A.C. Gilbert Kaster Kits
As all of you regular visitors to Girders & Gears know well, our focus here is on metal construction toy systems, often referred to within the hobby simply as "OS" (Other Systems). However, this time we'll look at something a little different: Gilbert Kaster Kits. Although the A.C. Gilbert Company is best known by most OS fans for its now famous Erector Sets, throughout much of its lifetime the company also designed and manufactured other products. Among these were a number of other toys, including games, magic sets, chemistry sets, and more. In 1931, Gilbert introduced their Kaster Kit line, a suite of products that could be used to create small lead soldiers and other toy figurines. This was a popular hobby of the period, and young boys, my own Dad included, spent many hours casting and painting tiny lead armies. My thanks to friend and G&G reader Bill Klein for the images shown on this page.
|1||Metal Casting Set (non-electric)||$1.00|
|3||Kaster Kit Jr. (electric)||$2.95|
|5½||Kaster Kit (electric)||$4.95|
|7½||Kaster Kit (slush mold type)||n.a.|
|00||Pigs of Metal||$0.50|
|1||Kaster Kit Paints||$1.00|
|A||Sports Series Molds||$2.00|
|B||Band Series Molds||$2.00|
|C||Military Series Molds||$2.00|
|1-29||Individual Solid Molds||$0.50|
|S40-S54||Individual Slush Molds||$0.75|
The available components of the Gilbert Kaster Kit line, which included lead melting and casting machine kits, casting molds (Gilbert used the English spelling "mould" in their literature) and mold sets, paint sets, etc. are listed in the table shown at right, along with their 1931 prices. As the list indicates, there were three different casting machines and/or kits available. The No. 1 Metal Casting Set was a non-electric all-in-1 kit that contained molds, casting metal slugs ("pigs"), melting receptacle, spring grip mold holders, pouring ladle, paints, and more. The pigs could be melted over an external heat source. The No. 3 Kaster Kit Jr. contained a casting machine that consisted of an electrically heated melting receptacle on a raised metal stand with spring grip mold holders attached to it. The entire apparatus was mounted on a metal base (see photos and diagram below). The No. 3 Kit also included mold handling and cleaning tools, 12 pigs of metal, 1 mold, and an instruction manual. The largest Kaster Kit was the No. 5½. It contained the same the casting machine as the No. 3 kit, but this time the machine was mounted on a larger base that had room to hold mold storage trays, tools, pigs of metal, etc. (see photos below).
A later addition to the Kaster Kit line was the No. 7½ Kit. It contained an updated version of the No. 3 machine that had been slightly redesigned in order to accomodate Gilbert's new "slush type" molds. Where the standard molds produced solid castings, the newer slush type molds produced hollow castings. The big selling point here, of course, was that less metal was required to produce a comparable figuine. The integrated heating units in all three of the electric kits were AC powered, but the kits did not include a cord or plug. These could be purchased separately, or a standard universal cord could be used. At this time, many small household electric appliances like steam irons, coffee pots, waffle irons, etc. used such interchangeable cord/plug units (each such appliance had two cylindrical prongs to which the cord/plug units were connected, as did the Kaster Kit machines). Most homes had at least one such cord unit, so it was not always necessary to purchase one. To expand the system, Gilbert sold a variety of additional molds, both separately and in sets. There were 29 different regular molds in all, including military figures, sports figures, animals, American Indians, and planes, trains and automobiles (see image above). When the No. 7½ Kit was introduced, 15 new slush type molds were added to the line to use with it.
No. 5½ Gilbert Kaster Kit
Detail of No. 5½½ showing spring grip mold holders
No. 3 Kaster Kit Jr.
Manual diagram of the No. 3 Kaster Kit Jr.
Molten metal in the No. 5½ melting pot
Fire Engine (#20) and Infantry (#5) molds
Infantry (#2) and Cavalry (#6) molds
Gilbert expanded the basic system by offering a variety of additional molds for sale, both separately and in sets. There were 29 different regular molds in all, including military figures, sports figures, animals, American Indians, planes, trains and much more. When the No. 7½ Kit was introduced, 15 new slush type molds were added to the line to use with it.
G&G reader and good friend Bill Klein supplied the images for my previous feature, and recently he sent me a package containing a dozen or so freshly cast figurines from his Kaster Kits. Some of those figurines are shown in the photos below. Beneath the photos I have listed all of the individual Kaster Kit molds.
S41 Sailor and No. 9 Battleship; the ship shown at upper right is still attached
to its pouring tube
No. 5 Infantry, No. 4 Howitzer, and No. 6 Cavalry
No. 20 Fire Engine and No. 8 Airplane
S45 Indian Chief and S46 Warrior with Gun
No. 16 Magic Coins
Illustration from the original Kaster Kit instruction manual depicting
some of the available molds