not even sure where to buy lead, probably MacMaster-Carr…Rob


i had a thought…i wonder if lead blocks are available…sandwiched between thin urethane sheets…to protect metal from lead contamination…or lead blocks encapsulated in silicone…


I understand! Lead blocks work really well for what they do. For about 15 years I did silverwork for a high end custom saddle company. I made a lead block out of large ocean fishing weights that I cast into an old cast iron frying pan. I didn’t like using a lead block, but it solved problems in ways that I couldn’t find other solutions for. At this point though, I wouldn’t use a lead block under any circumstances, no matter how convenient or helpful it was.

Your question is a good one! Sadly though, I don’t know of a good lead block substitute. Maybe some of our chemical and material scientist members have some ideas.

In answer to the other part of your question though. A quick google search shows that lead is still available, even on Amazon.

We use a small lead block in our studio for hallmark stamping only. The lead won’t poison you unless you inhale it or drink a whole lot of water through lead pipes or eat off of lead plates on a regular basis.The same holds true with copper. Daily cooking of highly acidic foods with an unlined copper pan for a a long time will result in cupric sulfate poisoning. This is why copper pans are tinned. If you are nervous about lead wear a mask and gloves. I’ve been in the trade for 53 years and have yet to know anyone in the trade who died of lead poisoning. -Jo


Jo…That’s kind of been my thought and experience too. With all the hype lately, a lot of it appropriate, I thought that I would ask the question of the group. I remember as a kid helping my father cast lead sinkers. There were also the good times had chasing a puddle of mercury around with our fingers. Then the DDT that we used to keep the mosquitoes away when we lived by the river. Times have changed. Thanks…Rob


But, we’ve all gone mad. Or was there another cause ~


If you wish to make a lead block of your own, two cheap sources are a tire shop, (old lead tire weights,) and scuba supply stores, (lead weights for weight belts.) Weight belt lead also comes in pellet form (or used to-it’s been some years since I got wet.)

I am wondering if shotgun reloading supplies might also be viable, (might be costly though, I don’t know.)

At least in NY, you can no longer use lead shot for shooting or lead to make sinkers. I bought the lead that I have from Bass Pro several years ago…Rob

I’ve switched to pure tin, i can get it from a foundry that produces bronze and various other casting ingots. The tin is great for pressing shapes into precious metals instead of lurethane. Much more detail even with niobium. Of course tin is very soft and will allow that, and it gets slightly work hardened with forging/distortion… or maybe with age.
Of course I haven’t switched to tin for everything. I still have a few soldering aids based on Andy Cooperman’s tins of lead with a stainless rod set inside. Excellent soldering tools I use daily!


I have used a small lead block also… just have to be careful of not leaving lead flakes on silver… nor on your hands when you prepare food!

so far is lead toxicity is concerned, years ago I actually diagnosed and treated someone who had subacute lead poisoning… he had developed headaches and optic nerve bulging from brain swelling due to lead…blood lead levels were astronomically elevated…treatment took several months but was successful…The person worked in a local small scale ammunition factory… after the diagnosis, OSHA became involved…the owner and workers were oblivious to lead exposure… lead shavings were found in coffee cups… no protective equipment was in use…The place was shut down, as it could not afford the environmental equipment to protect it’s workers nor dump lead dust into the air exhaust. The exposure to led was both intense and long standing… Casual use of a lead block and having it in the studio will not poison you… just wash your hands before you prepare food!..

Tin is harder and non toxic… all soft solders are tin now… no more lead solder for electrical work… lead solders were also not allowed by building codes, even before it was completely banned, for soldering copper water pipes together.