White Lead

Making white lead

The recipe for the stack process is metallic lead in the form of strips exposed for 3 months in clay pots, which have a separate compartment in the bottom containing vinegar (acetic acid)

The pots are stacked in tiers in a shed covered with manure separating them. After the shed is closed, the combined action of the acetic vapours, heat and carbon dioxide from the fermenting compost, oxygen in the air and water vapour slowly transforms the lead to basic lead carbonate.

White LeadAfter 3 months, the lead strips would be removed, and the white lead powder scrapped of the lead. White lead has been known by many names: Ceruse, flake white, snowflake white, Cremnitz white, Nottingham white and was poisonous

Basic lead carbonate, 2PbCO3?Pb(OH)2, when pure, is a brilliant white substance that makes an excellent paint pigment. Women during the Middle Ages didn't wear much make-up, until Queen Elizabeth I became one of Britain's most celebrated users of natural beauty preparations. Elizabethan women still used white lead face paint and mercury sulphide for rouge, but the lead was mixed with vinegar to form a paste called ceruse.

This stuff was toxic, and many died making it ! The main hazard of the job is lead poisoning, the symptoms of which include blue gums, headaches, partial paralysis and frequent bouts of madness. Life expectancy is short, but your efforts will be appreciated as the paint will decorate many things ? from window frames, golf balls to works of art.

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