ANST - Re: Pewter/tin

gunnora at gunnora at
Sat May 20 09:59:15 PDT 2000

Polydore asked:
>Can anybody suggest a source to ingots of pewter or tin? 
>(Lead-free) to cast with? So far, the cheepest I have been able 
>to find is for about $9.65 US/ pound, which seems a bit high 
>and is from a retail store.

There were two very knowledgable Laurels at the last Pennsic I attended who
were doing period pewter casting, esp. buttons, pilgrim's medals, and the like.
 At least one of the ladies (the one I'd spoken with) had done considerable
experimentation with alloys, amounts of tin, trace metals added, etc.  

Since they both were merchanting there as well, I'd guess that they've both
had to face the same problem of obtaining raw materials, and may well have other
useful thoughts on this topic.  

One place to check would of course be the last three years' Pennsic booklets
in the lists of merchants.  I will also ask on the SCA-Wide Laurels' List and
see if I can get more information for you.  I'll post back here ina  day or
two when I get some info back.  SInce I've moved recently, I have no idea where
my Pennsic booklet may be, but maybe some of you Pennsicgoers could look and
post the names and contact info for the pweter artsists?

Stafan li Rous also suggested:
>If you are using soapstone to carve the molds for your 

There are a variety of period mold materials as well.  I think Stefan had tried
some casting into hardwood (yes?  how well did this work?) and I know for a
fact that the Vikings cast into antler.

I've done a little silver casting into antler molds.  You want the hard, solid
part of the antler, not the spongy inner sections, of course.  The antler should
be fairly fresh, i.e., not dried up, cracked and powdery due to long exposure
to the elements.  

I soak antler for this for about two weeks in cold water, then boil about 2-3
hours before carving my mold.  Before casting, you want the insides of the antler
"moist", but not wet -- as the hot metal goes in you don't want steam produced
that will make tiny bubbles in the casting.  I've found that if I cast within
a couple of days of carving the mold without further soaking or wetting, then
that's about right.

Of course, you get a "burning hair" smell from the antler when you pour the
hot metal.  But I've found that the mold survives quite well and can be reused
several times.

If you decide to go with antler for molds, unless you're doing something pretty
tiny the whitetail antlers we have around here aren't big enough.  The best
commercial source for antler, and one that's surprisingly affordable, is Moscow
Dead Animal Bits (Moscow Hide and Fur,  Moscow has
the big advantage of allowing you to buy only tines, or only beams, or only
palms (i.e., from moose antler) rather than making you spend a fortune to buy
a whole huge rack.  This is very useful for craftsmen.  

There is also a location out near Fredricksburg where a farmer has a whole field
full of soapstone.  The last time Damaris and I checked, they'd put up a *good*
fence, so just crawling through the wires and grabbing some was Right Out. 
Tall Brian and I had been discussing going out and asking the farmer politely
if we might carry off some of the stone from his field later this summer.  Damaris
has directions to the spot, and if folks are interested perhaps we could do
some research and contact the farmer in question.

I'm still out of town due to my mom's death, but as many of you know Damaris
and I just bought a small farm a little east of Austin.  One of the things I've
been wanting to do as we get settled in is to have some arts workshop weekends
out there  casting and antler carving/comb making being some of the things we
could accomodate. 

I don't have a shop set up out there yet, but I have acres and acres of room
to work in.  Pewter casting is one of the things we could probably do now, if
I can persuade Damaris to let me borrow her gas cooking ring.  Or we can set
up to use hardwood charcoal.

Stefan, Polydore, those of you who are working with pewter casting, or who want
to learn it, be thinking about this.  In a couple of weeks it will be too beastly
for outdoor events, so we could have some weekends where we can work on this
type of thing... i.e., slave over hot metal a bit, fall into the swimming pool
and cool off for a bit, etc.  Perhaps we can pick a weekend to try some of this,
after we've gotten an answer back on the SCA-Laurels List and gotten some raw
materials to work with.

I'd like to host more arts days -- aside from being part of the job of a Laurel,
I enjoy having artisans around working on projects.  One of the best we've had
was when a bunch of us were making antler combs, and Master Cedric and his friend
Hawk came and provided live Celtic music while we worked.  That kind of synergy
is great and not everybody needs to be working on the same arts (i.e., other
artists will be welcome).

So, if you have something that you'd like to learn that I might could teach
or arrange to have taught, and a 30 minute drive east of Austin is a possibility
for you, let me know and we'll see about starting some arts days.

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