Casting the keel

143 days

Well the long awaited high pressure came this week, so on Monday evening we moved the plywood mold out of the shed and levelled it up in the hole before packing around it with sand.

After our trial melt we decided that less baths would mean less heat loss and with this in mind we also put the baths together in two pairs. So on Tuesday we set up the baths in position on steel frames and fire bricks. We couldn't get enough gas pitch burners for all the baths so we had all four burners under one pair and built a bonfire under the other pair.

Wednesday morning we were joined by Andrew and Brando, who had been at Falmouth Marine School with me, and the fires were lit. We spent the morning loading the baths with the lead which we'd removed from Gulval church roof one dark night last week. No .......only joking, most of it was scrap from roofers and plumbers but just to add a bit of interest some came from first world war wrecks around the local coast.

Actually the whole process was an exemplary exercise in recycling; The baths, the steel bearers, and the fire bricks were dragged out from under a hedge on the farm where I have carefully been amassing a 'that'll come in handy one day' pile.

It took only four hours to melt the five and a half tons of lead and we were ready to pour around one o'clock. The steel pipes had to be pre-heated with a gas lance to stop the lead solidifying in the pipe and then the pipes were lowered one by one and it was a beautiful sight to watch the silver liquid gush out of the pipes and into the mold. Although the plywood mold was dry to touch there was obviously still enough residual moisture in it to cause quite a cloud of steam. As the level of lead rose in the mold to the required height I breathed a very long sigh of relief.

Anyone trying this at home will be interested to know that the bonfire (offcuts of planking larch, mainly) with the aid of air blown through a scaffold tube was more effective, not to mention cheaper, than the gas pitch burners.