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Basics of Lead-Free Jig Molding


Will Wetline
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Massachusetts and other New England states has had lead restrictions on lead use for weights and jigs for a few years now. There's information here for not only lure builders who want to "get the lead out," but those who are thinking about getting into jig making, lead or alloy.

 

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The Lee Production Pot IV is the standard of the industry used by the hobbyist. It holds 10 lbs. of molten metal and features adjustable heat control. Metal is dispensed from the bottom of the pot. This melter is available from: barlowstackle.com and lurepartsonline.com.

 

These companies also carry molds, hooks, paint, skirts - just about everything you need for lure making.

 

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Put the goggles on before you plug the pot in. The container from a turkey pot pie catches most drips but there will be the occasional splatter that escapes. Do not forget to use eye protection.

 

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The alloy I've settled on melts at 395º.  A "3" setting works well.

 

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Have you been wondering about the screwdriver in the first photo? It fits the slot in the top of the valve rod and is used to adjust dripping. Some amount is to be expected with this mechanism because the rod moves a bit with each lift of the handle.

 

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One pound ingots of 88% bismuth and 12% tin are available from Rotometals,Inc., a long-established company in California. Here'a a link to this alloy which will take enough heat without melting to fully cure powder paint:

https://www.rotometals.com/lead-free-bullet-casting-alloy-bismuth-based/

Read the specs and reviews.

 

In 2012, I opened the mold after my first pour with a bismuth based alloy. I admired the fully formed jig for a while and then, no matter how much I yanked and cursed, I could not get the jig out! What I didn't know at the time was that bismuth is one of the very few substances found on our planet that expands as it cools. And this is why you need Drop Out mold release.

https://www.amazon.com/Frankford-Arsenal-Aerosol-Release-Reloading/dp/B00EVNSFKY

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Sprayed with Drop Out, hook and keeper in place, you are now ready to pour. You can make about 4 dozen pours before you need to let the mold cool down and recoat with release.

 

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Filed and ready for paint.

 

 

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22 minutes ago, T-Billy said:

How does it flow compared to lead?

I've never had a problem with flow. Keep 3 lbs. - 5 lbs. in the pot. Adjust the valve rod as needed for drips, of course.

 

Pewter was a problem, however. It's only 2/3 the weight of lead and it's even more expensive stuff.  I put only 1 lb. into the pot and result was drip, drip, drip rather than a steady flow. It may be that a few more ingots would have been an improvement. My solution was to buy Lee's 4 lb. melting pot and use a ladle, something I had wanted to try anyway.

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9 hours ago, T-Billy said:

How does it flow compared to lead?

Bismuth is easier to pour with lower temp in the pot. However, even with Drop-Out, it can be a problem to get the jig out of some mold cavities. Also, it is very hard to file out the sprues compared to polishing lead jigs. Finally powder painting can be an issue, as you usually need to heat a jig a lot to get the powder paint to stick. With bismuth you have to be careful so you don't melt the jig before you dip it in the powder paint. It is definitely a learning curve.

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