View Full Version : Do-It-Yourself Felt Wad Making

May 29, 2010, 08:11 PM
Yes, this is yet another thread about making wads for your cap-n-ball BP revolver. Lubricated felt wads can be used in the loading process to provide several advantages over plain cap-powder-ball loading. Specifically, among these advantages are:

1. Added sealing of the chamber to further reduce risk of chain fire.
2. Lubrication to aid in softening of powder residue/fouling.
3. Less messy as compare to grease/crisco/oil on top of the ball.
4. Scrubbing/cleansing effect as the hard felt wad travels down the barrel.

There are those who may frown upon the use of lubricated felt wads preferring to either load plain cap-powder-ball or to smear grease over the ball. We do know that highly respected sources have recommended the use of a lubricated felt wad since at least 1930 (http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=402325&highlight=wads). Something tells me the smart fella who gave that advice probably learned that from some old timer's who learned it well before the 1930's.

The purpose of this thread is to provide some information to those too cheap, like myself, to buy pre-made lubricated wads and who prefer a more economical solution.

What you will need:

1. Felt

A perfect inexpensive source for the type of felt you want to use can be found at Duro-Felt (http://www.durofelt.com/image_26.html). You want to use a product that is 100% wool and is hard/dense felt such as the FM1812H product. I placed an order with Duro-Felt online and received it in my mailbox two days later (Arkansas to Florida). That 12" x 36" piece for $12 is enough to punch out over 1500 wads of .44/.45 caliber or over 2100 wads of .36/.380 caliber. I passed on the local Goodwill store as a source for cheap felt. I didn't want to deal with guessing the hardness or thickness of old used wool hats or trenchcoats or any critters that may or may not reside in said source of felt.

2. Punches

For punches a great solution are the hollow punch set found at Harbor Freight (http://www.harborfreight.com/9-piece-hollow-punch-set-3838.html). Typically only $5.99 but often cheaper on sale at $4.99 or with the use of a coupon.

3. Lubricant

For lubricant there are going to be many varying opinions on what to use. For the purpose of keeping it simple here I'm going to specify the use of real beeswax mixed with Crisco shortening. Generally a 50-50 mix but vary it to suit your needs or temperature requirements. Also, you may consider using Bore Butter as your lubricant as it would appear that lubricated Wonder Wads use just plain ol' BB. There are many sources for beeswax online. Generally, the beeswax prices are reasonable but when you add shipping costs it can double the overall price. One readily available local source, for many, is Michael's Crafts (http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayArticle?articleNum=as0096). They generally charge around $18 for a pound of pure beeswax but be smart and use a 40% or 50% coupon (http://printable.couponfeed.net/stores/michaels/128b6e05571f933f.html) to get the cost down to reasonable levels.

Below is a pic of the HF punch set. It comes with 9 hollow punches. For my purposes only two of the punches are of interest. Specifically, the 3/8" (0.375") and the 7/16" (0.4375") punches. The 3/8" punch serves the .36 caliber revolvers and the 7/16" serves the .44/.45 caliber revolvers. Some of you will be able to make good use of the 1/2" (0.500") punch.


The 0.4375" diameter of the 7/16" punch isn't quite large enough to satisfy my need for a .45 caliber wad. So, using my trusty grinder bit that fits my Dremel tool I decided to open up the diameter to something more suitable for .45 caliber revolvers.


I increased the diameter of the 7/16" punch to 0.455". It only took a couple of minutes to do this with the Dremel tool. While I was at it I decided to increase the diameter of the 3/8" punch from 0.375" to 0.380". Just enough to make the cutting edge really sharp.


Next, it was just a matter of sitting in front of the TV with mindless TV on and punching out the wads. I used an old chunk of a cedar tree to punch on top of. The punches, after increasing their diameters, are so sharp it doesn't take much effort to punch out the hard felt. In a matter of a 20 minutes I was able to punch out hundreds of wads. You can use a chunk of 4x4 or 2x6 as your cutting surface to punch on top of.


The last step is to lubricate your felt wads with your choice of lubricant. The easy way may be to use Bore Butter like the Wonder Wad brand uses. My concoction is a mix of beeswax and Crisco as explained above. Our expert member, Gatofeo, has an old time recipe he has shared time and time again which is apparently one that is hard to beat in terms of performance.

