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Cast lead figures

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stuka
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Joined: 01/04/2009

Although expensive for serial production, cast lead pieces can really make prototypes desirable and delightful to play. Lead casting allows for subtle details, and its weigth feels good. I have just made about 40 lead airplanes, and thought I'd share the know-how.

You will need:

- Plaster (aka gypsum)
- A master object (either off the shelf or you can make yours of wood etc)
- Oil: I use gun oil that comes in a spray can, but motor oil or even cooking oil will do
- Lead.

Where to get lead? One obvious choice is the local angler's (fisherman's) shop. It's not the cheapest source, but a 100 g chunk of lead is a lot, enough for about 30 figures (size ~3 cm). Scrap metal dealers will also have lead, it is still used in plumbing. This might require thorough cleaning. The best source, however, is your tire shop. They use a special lead alloy to balance wheels. Chips of this alloy are clipped onto the rim. This material is composed of lead and antimony (maybe zinc too), and its very similar to the alloy once used in printing, namely for typecasting. It is as easy to melt as lead, but much harder and more rigid when set.

Now take a small box, preferably plastic. I use small margarine pots. Mix plaster with water until it is creamy. Stir well to get rid of bubbles, and quickly pour it into the box until its half full. Take your master object, spray with oil, wipe excess oil. You need to act quickly because plaster sets in a few minutes. Put the piece into the plaster so that half of it sticks out. Position it so that you can get it out later (no extrusions under the plaster!).

Let the plaster set for a few hours. When hard, carefully retrieve the master, use a clip if needed. Oil was needed to keep the plaster from sticking to it.

Now mix in the second dose of plaster. Master goes back to the mould. Spray with oil, this time the half-mould also. Pour plaster onto it, let it set overnight.

Now take it apart, retrieve the master. You will need to carve a groove into the mould, that's where lead will be cast into it. Use a nail to start, then file it. It should be about 3 mm wide. A thinner groove will be clogged when casting.

It is advisable to carve a second, thin groove with a separate exit, to allow air to escape.

Your mould is ready, but probably needs more time to dry. A wet mould might be dangerous as boiling water may throw hot lead back up.

Heat lead in a spoon or a small metal vessel. A tin can will do, but make a "beak" to it to be able to aim with melt lead. Assemble the mould, and tighten it with a rubber band. Pour in the hot lead.

The first few pieces will never be good. Lead sets too quickly when the mould is cold. You might heat it with a lighter, or just continue casting. Wear eye protection in case the metal splutters back - although its heavy so it doesn't fly high.

Have a pair of pliers ready to cut excess metal off. The models will need some filing and grating, especially as the plaster mould wears out, but the result is worth it.

notMe
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Joined: 09/22/2008
Are lead bits even legal in

Are lead bits even legal in games anymore with the possibility of lead poisoning? Isn't this just one of the things that we have talked to China about in recent months?

Are you talking for sale or personal use? Regardless, I would make sure to keep anything with lead in it away from children.

stuka
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Joined: 01/04/2009
Jesus Christ,

Never thought of that possibility! Oh my God, I have advocated CHEMICAL WARFARE! Hundreds of children will perish by touching lead, thus burning to death.

No Sir, you're mistaking it for plutonium or cesium or something. Lead is not radioactive, touching it will not shorten your life. There are those people, anglers you know, trying to catch fish with rods. They touch lead every day, and they are still healthier than those who don't.

EATING lead might be harmful, but well, I think someone over the age of three can resist the temptation. It's your choice. With all the sulfides and oxides your beloved car exhales, it cannot be avoided. So OK, to be on the safe side, a disclaimer for the above: DO NOT EAT LEAD figures. Play with them.

Oh yes, and as I stated, it is for prototypes. You'll paint and coat them so players aren't going to get in contact with the dreaded LEAD, anyways.

Katherine
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Joined: 07/24/2008
We used the safety

We used the safety instructions on this link to make our own lures.

http://www.hiltsmolds.com/MoldInstructions.htm

dannorder
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Joined: 10/20/2008
stuka wrote:Oh my God, I have

stuka wrote:
Oh my God, I have advocated CHEMICAL WARFARE! Hundreds of children will perish by touching lead, thus burning to death.

If you think being obnoxious is funny you're mistaken. You could have made a response explaining your thoughts, but making over the top sarcastic comments to someone for bringing up a very important point makes you appear to be a little unhinged.

