Something I thinking about offering

I have been thinking about purchasing a Elrod strip caster. I love working with new strip of slugs, rules and leading material over finding old material from old jobs to use.

If I was to purchase a strip caster, would anyone be willing to purchase strip material from me to help offset the purchase?

Not looking to support my family from the sale of strip material, just some cash flow.

Log in to reply   17 replies so far

Not many people seem to be casting new strip material these days, so there seems to be a niche to be filled. I know I personally would be interested in things like 1 pt rule (or even half-point, though that may require brass rule) for laying out forms, as well as tying-up rule and leads and slugs. Any idea what you would charge per pound?

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Not to throw cold water here, but the cost of shipping even a pound of metal makes your (good) idea a less-than-break-even venture. By the time you gather metal, water, oil, power, heating, depreciation, maintenance, labor costs, and obtain license to ship hazardous goods (yes, in some States lead is so declared - Thank You, Eco- Nazis), I suspect even a 6pt. strip of metal would be pricey indeed. That, plus finicky packaging of rule and leads to avoid handling damage also adds to production costs. I suggest an intermediary as your prime purchaser which would see freighting larger quantities to single point destination at much reduced cost to you. Too, you wouldn’t have to be subjected to the endless complaints of that single rule purchaser blaming you for the USPS mis-handling.
As to those wanting 1 pt. or less rule. Anyone pulling twin strips of that size - without gouging out their eyes in frustration - will demand top price. (And no, turning the mold upside down doesn’t always work!) :o)

I have two, and going to start offering Spacing material and Decorative Borders from a Monotype Material Caster. Lead is in short supply, unless you want to by new. EPA restrictions are making it harder to obtain new. I will run an average of 1500lbs at one session. I would make it available at some Letterpress Shows.

I do know one thing, the way people ship material is wrong. I have purchase many pounds over the years. And, people make it hard on them self.

Mail Tubes and wrapping the “x” number pounds with bubble wrap ships great.

I know that I will not make a lot of money doing it. But, if I sell a few pounds a month will make it worth doing.

That seems the logical (read: least expensive) manner of dispensing material.
And, with the last lead ore processing plant in America now closed (again: Thank You, Eco-Nazis!) it leaves only recycled lead as available supply. And you know what that means. Of course, one could always strike up a direct deal from China; isn’t that where most supplies now originate? Heck if GE can do it, why not you? :o)

There is still a smelter running here in Canada. We’re not exactly the scum of the earth! I think “Eco-Nazis” is a bit extreme. In the town where the smelter runs, there is prevalent lead contamination from a long history of dirty operation. They’ve cleaned up their act, but not because it’s good for profit; they were regulated to do so. If they weren’t they’d probably be still pumping untreated fumes into the air, and contaminating the Columbia river with all kinds of nasty things.

Lead in the form of type metal is getting somewhat scarce and is commanding much higher prices than before. However, it is still readily available in the form of new metal from several sources. My office sits across the road from several million pounds of waste (tailings) from the milling process of lead and zinc ores—it is all nicely covered in grass now but up until 1991 around 10 million pounds of lead concentrate shipped from here annually to the Canadian smelter. We have not had a lead smelter in the US for about 35 years, so that is not much of a factor. And China is the largest producer and consumer of lead, again no surprise to those who follow such things. Our zinc concentrates went to Mexico for smelting. This is all market driven much more so than by regulatory means.

One point leads are not really practical to cast on the Elrod as none of us have pristine equipment or new metal, and the one true source of high quality one point leads, ATF, junked their casting machine some 30 years ago. There are brass one point and steel one point leads available which are suitable replacements (I sell both).

Shipping is expensive but then leads and slugs are normally sold in 10 pound packages, and that’s the price one pays to get the material needed these days. Aaron’s offer is interesting, and if he can find a source of metal (new is around $5 a pound plus delivery, used in pig form up to $3 a pound), and sources, like dump metal—old type and the like, is getting scarce. My last price for selling new leads and slugs about 5 years ago when I had a supplier was $8.50 a pound plus shipping. Are there customers? Yes, I have one that buys 100# of 2 pt hairline rule at a time and does not question price. This is for a captive letterpress plant run by a major food processor.

The days of newspaper plants and commercial shops dumping tons of metal on the market at 10 and 15 cents a pound are long gone. The late Earl Jones in Indiana was still offering to the trade leads and slugs for 95 cents a pound up until about 10 years ago, but he closed out a number of newspaper shops in the 70s through 90s where he often got the metal for the taking. Dealers like myself, Dave Churchman, and several others kept Earl casting on a regular basis and I recall he had something like 3 Elrods.

Can Aaron make a go of it? Only if he has an excellent machine, good molds and a reliable source of metal. Finding molds that will pull properly is not easy, and one day to the next can be vexing with these. It is hot, dirty and potentially dangerous work. I was looking at my Elrod today wondering if it will ever produce anything—we last had it running back in 2006 and we ended with a twin 2 pt mold in the machine. I haven’t been tempted to run it again.

