Well I got it back in the mail last week because I wanted to make another one and rather than do all the machining on the pewter all over again I thought I would try doing some more casting. I discovered that there is a community of folks out there who like to cast and paint pewter figurines and tin soldiers. So much so that there is a small industry devoted to the hobby.
Basically I’m trying to recreate the aesthetic of a bagpipe chanter based on this painting:
I didn’t realize at first how involved this was going to be. I learned that pewter describes many different alloys but that the main ingredient is tin. Straight tin is a good casting material but it’s expensive so lead is added. I tried turning some of this leaded pewter and discovered that it didn’t turn well but created a lot of dust. That’s right: now I had leaded dust flying through the workshop into the air. I got out a new vacuum bag, cleaned up every spec of dust and sent the unused leaded pewter back. I ordered the more expensive “lead-free” alloy which turns out to be mostly tin and tried again. This time the metal came off the edge like beautiful silvery butter. I had to figure out how to cast a round shape to start with and that took a lot of trial and error but I eventually got two cylinders close enough that I could make the shapes above.
Not wanting to go through quite as much trouble as last time I decided to try to cast the shape using some room temperature, two-part, mold-making, rubber. It is really a shame that we don’t have tin casting in school because this was so much fun to do. Basically you take roughly equal handfuls of Quick-Sil mold making material (play dough) and you’ve got about 5 minutes to knead the two parts together and press in your original. I took off the pewter chanter sole above and in about 20 minutes I had a rubber mold. After quite a bit of trial and error I eventually found you really do have to coat the inside of the mold with talcum powder and got something I think I can clean up on the lathe in no time.
More to come…