Pewter – casting over a fire

May 20, 2019

An advanced-ability activity to create beautiful unique keepsakes.

Author: Muddy Faces

Age Range: 12+

Duration: all day

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: daylight

Season: any

Tags: casting, fire, guide, jewellery, metal, pewter

Category: * what's new * art & creating tool use & traditional crafts

Introduction

Pewter casting over a campfire is a highly-absorbing and rewarding advanced fire-use activity. A great activity to end a course – a celebration giving participants a self-made item of awe and beauty.

Environmental considerations

Consider the environmental impact of preparing for, carrying out & completing the activity. Could this impact be reduced? A few considerations specific to this activity are:

  • the fire area
  • any metal left in environment
  • use lead-free pewter (old pewter objects are likely to contain lead)

Health & safety considerations

Follow your usual operating procedures and carry out appropriate risk benefit assessments. A few considerations particular to this activity are:

  • burn potential from the molten metal & fires
  • fire safety
  • use lead-free pewter (old pewter objects are likely to contain lead)
  • tool use

You will need

Area: ensure you have a clear area around the fire with no trip hazards, and clear walkways.

Preparation

Casting preparation is very important – first you’ll need a mould, also known as a cast. See pewter mould making for some ideas and tips.

A crucible can be made by creating a spout in an old spoon and attaching it to a strong stick – see making a crucible (coming soon).

Careful planning can prevent molten metal and hot crucibles becoming potentially hazardous.  The aim is to move around as little as possible when holding very hot items.

Make sure the mould is secure on a board, this will prevent tipping and spilling as the pewter is poured.

Place your cast board on a level and secure position near to where you will be melting the pewter. Practise moving with an empty crucible from your heating position to the board to check it is in a correct position to be poured comfortably. Once you are melting the pewter you don’t want to be moving unnecessarily as this could be both dangerous, likely to spill and takes longer to pour, thus allowing the metal to cool and become difficult to work with.

Place the bucket of water close by but not in your way. The ladle will be put in here straight after casting to ensure the hot ladle and any unused pewter is cooled in a controlled manner.

Step 1 – melt the pewter

Place a portion of shot into your crucible; this will require a bit of estimation, depending on the size of your cast.

Get into a comfortable position by the fire; you will be here a little while so check you are happy with the position of your cast and water bucket. Hold the crucible over the hot embers.

The pewter will start to melt and eventually will become a silver soup. If there is a breeze your may see a skin on the metal as the breeze cools the surface. Also, if there is any debris in the shot or blown in from the fire this is often visible floating on top of the pewter (don’t be tempted to flick it out).

Step 2 – pour

Once the shot has all melted, swiftly, but without rushing, move the crucible to the cast and confidently pour the molten metal into the mould (or through the sprue if using a 3D mould). This allows less time for the pewter to cool which would make it harder to pour.

Once you have filled your cast, place the crucible immediately into the bucket of cold water.

Step 3 – cool

If needed, carefully move the cast board and place it somewhere out of the way and leave to cool – be careful if there is any spilt pewter that it doesn’t move around or off the board.

Cooling time will depend on the size of the item, but ten minutes is a good general guide.

Step 4 – remove from cast

Remove the pewter from its cast.

If it has large pieces of unwanted metal these can be removed with a hacksaw.

Use a file or rasp to rub away any unwanted burrs or sharp edges.