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Old November 17, 2012, 05:53 AM   #1
Pond, James Pond
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How to best extra lead from batteries?

I've found a nice big fat old battery and I'd like to know how to, safely, get the lead out for possible future casting.

Ideally, I'd like a method that also generates the greatest yield too.

How do you do it?
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Old November 17, 2012, 07:51 AM   #2
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I thought the same thing a couple years ago.According to my research there is no safe way to extract the lead from a lead acid battery without some serious chemistry. The regents necessary aren't readily available to consumers.
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Old November 17, 2012, 09:22 AM   #3
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Do not, repeat do not, try to melt down batteries for the lead. First of all, the process gives off Arsine and Stibine gases, which are uniformly fatal when inhaled. Battery processors have methods in place to deal with this. Second, the yield of usable lead would be very low as the acid over time has converted a lot of it into sulfates and other products. There are many ways to get lead besides wheel weights. Check with your local scrap yards, advertise on Craig's List, buy from Rotometals.com, prices really aren't that bad and you know exactly what you're getting. Goat
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Old November 17, 2012, 10:14 AM   #4
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Riiiight...

So it seems that the answer to the question "How do I get the lead out safely" is.... you can't! Well, back in the bin the battery goes.

I could probably hack off the external poles of the battery, but that is it!

Oh well....
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Old November 17, 2012, 10:25 AM   #5
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There ya go, external posts and cable clamps are quite useful. GW
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Old November 17, 2012, 10:35 AM   #6
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Trade it in

I trade my old batteries in at the local battery store, I think I get $2 for a standard size battery $3 for a tractor size.

I looked into this a few years ago and determined that there was no safe way for the home user to reclaim the lead out of it.
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Old November 17, 2012, 11:35 AM   #7
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Sell the battery and buy lead.

Getting lead from batteries is not cost effective. I've tried it. A ton of work, the acid eats your cloths, boots, and is dangerous. Not to mention the time involve, both in getting the lead and cleaning up the mess.

One session, I figured out the cost. For what I had to pay for a replacement shirt, jeans, I could have bought a heck of a lot of bullets.

No sir, it ain't worth it.

I bet, if your shop is anything like mine, you can find enough scrap iron, brass, batteries, etc. to take to the scrap yard, and trade for enough casting lead to do your winter casting.

Heck, talk to your neighbors, I bet they have a lot of scrap they would love for you to haul off.

Kind of un-related, but it points out what I'm talking about. I had a neighbor kid who turned 16 and got his driver's license. Barrowed his parents truck and trailer and went through the valley checking with neighbors to see if they had any scrap iron 'n suck that they needed hauled off.

Kid paid for his gas, and got enough money to buy an old used car and pay his first year's insurance.

If this kid can do that, we can do enough to buy a bit of casting lead, without the danger and headache of busting up batteries for the lead.
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Old November 17, 2012, 03:18 PM   #8
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Strontium, Cadmium, Stibine, Arsine.
None of them are good for you, but all them (and more) can be released by smelting lead-acid batteries.
Strontium and Cadmium are like lead, and fool your body into using the molecules in place of calcium in your body. ...Not good.
Stibine and Arsine can be fatal with a single exposure.

Stibine/Arsine toxicity excerpt from wikipedia:
Quote:
Stibine binds to the haemoglobin of red blood cells, causing them to be destroyed by the body. Most cases of stibine poisoning have been accompanied by arsine poisoning, although animal studies indicate that their toxicities are equivalent. The first signs of exposure, which can take several hours to become apparent, are headaches, vertigo and nausea, followed by the symptoms of hemolytic anemia (high levels of unconjugated bilirubin), hemoglobinuria (high levels of hemoglobin in the urine) and nephropathy (kidney damage).
Note in this commercial operation, that all workers are wearing respirators, and access to automated equipment performing the initial smelt is tightly controlled (only the camera man):
Battery Recycling
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Old November 17, 2012, 03:36 PM   #9
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Thanks for the warnings of woe!!

Don't worry I ditched the lead reclamation idea back in post #4


I think I'll just buy bullets for now!!
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Old November 18, 2012, 08:52 AM   #10
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I know of two men who got a very small amount of Arsine gas. This was not from batteries, but the results are the same.
One took a medical retirement and died within the following year from complications of the poisoning.
The other is still working with some severe heart tissue damage.
He went in for multiple blood replacement transfusions in the weeks following the incident.

