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Old February 13, 2019, 09:56 AM   #1
Grey_Lion
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Thoughts on cheap scrap lead sourcing

Many new casters have no idea where to come by scrap lead cheap.

I have been sourcing scrap lead for decades now - initially to make my own RPG lead figures, and now bullets.

Here's my process - all done outside in dry weather. ( dry weather as steam can explode coming into contact with molten lead, and high humidity will cause bubbles, gaps, and voids in your castings )

Where-ever it comes from, I typically always smelt and flux it in a pot and pour small muffin tin ingots. This gets out most grease, paint, other metals, dirt, etc. To scoop out the crap from the rough smelt pot, I have a large metal spoon with a couple holes drilled in it to allow lead to flow. I do this in a scrap metal handled pot sourced from goodwill. The pot is on a cheap electric hot plate to keep it molten. I "help" larger scrap pieces go liquid quickly with a home depot hand propane torch initially to break it down.

I avoid battery lead altogether to avoid acid disposal problems and dangers and to not damage my gear or lungs with said acid.

FMJ bullets is my LEAST favorite scrap as you very often have to cut through the copper jack hulls.

Other lead I have harvested & used -

fishing sinkers & fishing net weights
scrap yard and found

old wheel weights
scrap yard, found, sourced whenever I buy tires - just ask and have a bucket

leaded glass window edging / frames
old windows & doors

roofing lead
scrap yard and from roofing job sites - usually used as roof vent edging

cast bullets
range back stop mining

old battery terminals
note not from a battery itself - mostly from very old cars electrical systems and old RV battery harnesses

old circuit board solder
usually from very old circuit boards and used as more of an alloy amendment to harden your bullet alloy - not used for cast rounds by itself.

For flux, I usually use a small amount of clean sawdust and or a piece of candle and or a spoon of cheap borax detergent.

As to lead toxicity - I never eat or drink while casting and I stay out of the fumes of the smelter and smelting pot. When done, wash your hands and scrub. I've had myself tested a couple times in the last few decades for lead levels in my system and have never once had a test come back with a problem. You risk more lead contamination from the residue off used primers than you will doing your own casting safely. Most people warning about lead exposure entirely over-blow the threat. With that said, those who remove primers at the dining room table or in their kitchen are idiots and will have more of a family lead problem than I ever have or will. This board has more detailed notes on this subject.
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Old February 13, 2019, 11:05 AM   #2
Bimus
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I had good luck at estate sales and yard sales that have tools or fishing stuff it's most of the time a coffee can of lead just gets left in the garage or set outside where the can rusts away . Just need to ask have any lead
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Old February 13, 2019, 04:35 PM   #3
USSR
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Grey_Lion,

I get all my lead from the local scrap yard. It is important to know what the alloy consists of and some of the items you list could be anything, so I restrict my purchases to: lead pipe (not listed above, but treat as pure), window lead (It is called "came" and treat as pure), clip-on wheel weights (a known alloy but watch out for zinc), roofing lead (treat as pure), and linotype (not listed above, but a known hard alloy). With ingots of the above lead sources you can create alloys suitable for most any bullet in common use. There is an Excel file available on the internet that allows you to custom create your own alloy by plugging in amounts of known lead sources. This is precisely why I stay away from lead with an unknown composition. Hope that helps.

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Last edited by USSR; February 13, 2019 at 08:33 PM.
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Old February 13, 2019, 07:35 PM   #4
2wheelwander
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I just bought 80 pounds of scrap lead from an auto salvage yard. I called hoping to find a nice stash of wheels weights, but they had this bucket of lead shavings someone sold them he had used to make casts for rubber stamps similar to old printing presses.

I paid .20/pound and it was great lead! And they threw is a stick of flux the guy had given them with it all. Filled a 5 gallon bucket about 1/3.
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Old February 13, 2019, 10:07 PM   #5
Beagle333
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I just buy mine online. I was spending too much on gas riding around trying to find lead and lead deals. I usually end up paying about a buck-thirty (delivered) a pound for my lead and that works out somewhere around 4.8 to 5.2 cents per .45 bullet. I can live with that.
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Old February 13, 2019, 10:20 PM   #6
Grey_Lion
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I get your point USSR, but I'm not loading rifle for 500 yard groupings. For pistol, alloy is FAR FAR less of an issue and scrap is cheap. Is it possible to discover the alloy - sure but I'm not going to spend the time or funds to do so.

From my point of view I'm recycling lead for range plinking rounds and custom rounds for the craft of it. I'm not too worried about alloy or BN with what I'm doing.
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