Hobby Science -

Working to your advantage


How To Melt Lead

Lead is the densest material that can be cheaply, safely and easily manipulated into the odd shapes necessary for weighting fast Grand Prix cars, regatta boats, airplanes and other hobby vehicles. Still, it involves work over a hot surface or open flame and burn protection. You wouldn't want to breath any fumes either, though there don't have to be many.

An adult should melt and pour the lead. If this cannot be arranged, go get a hammer and start pounding your lead into shape. It will take some time, energy and creativity to get the shape you want, but it will be a lot safer. Wear some good gloves; pounding the lead will make it hot. If nessecary, the lead can be pounded flat and thin and cut with tin snips. Unfortuneately, two small pieces of lead can not be smashed together to make a bigger piece. Hot glue can bind them together in a well.
  • Avoid touching lead with your bare hands.
  • Avoid melting lead if possible.

For melting lead, you will need a heat source, preferably some kind of portable stove you can take out doors in a sheltered area or your open garage. A propane torch will do if necessary. You will need a metal container to melt the lead into. A tuna can will do fine. Tongs with grippers or a good cooking glove will be important; the can gets very hot.

Other tools are helpful for drilling or carving wells in your vehicle to pour the lead into if the space has not already been created.

Take all precautions when pouring hot, lead. In order to melt lead into your car:

  1. Put your vehicle in a jig or held up by scrap wood and clamps, etc. so you don't have to hold it in your hand. Make sure the top of the well is level so lead does not run out.
  2. Place a little more lead in the metal container than you will need. Some will stick to the sides of the container and some will be lost as dross. Some may spill out of the well in your vehicle.
  3. Place the container on the heating unit. Turn on and heat up your heating unit until it begins to melt the lead. Though the lead may not look melted, it may be. Some fish weights and other sources of lead are coated. This coating needs to be crushed to let the molten lead out. This can be done with a popsicle stick. Once melting has begun, it should proceed rapidly. Take care not to over heat causing noxious fumes.
  4. Prepare to handle the metal container. Turn off the heat source. Carefully swirl the contents briefly to gain a little consistency and force out air bubbles. Work fast, lead begins to set almost immediately.
  5. Carefully position the container over the well in the vehicle and begin to pour. You want to avoid trapping air in the well, so a thin stream of molten lead is best. Be mindful how you place your hands, hot gases are traveling upward around the container.
  6. As the well fills, watch for topping. Stop pouring if it overflows. Lead will solidify upon contact with a cool surface. It does not form strong bonds with the surface. Lift or scrape it off with a flat head screw driver. Trim overruns that are attached to the lead in the well using a file or small hand saw.
  7. Let the lead cool for ten minutes before touching.
  8. Once the lead is cool, you can file it and polish it with a cloth or buffing wheel or cover with a stick-on label and finish.

Plan ahead of time how much lead to melt.


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Hobby Science -

Working to your advantage

Copyright 1997 Michael Lastufka, All rights reserved worldwide.