With the lubricant in a melted liquid form it is just a matter of dipping/soaking the un-lubricated felt wads in the solution sufficiently. Remove the soaked felt wad while the lubricant is still dripping hot and let cool. Some of you have complained that you didn't think that lubricated Wonder Wads had enough lubricant on them. Here is your chance to make some wads that are really loaded up with lubricant.

If anyone has cheaper or better sources for materials please chime in. This post isn't meant to be a "this way or the highway" type post. Rather, it is one cheapskate's method to make lubricated felt wads by giving actual sources/links for materials.

May 29, 2010, 08:50 PM
clembert, thanks for the Duro-Felt site. I've been using old hats for years, but there's usually a bunch of waste cause of the shape of the brims etc plus they're not as common as they used to be. My punch table is a nylon cutting board I stole from our kitchen one night....got found out the next day and replaced it ASAP!!! The key to a happy marriage is a happy wife :-) !!

May 29, 2010, 09:41 PM
Look up your local county extension service or agriculture cooperative. They will know where the beekeepers in your area are. Beekeepers will often give beeswax away; it's a surplus item for them - they can't sell it and can't use it over. You may wish to melt it down and filter it through cheesecloth before using it in your lube recipe, but in reality the unfiltered stuff will work just as well.

May 29, 2010, 11:01 PM
I'm doing the same thing (same punch and felt source), except I use a different lube. I use a mix of paraffin, beeswax (we used to keep bees) and lanolin. I put the felt and the lube in a pan, and into the oven at 190. In a few minutes the felt has absorbed it all. Then, I shake them out before the lube stiffens.

Why do I do this? In my LGS, wonder wads are 10-cents each!!!

The next time I need to make more wads, I may try lubing them prior to punching. Oh, I don't punch on an old stump, I use a catalog or phone directory.

May 30, 2010, 04:21 AM
Buffalo Arms sells several different types of wad punches that already have the proper diameter:


I previously posted about making waxboard wads with the wad punches that I ordered with my Triple P Loader. The thinner wad material leaves more room in the chamber for loading extra powder and conicals.



And Smokin_Gun previously mentioned that he was using his Triple P to punch out wads from egg cartons which is a thick paperboard. So now I've been saving up some of that material too. When the material is "free" it helps to defray the cost of buying the more expensive punches.

See photos post #18:


At $18 per 1000, the Cabela's vegetable fiber wads are also relatively economical and come in two thicknesses.



Product page:


May 30, 2010, 09:46 AM
Those are some good links arcticap. :cool:

Those Buffalo Arms punches appear to be of good quality. Unfortunately, I'm too much of a cheapskate to shell out $18 for each punch. For me is was a matter of spending $5 (no shipping) for the punches at HF and spending a few minutes with the Dremel tool to make them exactly the size I wanted. Understandably, some folks don't have the Dremel tool or accessories to do that and thus the BA punches could be a great option for them.

Ideally, a Triple P loader with proper punch seems to be the cleanest and easiest way to punch out felt. When I save up enough spare change I might consider buying one. Seems like a great product. Thought I recently read though that the person selling these is not responding to orders (and may be taking money w/o shipping product) and isn't living up to the lifetime guarantee he advertises for his product. Maybe someone can comment on the facts of this...just saying I may have read this on a couple of threads somewhere.

I currently use 0.030 fiber wads when reloading BP 45 Colt cartridges (between the powder and bullet). I don't use them for cap-n-ball shooting as there isn't any lubricant on them. I wonder if fiber wads can be lubricated or can hold lubricant like a felt wad? For thinner felt wads one could order the 1/16" material instead of 1/8" as I specified. The 1/16" felt wads would be similar in thickness to the fiber wads mentioned by articap and therefore would give you an extra 0.060" of room for powder if desired; plus they can be lubricated.

BP Stuff (http://www.bpstuffllc.com/index.htm) seems to be the cheapest source for pre-made lubricate felt wads. However, they still aren't as cheap as making them yourself and you can't control the amount/type of lubrication yourself as when you do it yourself. But then again, for some folks the option isn't there to make their own so BP Stuff could be a great source.

