Homebrew Fishing Sinkers – How to Make Your Own Moulds

Two-piece mould for making cylindrical sinkers. Drawing, Stephen Coote. Homebrew fishing sinkers.
Two-piece mould for making cylindrical sinkers. Drawing, Stephen Coote

Homebrew Fishing Sinkers by Stephen Coote

Sinker making is a satisfying activity that can save money. Why use lead sinkers? Old spark plugs, nuts and bolts, pieces of scrap metal and stones have all been used successfully. I still use these things occasionally. Let’s take a look at how to make your own homebrew fishing sinkers.

Lead, however, has certain advantages. It’s relatively cheap, easy to mould, and heavy in relation to its volume.

Lead’s high density is probably its most important quality for our purpose. It means a lead sinker of a certain weight will be smaller than sinkers made of most other common materials.

It will drag less. A sinker drags in the air during a cast, and drags in the water when winding in, or fishing in a strong current.

The best lead to use is free lead. Demolition sites are a good source of lead head nails, lead flashings, lead pipes and cable sheathing. Keep your eye on the roadside for lost wheel weights. Old damaged sinkers can be recycled too.

If you live near a shooting club, consider how much lead is lying around. Some shotguns cast the equivalent of a one-ounce sinker from the barrel every time they go bang. Retrieving the lead is a challenge, but methods applied to the recovery of gold should work.

Some scrap metal dealers sell the lead to the public. I was pleasantly surprised recently at the price one dealer quoted.

Basic Saftey Considerations for Make Homebrew Sinkers

Before I go any further, here are some safety considerations.

1. Molten lead is dangerously hot. Wear safety glasses in case it splatters. Leather gloves, shirtsleeves and long trousers provide protection too. Don’t spill lead into your shoe; keep trouser cuffs over your footwear. Plan your moves when handling hot lead and don’t leave a pot of it sitting in a precarious position.

Be aware that newly-made sinkers can raise a blister even though they look cold. Look out for any children that may enter your work area.

2. Anything in contact with molten lead should be absolutely dry. I once tried to remove slag from lead with a green willow stick and instantly had a miniature backyard version of Mount Vesuvius. Moisture turns to steam with explosive force when in contact with molten metal. Wet moulds are particularly dangerous.

3. We’re told lead is poisonous. If this is so, then the powdery slag is something we need to avoid ingesting. Sinkers should be made in a well-ventilated place to help dissipate vapour and slag dust. Dispose of slag intelligently.

Sinker making is safe if you’re sensible. The only serious damage I’ve seen lead cause in my life has been the result of gunfire.

Lead has been melted in tin cans. Some cans may have a soldered joint. The solder will melt and you’ll spill your lead. I use a metal ladle or a short piece of steel pipe with a steel plate welded across the bottom to form a pot. A length of reinforcing steel is welded to the side to make a handle.

An old-fashioned soup ladle readily lends itself to melting small amounts of lead. Old stainless steel bowls and saucepans will work well too. Be careful; saucepan handles can disintegrate at lead-melting temperatures.

Self-locking pliers (vice-grips) can serve as a handle, but a length of flat steel bolted on is better.

It’s a good idea to form a spout on your pot. A few knocks with a hammer and a punch of some sort should suffice.

A gas burner is a clean source of controllable heat for melting lead, but a small wood fire is adequate. It is surprising how quickly lead melts over a fire. I let my pot sit on the hot embers.

Self-contained commercial lead melting units are available. They’re tidy and convenient, but the cost may be hard to justify for just a few sinkers. You can purchase commercially available sinker moulds by mail order from Discount Fishing Supplies in Gisborne.

Lead forms a lot of slag especially if it is corroded or painted. This can be ladled off with a spoon. Some people recommend tossing a lump of beeswax or tallow into the pot before removing the dross. It’s a good idea, but it can smoke badly and catch fire.

This is s very good cast iron pot for melting lead complete with a spout on each side.
This is s very good cast iron pot for melting lead complete with a spout on each side.

Forming Holes in Your Sinkers

How do you get holes in sinkers? You can drill them, or you can place a nail of the right diameter in the mould. The lead hardens around the nail which is then pulled out leaving a neat hole.

You can buy excellent sinker moulds. These give a variety of sinker types and sizes as well as being convenient and safe to use. It helps to heat this type of mould before use. This helps drive out any moisture and prevents the lead from setting before the mould is completely filled.

An old metal spoon makes a convenient mould for flat sinkers.

Drilling a hole in wood provides a cylindrical sinker mould. Use a nail to form the hole. The sinker may have a rough surface and you might have to split the mould to get it out, but the fish won’t care.

A wooden mould can be formed by sandwiching battens in the form of a vee between two smooth dry boards. This has to be nailed together tightly. Molten lead is poured into the top of the vee. The solidified wedge-shaped sinkers can be tipped out if the lead hasn’t set in cracks in the wood. Wooden moulds char, but you should be able to use them several times. They are good enough to make homebrew fishing sinkers – just make sure the wood is bone-dry.

A length of metal pipe sitting in dry sand can be filled with lead. You can add an eye to your sinkers by placing a piece of bent wire into the pipe. Be sure to kink the ends of the wire so the loop won’t pull out. The pipe stays on this type of sinker. You can easily make a variety of sinker weights by only partially filling the mould with lead.

I built a metal mould recently. I wanted to make ball sinkers but settled for a cylindrical mould because it was easier to make.

The diagram shows what I built. The mating faces of the mould must be flat so the lead can’t leak away, but apart from that, there is nothing critical about making moulds like this. Do what suits you.

I made my mould this size because that’s how big my scrounged metal bars were.

The manufacture of the mould was easy for me because I had access to metalworking equipment.

I clamped the two halves together to drill the holes, including the locating pinholes and the bolt hole. Fitting the dowel pins before the main mould holes are drilled is a good precaution to help things line up.

The pins are pieces of round steel driven into tight holes. The pin holes on the other half need to be a size bigger to ensure easy assembly.

A fastening bolt about 100mm long is easier to undo as the mould grows hot. A piece of metal tubing is used as a spacer on the bolt so it will clamp the mould together tightly.

If you want to make a metal mould and don’t have the gear you need, you may be surprised how little it might cost to get an engineering firm to help you. Get a price first though. With a little imagination, you can produce your own moulds to make a wide range of sinker shapes and weights. Make your own lead sinkers.

Homemade – Homebrew Fishing Sinkers won’t catch more fish than the ones you buy, but they may add a little satisfaction to one of the world’s best activities and save a lot of money over time.


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