After a long search he found a tool and die maker who designed the world's only existing draydel casting machine. Lead is heated in a steel ladel till it melts. The molten lead is then poured into the closed mold. After 15 seconds, the lead sets, at which point the mold is opened and the hot draydel is removed. A good operator like Fannie produced about 75 draydels an hour. The first year was a great success and the exultant duo sold 25,000 lead draydel at 2 cents each, for a total of $500.00 Hallelujah! Life for Asher and Fannie was looking up.
According to the New York Times, Ktav now sells 400,000 dreidels every year. I'm guessing that not of these are lead :).
Cast dreidels are generally well made because the shape of the piece can be precisely controlled. Unfortunately, many of todays cast plastic dreidels are sold with a part line going right across the tip of the dreidel. A part line is the line between the two sides of the casting molds where a bit of material always oozes out. This can be removed but these are cheap dreidels so this extra work is skipped. In contrast, dreidels cast of sterling silver, pewter, brass, bronze, nambe or any other more expensive material typically have had the part line removed - and are are more likely to be well balanced.
Lead is out of vogue these days not only because its more expensive than plastic but also because of health concerns. The dreidels below are remnants of a past era!
Lead Dreidel supposedly from Eastern Europe, late 19th century. Top and bottom are decorated with engraved ornamentation. Measurements : Height: 4.2cm. / 1.65in. Weight : 17.8g. / 0.57oz. Price: $750 (as of 12/16/08). Available from Pasarel.
This vintage Israeli lead dreidel , was hand made by a jewish artist in Israel. Along with the letters are Words in Hebrew that state that the dreidel used to belong to the Bialik school.
Height: 2.54cm/1in. Diameter: 1.25cm/0.50in. Price: $49.99 (as of 12/16/08). Available from Mir-El Antiques.
This early metal dreidel measures about 1" high and about ½ inches in diameter. Each Hebrew letter is embellished by a Star of David. It is unpolished. Price: $35 (as of 12/16/08). Formerly available on Ebay.