The preferred ammunition of a military slinger was almost
always a lead bullet (Latin: glans, pl. glandes). Denser
than a stone of the same dimensions, a lead glans is capable
of being thrown at higher velocities and to much greater
attempts to create lead sling bullets have been mixed,
but the experiment is still on-going and there is plenty
more to learn. Since I've had some experience of using
the lost wax process to cast in bronze, I decided to
follow the same procedure in casting lead. I carefully
moulded three glans in beeswax, trying to follow the
shape I could see in illustrations of museum exhibits.
Once moulded to a satisfactory shape (and dipped in
cold water to harden them) I encased the three wax models
between two rectangular slabs of clay. I kept the wax
models upright with one end of each model very close
to the edge of the clay. Next I carved three funnel-shaped
channels into the clay to meet the wax. models. These
channels would allow the wax to drain away and, later,
when the clay was baked, the liquid lead to flow into
the cavity the models had left behind.
remove the beeswax from the interior of the clay mould
I baked the clay in the oven, with the mould inverted
over a foil sheet (to collect any wax which didn't vaporize).
Three or four hours on a low heat later - and I had
a very hot clay mould. I could have poured in my melted
lead then and there, but I really wanted to create lead
glans with some inscriptions on their faces. I'd seen
glans in museums, and one impressive specimen on an
internet antique site, that had these kinds of markings.
To get at the moulds, I took a hacksaw and cut the mould
in half right through the midline of the sling bullets.
Of course there was now just a cavity there where the
wax model had been. On a couple of the interior faces
I carved some appropriate Roman inscription. On one
'LEG IV' and on the other a copy of that antique site
glans that featured Jupiter's thunderbolts (the traditional
Roman shield design).
set, I now put the two halves of the mould together
and tied them tightly. I propped them up next to my
stove and began to melt my lead in a tin cup. After
5 minutes the lead turned to liquid and I poured in
the lead. I'd created a lip on the tin cup to facilitate
the pouring - I knew I wouldn't have long to carry out
this delicate proceedure. As it was, my first casting
was disasterous. Lead leaked sideways from one hollowed
out space into the next and I ran out of molten lead.
I untied the fastenings, opened up the mould and pulled
out the tangle of mishapen lead to remelt. As it was
heating up once again, I took a little wet clay and
filled in the spaces I could see. I also added some
more lead to the tin cup.
second casting was perfect, but the mould didn't survive
the process and broke to pieces as I pulled out my freshly
cooled Roman glandes.
intend to try some more casting, but have not yet decided
on the specifics. I have purchased a number of authentic
Roman glandes found at a Roman site and may use these
to impress hollows in the clay (rather than use beeswax
models). This will eliminate one of the processes and
also add a touch of authenticity to my castings. I intend
to try and resuse the mould, but the problem facing
me is two-fold: firstly, will the clay mould survive
repeated use? And secondly, can I get the hollows in
the clay to match up perfectly to create a smooth glans?
to be answered ...
- Paul Elliott