Lead figures should not be around children. Pieces are toxic. It's been in the news lately so the public is well aware of it, so if you intended to sell these or use them for public displays, you should expect a backlash.

notMe
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Joined: 09/22/2008
Well, that was both amusing

Well, that was both amusing and enlightening. I shall endeavor to read more thoroughly before opening my big yap. =}

The Magician
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Joined: 12/23/2008
lead in mouth more than on board

stuka wrote:
Although expensive for serial production, cast lead pieces can really make prototypes desirable and delightful to play. Lead casting allows for subtle details, and its weigth feels good. I have just made about 40 lead airplanes, and thought I'd share the know-how.

You will need:

- Plaster (aka gypsum)
- A master object (either off the shelf or you can make yours of wood etc)
- Oil: I use gun oil that comes in a spray can, but motor oil or even cooking oil will do
- Lead.

Where to get lead? One obvious choice is the local angler's (fisherman's) shop. It's not the cheapest source, but a 100 g chunk of lead is a lot, enough for about 30 figures (size ~3 cm). Scrap metal dealers will also have lead, it is still used in plumbing. This might require thorough cleaning. The best source, however, is your tire shop. They use a special lead alloy to balance wheels. Chips of this alloy are clipped onto the rim. This material is composed of lead and antimony (maybe zinc too), and its very similar to the alloy once used in printing, namely for typecasting. It is as easy to melt as lead, but much harder and more rigid when set.

Now take a small box, preferably plastic. I use small margarine pots. Mix plaster with water until it is creamy. Stir well to get rid of bubbles, and quickly pour it into the box until its half full. Take your master object, spray with oil, wipe excess oil. You need to act quickly because plaster sets in a few minutes. Put the piece into the plaster so that half of it sticks out. Position it so that you can get it out later (no extrusions under the plaster!).

Let the plaster set for a few hours. When hard, carefully retrieve the master, use a clip if needed. Oil was needed to keep the plaster from sticking to it.

Now mix in the second dose of plaster. Master goes back to the mould. Spray with oil, this time the half-mould also. Pour plaster onto it, let it set overnight.

Now take it apart, retrieve the master. You will need to carve a groove into the mould, that's where lead will be cast into it. Use a nail to start, then file it. It should be about 3 mm wide. A thinner groove will be clogged when casting.

It is advisable to carve a second, thin groove with a separate exit, to allow air to escape.

Your mould is ready, but probably needs more time to dry. A wet mould might be dangerous as boiling water may throw hot lead back up.

Heat lead in a spoon or a small metal vessel. A tin can will do, but make a "beak" to it to be able to aim with melt lead. Assemble the mould, and tighten it with a rubber band. Pour in the hot lead.

The first few pieces will never be good. Lead sets too quickly when the mould is cold. You might heat it with a lighter, or just continue casting. Wear eye protection in case the metal splutters back - although its heavy so it doesn't fly high.

Have a pair of pliers ready to cut excess metal off. The models will need some filing and grating, especially as the plaster mould wears out, but the result is worth it.

Yah Zinc is also vary toxic. It's important to note: don't overestimate the intelect of a child. Children of all ages seem to always put stuff in their mouth. This doesn't seem to stop as they grow older either. Infact most people don't seem to get smarter as they grow older. We have tv to thank for that. I wouldn't even go there man unless it's a prototype just for you and some friends. You would be suprised by all the people puting these pieces in thier mouth. Just thinking about it caused me to want to drink.

The Magician
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Joined: 12/23/2008
cast figures

However, I like the topic you discuss, and appreciate you sharing techiniques for producing your own game pieces. I posted a similar topic question. Do you know how to do this with safer materials or a manufacturer who will take a cast prototype and duplicate it in whatever material.

stuka
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Joined: 01/04/2009
No substitute

No I dont know of any replacement for lead (and its alloys). Other metals melt at a much higher temperature, impossible to cast at home. There are modelling clays, some harden by contact with air, others need to be heated in the oven. However, these are too fragile to play. Perhaps a modern warship or a tank could be done, but not an airplane or similar. Moreover, these should be made one by one, negating the advantage of moulding, that is, serial production.

Plastic casting is also out of question. There are special materials (mostly epoxy) that can be used, but these are very expensive. Pro modelers do use them, but not for toys.

