It had never occurred to me that many anglers don’t know how to make their own sinkers. Having grown up watching and helping my dad mould his own sinkers and knowing my grandad did the same, I figured it was an integral part of fishing. I thought nothing of it until I mentioned to the editor I had been making reef sinkers and he asked me to do an article about it.
In recent years I have usually teamed up with my old next-door neighbour, a fanatical reef fisho John Wedrat, as he is ideally set-up for the operation with a well-ventilated shed and all the paraphernalia – especially lead. While some people collect stamps, John seems to collect lead. Sometimes he is on the lookout for it but often it just drops in his lap. Within days of our latest pour a friend dropped around two large lumps of lead – more than enough to restock his ample supplies.
The best forms of lead are tyre weights, old cast net lead lines, lead head roof nails and old roofing sheet lead. Some people melt down old batteries but I wouldn’t recommend it, as there is a lot of mucking around and the acid produces nasty fumes. However, all lead melting will give off some fumes so make sure to set up in a well-ventilated but not too breezy area. Too much airflow will slow down the heating process.
A standard camp gas cooker is more than sufficient to melt the lead. John has found the best melting pots to be old saucepans that have a pouring spout. Make sure the handle is very secure because if it is tack welded it can let go in the extreme heat; it’s best to convert it to a bolt on handle.
You can buy lead pouring pots but they tend to use up a lot of gas getting them hot enough to melt the lead. Saucepans do it a lot quicker as they have less metal to heat as long as you don’t use a saucepan with a thick base. The other important tip is not to use your wife’s good pots. My wife has the perfect lead pouring pot that she uses to heat her cereal milk every morning – but I have been strong, and I’m just waiting for the handle to break so I can tell her it’s too hard to fix. In the mean time, do the rounds of the charity stores and you’re sure to pick one up for a few dollars.
A heat resistant glove is another must-have and again the charity shops or hardware stores are the starting points. The moulds can be bought from any tackle stores, on e-bay or by putting out the word amongst your contact circle – there are a lot of ex-lead pourers out there. A vice, a pair of pliers and cutters, and a bucket of water and you’re ready to turn on the heat.
Depending on the size of the sinkers and the pot fill the melting pot with scrap lead and enjoy a cuppa while it melts down. Other metals and rubbish will float to the surface and just leave it there (unless it is rubber, then remove with long nosed pliers. – it stinks!). While the lead is melting, preheat the mould on another burner or with a little blowtorch. This stage isn’t essential but if it’s not preheated, usually the first pour will be a flop, as the lead will cool too much before getting into the mould and block the pour hole.
To help with smooth pouring don’t just wait until the lead has melted. Give it another five minutes to get really hot for easy pouring. It’s also a good idea to wear closed-in shoes when pouring, as lead can spill and will splatter.
If you are making running sinkers the best thing to use for the hole is an old bicycle spoke as they are very straight and the right diameter. Put a good bend in the pull-out end so you can grab it with the glove or use pliers. Wipe the wire with axle grease before each pour to make removal easier.
When pouring, fill the mould until a small blob forms on top of the pour hole. This can later be cut off and re-melted. The mould can be removed immediately from the vice, and use a glove to drop and remove the leads.
Drop the hot leads into a bucket of water and leave for a minute or so. Remove and snip off excess lead, check the holes are open, then put the scraps back in the pot.
When all the lead in the pot is used up, pour the remains onto concrete to get back the last of the lead and toss the scrap metal and dross.
When you consider that an 8oz sinker can cost over $2 each, there are some serious savings to be made by pouring your own.Reads: 12347