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Old December 4, 2010, 02:39 AM   #1
Shoney
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An open question on costs of bullet casting.

An open question on costs of bullet casting.
Another thread on the costs of reloading got me thinking of costs other than - cases – bullets – powder – primer - and related loading tools. The real saving is to cast your own.

1. Has anyone calculated in the “energy costs” for smelting, mixing alloy, and keeping the lead at temperature during pour?

2. If so - - How do you calculate those “energy costs” costs?

3. Are these costs significant? In the range of a penny a bullet? More? Less?

4. Casting equipment must also be factored in. So how do you amortize per shot:
- - - -furnace, pot, dipper, molds, flux, release compound, lubrisizer, lubrisizer heater, lube, molds, and ??? other?
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Last edited by Shane Tuttle; December 4, 2010 at 05:30 PM. Reason: bullet...
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:04 AM   #2
JohnMoses
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Lets say the pot is 1.5KW (1500watts). @10cents a KWH, if the element ran constantly (it doesn't), a 3 hour sesion would cost 45cents and produce hundreds of bullets depending on mold & caliber. I've never paid a nickle for lead, so for me it's a no brainer. Lube is about the same, again depending on size & type.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:27 AM   #3
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If you are that concerned with the various factors of casting, you sound like you are looking for a financial justification for not doing so. We old poor folks started casting in the sixties because we could not afford to shoot factory ammo. Take it on faith that it is VERY much cheaper. Take our word for it.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:39 AM   #4
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Just as with reloading, there are more reasons to do it yerself than saving money. For me, it is knowing I am getting what I want.
But, since my primary 'bullet' is pure lead round balls for traditional muzzle loaders, I definitely save money by pouring my own.
I try to scrounge my lead for free but may soon have to buy some from a metal recycling place.
You have to weigh the factors and decide for yourself.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:43 AM   #5
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I havent figured cost per kilowatt...but... I know that I can cast a 100 rds of bullets for my 500 magnum for around a single dollar...and the cast ones that a person can buy are around thirty bucks per hundred...and the jacketed ones to buy cost around thirty bucks per fifty....I know that is saving money no matter how you look at it.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:49 AM   #6
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My interest is also piqued. Might be time for me to give it a shot. So to speak.

Another question, though: Can you make jacketed rounds?

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Old December 4, 2010, 09:54 AM   #7
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not that IM aware of.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:55 AM   #8
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For the cost of operating your melting pot there are three basic variables:
• the price of electricity
• the power consumption of the pot, and
• your production rate.

For an example let's assume:
• Your electricity rate is $0.08* per kilowatt hour ($/kWh), and
• Your pot consumes 700-watts.
I'm SWAGing (scientific wild-ass guess) your pot runs full power for half an hour to get up to temp and then the thermostat has it on for 75% of the time.
So, to get your pot up to temp it costs 0.7kW x 0.5h x 0.08$/kWh = $0.028 or 2.8 cents.
And for continued operation it costs 0.7kW(x 0.75) x 0.08$/kWh = 0.042$/h or 4.2 cents per hour.
How much does it cost to cast 1,000 boolits?
• Let's SWAG you cast a slow and steady 1 bullet per minute. So 1,000 boolits requires (1,000m/60m/h) 16.67 hours.
The power would cost you 2.8(warm up) + 4.2 x 16.67(run) = 73 cents for 1,000.
Divide by the number of boolits, 73/1,000 = .073 cents per boolit.

I don't know about you, but I don't cast at 1 boolit/minute. With a 6-hole mold, a dozen/minute is a leisurely pace. Also, there's the time consumed adding more lead and fluxing the pot. My solution is to run two pots at the same time so I have little interruptions.
So with a base of .073 cents per boolit, I have to double the amount because of my two pots, and then divide by 12 because of my faster rate:
2 x 0.073/12 = 0.012 cents per boolit.
YMMV
Similar math could be applied to my hot lube/sizer, but I don't know it's power consumption. Since it has a littly whimpy power cord I'm SWAGing it can't be very much. As far as amortizing my boolit making gear, I figure at penny a boolit I broke even long ago.

* electric rates.
If your electric company is like mine (San Diego Gas and Electric), there is no simple electric rate. I downloaded a full page of schedules. Based on an energy cost of 0.0515$/kWh, the rates change based on time of year, consumption, connection category, etc...
I used 0.08$/kWh as a rough average. Whatever your rates, casting energy cost is probably in the neighborhood of 1/10 cent per boolit.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:56 AM   #9
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I use my kitchen stove when working with ingots. It may add a dollar or two to my gas bill a month. When melting down the wheel weights I melt them outside with a propane fired camp stove. Cost to melt 200 pounds of lead was less than $5.
Wheel weights cost me a 12 pack of Bud Light, and a bag of ice. Showed up on friday a few minutes before closing time said I would trade a bucket of ice cold beer for a bucket of wheel weights. They load them in the truck every time.
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Old December 4, 2010, 10:15 AM   #10
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Both of my lee pots are 800 watt units. My KW/HR is 0.1198. Since I figure the pot is on only about half the time I'm casting *, a 4 hour session might cost 50 cents. In that 4 hour session, I could cast 2,000 bullets using a six hole mold. If you want everything to have a price, you do the math, I just got up, the coffee hasn't worked yet!

As for lube, it almost has no cost. I weighed a 45/70 boolit before and after lubing. The lube weighed 3.0 grains! A 45 acp boolit with less that half as big a lube groove, and only one instead of 3 big ones, would be less that a grain.

As for the Lyman 450 sizer, what it cost 40 years ago, I don't know. It has since lubed 10,000+ bullets, maybe more like 20,000. I don't keep records that precise. Yes, you do have to buy dies and top punches when doing a new bullet.