The worst part was none of this was their fault, a cleaner had been used that was not supposed to be. When they were welding on the section of pipeline they got arsine gas in the smoke burning off from the cleaner.

Batteries are a really bad idea, James Pond I know you ditched the idea, I'm putting this up for anyone else who may think this is a good way to get lead.
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Old November 18, 2012, 09:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
I thought the same thing a couple years ago.According to my research there is no safe way to extract the lead from a lead acid battery without some serious chemistry. The regents necessary aren't readily available to consumers.
I have to correct this; baking soda naturalizes acid and a battery can be dismantled BUT the lead you will get might not be the same mix and hardness for bullet casting. Casting lead has a lot of fumes and scagg so if you wanted to try you might be better off just buying some
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Old November 18, 2012, 09:36 AM   #12
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I have to correct you right back: Simply neutralizing the wet acid won't make it safe. The baking soda doesn't remove the cadmium or strontium nor the arsine or stabine that was formed by arsenic and antimony in the alloy reacting with the acid previously. The cost of acid getting onto and destroying clothing is pretty minor compared to the medical and/or funeral costs associated with tissue damage caused by vapors of those other compounds or their oxides or their sulfates.
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Old November 18, 2012, 09:39 AM   #13
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I got $9 and change from the scrap metal dealer for a group size 78 car battery last year. That's twice what a battery place would have given me for it.

Batteries don't contain much lead; they have lead oxide and lead sulfate in them. It *can* be converted back to metallic lead, but not easily and not safely. Take the money and run.
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Old November 18, 2012, 09:54 AM   #14
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YES!! What Unclenick said. And further, dont try and extract the external posts, I've seen this cause an explosion. That particular task is best left to professionals with the correct equipment to handle such hazerdous materials.
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Old November 18, 2012, 10:05 AM   #15
Pond, James Pond
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Battery in bin!!
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Old November 18, 2012, 12:10 PM   #16
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For those of us old enough to remember the batteries that had to be checked regularly, then refilled with distilled water. Those type of batteries were a good source of lead, and the only hazard was the sulfuric acid.

Modern maintenance-free batteries have the above listed added chemicals to make them never need filling. In fact, they are sealed permanently, no way to check the water/electrolyte levels.
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Old November 20, 2012, 12:22 PM   #17
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SO ,,,,

I'm thinkin the best and by far safest way to get lead from that battery is this...

My local scrapper is paying $12.00 for used car batteries. At an average price of $1.00 per lb. for processed lead I would be getting near 12 lbs. of lead using the money from the sale of the battery. No hours spent trying to recover lead, no cost in time or matierials smelting and fluxing the lead, no medical bills or final resting place exspenses incurred from processing toxic matierials, just a smooth, easy, and cheaper way to get to the bottom line...
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Old November 20, 2012, 03:33 PM   #18
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old window weights and wheel weights are a good source of lead without all the chemicals
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Old November 20, 2012, 04:48 PM   #19
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After reading all of this, I think I'd rather get lead from my pencil. Or my brother's lead foot. Or I think I must have a lead butt, because growing up all I heard was to get the lead out and get my butt in gear...
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Old November 20, 2012, 10:21 PM   #20
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Quote:
For those of us old enough to remember the batteries that had to be checked regularly, then refilled with distilled water. Those type of batteries were a good source of lead, and the only hazard was the sulfuric acid.

Modern maintenance-free batteries have the above listed added chemicals to make them never need filling. In fact, they are sealed permanently, no way to check the water/electrolyte levels.
Modern maintenance-free batteries have Calcium in the lead which makes the recovered lead from them as bad for casting as would be Zinc in the lead. If you mix such lead alloy with your bullet alloy, you will end up with a great deal of lead alloy that will not cast a usable bullet.
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Old November 20, 2012, 10:24 PM   #21
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...After reading all of this, I think I'd rather get lead from my pencil...
There is no lead in a pencil. The "Lead" in a pencil is made up of Carbon, Wax and Clay, in varying amounts depending upon the hardness number.
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Old November 21, 2012, 11:15 AM   #22
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Good point on the calcium. It hadn't occurred to me, but on reflection that may be necessary to forming the high surface area sponge by increasing surface tension to discourage easy flow and wetting by molten lead.
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Old November 21, 2012, 07:01 PM   #23
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I have a friend that his dad worked at a place that recycled car batteries. We talked about melting down a few to make counter balance weights for a race car. He over heard us. He came up and said in exact words. "Do not even think about trying that anywhere near me, or this property. It is not worth it."

