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Old April 3, 2005, 12:28 PM   #1
novus collectus
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How to make hard lead?

I am now on a serious budget and I have to scrounge. ($8,000 to the dentist, $2000 trip to Europe, $300-$700 M1 garand soon hopefully......). When I was very short of money when I was young we used to collect lead tire weights from gas stations and take them to recycling yard. One of the last things I have ordered is a lee loader and a bullet mold. I was wondering about what I should add to the soft tire weight lead to make it hard? I know that I can remove some of the lead's impurities by skimming the top off of the molten lead but what amount of tin (or whatever else) to add to the molten metal after I do this?

Or, is there a place to buy lead that is cheap and already has been mixed to be a harder lead mixture? I have tried to do a search on TFL for this info but I didn't see enough info that was easy to find.

Also, what is chilled shot mean? Do they do what they do to steel to make it harder and heat it up to near molten and then quickly quench it? Would it be feasible to do this to my .45 acp bullets?
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Old April 3, 2005, 12:51 PM   #2
BillCA
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I'd be careful using today's wheel weights.

Due to environmental concerns some of the weights I've seen lately are not made out of lead -- or at least the soft lead of years gone by. They seem to be some kind of alloy. Someone else might be able to provide more info.

Antimony (an-tim'-onee) is what has been typically used to harden soft lead bullets. Any of the guides for casting bullets should be able to give you the proper ratios for a desired hardness.
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Old April 3, 2005, 03:01 PM   #3
Edward429451
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I had been adding a one pound roll of 50/50 solder to 10 or 20 lbs of WW's to harden them but have been advised that its probably too much tin and likely wont help. When you cast if you drop the bullets out of the mould, drop them into a five gal bucket filled with water (with a few car sponges in it to break their fall) and this will go further to hardening them than anyhthing else. I haven't tried that yet but plan to on a day when the skies will hold.

When you skim the dirt/impurities off the pot...flux it first because the tin will seperate and rise to the top to look like dirt and you want it to stay in there. Fluxing it first will blend it and leave just the dirt to be skimmed.
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Old April 3, 2005, 03:07 PM   #4
novus collectus
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thanks a lot Bill Ca and Edward429.... but what do you use for flux and do you mix it with the lead thile it is melting? And where can I purchase antimony BillC CA? I tried Brownells but I didn't see it.
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Old April 3, 2005, 03:19 PM   #5
beenthere
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Wheelweights

I've read that if you set your leadpot to below 700 degrees the lead weights will melt but the other alloy weights will float to the top and can be scooped out. I know that's what happens with the steel clips. There's also a process for hardening bullets after they are cast by putting them in a oven for an hour (I think) at around 250 degrees, then lifting the tray to the sink & cooling with gently running water. They need to sit for at least a few days to around a month for the hardening process to complete (Don't ask me why) and the hardening lasts for about a year. Then it begins to deteriorate? Never tried it but I will by next year.
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Old April 3, 2005, 03:21 PM   #6
Edward429451
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I use candle wax for flux always have. Never a shortage of candle stubs. When the lead is melted, even before you skim off the WW clips, toss in a small chunk of wax and usually it bursts into flames by itself from the heat & fire (which is good b/c it keeps it from smoking a lot, but it can be ignited with a match etc too) and immediately begin stirring with the dipper, taking care to stir a little air into the mixture with the scoop. Dunno why, but I've always heard to do that and just do it.

Then the lead mixture will take on a mirror finish and the dirt can be skimmed off. Reflux whenever it looks like it needs it.

Print shops that use the older type equipment that uses antimony generate scrap antimony. I used to know a guy with a print shop, but he closed it so no more free antimony for me.

If you decide to try quenching the bullets into water as I suggested, careful. A drop of water in a pot of molten lead will cause a small explosion of lead that will empty the pot from the rapid expansion. And wear gloves and long sleeves, molten lead is much more dangerous than cold lead b/c it will absorb right through your skin.

