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Thread: Hot plate issue while smelting pewter

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    Hot plate issue while smelting pewter

    So I started smelting down some of my pewter I've been collecting over the past couple weeks. Since it doesn't stink or smoke like smelting wheels weights, I was doing in on my casting bench I have set up in the garage. It's a cheap $11 coil hot plate I got on Amazon, 1100 watts. I was using a 8 inch cast iron skillet. The coil is about 5 1/2 to 6 inches across, this may be my issue. Melted the pewter fine. Problem was maintaining a hot enough temp. Had the thing on high, but had a ring around the endge of the skillet about 1/4 inch with solid pewter. Also my SS ladle had issues keeping hot enough to keep the alloy from constantly sticking to it. Same when I went to my Lyman cast iron ladle. Seems like the hotplate would run a few minutes, then shut off for a couple minutes allowing the alloy to cool a bit. Had to keep using a propane torch to keep my ladle hot and melt the outter ring that kept forming. In all, I did get 40 ingots made.....have enough pewter to prob do another 60 or so. Just a pita trying to work with that setup. So does that hotplate just suck, and I should grab a propane camp stove for small scale smelting or what? Read that many use those cheap hotplates with no issues. Not a good experience with mine. Should work fine to preheat molds and ingots, just not so much with smelting anything.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    I'm no expert, but I'd guess the temp is only high enough directly under or near the burner because of excess conduction and radiation of heat at the edges, which is just a fancy way of saying you're right: the pan is too wide or the burner literally too small or underpowered.

    I remember Imashooter2 describing his melting process for the pewter he sold - all done in a casting pot. I guess the coil around the pot gets around the problem you describe. A propane burner with the heat rising around the sides might do the same.

    I've got a lot of pewter to melt too, including honking big platters and trays. I was hoping to avoid the laborious prep Imashooter2 described by using a big pot, but your experience seems to show that my plan of using a big stock pot on a hot plate is hoping for too much. I could use my turkey fryer, but I'd like to closely control temp to avoid melting any zinc (some have reported zinc parts in pewter items causing contamination of the whole batch.

    Gonna have to think over my options here. If you find a temp controlled solution, I'd love to know.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy
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    I did use a thermometer in this melt a few times, looked to stay around 400 degrees or so the times I spot checked it. Well below the melting point of zinc. Only things I had to pull out that didn't melt were from the tankards I had with the glass bottoms. I removed the glass before flattening the tankards, but the thin rings of metal that was around the bottom of the glass did not melt.

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy redhawk0's Avatar
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    Yes...you are right at edge of the melting temperature...but only in the middle of the pot. You don't have enough heat to maintain the temperature for the volume of pewter you have in the pot. Your hot plate likely has a thermal shutoff switch in it as well. It will only allow it to reach a certain temperature before it cycles on and off.

    If you have an old camp stove or a turkey frying burner you'll likely make out a bit better. Or get a smaller diameter pan/pot to do the melt.

    redhawk

    The only stupid question...is the unasked one.


    Not all who wander....are lost.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy bosterr's Avatar
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    I ended up with 2 coil type hotplates because the first one I bought cycles on and off and gave me the same problem you have, dosen't get hot enough. I bought a second one to keep 15 pounds of WW melted to add to the casting pot when I'm after high production. It dosen't cycle on and off and the element will glow red. I use the one that cycles for pre-heating my molds.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    I'm just guessing but it sounds like the hot plate does not have enough output for the heat to radiate out to the edges of the skillet. I've melted very little pewter but I use my regular smelting burner for melting solder. I use a smaller thinner pot than for lead. I throttle it back quite a bit and use a thermometer so that I don't burn up the tin that I'm trying to save.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    If your able to tackle the job you could re-engineer the temp. Control to run hotter, but you might ruin it in the process, good luck.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Keep your temp 450-500. A cast iron pot will hold the heat. A turkey fryer will allow the heat to lap up the sides. A wind shield will even the temp and allow the heat to flow up the sides. You can get the melt too hot and it will go through color changes just like pure lead. Eventually it will turn black on the surface. A cast iron pot will even the temp across the whole melt. Just like melting lead just lower temp.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

    gwpercle's Avatar
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    The new "hot" plates just don't get hot enough to melt lead or pewter with....the safety feature keeps cycling them off....new and safe doesn't get the job done.
    A Lee Magnum Melter makes a much better bench top melting unit than a hot plate.
    Gary
    Certified Cajun
    Proud Member of The Basket of Deplorables

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have a Lee 20lb pot for casting. Just wanted a small setup for "inside" the garage smelting of small batches of range scrap, pewter, etc. Wheel weights will be done outside on a burner and dutch oven at my dads due to the smoke they out off......no neighbors there. Anyway, I will use this hotplate for preheating ingots. I went yesterday and bought a Coleman 2 burner camp stove with a 5ft hose to use with a 20lb tank. I set up a small work area outside under my back deck for this as opposed to in the garage. Casting bench still in the garage, but don't want burning propane in the garage.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Grmps's Avatar
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    I use something like this for small batches


    https://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Bottl...ove&th=1&psc=1

    check thrift stores and CL first.

    You can buy an adapter to refill it from a big tank, trick is to freeze the small tank before refilling it.

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy
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    This is the setup I put together today and used. Just used for small smelting operations. Worked fine, smelted about 26lbs of pewter down into 150 small ingots between 1 and 5 ounces each. Most being in the 1.5 ounce range. I figured small ingots at lighter weights would be easier for adding in at the casting stage in my 20lb pot.

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  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Looks like a good days work!

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
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