I'm still not understanding the use of fiber wads, wax board wads, or egg carton wads within cap-n-ball shooting. As far as I can tell they are used to get the ball closer to the forcing cone when using less than full powder loads. But, I thought that was the reason for using cream-of-wheat or grits, et al. Maybe they help seal the cylinder too like a lubricated felt wad. The use of felt wads as a filler is something I didn't list in the OP but maybe I should have. I considered the lubrication on the felt wads as the "sealant" to help against chain fire similar to smearing grease over the ball.

Thanks for the other helpful comments fellas. Keep it coming.

May 30, 2010, 02:37 PM
I don't think that the lubricant in the wad is the sealing agent as much as the over powder wad is by itself. Its measure of effectiveness should be judged by how snug it fits up against the wall of the chamber.

Lubricant might help to a small degree too but it shouldn't be necessary to impregnate the wad with lube as a means of preventing chain fire.

May 30, 2010, 02:47 PM
What about just making some out of 90# felt?

May 30, 2010, 03:48 PM
I don't think that the lubricant in the wad is the sealing agent as much as the over powder wad is by itself

No but you want enough lube to keep fouling soft all the way through.

May 30, 2010, 03:58 PM
Some folks say that lube isn't even necessary when using 777, even after many shots have been fired.
I put a tiny amount over a ball or two per cylinder when using APP fffg and even that really isn't necessary.
I guess that it depends on the powder.

May 30, 2010, 04:05 PM
I'm still not understanding the use of fiber wads, wax board wads, or egg carton wads within cap-n-ball shooting.
My experience using those over powder and filler wads was with the old school way of loading shot shells 40+ years ago. There were many plastic wads avail for the popular loads; but, for for the odd balls it was the old way. They came out with a one-piece plastic wad/shot cup for the last of my loads about 35 years ago, and I've never gone back to individual wads.

May 30, 2010, 04:15 PM
Lubed wads do swab the bore with each shot to prevent the barrel from getting fouled with powder residue. But each powder is different by producing a different amount and type of residue. I would never be able to fit 40-45 grains of APP fffg powder into the 1858 chamber if it wasn't first rammed and compressed before the ball was loaded. A hard wad does provide a flat, firm surface for when compressing it with the greater force of a loading press.
More powder compression can result in more velocity and compressing it separately from the ball in 2 stages reduces the amount of stress on the hand and on the gun's loading lever components too.
The variation of thickness and hardness of the different wad materials each offer some distinct benefits. :)

May 30, 2010, 05:00 PM
Some folks say that lube isn't even necessary when using 777, even after many shots have been fired.
I put a tiny amount over a ball or two per cylinder when using APP fffg and even that really isn't necessary.
I guess that it depends on the powder.

I don't use either one. I only use Pyrodex. Not knockin them just sayin.

May 30, 2010, 08:18 PM
I'm in agreement that 777 may not need lubrication as the residue is somewhat greasy itself. I still use a wad though just for the purpose of sealing the chamber. Extra lubricant doesn't hurt though.

May 30, 2010, 11:33 PM
I read on another site about using a 45 long colt cartriage and pure wax melt in a cake pan. Waite till wax is almost solid and punch them out. Use a wooden match stick thru the primer hole for a push stick to remove.

May 31, 2010, 07:06 AM
Use a wooden match stick thru the primer hole for a push stick to remove.

Mighty thin matches :D

May 31, 2010, 09:20 AM
Lot of good information here. Some confusing comments also.
As one who has been using traditional muzzle loaders for 90% of my shooting, including competitively, for over 40 years, I have seen and tried many techniques. As for 777, I won't even comment as I use and understand only true black powder in the old timers.
For the revolvers a seal is absolutely necessary. I do know guys who boast they shoot without a seal but I also know some who have had chain fires without. Many, maybe most, competitive c&b revolver shooters use an over-ball grease seal. Some use corn meal under the ball, a few do use wads. I never have used a meal seal, messy and unnecessary, IMHO. Most of my shooting has been with an over ball grease seal. For hunting and long term storage, I have used lubed wads, they are just fine. I believe they provide a good shooting seal but can't prove that. They do help clean the bore a little. Remember, the burning powder crud is behind the wad and waits for the next shot. Main rule is to use what works for you and keep it simple.

June 1, 2010, 10:52 AM
To lube, use the double boiler method. A used pet food tin works great. The felt wads will soak up all the melted lube they can on their own.


