My job is one that allows me to wake up and do something different every day. When a client brought me this chival mirror, the job was simple enough. Fix the foot, wax it and deliver it. As is usually the case with antiques, it wasn't that simple. The mirror of this particular piece is counter weighted so that it can be raised up and down as required by the user to see what needs to be seen from different angles, but when I tried to raise the mirror, it wouldn't budge so I laid it down on its back and began to investigate. Three hours later, I finally got the lead weights out of the supports and found that they had corrupted and expanded within the cavities of the supports thence disallowing them to move. It was at this point that I began the process of learning how to melt and cast lead. Really, there is nothing to it. Lead melts at a very low heat, after it melts, there is a slag that must be skimmed off the top and then it is poured into a mold. Like I say, nothing to it, but for someone who has never poured molten metal, it is slightly scary. I made a mold using Durhams Rock Hard putty, bought a cast iron skillet to use for a crucible, set up my fish cooker in the yard and got to work. At first I wasn't sure it was going to work. After breaking up the original lead weights and placing the parts in the skillet, they just sat there as the flames heated my now tainted iron skillet, but sort of all at the same time, the lead just began to turn to liquid and then it only took a minute or so for it to all turn to a pot of shiny melted metal. At that point, I skimmed off the slag, and as they say, the rest is history. I let the metal cool for the rest of the day and then broke the mold the next day and shaved down the irregularities as shown in these pictures, then I drilled holes in the top of each weight, strung sash cord, attached them to the mirror and voila! It was done.
There is always something new and interesting to learn in this business.