He explained about the sulfur and other chemicals in the batteries made highly toxic gas. The resulting gas could also turn to acid when in contact with any water like the tears in ones eyes reverting back into acid. Also within the lungs. He said doing so would be similar to the pour and run method of making meth. It has blinded, and killed more than few people.

So I urge anyone that is thinking about melting batteries to consider the fact that they are running the risk or blindness, and/or death. It is not worth it.
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Old November 23, 2012, 11:08 PM   #24
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Hey folks,

I have been casting bullets for over 50 years, and I have always thought about getting the lead out of car batteries. The thing is, wheel weights were always in plentiful supply, and I never went to all the work of taking a car battery apart - it just was not worth the effort.

Over all those years, I have always read that that God would immediately kill your whole family if you even thought twice about getting the lead out of batteries. Well, some folks might say that I have always been a "willful" person. Actually, if my parents were alive, they would tell you I was always something much worse than "willful," but I would not want to put their words in writing.

Last year I finally got tired of reading everybody tell how unsafe it was, and I had a big truck battery that finally went bad after 12 years of continuous use, so I decided I was going to get the lead out of that battery.

After covering myself in old cotton clothing that I could then throw away, I emptied the liquid inside by pouring it on an old tree stump I wanted to go away, and then I rinsed the battery with water about a dozen times. Using a saw, I cut the battery case into pieces so I could get to the plates inside. The cells were made up of several series of plates seperated by some kind of insulating films. The plates were not simply lead plates. Instead, they were a kind of mesh with diamond shaped pieces of something heavy filling the mesh. The cells were connected by solid lead pieces that eventually tied into the two main terminals. The "lead" mesh plates were heavy like lead, but they sure did not look like lead. The connecting pieces and terminals were obviously lead.

I collected all the "lead" mesh plates and the other lead pieces and put them in a dry place for a few weeks to insure there was no water hidden in there anywhere. I then got out my big smelting crock and started heating the "lead" mesh plates. I did it in my shed with a small fan behind me and small fan in front of me to insure a small amout of airflow in one direction - to the outdoors.

While I did manage to safely take the battery apart and smelt the heavy material inside, I did not get any real lead whatsoever other than the obvious connection pieces and terminals. All the material in those heavy "lead" mesh plates obviously were not any kind of lead I have ever used. I heated those plates for hours at very high heat, and all that happened is that the diamond shaped mesh melted while the diamond shaped pieces of metal in the mesh simply turned to something that looked like dirt. I know the material was some form of lead because it was as heavy as lead. When I put some of the "dirt" in some melted lead, the "dirt" went to the bottom of the pot instead of floating on top as dross normally would.

Whatever it was, it was not something I could use to make bullets. I guess I could have set the acetylene torch to it to see if it would melt if I got it hotter, but I had already spent more time and effort on the project than it was worth.

My conclusions were that I had no idea of what the heavy stuff inside batteries was, but it sure was not future bullets. I also figured even if I had recovered usuable lead, it simply would not have been worth the effort involved - not to mention the extra risks involved. Maybe some chemist would know what form of lead compound was inside the battery, and maybe that chemist might be able to convert it into some form of usable lead, but that was way beyond my experience and capability.

I would also go so far as to say it is not even worth messing with batteries to get the very small amount of regular lead in the connecting parts and terminals. There simply is not enough lead in those parts to go to all the work of getting them out of the case.

So, that's my story, and that is why trying to get lead from batteries is not for me.

Best wishes,
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Old November 23, 2012, 11:46 PM   #25
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It was lead oxide and lead sulfate. You'd have to roast it at very high heat with carbon monoxide (can get that just from mixing in charcoal or wood or oil) to convert it back to lead, and it would stink like the dickens from the sulfur dioxide and probably kill any trees downwind. When you're all done unless it's a really old battery the lead will be contaminated with calcium and who-knows-what. Not much good for bullets but might be good for something.

Here comes the most dangerous part: If you mix calcium-lead with the antimony-lead from wheel weights, the calcium and antimony will bind together and make a bunch of slag. So you skim that off -- and if that slag ever gets wet it gives off a flammable poison gas (stibine.)
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