That town to which you refer has been in existence for how long? And how many three-eyed residents inhabit such dreadful place? The use of the words: ‘…probably…’, and “…nasty things…’ are typical scare tactic of the less-than-informed ‘Greenies. Such nonsense has lead directly to present circumstance. Thank you, Al Gore, et al. As to the term: ‘Eco-Nazis’, well lets look at the Snail darter situation in California as but one example of that correct application. :o)
Given the present state of affairs, I’m thinking the supply of lead from china might well be in form not welcomed by this country.
The Elrod is a remarkable machine. I was always fascinated by its operation. Disengagement of the cutter bar, steady supply of metal, and one could run a ribbon of metal around the world. But, Oh Boy! could some of those molds prove a challenge. :o)


No, i’m not just making things up. The smelter has been there, in the middle of town, since the turn of the previous century. The ill-effects of systemic lead poisoining are well documented and indisputable, and the amount of lead in the environment and in the blood of the inhabitants of this town (Trail, BC) has been well documented as well:

I lived only a few kilometers away from Trail for a couple years, I’m well aware that it’s not just greenie scare tactics. There is solid science behind the fear. It isn’t safe to eat garden grown vegetables because of the high level of lead everywhere in the environment in Trail. I imagine that if a smelter were built in your back yard, you might feel differently about it.

I passed up an Elrod a couple years ago, and I think it ended up being scrapped. I’ve been regretting that decision ever since.

There is at least one remelter in the US as well — Non-Ferrous Metals in Seattle. Last year we had them remelt and adjust a bunch of dumped Montype type and cast it into pigs. There was a very long pause on the phone when I asked if they still melted Monotype alloy. They mostly do boat keels now.

So. You take a report from the SSH as proof positive of your statement? You best examine that august environmental body ‘afore hitching your wagon to that particular government collection of single-purpose Luddites. Their ‘solid science’ is not unlike that of the Global Warming/ Climate Change/ Weather Disruption Chicken Littles’. Ever wonder how they arrived at their so-called base levels of lead?
But I do enjoy your slight-of-mouth tactic in attempting to make it appear as if I accused you of: ….”just making things up.” No, you simply uttered a faddish Greenie follow-the-talking points template about the evils of lead; I rebutted that nonsense.

Somebody with a shop deep out in the woods and access to natural gas should be able to hook up a Nolan remelter and make pigs all day long. The chemicals needed to adjust the metal are available.

A. D. you seem to have opened a *can of worms* with a dozen entries & counting, perhaps, take the majority with a pinch of salt and go for it, if you have the courage of your convictions!!! With an Elrod or (in my case A Supercaster) . . “Giant Caster Stateside” churning out strip material, from 1 point Leads/Rules upwards is a very satisfying scenario, admitedely, in the case of 1 point, extra care & attention had to be paid to the automatic Drip Feed oiler, The Elrod PULLS the product out, the Super EJECTS IT!! therfore the 1 point * blade * has to be cared for??. I.E. IF (and YES! I did once) the apprentice is chatting up the Girl(s) in the finishing dept, the smallish capacity auto oiler runs out of Castor Oil, unrefined high heat tolerance, the blade jack-knifes and Yes One replacement was deducted from my wages!!!
Always suspected that the head machine minder (Big Big American Meihle!!) fingered me because it was his daughter in the Finishing that was the attraction.


Perhaps look up MY post, July 2013, Briar Press, Hot Metal Monotype Super caster, we did disengage the cutter mechanism and fed at least 100 feet of 3 point rule directly into the composing room, H.& S. Didnt get us “The Clicker/Comp foreman*, did? written into the minutes, by the F.O.C.s Clerk, at the next chapel meeting??


