Does anyone have experience to share about working with LEAD-FREE
My first work in metal was in pewter, or more specifically
"Britannia Metal", which is lead free. It’s really easy to work with
whether fabricating or casting, but doesn’t act like most metals, so
a lot of what you know doesn’t apply.
It expands as it cools when cast. You can make your casting molds
from wood or get more than one casting out of a cuttlefish mold
(depending on the design). You can use a kitchen ladle for a
crucible. I tried raising a piece once and it was like hammering on
piece of rubber, the piece almost wanted to turn inside out, until I
realized I didn’t need to hammer so hard. It could easily be raised
using delrin or hardwood mallets and stakes. Other forming, like
sinking or using a mallet on a t-stake or mandrel works just fine.
Edges can be fused together and then with a bit of filing and
planishing seams disappear. It darkens with the pickle we put other
metals into, but doesn’t have the oxidation problems of copper
alloys so no need for pickling the metal. When you do need to
solder, a variety of low temp. solders are out there of which
Stay-Brite (sp?) is the best.
You can fuse it onto copper alloy elements, which is really cool for
adding color. I don’t remember etching it, but it stamps really
well. The only caveat is the one about keeping separate files, bench
pin, sand paper, etc. A small piece of this metal will eat a pit
into silver, copper, etc. when raised to annealing temps.
That’s the jist of it. Look up Fred Fenster, he was my professor’s
teacher and mentor and you’ll find some images of this metal. He was
also a silversmith, so look at the materials used.