Lead encasing

Question for a story I’m writing:

Would it theoretically be possible to dip a body part in molten lead and create a cast of it. Bearing in mind that the body part does not need to survive. Or would the flesh melt before you could pull it back out lead coated?

Body parts contain lots of water, so you might get a really nasty steam explosion. And I don’t know how well molten metal will stick to skin. In my experience, mercury at room temperature doesn’t at all.

Arc weld spatter sticks pretty well. Leaves little craters too.

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I’ve discussed here before that a ( very ) few Victorians were into electroplating the corpses of their loved ones.

Most couldn’t afford it, and not even those into dreary — and sickly —19th century mourning ( wearing black, dressing for funerals, horses with black plumes etc. ) wanted such memento moris as actual people propped up around the house gathering dust — unlike that famous, but probably apocryphal Italian Renaissance tyrant who was rumoured to keep the stuffed remains of his enemies, finely dressed if not particularly expectant, sitting around a dinner table for those chatty times when he preferred to forgo ‘Dinner for One’.

Hot lead on the skin is used as a trick by people claiming extraordinary powers. But they use small amounts of lead heated just to the melting point, and they can get burned. I’ve had plenty of solder fall on my bare skin barely causing no damage from a little splatter or just minor burns for more. Maybe if you poured molten lead over a body slowly, and just forming a thin layer that cools rapidly, you might not terribly deform the body and could build up the molten metal. However, I doubt dipping a body would work, it would probably create a lot of steam as** Ignotus **says. Solder can stick to skin, in my experience that happens when it’s fairly hot and it flows, when it can cool rapidly it beads up, but that’s just small amounts.

Why lead?

There was a book by Christopher Moore (Bloodsucking Fiends) where a couple of turtles, and eventually people, were coated in brass and turned into statues. But it wasn’t a simple matter of dunking them in molten metal:

You could go for something similar, unless the “dipping in molten metal” specifically is crucial to your story.

How hot were the pyroclastic flows that buried people in volcanic eruptions like Pompeii, compared to molten lead, and how much damage did they do to the bodies they buried? I’ve read claims that rapid heating caused steam explosions to rupture skulls, but I have no idea if that’s accurate (and I find it too disturbing to research it).

Thanks guys. The principle of this is that it would be a bronze age people who mine and smelt lead, removing body parts of the dead and essentially creating a lead replica from dipping them into the molten metal. I presume such a steam explosion we’re talking of would rupture any attempted cast? I understand though that a wetted hand can be dipped momentarily in lead unharmed (the Leidenfrost effect, which has been observed happening) so that leads me to suspect that a severed body part could theoretically be dipped without such an explosion. However, that way it also comes out without being encased in lead. But since the water content actually seems to prevent burning rather than cause a steam explosion, perhaps without being externally wetted, it would become plated instead? All of this is theoretical, I suppose. I can’t imagine what I’m describing has ever actually been observed happening. Anyway, as I say, thanks for the input. I shall continue to watch with interest. :slight_smile:

You and me both. In case OP is trying this later, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of Pb solder alloys have melting temperatures way below that of lead itself. For example, typical 60/40 melts at 370F while straight lead is a much hotter 622F.

The usurper Edward VII when still a prince was persuaded by a noted scientist to insert his hand into a sealed vat of frozen air. Generally not a good idea, but instructed to be fast, he was, and suffered no harm.
Frozen air is 58K which works out to be a handsome -355F.

Would it be possible to thoroughly dry/mummify the bodies, before trying to encase them in lead?

(What’s the proper term for that, anyway? Could “Plumbing” do double-duty?)