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Old May 11, 2007, 07:33 AM   #1
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New bullet caster- maybe??

I have been reloading for a couple years now and have so far been buying all my components at local stores and online. I had thought a few times about casting, but never real serious.
Until last night that is. The company i work for had several machines that were outdated and unused and we were told to tear them apart for scrap. During this I found that some of the counterweights were lead. I couldn't resist it. I got my boss to let me have them and now they are sitting in the bed of my truck til I figure out where to store them and how to get them there. (9 blocks at 275 lbs each)That may hold me for a while!
Related Info:
I want to cast for 38/357, 44sp/mag, 44 & 50 round ball(BP) and maybe 30-30.
Mainly target loads
The lead is soft, easy to scratch with fingernail.
Now for the questions;
How do you handle making these large chunks into melting pot size chunks? I know some hard ways, got to be something easier than trying to saw off a chunk.
Some reccomendations for equipment? Pots, ladles, molds?
I will be outside in a roofed open part of my barn so ventilation is OK.
Thanks for any and all info.

Last edited by willsjeep; May 11, 2007 at 07:33 AM. Reason: addition to info
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Old May 11, 2007, 08:46 AM   #2
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As for melting I would suggest Getting a 5 qt cast iron dutch oven. Your just going to need to hack into chunks small enough to fit. if the lead is that soft you might be able to to it with an axe. To harden it you need antimony and tin. DO NOT USE ZINC! You will need one of those propane buners like you see used for a turkey cooker. it's going to take a lot of BTUs to melt that lead.

I use parafin as a flux.
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Old May 11, 2007, 09:17 AM   #3
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If its too big to fit into a dutch oven you can melt chunks of it into the dutch oven with a handheld torch.

All of your casting questions can be answered at the premier cast boolit board. But be careful! Casting is addictive and these guys will sure lighten your wallet with suggestions.

There's prolly about 10,000 years of combined experiance on that board.
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Old May 11, 2007, 09:57 AM   #4
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Well, sounds like you lucked into some pure lead. Pure lead is good for muzzle loaders and for casting bullets for slugging barrels for measurement, so don't turn it all into bullet alloy at once. You'll want to experiment with alloys, anyway, so only mix what alloy you need for a month or two at a time until you settle on what you really want. Even then, keep some pure lead back.

How you're going to melt it is an interesting problem. I got some 33 pound ingots once. Too big for my 20 lb. RCBS bullet casting furnace. I got a tank of propane and a turkey fryer burner and picked up a large cast iron melting pot from the plumbing supply store. It's good for about 50 lbs. Bigger ones are available, but once you've melted your 9, you won't need a giant one any more. You'd need a 3 gallons pot capacity for teh whole 275 lbs, and something strong to hold it up to do a whole ingot at once. Not very practical.

If you can afford to pay someone to melt it into smaller ingots, I would start by checking to see if you have any scrap yards in your area that melt down lead scrap for ingots? A commercial smelter or bullet casting operation are other possibilities, but any of these guys will need to charge you or trade for some of the lead. You'll need a million BTU's to melt that stuff, and that's before furnace losses. Figure $50 worth of energy, anyway, plus lots of time pouring ingots and waiting for them to solidify. Likely to eat up your found-scrap savings if you pay someone else to do it.

Cutting with a really coarse toothed saw (to prevent the teeth from packing up), then melting in a smaller plumber's pot may be your only cost-effective option? If you can afford the fuel, you could suspend these on a block and tackle and take a big torch to them, catching the lead in a pot until it is full. Probably pretty energy wasteful. The saw keeps looking better.

You can buy one the little Lyman iron ingot molds, but many people people just use a stamped sheet steel or iron muffin tin. I even saw a fellow who used two halves of a cast iron mold intended to make cornbread muffins in the shape of ears of corn. Each half was a separate mold for him.