Good casting!
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Old April 3, 2005, 03:34 PM   #7
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Once again thanks a lot, to all of you.
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Old April 3, 2005, 03:55 PM   #8
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For some really good information on bullet casting go here .....http://castboolits.gunloads.com/index.php
Its a good site with a lot of good people with years of experience
castinf their own.
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Old April 3, 2005, 06:28 PM   #9
Robert Allison
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Back in the 50s & 60s and even into the 70s my dad and I got linotype metal from a local printer pretty cheap, and cast some great bullets directly from that. It was lead alloyed with antimony. Can't get it anymore, but I've decided that the hassle and potential dangers of casting are simply not worth the savings, so buy 'store-boughts' now.
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Old April 3, 2005, 10:41 PM   #10
drinks
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WW's

Unless your state has an environmental law that does not allow lead based ww's, they should be a mixture of lead and antimony.
This will make good bullets for everything short of medium and up rifle or really hot pistol velocities, adding a small amount of Tin will help make casting easier.
Lead free plumber's solder is 95% Tin and 5% antimony, adding 1 lb to 50 pounds ww's is about right.
Here, ww's are free at service stations and tire stores, some places do charge, but very little.
Casting is not difficult, but you should check out some of the cast bullet sites and learn some of the safety rules and tricks for good casting.
Have fun, Don
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Old April 3, 2005, 10:47 PM   #11
Leftoverdj
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Wheel weights are the foundation for most of us. WW+2% tin seems to be the most used alloy and is very similar to 6-1 WW-Lino. When available, reclaimed shot with a percent or two of tin added is a great alloy.

Any of these are suitable for all but the hottest of pistol loads when air-cooled and also work well in milder rifle loads. If you just drop them into a bucket of water as you cast and age a week, they will work up around 40k psi.

For the limits of cast bullet performance, you bake the bullets for an hour at just under their slump point and water quench. Ovens vary so a little experimentation is in order. 435 indicated degrees is right for my oven.

Mail order alloys have been out of the question for most of us because of freight costs which can easily double costs. Freight is not prohibitive for tin or antimony because of the much smaller quantities involved. The newish USPS flat rate priority mail box may make buying alloys more feasible since 70 pounds can be shipped anywhere in the country for $7.70, but sellers have been slow going to that method.
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Old April 4, 2005, 01:21 AM   #12
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Novus, what caliber are you shooting?

The reason I ask is because for pistol shooting (the majority of casting falls into this category) wheel weights are all you will ever need to cast.

Wheel weights, as is, is what I have been using for years. I load two primary bullets cast from wheelweights.

These are 250 grain Keith-type SWC for .44 Mag, sized to .430, on top of 8.5 of Unique. Any primer will do. Great accuracy out of my gun.

The next is my main practice load: 200 gr LSWC (HG 68), sized to .452, on top of either 3.6 of Clays for Bullseye shooting, or 4.3 of HP38 for general practice.

I have not had leading problems at all when using these bullets. Good luck!
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Old April 4, 2005, 10:30 AM   #13
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I wouldn't worry about making the lead harder if you are starting with W/Ws. I've shot hundreds of of bullets cast from straight w/ws through my 30-06 and a few thousand through my .45 with no problems of leading. Bullets that are too hard or undersized are going to cause the majority of leading problems, not soft lead.

Make sure you make the bullets big enough:
Slug your bore.
measure the groove diameter of the slugs- this will be the largest dimension of the slugs.
Pick a mould that casts at least a thou bigger than the groove diameter of your barrel. A .452" mould should work.
I highly recommend the Lee sizing die and liquid alox lube. You lube the bullets by putting them in a ziplock freezer bag, put a little liquid alox in the bag and work over the bullets. Set your bullets on a piece of tinfoil and allow to dry- do this out in the garage if possible, the stuff is smelly. Run them through a .452 sizing die, its not necessary, but it straightens out out-of round-bullets and makes it pretty easy to spot bullets that dropped from the mould undersized so you can cull them. Relube the bullets and load them up.

When you melt your w/ws down, make sure to do this outside on a very dry day. You'll get tons of nasty smoke from the grease, tar, oil, and rubber burning off them. Don't add fresh w/ws to a pot of molten lead, there's no telling if there is moisture trapped on or in one of the weights. Pick the clips out with a pair of needle nose pliers. Put a crayon, piece of candle, or even a handful of very dry sawdust into the pot and stir it under and thoroughly scrub the sides of the pot. You'll get a bunch of gritty ashy scum that will accumulate at the top- skim this off and put it in a cofee can for disposal.

As far as the worrisome zinc w/ws go, I've melted down 3-5gallon pails full of w/ws so far with not a one eco-friendly weight spoiling the pot.
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Old April 4, 2005, 03:46 PM   #14
Powderman
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If anyone's interested, I posted a small series on THR some time ago about casting bullets. It is geared toward the beginning caster. If you folks want, I can post them here.
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Old April 4, 2005, 04:10 PM   #15
novus collectus
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Powder man,
.45 acp and since I am currently reloading .45 colt as well I will start casting for them as well when I run out of the box of 500, 250gr, store bought cast bullets I have now. The .45 colt are too heavy I think and I ordered the mold for 230gr bullets or maybe a few grains less. Since I am using the .45 acp in an old 1911, I will not load to too high a pressure and no +p loads. I bought a pound of unique for starting just two weeks ago and I plan on using unique for my .45 colt as well. And I read about the possible advantages of the liquid lube over the wax-like lube and was thinking about using that too.