As I mentioned, these were made for a prototype, yes. Either to play at home or send it to a publisher. Rest assured, they will not be poisoned, and it definitely looks better than a paper chip with a figure printed on it.

stuka
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Joined: 01/04/2009
Zinc is not toxic

Zinc is actually useful for humans, multi-vitamin preparations usually contain it. You might refer to tin, which may or may not be harmful. In most cases, these metals only effects people by long-term exposure, or inhaling large amounts from sanding old paint etc.

Quicksilver, however, is definitely poisonous.

clearclaw
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Joined: 07/21/2008
The toxicity of lead is

The toxicity of lead is widely misunderstood and usually overstated, including in this thread. Significant effects require relatively high doses of extended periods. Neither of those are likely even with licking miniatures, especially if they've been well oxidised or sealed.

InvisibleJon
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Joined: 07/27/2008
I might give this a try...

I have a component (two, actually) that I need to make multiple durable copies of for a prototype. If they're of heavy weight, that's even better. I was considering 3D printer prototypes, but those are much more expensive than I'd prefer. This might be the right answer for me. I could get one prototype of each component, then use them as the master(s) for multiple lead copies.

Hmmmnnn...

The Magician
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Joined: 12/23/2008
stuka wrote:Zinc is actually

stuka wrote:
Zinc is actually useful for humans, multi-vitamin preparations usually contain it. You might refer to tin, which may or may not be harmful. In most cases, these metals only effects people by long-term exposure, or inhaling large amounts from sanding old paint etc.

Quicksilver, however, is definitely poisonous.


Oh yes! Sorry, Zinc is not toxic. I must have been thinking about cobalt or something.

brisingre
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Resin as an alternative

I've been looking into resin casting of miniatures. It's not cheap enough to be practical for a large run, but a mold can be coated in metallic powder, and resin can be mixed with aluminum powder to make a metallic, heavy miniature.

ScratchimusRex
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Joined: 01/22/2009
Another alternative might be

Another alternative might be lead-free solder. I've toyed around with it a bit, it melts fairly nicely. To be honest I'm not sure 100% it's OK for lots of handling, but pages like this make me think it is fine...

http://www.silvaloy.com/solders.php

The only downside is cost - not really practical for a large-run game (it goes fast!), but for playing around & prototypes, it seems like a good alternative to both resin and lead.

brisingre
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I've considered it

I've thought about solder. It has many properties that would be ideal. I'd want to make a dedicated device for melting it quickly, but that's all good. I love machines and electronics, and this'd give me an excuse to shortcircuit some nichrome wire.

dungeonlooter
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Joined: 02/16/2009
I have done a lot of pewter

I have done a lot of pewter casting, made my own molds with high-temp capable silicone, even made my own vacume chamber to remove air bubbles.

Some good places to shop around for supplies: http://www.iasco-tesco.com/
they carry lead free pewter, along with a variety of mold making kits/chemicals etc. They have some nice melting pots for low menlting point metals.

Also, if you are a sculpter, you can use sculpy clay to model something and then bake it, so its hard enough to cast a master silicone mold.

the pros: you don't waist the metal, if you have a bad cast, just toss it back into the pot and melt it over, and cast again.

the cons: making molds is time consuming, spanning several days for all the curing, the cost of metal is always going up and never seems to go down, as is the same with silicone, not to mention you need silicone that can handle high temps (usually 400 - 600 degres depending on the specific alloy you are melting) And the high temp silicones are a lot more pricy then the others. Also, complicated pieces with severe undercut or very thin lines/detail are very dificult to cast. The only other bummer is that molds have a limited shelf life and are only good for a certain number of molds before they need to be replaced.

brisingre
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Taking a look. Not sure if I

Taking a look. Not sure if I mentioned it, but you can apparently mix cold-curing resin with atomized aluminum and get something almost as heavy as metal. It won't look great, but you can always paint it or dye the resin.

EDIT: Yes, I mentioned it. Bollocks.

jandlolini
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Joined: 02/27/2009
whether or not it's true

regardles of how toxic lead is or is not, the public safety concerns are serious enough that all major mini manufacturers switched to pewter years ago.

Sad, but true, because lead is the best easiest option for home casting. Great for prototypes, just don't expect to put 'em in production!

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