Lead Atomic Potluck
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Sound"Atomic Potluck"
This is art, OK? It's a bowl with a cloth thrown over it, just like a housewife in the 1950's would take to the potluck block party. Except it's made out of 40 pounds of lead, and we use it as a containment vessel for our highly radioactive Fiestaware bowl (see uranium), which is also exactly the kind of thing a 1950's housewife would take to the potluck.
I came into the lead for it when I had an opportunity to scavenge about 3/4 of a ton of lead shielding from an abandoned hospital x-ray room. (I could have had the CAT scan machine too, but it was too hard to move.)
I was scheduled to tour this abandoned hospital with a developer (who is trying to sell my company on the idea of moving to the office complex he's going to build after demolishing the hospital), and I had actually planned to stop by the hardware store on the way back to work to pick up a few bars of lead, because I needed some to make some kind of enclosure for the Fiestaware. I thought 10 pounds would do (and it would have).
But that plan obviously changed after I saw the huge quantities of lead in the x-ray room. A single sliding door (which we were ultimately unable to recover) had at least 1500 pounds of lead in it (6 by 8 feet by 1/2 inch thick).
The day after the tour Ed Pegg, Jim, and I went in with sledge hammers, nail pullers, lanterns, and of course permission, to see how much lead we could mine. It came in two forms, 1/8" thick sheets about 2 by 4 feet: Ed and Jim smashed the drywall covering them and un-nailed about 15 sheets from the wall. And 1/2" thick plates about one foot square, covered over in thin cinderblocks: I smashed out 22 of them, each weighing 36 pounds.
In two hours we had a lifetime supply of lead.
I melted down one of those thick plates in a medium-sized stainless steel mixing bowl, then used some wood blocks to press the next smaller size of bowl down into the molten lead, pressing it into the space between the two sizes of bowl. Thus was formed the bowl part of "Atomic Potluck".
For the lid I simply traced out a circle somewhat larger than the bowl on one of the thin sheets, cut it out with tinsnips, then used my (now sore) thumbs to flute the edges artistically.
Both parts are heavily varnished to prevent lead transfer to people touching them (though I'd still never store food in it).
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 31 July, 2002
Text Updated: 18 January, 2009
Price: Donated
Size: 9"
Purity: >95%