The dangers of lead making by John Hughes

Well, it’s that time of year again, when I and many others turn their attention to some preparations for the coming season. Whether it is trace making or trailer maintenance, it all has to be done at some stage! I, myself prefer to get a few things out of my way as soon as possible because the last thing I want is a load of things that need to be seen to just as things are starting to kick off good and proper on the fishing front.

Normally, I am more or less ready to hitch the boat up and go at the slightest hint of a weather-window. One of the things I quite enjoy doing is keeping the selection of leads topped up. I make everything I need for myself from 2.5lbs bell weights down to a cone lead that weighs a few grams. With the way things are and have been over the last few years with the economy, more and more lads are turning to making a few leads themselves to save a few quid. I, myself have been making leads for the best part of my life since childhood.

A selection of various freshly made leads and leadheads

A selection of various freshly made leads and leadheads

I learned quite a bit from watching my father melting lead – sometimes on an open fire and pouring it into copper pipe or old spoons which acted as moulds, while other times using the gas cooker in the kitchen (normally when my mother wasn’t around) The melting pot would normally be an old tin can that would have been squeezed into shape to form a pouring spout (not recommended) and this would have been picked up with a large set of pliers. In them early days the worst thing that I remember happening would have been the odd burnt and blistered fingertips. I was also made aware of how toxic lead is but I never really took that part too seriously because lead was everywhere, including water pipes which fed drinking water into houses. “Sure it couldn’t be that toxic if they are using it for that”, I said to myself. I never needed reminding that this was a very dangerous part of our sport which in them days needed to be done, sure how else were we going to get a few weights? I always imagined a worst case scenario would be a burnt finger – how wrong I was!

I’m going to go back only a few short years where one morning I borrowed a couple of moulds from a friend. Usually, I don’t like to hang onto borrowed stuff so I decided I would fire up the melting pot and get stuck into making a big batch of these leads before giving the mould back.

I had a couple of stone of old used leads I wanted to re-mould as the loops had corroded off most of them. I had about 50 weights, pears and balls made. I had made 150 loops so I planned on making 150 weights. Every thing was going fine. That was until I put an old used 1lb Bopedo weight into the pot. A couple of moments later, there was a serious explosion in the shed that sent a pot full of molten lead, including the 1lb weight all over the place.

Not many think this can happen when lead making so beware!

Not many think this can happen when lead making so beware!

The bang was heard from inside the house. I was very lucky to get away with a slight leg burn from some lead that stuck to my jeans, and a small burn to my right wrist. Admittedly, I was fairly shaken. I count myself extremely lucky to have my two eyes and my face left intact as I didn’t wear goggles and I was in my usual preferred lead making position – kneeling on the shed floor with everything in front of me.



The only explanation that I have is that the lead I had put into the pot was somehow holding water inside of it. My theory is that when you are using the leads in very deep water the pressure is that great that it injects water into a slight gap along the wire loop. This water then goes into a cavity that is formed by an airlock when you’re casting the lead in the mould. This water also could have made its way inside a cavity when the wire was starting to corrode. This is just a warning as to what can happen.

This lead has the potential to explode

This lead has the potential to explode

Whether you’re new to making leads or have been doing it for years without incident, hopefully you might learn a little from my experience and stay safe. As I’ve already said, I have been making my own leads since I was a child and that was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me (and hopefully the last). To all of you guys out there who make or are thinking of making their own leads, go get some overalls and goggles and always be aware that things can go wrong in a split second, when you least expect it.

I mentioned using old tin cans in the early days for a melting pot, this I wouldn’t recommend. If you could get your hands on an old stainless saucepan this would be a safer option or an old cast iron pot if you’re lucky enough to find one would be even better.  The pots I have myself are cast iron of various sizes and I also use a reinforced stainless soup ladle for pouring smaller weights. The set up in the pictures is a roofing blow torch with a homemade pot cradle which done a great service.

I have since got myself a bullfinch furnace; this is a serious bit of kit that I can melt a couple of stone of lead with in just a few short minutes.

Lead furnace

Lead furnace


Pots, heavy gloves and mask, the correct gear for lead making

Pots, heavy gloves and mask, the correct gear for lead making

Also shown is a face mask and gloves I use as well as a selection of the various weights that I make. All the best lads and stay safe.


About paddykeogh20

We are three anglers who enjoy all aspects of fishing. Whether we are blanking or catching were happiest on the bank or shore. If you like your fishing join us by watching our many trips and as we interview some top anglers along the way.....
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