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Old January 22, 2001, 07:32 PM   #1
Poodleshooter
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Yes I'm too cheap and poor to buy the Lyman casting manual right now...
1.) I'm casting using a dipper and aluminum pot over a propane burner. The surface of the molten lead skims over with dross. After I remove this, it skims over again. Eventually it seems that I am taking out more lead than dross. How do you know when to stop skimming and removing the dross??? (I'm seeing the wisdom of a bottom pour setup)
2.) I'm casting for muzzleloader so I'm trying to get pure unalloyed lead. I use a rudimentary hardness test for lead scrap of unknown composition. Occasionally some alloy will get by me. I tried melting one scrap that should have been pure lead (very thin x-ray sheeting). A thin skin of dark colored dross formed on top of the pot. Skimming away any amount temporarily exposed the silver color of lead, but it swiftly faded through almost the entire spectrum till it settled as a black/purple color. I tried skimming it away, but it seemed permanently mixed in with the lead. Any idea what the heck this was? I tried casting with it, but it refused to harden(stayed viscous) and gummed up my mould. Odd part was that it wasn't that hot when it was still viscous! Lesson learned: This taught me to use lead that I KNOW is pure, but I'm still curious about what it was.
3.) How important is an even temperature to the casting process? I fiddled around with the temperature so the lead would pour evenly.
4.) Can you get the mould too hot? (I'm using an aluminum Lee mould). I rested mine on the edge of the burner while it wasn't in use, to keep it up to temperature.

Thanks for any advice y'all may have.
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Old January 22, 2001, 08:28 PM   #2
RiverRider
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Poodleshooter, I'll try to help...

1. What you were skimming off in question #1 was probably just lead oxide. Skimming off the dross is a good idea, but flux the metal well before you do skim. And yes, that is a big advantage of having a bottom pour pot. I have a Lee Production Pot that does the job well.

2. I have NO idea what the stuff was. Hopefully you didn't waste a lot of lead.

3. and 4. Temperature is important, but even more important when casting with alloys. I'd say just try to keep the metal at the temperature that works best for you. And, being a handloader, you can appreciate the importance of consistency.

It is possible to get a mold too hot, and when it happens to me I start getting frosty-looking bullets. That's my signal to slow down the pace a little...but then, I am casting with ferrous molds and casting alloy bullets. I wouldn't really know what to expect, casting pure lead bullets.

I don't think you'll damage the aluminum mold the way you're using it...in fact, you can dunk a corner of an aluminum mold directly into the metal to warm it more quickly and it won't hurt a thing.

If you're not fluxing your metal, you really should try it. I have taken to using Marvellux. It makes the lead oh-sooo-liquid and pourable. But you HAVE TO store the stuff correctly because it absorbs moisture, and we know what putting something containing moisture into molten lead can do!