Once you have lead ingots, you need to find sources of antimony and tin for bullet casting alloy. A lot of lead-free solder is now almost 100% tin plus a little copper or other odds and ends. Avoid anything with zinc like the plague. Very little zinc can ruin a batch of alloy. Where tin helps break down surface tension and lets the alloy fill the mold well, zinc has just the opposite effect.

A simple old-time alloy is just adding 5% tin (always by weight-not volume, so you will need a scale) to the lead. This is what Elmer Keith developed the .44 magnum with. 10% tin looks prettier and is a little harder and used to be the standard alloy RCBS recommended for their molds. May still be; I just haven't looked for awhile, but it costs more.

If you want to make really hard bullets for rifle shooting, you want some antimony and arsenic in the mix. The easiest way to get that is from magnum shot, which is about 8% antimony and .5% to 1% aresenic. The arsenic makes it possible to water-harden the bullets. Mix a 25 lb bag of magnum shot with 25 lbs of your pure lead and one pound of lead-free, zinc-free solder that is 90% or more tin. This will give you close to a 4%:4%:92% alloy of tin, antimony, and lead, which should water quench to hard bullets pretty well, and still be hard enough for rifle without quenching if you use gas checks.

After buying the shot and the solder, you'd be out about 75 cents a pound for that alloy, so if you can find other sources of tin (scrap plumbing solder) and antimony (wheel weights), you can cut the cost a lot further. 50% wheel weights in place of the shot will give you a 2% antimony alloy that will still harden in water well enough for rifle bullets, and won't be so brittle that it shatters on bone in cold weather. 2 lb of 50:50 solder scrap in place of the lead-free stuff will give you about the same tin content.

Lots to experiment with out there. Be careful. Wear a leather welder's apron and gloves with the cuffs velcroed down to prevent molten lead getting in. Wear leather boots with the uppers well covered by your trouser cuffs for that same reason. Wear a full face shield.

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Old May 11, 2007, 10:20 AM   #5
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Sweet find!
Names Russ, feel free to use it.

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Old May 12, 2007, 01:37 AM   #6
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A common skil type circular saw cuts lead quickly and easily. Catch the "saw dust",(shavings), put it in the bottom of the smelting pot, it works good as a contact layer for the bigger chuncks.

Willsjeep, was that a natco multispindle drill? I got some counterweight lead from a scraped natco drill where I work. It IS nearly pure lead.
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Old May 12, 2007, 03:37 AM   #7
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Thanks for the info so far everyone. I thought about the torch idea to melt it into smaller batches, I have a oxy-acetylene setup so I can really put the heat to it, but those gas refills aren't cheap. I will try the handsaw idea and see how it goes first.
Nick, thanks for taking the time to put all that info into your post, I will definately keep it for reference over the next couple of weeks as I start this little project.
The machine was a 6-station R&B dial that the company could not find anyone to take off their hands. It was a waste as the machine was only about 12 years old. We used to have several of the Natco drills but got rid of them a few years ago when our product started changing. Sometimes I wish we still had them, they were a tough machine.
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Old May 12, 2007, 10:24 AM   #8
Paul B.
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Just a short comment on the 95/5 percent lead free solder. I've seen two types (There may be more) where the 95 percent is tin and the 5 percent is either copper or silver. I have always bought the type with silver which I have found at Home depot.
If you have a trap and skeet club in your neck of the woods, you might be able to buy reclaimed shot from them. I was getting mine that way until they decided to sell it to a recycler. It was $9.00 for a 25 pound bag of cleaned shot.
If worse comes to worse, you could give Bill Ferguson a call. He can give you all the information you'll ever need on how to alloy that metal as he is a retired metallurgist.

Bill Ferguson
P.O. Box 1238, Sierra Vista, AZ 85636
(520) 458-5321
E-mail: [email protected]

Just a word of advice. It's best to call him. he's slow answering E-mails. Also, be advised the man loves tot alk so be preapred for a bit of a phone bill. The good news is it'll be worth every penny. He can also tell you just what metals and how much you will need to make your alloy and can sell you the metals as well. He is a bullet caster's "good buddy".
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