What Is a Smelting Pot?

Lori Kilchermann

A smelting pot is the container used to melt ore and other ingredients into a liquid that can be poured into molds to be given a working shape. Commonly created from very heavy cast iron and lined with brick, ceramic tile or some other type of heat barrier, the pot is able to withstand extreme heat for many smelting cycles without burning through or weakening. Heated in various matters, the smelting pot is often hung from large lugs cast into the sides of the pot. These lugs provide a tipping location that allows the pot to be tilted and poured. The pots often include a heavy lid or cover to aid in the fast heating of the contents.

Lead is commonly bought in large blocks requiring the use of lead smelting pots to melt it down and pour it into casting molds.
Lead is commonly bought in large blocks requiring the use of lead smelting pots to melt it down and pour it into casting molds.

Some of the smaller smelting pot designs are placed on or above a heating element to melt the contents. Commonly an electric or natural gas heating element will be used to bring the pot up to temperature. Some very small, single-use pots are simply placed on a small burner and heated until the contents can be poured into a sand mold. When using this type of pot, it is extremely critical that no water be in the vicinity of the smelting pot. One drop of water into a very hot pot of molten metal can cause the pot to explode and empty itself on everything and anyone in the vicinity.

Larger, industrial-size designs use a number of methods of heating the contents with electricity in one form or another being the method of choice for many pots. One design uses a coiled electric element to create the required heat to allow the smelting to be accomplished. Alternating electric current (AC) is applied to the heating coils, which begin to heat similar to an element in an electric kitchen oven. Many of these electric-powered smelting pot assemblies use a water-cooled design to eliminate overheating of the heating element.

The most common type of smelting pot in large industrial operations uses carbon rods charged by electric current to create super-high temperatures similar to a carbon arc torch or welder. The carbon rods create heat to the contents of the pot, creating a molten liquid that must have impurities skimmed from the top of the liquid metal prior to pouring the material into a mold. Limestone is commonly added to molten iron to bring the impurities to the surface. Workers use long steel ladles to pull the impurities from the top of the molten liquid.

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Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- A lot of kids' toys from just a few decades ago would probably never be sold today because of safety issues. Then again, a lot of us that grew up with those "dangerous" toys turned out just fine and knew not to grab things that were hot, sharp, etc.

That doesn't mean we ran around with toys called things like "Big Bag o' Broken Glass," but an enclosed smelter was something we knew not to touch.


Most people should be familiar with these. I had one in one of those kits that made die cast cars out of wax. You'd melt the wax in the smelter, put some wheels in a rubber mold and then pour the wax in the mold. Let the thing cool, pop out the car and it was fun city. Heck, you could even reuse the wax by melting down the car and going through the process again.

I do wonder about the safety of that toy, however. Sure, it was fully enclosed and was automated because you turned a dial to both move the mold under the smelter and to pour the wax so a kid would have to try awfully hard to come into contact with the hot smelter and its contents. Still, it was possible to reach in and grab a hold of that smelter, but didn't kids' toys used to be a bit dangerous?

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