Then, its just a matter of plucking them out, letting them cool, bagging them and labeling them until you are ready to use.


June 2, 2010, 12:01 AM
i tried this, i file sharpened a brass .45 acp case, soaked the top of a cardboard egg carton in bacon grease and dried, then used the .45 case to punch wads from the carton... works out quite well...

June 2, 2010, 07:15 PM
Thanks for the info Clembert. I got the Harbor Freight punches. Opened the 7/16" to .455. Soaked some 100% wool felt from an old cops winter coat. Then went to town punching wads. I soaked the felt first and then punched when it was cool and stiff. What a pleasure it is saving all that money and so simple to do. Found a beekeeper nearby and got a pound of beeswax for $4.00 and the punches were $4.89.I had a large can of crisco in the cupboard. So for the price of a bag of Wonder Wads I have made thousands of wads.

June 3, 2010, 09:54 AM
I'm using a 7/16" punch for my .45" lubed wads because the lube formula I use(Gatafeo's 2 parts paraffin, 2 parts lard/lanolin 1 part beeswax), makes the wads expand a little, so they are tight when I load them. I have a .45" punch I bought from Track of the Wolf, but they're uncomfortably tight and extremely messy to load. Using the .44" wads is cleaner and easier. I have a good shaved ring, so it's sealed.

I used nothing but Hodgdon 777 FFFg until recently, when my local store ran out and started ordering Goex Pinnacle. I still use 777 FFg in my rifles. I noticed that 777 was greasy, using grease wads and grease pills made it even more greasy wth my Pietta SS Remington. I had good results with using 777 "dry" with no greased felt wads at all, but I was still loading a dry felt wad to wipe down the bore. With Pinnacle, it's greasy using a dry felt wad and a greased felt wad, I haven't tried it dry yet.

When I shoot my rifles with PRB, I load a greased felt wad after the powder charge. That keeps the bore phenomenally clean. I had some adventures with a '52 Springfield I bought lightly used. I thought it was smoothbore until I used greased felt wads. The wads knocked out fouling I didn't know was there, and then I noticed rifling grooves in the bore after the first shot with the wads and figured out how to properly clean it with boiling water. :)

I use the 3/4" punch to make wads for my .69" (tight is good) and the 9/16" punch for my .54" and the 7/8" punch for my .58", all with good results on fouling.

I use a pair of bamboo toaster tweezers to pull the wet felt wads out of the melted lube. I give them a squeeze to let the excess drip out, that makes them clean to use and they look just like store bought grease felt wads, except they're cream colored and not yellow.

Edit: I got my beeswax from Hobby Lobby. I signed up on their website, so I get a coupon nearly every week for 40% off one item, so it was cheaper. I only live a few miles away from the store, so there wasn't any shipping. Good tip on the co-op, I have some bees in my well house. I need to call a beekeeper to see if they can come and get them and I get to keep the hive. :) I can smell the honey ten feet from the doorway.

That cedar stump probably makes it more fun, you get a whiff of cedar with every hammer blow. :) I have to get me one of them. I whack out enough for each caliber to fill an Altoid tin.

June 3, 2010, 11:41 AM
Thanks for the thread. I just bought a set of those punches and some felt weather stripping like Gatfeo recommends (somewhere around here), and I'm ready to go.

June 3, 2010, 01:26 PM
Buy the metric punches. The 11mm size is perfect for my 1860 Armys.
I do the Durofelt and melted lube routine.

June 3, 2010, 05:56 PM
11mm (0.433") is smaller than the 7/16" (0.4375) punch. An 11.5mm (0.453") punch would about right for those desiring a .45 caliber punch.

The Buffalo Arms 45PISTOL (http://www.buffaloarms.com/browse.cfm/4,447.html) punch is .455".

My smallest .44/.45 revolver has a 0.447 chamber supposedly but the felt wads are flexible enough to used for it on up to my ROA's which have a larger chamber diameter.

June 3, 2010, 06:02 PM
Here's a source for those who would rather punch out Vegetable Fiber Wads (http://www.buffaloarms.com/browse.cfm/2,241.html).

