Full Chisel Blog

March 11, 2012

Cold tinning process for a hot hide glue pot.

When I first took up woodworking I came across a reference that in the nineteenth century, Gypsies in Europe would travel around and re-tin copper, brass, and iron pots over a fire with a stick and a rag and some chemical formula.  After not ever finding a reference, I thought it might be folklore.

Then I published The Universal Receipt Book which had a formula that would work under those conditions.  Of course a stick and rag would ignite in molten tin, so this process was something else.  I immediately gave it a try and it worked.  I have ‘cold’ tinned a number of pieces and thought it was time to tin my little glue pot.

I first soaked the cast iron glue pot in vinegar for 4 days to clean off the rust.  I scraped it with a putty knife and thought I got all of the rust.  I then treated all of the inside surfaces that needed tinning with distilled water and sal ammoniac [ammonium chloride] to prepare the iron for tinning.

I then prepared the tinning solution as described in the Universal Recipt Book, put it on the stove and let it boil for 20 minutes.  The inside and outside of the inner pot tinned up just fine, however the inside of the water jacket only had the tin on certain areas and not in others.  I then noticed some sort of junk that the vinegar and sal ammoniac missed.  I think I will try some commercial stripper, and if that doesn’t work, I will heat it up and burn off what ever is contaminating the surface.

You can see the tin coating on the glue pot.  I have a repair to do and need the glue pot, and when I am done I will re-tin the water jacket after it is properly cleaned.




  1. In Wales in the 1960’s there were still itinerant people coming around mending pots,sharpening knives,etc.They were not usually Gypsies but Tinkers from Ireland[hence the name].They are still around but nowadays they are usually found selling power tools of dubious provenance.This could be the reason you found it difficult to find any references on this.

    Comment by David Griffiths — March 11, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  2. Those don’t looked tinned to me.

    Comment by Jeff — March 12, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  3. David,
    It was a long search but I found what I was looking for.


    It doesn’t look like hot tinned work but there is a layer thick enough to feel. Like cold silvering process the pure silver looks like shiny pewter.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — March 12, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  4. I know you need to tin copper cookware to prevent poisoning from copper, the hot tinning process I was aware of is like melting a knob of butter and sliding it around the pan – but with a lump of tin (and some flux) whereas cooking with cast iron adds iron to the diet, it doesn’t need protection for that reason. I can see you wanted to cold tin the glue pot but I cannot think why. What is the functional reason?

    Comment by peter — March 19, 2012 @ 4:28 am

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