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Martin
Martin, Engineer
Category: General
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Experience:  i'm 41 and i never stopped studying and experimenting
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How can you analyze the composition of pewter?

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How can you analyze the composition of pewter?
Hello and welcome. This is not obvious to do as it may contain many other metals. The only way to test it without melting it is to bring it to a laboratory to perform a spectroscopy test on it. This will detect even very little concentrations. We can't use weight or electric conduction because of all the unknown metal that may be in it. The blocking of X-ray could be used to detect it but if it only have traces of it it might not be a conclusive test.

There is a melting temperature difference between lead (327.46C) and tin (231.93C) that could be used to see if lead drip from it. But that is a possible destructive test and may not be visible if the lead content is too low.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX two more questions. One - what if I melt the pewter? Will that tell me anything, and is it safe? Guy online talks about buying old mugs, etc. at yard sales, and melting them down. Two - how about silver? There are different kinds, right? I want to make belt buckles (cast), and maybe bracelets. Lots to learn.


Frank

OK, i was thinking you where only looking for safety, like in handling them.

Yes, if you want to destroy them anyway, you can melt them. The lead will always go to the bottom. Not sure about the two kind of silver you refer to (silver is an element and not an alloy). The safety is relative of how you see it. It won't explode or anything but it sure can produce fumes, so it need to be made with a minimum of safety (the burn to skin may be severe). As for the metal itself, you are better to never touch it with your skin. It does not "kill" right away but it is a potent contaminant that can cause a lot of problems.

Lead when pure have a particular patine from the thin layer of oxide it form on the surface (a bit like the graphene a wood pencil tip). When freshly melt or cut, it look a little blueish before it oxide again.

To learn about melting metal, aluminum is a good way to start. It always come in pure form usually and does not require too much heat to melt. Tin, lead and silver are then easy to work with.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Okay, Martin, talk to me about silver. There is "sterling"; is there "not" sterling? Is all silver the same? Can you melt silver with a torch; without a furnace?


And aluminum. I know there are different "grades". Can you melt aluminum with a torch, and not a furnace" How?


 

Silver melting point: 961.78 C
Silver is an element. Sterling silver is an alloy containing 92.5% of silver because pure (called fine) silver is too soft to be used to make useful object (so it is mixed with copper or other metal to give him some strength). Sterling silver melt lower than pure silver at 893 C.

Aluminum melting point: 660.32 C (can be less with a catalyzer). That one also have grade, all metal have different level of impurity from their original ore or added metal for certain wanted proprieties.

Both can be melted with a torch (a propane one without oxygen enriched air will reach 1,995 C). You can also melt them with charcoal as it can reach 2700C. You may be able to melt aluminum with a very dry oak fire but it will take time and the piece will have to be small.
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