A 44 gallon drum has been cut longitudinally and mounted on a steel frame. At one end is a pipe that projects from the end of the drum with a tap on it. Underneath and furiously heating the drum is a big fire. In the drum are ingots of lead. In the first photograph you can see that most of the lead has melted and is forming a shiny silver lake in the drum. The year is 1978 and I am casting the 2 ton lead keel for the good ship 'Mariner'.
The second photograph describes visually the logic of the operation. The lead is melted. The tap is opened and the molten lead flows down the little chute and into the mould which is held in the ground and is set in concrete. It is a straight forward process that can be dangerous but generally goes well if you are well prepared and have thought the process through before hand.
Nothing could go wrong could it?
When the big jumble of grey lead ingots became a lake of silver I turned the tap on the pipe that projected from the end of the drum - nothing happened. I turned the tap on and off and then in true Kiwi style I hit it with a hammer - nothing happened. I knew what the problem was. There was solid lead in the pipe from a previous casting, blocking the pipe.
I ran to the phone and called the boatyard who had loaned me the casting drum.
" %$#(*&^)#$%$#(*&!!!!!??? " I yelled down the phone.
" Use a blowlamp to heat the pipe and the tap, that will melt the lead and unblock the pipe " they replied.
"And by the way" they said.
"yes?" I said.
"@##%^&*!@#$%%#!!!!!! " they yelled.
I didn't have a blowlamp but there were a few blokey blokes in the neighbourhood who might have. So off I went running and banging on doors asking to borrow a blowlamp. One can only imagine what must have been running through the minds of those poor people confronted by a young man with a wild staring look and grubby face gasping the word "blowlamp?" in their face. No one rang the police, but no one had a blowlamp that I could use.
Dejected I began returning to the flaming site. A hundred or so metres from home I heard a roaring sound. Turning the corner I saw a beautiful river of silver cascading down the little chute and into the mould in the ground.
I doubt whether the great Peter Snell would have beaten me over the last hundred metres.
What had happened was this. While I was away a large pile of burning wood had fallen forwards under the tap and pipe and the heat had quickly melted the lead. Because I had left the tap open the lead just flowed out of the drum.
By the time I arrived back the keel mould was about three quarters full. The whole casting had happened without me there at all.
I had thought and planned this operation. I had thought about all the possible problems. I thought I was really well prepared. When nothing came out of the tap I had thought that I had a huge problem. I tried desperately to intervene and fix it. I raced around like a blue arsed fly trying to get a blowlamp. Finally I thought that I had a problem that I couldn't solve. I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew - I thought I was out of my depth - why hadn't I just paid the boatyard to do all this? What the hell was I ever thinking? - Then Providence intervened.
Luck? Fortuitousness? Randomness? Serendipity? Providence? - it all depends on your 'World View' I guess - but I do know this. What I started I finished. The keel was lifted out of the mould. I drilled bolt holes in the lead for the big bronze bolts and the finished keel was bolted firmly home onto the good ship 'Mariner' where it belonged.