Most of my bullets are tumble lubed, even the types that were meant to be lubed by a Lyman sizer. For standard loads in semi-auto handguns, it works just fine. I doubt you could figure the cost-per-boolit for tumble lubing. A bottle of lee liquid alox is $4.49 @ midway. That one bottle will lube a LOT of bullets, depends on how heavy you apply it.

I smelt using a turkey fryer and cast iron pot. The propane has a cost of around $20.00 a bottle/tank. I can smelt about 400 pounds of range lead or much more clean lead per tank. Figuring out cost per pound could be done, but I don't.

I've been lucky getting lead. I cleaned out an indoor range, the result was a TON of good bullet metal. A friend at work that knows I cast bullets, told me of a machine that had a huge lead counterweight had been scrapped out. The weights were 90 pounds each, and were nearly pure lead. I got 15 of them,,,,---- FREE!

You buy molds, accessories for casting KNOWING the bullets are going to be cheaper than you can buy. I don't have to know every penny I spend to get a usable bullet to know that. Even IF I could buy lead bullets like I use, I would still make my own. I have control over everything. I know the alloy, I choose the lube, I choose the sizing, shape, style, get the picture?

*Yeah, I know the element is on constantly when heating up, or when I add cold lead, but when it's up to temp, the on time is less than the off time.
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Old December 4, 2010, 11:43 AM   #11
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YES you can make your own jacketed rounds. That is quite expensive to get set up with a STURDY press and the different dies. Corbin makes good quality stuff, from what I have heard.
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Old December 4, 2010, 04:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Another question, though: Can you make jacketed rounds?
It is called: "Swaging". As mentioned above, Corbin makes the equipment, sells the lead wire and jacket material to make the bullets.
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Old December 4, 2010, 04:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Quote:
Another question, though: Can you make jacketed rounds?
It is called: "Swaging". As mentioned above, Corbin makes the equipment, sells the lead wire and jacket material to make the bullets.
RCBS got their start many years ago making equipment to recycle spent .22 rimfire cases into jacket bullets.
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Old December 4, 2010, 09:22 PM   #14
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You can also make jacketed bullets like ammosmith does.
http://www.youtube.com/ammosmith#p/u/5/t8LDGMTA5WE
A friend of mine uses old 308 case to make jackets for his 35 Whelen.
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Old December 5, 2010, 04:44 AM   #15
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My interest is also piqued.
Mine isn't.

Knowing the power consumption of my Lee pot doesn't fire my imagination with green thoughts of electrical savings. Realizing that my wife leaves lights on all over the house pretty much would kill any fantasies of power savings from my reloading gear.
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Old December 5, 2010, 11:43 AM   #16
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Anybody that has to figure electricity costs into what cast bullets end up costing, had better be loading in the dark, taking cold showers, and washing clothes by hand and hanging them outside to dry.

There certainly IS some cost involved. Just as there is in what it takes to just live. I turn lights on when I enter a room, and off when I'm leaving. I suppose I'm saving money, but mainly I'm just too frugal to waste energy.

It may be fun to figure it out for some people. I struggled with math while in school, I avoid it now just to stay sane,(and to avoid the inevitable headache).!

I made the mistake of adding up what I spent in the last 8 years, just at midway. Came to over 10G! I looked around the man cave, just couldn't see where it went. Then I realized how many spent primers were it the scrap brass bucket! OIC, that's were it went! PRICELESS!
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Old December 5, 2010, 03:00 PM   #17
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Guys! Thanks for the posts, as it give me a new perspective.

dahermit
It may surprise you, but I started casting in the early 60's as well. I started in the winter, in the basement. My first flux, on my first smelting of wheel weights, I used deer fat as flux (works well, but OHHHHH THE SMELL.). My mother informed me that even though it was my first casting session indoor, it was also my last time casting indoors.

zippy13
I like the Scientific in SWAG, because, as a teenager, I made
STUPID Wild Arse Guesses, just loosely figuring $0.02 a boolit for equipment, electricity, gas for Coleman stove, and et cetera.

snuffy
I have days when the coffee never kicks in. Yeah! Electricity is cheep, and the water heater is the highest single electrical expense in the home. To save energy, keep the water heater off until 15 min before you shower, then turn off. The shower of curdley luke warm turning to cold water will make you tough and put hair in yer ears.

I think I'm going to try the tumble lube.
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Old December 5, 2010, 03:03 PM   #18
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Quote:
tumble lube
Which can be done by hand....in the dark if need be..... no electrical costs.... J/K
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Old December 5, 2010, 08:46 PM   #19
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The best I could figure less MY time was $.02 each for 44s

But the trick is to shoot enuff to recoup the spending on equipment

& to see total savings on reloading & casting ya gotta figure cost/rnd .
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Old December 6, 2010, 03:49 AM   #20
Rangefinder
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Cost to start casting your own bullets (boolits): Just a little more on top of what you've already spent on reloading equipment.

Time spent on the new addition: more than you'll ever really have available, but who is counting.

Money saved by your new investment: NONE---Because you'll just start shooting a WHOLE LOT MORE for the same money spent.

Things that happen to you after becoming a caster:
---You'll never view a tire store the same way again.
---Your wife will plan shopping routes to avoid tire stores she knows you'll want to stop at. (It's ok--you'll find other new ones during the detours that you didn't know about before).
---Your forehead will gain a prominent wrinkle as you develop the "scrutinizing gaze"
---If you live in snow country, you will never use sand for weight again (my wife has about 150# of WW's in the back of her car )

There are LOTS more, but why spoil it all so soon! You'll find out...
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