The following offered, only to keep things in perspective, i.e. lead poisoning etc, JUST First Person observations, nothing more, after 1945/6 lived on a working farm, on a big private estate, Dad had to keep the vermin down, Rabbits came into this catergory, consequently 2 methods were usual, organised Shoots, with 410,s or 12 guage shotguns, or *feretting,>Nets & ferrets*
The ferreted ones were collected on a monday morning, and would be hanging on the Poulterer,s traditional Chrome rails, along with Hare, Pheasant, Partridge,.etc.
but of course80/90% mark up for FRESH Rabbit!!!
The hunted/shot ones would be kept for (the pot) prepared by Mum or Nan, where the pellets entered, would be a tell-tale tiny black mark, obviously removed prior to the pot, but it is a racing certainty that a few have been consumed, inc by Myself & 2 Sisters, 200+ yrs between and counting.!!!
PLUS, big plus, been casting type since 1954, was wiping lead joints, early fifties, soldering copper pipes, (compression fittings were a thing of the future) etc, etc,
many parts of U.K. drinking water, still incoming through lead pipes
Blood test 7 days ago, for real, blood count 99% perfect??
O.K. the lungs are shot to bits, down to 60% capacity breathing into a bag,?? self inflicted from the fumes, ex Monotype.
So the WELL founded and observed danger, published on B. P. re fumes in confined spaces HAS TO BE, taken on board, Too late for me!!
Some of the conjecture and speculation, second hand/third party quotes, (above) whilst well intended,
might just be a little alarmist, or perhaps my metabolism has been kind to me.
Perhaps my observations may be regarded as rubbish, (if so, fair comment but it is NOT second hand) but assuming that in the States, you have a Pro Rata amount of re-enactment clubs, you must surely be well blessed with Smelting plants, processing recovered (from the sand trap) Musket Balls etc, by the *Million* nationwide, in which case SURELY some processors, must be up to speed, with the technology & info to process product suitable for, ELROD, Ludlow, Linotype, Monotype, the temperature range is comparatively small, the main variant is generally the Lead/Tin/Antimony ratio
Our re-enactment guys, with their Muzzle loading Guns and Pistols, are, 90% of the time are quite happy with any old lead content, just occasionally they like to know how many grammes/ounces, a specific musket ball weighs, so that they may ascertain, what weight ball they MAY,? blow their own heads of with, which is not a complete joke, Having been to *Bisley*, our most well known, Rifle Range, and seen Antique Muskets, Hand guns/Pistols (with or without modern Nitro proofing in place) firing lead balls at sometimes up to 3/4” or more, was frightening in the extreme,?? i.e.not only possible lead poisoning but, good chance of lung problems, from clouds of Black Powder Cordite, etc etc.
Maybe YOUR Smelters/Remelters are all just a little cloak & dagger, perhaps *Steve Earles* Dad has a little plant going down” Copperhead Road,”??. Near the Still!!!
Perhaps the *Big Black Dodge* doesnt always deliver Moonshine,!!!
Good Luck.>Mick< 75 & counting, coughing well, but no lead poisoning, Goats consume everything and still live a long time, so I believe, Hi Dick & how are *the New Brood*
Are we off the Night Shift.???

Much as some things get overstated, and that fear of X is used to drive practical legislation, lead smelters have caused extensive environmental problems in the communities where they reside.

Unless the Asarco smelter in Tacoma outlasted it, the Asarco lead smelter in East Helena Montana was operating til about 10 years ago. The problem is that the company that owned it (and all the other Asarco properties) did not want to pay to upgrade pollution controls or remediate past pollution.

Lead is probably the first metal/chemical to be recognized for it’s deleterious health effects. Leaded gasoline caused immense problems which, while not obvious, created social problems (large scale reduced IQ for one).

There seems to be a causal relationship between the enforcement of unleaded gasoline 20 years ago and the decline of crime rates today. So if leaded gasoline can do that, imagine the concentrated effects of having a smelter in your back yard. If you don’t have a smelter in your area to look at, it’s really hard to understand the damage they did before air pollution controls were strongly enforced. Of course we can always look to China to see what non-existent regulation will provide.

So far as material/strip casting goes:

It would seem there is still a large market for anything 6 pts and under—which would also give you the most mileage from your metal and the best margin. Thicker material tends to be favored by the small quantity of people running hot metal (need high base for Ludlow, or base material of other sorts—-which pretty much requires a printers saw).

One could cast 18pt full face rule, and market it to the small press folks as roller bearers—sold as pre-cut units of course, which means you need a saw too.

If you’re willing to purchase in large lots 1000 lbs and better, you might find metal out there at a decent price, but as Fritz said, the supply of metal is shrinking, and a lot of it has wound up in such esoteric uses as boat hulls and the like. I would figure you would want at least 2 tons of metal on hand before embarking as a regular supplier. Alternately you could take metal on exchange (they ship you X pounds of metal and you send them back 2/3rd X in strip (plus a fee). Or some such.

Also note that there are two varieties of Ludlow, and only one of them (model F?) can cast above 18pt material.

Nice post Mick, I cast musket balls on my Ludlow for my reproduction Brown Bess, during our bicentennial the militia around here were re-enacting all kinds of battles but had trouble finding British Soldiers to shoot at, so some of us back yard musket guys let them dress us up in red coats and shoot at us, what fun, only problem the militia men always hated us for dressing up as British. So one of my friends decided to start a British unit, he had done a lot of research to get the uniforms as accurate as possible. The only thing he had trouble with was the buttons, so we had Ludlow mats made and cast them on the Ludlow. He was eventually invited to England to have tea with the Queen, he asked me if there was anything I wanted him to tell the Queen, I said no but if you run into Princess Diana please give her my phone number, I always thought she was very pretty and a nice kid, I told my wife that as soon as Di called I’d be going to England, but she didn’t call.

Just as well Dick, you might have been in the back seat of that Mercedes that left the Ritz hotel… and we would have been without your wise and witty words and comments!