As soon as you can, get your hands on the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook. It's got everything you could ever want to know about alloys and casting!
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Old January 23, 2001, 01:45 AM   #3
Paul B.
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Poodleshooter. If I read you correctly, your metal is discoloring at the surface quite rapidly. Sounds to me like you may have the metal too hot. Your lead is oxidizing too fast. Fluxing will help clean the lead. I don't recommend keeping the mold hot by setting it in the flame. Just put a corner of the mold in the moltem metal for about 10 to 15 seconds. Also, use a "BIC" type lighter and smoke your mold with it. Paper matches have wax impregnated in them to help them burn which can deposit grease in minute quantities in your mold, making casting difficult.
I have not seen where a too hot mold made bad bullets though. The frost like look hasn't hurt any of my cast bullets that I can tell.
As far as that lead that did not harden properly, it may be contaminated with something. You said you were using an aluminum pot. Some of that aluminum may be melting into your lead (again too hot a melt?). My suggestion is to get rid of that pot and get a cast iron one, or invest is a Lee production pot. They aren't too bad for the money. I have one as well as a Lyman Mag pot.
It could be, and again I see too much heat as being the culprit, that your mold has gotten so hot that the sprues are taking an abnormally long time to solidify.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that too much heat is what is causing your problems.
Let me know if this solves the problem. If not, we'll have to check out the contamination angle.
Paul B.
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Old January 23, 2001, 12:04 PM   #4
Poodleshooter
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Ah? So I have to flux the lead, even though I'm not working with an alloy? Should i just toss in a pinch of beeswax, and let it smoke? (I have tons of it on hand) What the heck is in commercial flux? Will fluxing bring all impurities to the surface? I guess I shouldn't worry to much about the lead oxide, just dip from underneath it.
I think you guys may have answered my question as to the heat issue. I know I didn't get up to aluminum melting temps, but I think that my mold and the melting pot were too hot. The bullets were definitely a pale, frosty grey color. I had to keep the mold fairly hot or I got wrinkled bullets. Only by leaving it on the edge of the flame was I able to eliminate wrinkles.
Thanks,
Poodle
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Old January 23, 2001, 01:02 PM   #5
Paul B.
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Poodleshooter. Plain old parafin will work as a flux, as will any old candles that you have laying around the house. Be aware though, that they will smoke like hell. To eliminate most of the smoke, light the fumes with a match, or as I do, I "flick" my BIC lighter. The same one I use to smoke my molds.
You can keep your mold hot by casting a little faster. Sticking it in a flame can warp your mold making it useless.
The commercial fluxes work very well. I use Marvelux, available from Brownell's.
If the metal you are using is very dirty, you might want to flux, and skim the dross from the melt, flux again and wait about 5 to 10 minutes to let what little junk is left in the melt to come to the surface. Them skim that off. I use mostly wheel weights for my casting purposes, and I get large amounts for free. (My son works for a car dealership.)I have to flux that stuff 3 or 4 times, and even then it still has junk in it. Makes good bullets though.
In your case, with "pure" lead, fluxing will clean the metal and make it cast just a little bit better.
Good luck with your casting efforts.
Paul B.
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Old January 23, 2001, 02:54 PM   #6
RiverRider
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I like to see good, effective communication. It's a thing of beauty!

I would just reinforce the point that fluxing IS for cleaning your melt. And, if you do decide to flux with paraffin or candles, or beeswax or whatever, it WILL smoke like the gates of Hades. And if you don't light it off yourself, it might light off on its own when you least expect it. Marvellux does not have this annoyance to contend with, and I have noticed that it makes the lead very, very pourable so it will fill out the mold fully. I can't recommend it highly enough!
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Old January 23, 2001, 08:10 PM   #7
Southla1
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Bullet lube makes a good flux too but its a smoky one also. Some years back I acquired a tube form somewhere or the other of a soldering flux. It looks like the flux from acid core solder. I tried some of that and man does it ever work. Very little smoke also.
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Old January 24, 2001, 01:05 PM   #8
Paul B.
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RiverRider. I agree. Marvelux is a lot better to work with than any wax. An even better one, IMHO, is LETS. They have two types. I forget what they call it, but one is a special flux for mixing antimony alloys. It smokes like he!!, and stinks even worse, and after you're done, you have to flush out the empty pot with water or the pot will rust badly. But boy, does it ever work. The regular LETS flux is a bit better than Marvelux, but both work well.
For what it's worth, when you are done casting, and you've drained evey last drop of lead from the pot, and let it cool down some, fill it with water and set it at about 3 on the dial. Let the water come to a boil and scrub it out with a stainless steel brush. You'd be surprised at how clean that pot gets. I do it about every fifth time I use the pot. Helps keeo the garbage out of the melt.
Paul B.
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Old January 24, 2001, 06:27 PM   #9
RiverRider
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Thanks for that info, Paul. I have never heard of this product. I'll just have to hunt some down and give it a whirl. Next time I cast, that is...which I am putting off!

In fact, I have considered abandoning casting altogether. I started because of the savings, but man is it ever WORK. I guess the enjoyment of casting requires a certain temperment. Or a certain level of poverty!
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Old January 24, 2001, 06:39 PM   #10
Mike Irwin
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Poodleshooter,

DO NOT USE AN ALUMINUM POT TO MELT LEAD!!!

I can't say that strongly enough!

Use ONLY steel or cast iron.

Aluminum is, over time, SERIOUSLY weakened when lead is repeatedly heated in it. The thinner the aluminum, the more quickly the weakening happens.

More than one person has had the bottom come out of an aluminum pot while it has been filled with molten lead.

You have absolutely NO idea when it will happen.
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Old January 24, 2001, 11:24 PM   #11
RiverRider
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Gee Mike...I bet THAT'S exciting to see. Yumpin' Yimminy!
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