If the title didn’t give you a Clue, then I just have to tell you that I like metals. I like melting metals. And I finally did a video of metal melting.
Why? People are always asking me about how light titanium metal is. I was inspired by Theodore Gray and his Periodic Table Table to collect a set of samples of representative metal bars so as to show people. To let them feel for themselves. I now have a small, portable Metals Museum.
I started with Tungsten, because it is as heavy as gold and the hardest one to shape. I then collected and shaped matching bars of aluminum, titanium, bronze (95% copper), steel (97% iron), and magnesium (lighter than carbon). But absent the lead, I can’t illustrate how much heavier tungsten (gold and platinum) are than lead. Pity I don’t dare use silver, gold, or platinum bars. They would be fun exemplars, but I fear short lived.
But lead (Pb from the Latin Plumbum, as in plumbing, plumb-bob, etc) is now harder to get. This useful material has been in household use for almost 6,000 years. Children who likely drank from lead vessels gave us every advance in our civilization. But about a generation ago, it was declared toxic. So now it is getting hard to find outside of radiation labs, and expensive there.
So, I decided to cast my own piece of fresh lead plate from some crusty and oxidized 19th century lead pipe. To feel the pipe is to understand its utility as a weapon; heavy and rigid, yet soft.
Unfortunately, I didn’t set up my camera to show me chopping up the lead pipe. I used a hammer and chisel to get through the crustiest parts (hundred year old drain pipe, eww). But tin snips work well on 1/4″ thick lead. It cuts like cold butter. But shiny.
And the piece I ended up with evoked a geological feature I’d visited: Shiprock in New Mexico. Magma oozed up through a crack in the Earth’s crust forming a vane much like you see on my cast plate. An accidental demonstration in practical geology.