June 3, 2010, 06:37 PM
Thanks for the inf. subscribed :)

June 5, 2010, 06:15 AM
I don't use either one.Me too. Does anyone here feel like wads increase accuracy? If not I probably won't go to the trouble. As far as keeping the fouling down I cut baby wipes into cleaning patches and run a patch through my bore and wipe down the cylinder and pin, every three or four loads.

June 5, 2010, 06:31 AM
I don't know anyone who believes wads improve accuracy in pistols, although I'm sure there are those who do just on the basis of statistics. Several people who I credit with excellent credibility claim significant improvement in accuracy (as measured by group size) when using overpowder wads in large bore rifles. It's one of the things on my list to test.

June 6, 2010, 08:59 PM
Much of what was offered here was in my earlier post, that became a sticky, "So you want a cap and ball revolver."

I've been singing the praises of Duro-Felt for nearly 10 years. Best source of felt I've found. And it's pure wool, made at the factory owned by Duro Felt's family.

For most purposes, I use 1/8th inch hard felt. But I also picked up some 1/4 inch felt from Duro Felt. Soaked in lube, the 1/4 inch wads are used to take up space with medium to light loads, just like cornmeal. For very light loads, you can use one 1/4-inch wad and one 1/8-inch wad.

Pet food cans. I don't use boiling water for melting a bit of lubricant in the aluminum or steel can. I just set it on the range at very, very low heat. It doesn't take much heat to melt the lube. Tongs or needle-nosed pliars make a suitable handle to move it off the heat source after you've stirred the wads in the lube a bit.

Large amounts of wads can be stored in the same can used for melting. Just snap a plastic, pet food cover over it. In the field, I use the smaller Altoids sour candy tins that snap tightly. The hinged, Altoid mint cans dont' seal as well, allowing lubricant to dry over time, since they have an opening where the hinge is formed.

I much prefer wads; they're easier to use than grease over the ball and less messy. If you're concerned about powder contamination, use the same wad cutter to punch out thin, waxed cardboard wads from milk or malted milk ball cartons as a barrier between the grease and powder.

Using grease over the ball, with a 7-1/2 to 8-inch barreled revolver, I find that about the last third of the barrel toward the muzzle is heavily fouled. Using wads, fouling is removed along its length.

Do greased wads create a more accurate load? Hard to tell, given the rather primitive sights of the Remingtons and Colts. Perhaps a revolver with adjustable sights could be used to determine that, but I have none. Well, I do, a .36 Remington with adjustable sights, but I've only used wads in it. I have no other basis for comparison.

Some complain that making the wads and lubricant, and then greasing the wads, is too time consuming. Yeah, it's a little but I do these things during the bitter cold of winter when it's too cold to go out, anyway. Punching wads can be done while watching TV, with a stout board across your lap. I screwed a 6-inch diameter short length of log to a 2X8 that sits across my lap. The end grain of the log won't chip like a board. You could also use a short length of 4X4 mounted to a stout board for the same purpose, as long as the end grain is up.

Wad punches from Harbor Freight work fine for most calbiers: 5/16 for .31 caliber, 3/8 for .36 and 7/16th for the .42 and .43 calibers like .44-40 and .44 Magnum. The 7/16th is too small for the .44/.45 cap and ball revolvers. You can grind out the end with a Dremel, or you can do like I did and buy a .45-caliber punch from Buffalo Arms. I'm not handy, and I could just see either a ruined punch or bleeding fingers in my future, so I went with Buffalo Arms.

The late gun writer Elmer Keith suggested greasing wads with a 50/50 mix of tallow and beeswax. He didn't specify what kind of tallow, or whether those amounts were by weight or volume.
I use the old recipe proportions -- whose type of tallow and paraffin were not specified when listed in 1943 -- but use canning specifically canning paraffin and mutton tallow. This lubricant, with these specific ingredients, was named after me as "Gatofeo No. 1 Lubricant."
I've found it superior or equal to most as far as qualities, and cheaper overall.

It's always amazed me just how many tips and methods crop up each year, just within the field of cap and ball revolvers. We never stop learning, disproving, affirming, discovering and rediscovering.

June 7, 2010, 08:24 AM
I am curious.
Has anyone tried the vegetable fiber wads:confused:

June 10, 2010, 05:38 AM
thanks for the info clembert. i fired my fist cap and ball revolver recently and im hooked. these do it yourself tips are great.