I like to brew up batches of lead alloy for my bullet casting sufficiently large that I can rely on a decent degree of consistency in my projectiles over a reasonable run of casting. Ideally a batch would be 100-200lb at the time but like with so many other aspects of the hobby I am limited by the equipment available. My basic smelting/batching set up is a former domestic cooking vessel able to hold a maximum of about 60lb of lead with a source of heat being supplied by an ancient kerosene camp stove formally owned by the late Robert Ernest Brown; my father.
Dad’s old kerosene (paraffin) stove is a Veritas Mk 1 and proudly stamped “Made in England” as was everything worthwhile in Dad’s day (though he did concede that some decent stuff came out of the US also). I guess he would have bought it in the late 40’s or early 50’s as that appears the correct period for the brand and style and he told me about various bicycle tours he and his friends ventured forth on in his years of early manhood. Such a stove would have been the primary source of cooking heat. Father was and great proponent of kerosene for heating our old rustic holiday home, providing lighting in said abode and obviously for cooking out of doors. To this day I can still smell the burning petroleum distillate as it flamed up at the top of the wicks of dad’s menagerie of appliances. I have to remind my self that this was a time before propane canisters.
Back to the Veritas Mk 1; this weekend just gone I was smelting up a batch of 40-1 alloy that was to be cleaned and poured into ingots in order to later cast some projectiles for my .32-20, .310 Cadet and .30-30 WCF. The old stove was not co-operating and suitable heat was intermittent; a particularly poor outcome for alloying lead. The stove is a pressure feed model and relies on an initial warm up of the head unit by burning alcohol in a catchment immediately below the fuel feeding tubes. Once the cooking head is hot the fuel reservoir is then pressurised by pumping a horizontal plunger at which time the fuel is forced through a tiny orifice or ‘jet’, mists/vapourizes then ignites with a bright, blue and exceedingly hot flame. Here in lay my problem. The business end of the plunger has a cup shaped leather piston and over time these leather devices wear out. I can’t be sure but I suspect this was the original. Without a good seal it was impossible to pressurise the fuel chamber.
About this time I was ready to pack it all in for the day when my friend arrived. He immediately recognised the Veritas as a model that had been widely used by Kiwi’s at Scott Base, Antarctica until fairly recently but are now out of service. He works for Antarctica NZ and surmised there might still be some of the maintenance kits left over so set off to find them. Within an hour he was back and presented me with a complete and unopened service kit for Dad’s old stove! Not only does the kit have all the replacement washers, seals, jets and leather piston device, it also has the specific tools with which to remove the parts. I was absolutely thrilled and figured father would be suitable proud and pleased that his long suffering stove would live on. What a remarkable coincidence of timing.
Of course the stove was never designed for smelting lead and it not built to withstand the sort of weight that I can subject it to. Twice I have had to reattach legs using my propane torch (spot the irony here) and a dab of father’s solder (that’s another story). These days when using the burner I have three cinder blocks that are placed into a ‘C’ shape. The blocks help shield the stove from any errant breezes but most importantly provide support to the cooking ring. The ring is slightly wider than the base of the Veritas and the same height as the blocks so the edges of the ring settle on the tops of the blocks and ease the plight of the feet of the stove. El Perfecto!
It’s a real pleasure and delight to be able to continue to use dad’s old Veritas. It might be limited in capacity but it’s a piece of family history I am thrilled to have on hand and still operational.
Keep your powder dry.