I can probably jerry rig something for sluggin my bore but what is the proper way?

If you can point me to the right place to look for your post on THR then that would be good. I quickly looked at the castboolits.gunloads website that was linked earlier in this thread and liked what I saw there as well.

I want to thank everyone again and I keep printinga hard copy more and more of this thread for reference and I keep adding more info that I know I will need and use with great gratitude to all of y'all.

P.S. how does a sizing die work?
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Old April 4, 2005, 06:39 PM   #16
cracked butt
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For slugging, take a lead egg fishing sinker larger than the groove diameter of the barrel and gently tap it into the bore- I use a plastic hammer. Use lots of lube on the lead, and lube the bore also with gun oil or 3-in-1 oil. You can run the slug all the way through to get the smallest bore/groove dimension, or you can tap it into the the chamber/ throat end, then tap it back out, and do the same with another slug on the muzzle end.

Lee sizing dies look very similar to reloading dies- they screw into you reloading press like a regular die. There is a pistol shaped device that attaches to the ram of the press that you simply set the bullet on and push it up through the die. The die is a more or less a hollow tube with a constriction in it to squeaze the bullet down.
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Old April 4, 2005, 06:44 PM   #17
novus collectus
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Thanks.

But the for the second half of your suggetstion it doesn't apply to me since the lee loader I use (and the one I ordered) are the $20 ones that you do everything with a hammer (I wear ear plugs when I "pound" the primer in) and no vice.
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Old April 4, 2005, 10:07 PM   #18
drinks
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Lead

Novus;
It is nice you do not have any vice [s].
You should get a vise, really handy,Check vendors such as Midway and Southern Shooters Supply, often have very good prices on the Lee 2nd ed. reloading handbook with a Lee basic c frame press for about $20, +-, one of these will provide an inexpensive basis for many expansions and editions.
A Lee sizing die is easy to use, just lube the bullets, apply gas checks if applicable, push the bullet through and load up.
Lee dies are very inexpensive, and if you follow instructions, which a number of people have a hard time doing, will do what you need and last a long time.
I have Lee loaders from the early '60's which are still very servicable.
I also have dies from C&H, RCBS, Lyman, Pacific AND Lee.
All will do the job, you just need to read the instructions and pay attention.
A Lee auto prime will aleviate your fears while priming, I have used one since the '70's and have not had a primer go off yet.
Don
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Old April 4, 2005, 10:30 PM   #19
novus collectus
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I looked at the lee vices online and I don't know which does what and so forth. I'll have to research it. I always figured that the prices were too good to be true and stayed away from them for fear of getting something that I couldn't use. You have made me reconsider this and I also had the same misgivings buying my leeloader (the one w/o a vice) and was pleased to find that my anxiety was unfounded in that instance.






P.S. If someone that has the habit of making infomercials in the marketing game that is out of control, is that an "ad-vice"? heh heh

Was Bill Clinton the REAL "vice" president? heh heh

Does a mathmetician use add-vice to help him with his number "crunching"? heh heh.............alright I'll stop now.
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Old April 5, 2005, 08:36 AM   #20
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Novus: Check out the forums here, look for "Bullet Casting--A Quick Start" I hope you'll find it helpful.
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Old April 5, 2005, 03:01 PM   #21
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Tin and Antimony

Go easy on the tin. It is used to help the bullets fill out NOT harden the bullet. In truth it will harden the bullet but tin has a lower melting point so it will melt and you will solder your barrel. What you want is a small amount of Antimony it will harden the bullet at a higher melting point than lead but you cant add it to your pot because a home pot will not heat enough to mix in antimony. Luckily the answer is in the wheel weights. They already have enough antimony in them. The antimony is what allows you to drop your hot bullets in a bucket and water quench harden them. RCBS cast bullet manual has a great article about temper hardening bullets by baking them in your oven and water quenching them. Remember too much tin just makes solder.
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Old April 6, 2005, 09:37 PM   #22
drinks
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reloading

Novus;
For about $80 plus shipping, You can get a Lee anniversary kit with reloading manual, add a die set to this and you are good to go for about $100 plus shipping, Get a Lee catalog or look at the Lee catalog on line and find all kinds of goodies.
Don ;D
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