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Questions About Lead Casting

Discussion in 'Casting' started by Mad Mallard, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    Hopefully in the next months, I'll be able to begin casting lead ingots and bullets. I would like to do it without the use of a lead pot like a Lee or RCBS. I currently have these supplies to begin:

    2 rolls of lead sheets that was used for x-ray shielding in a dentists office
    A bunch used lead washers used for CL2 regulators on CL2 ton cylinders
    1 old cast iron dutch oven with lid
    2 old lead ladles

    A couple of things that are hindering me from casting is:

    A steel table (which I'll be making soon)
    A way to melt the lead
    An inexpensive source of lead.

    The questions that I have is what do ya'll use to melt lead? Is it by propane or electric? Where can I find an inexpensive source of lead? What do ya'll use as ingots and bullet molds? Any help would be appreciated.
     
  2. Beef15

    Beef15 B or somesuch

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    You don't really need a steel table, but it'd be nice, just one that will support the weight.
    You can use a thrift store hot plate(I have), or a propane burner.

    Lead is tricky, I have a small supply of wheel weights and isotope containers, and a decent stash of terminals from the generosity of a member here.

    Some scrap yards will sell. You can possibly mine your ranges berm. You can order from ebay or the vendors on castboolits.

    What you have is probably very soft near pure and not the best for most centerfire cartridges.

    Sent from my SM-G360V using Tapatalk
     
  3. bigfelipe

    bigfelipe I go my own way... Charter Life Member

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    A Lee pot is super nice for casting vs propane or a hot plate. I use a propane cooker to smelt my ingots, but for casting an electric pot is just easy...

    Sounds like you will need some tin and antimony to harden your alloy unless you are casting musket balls.
     
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  4. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    I thought about using a hot plate before but I didn’t know if anyone else uses one. Would you recommend it over a propane burner?
     
  5. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    Where does one get antimony and/or tin? Could I use say lead free solder as a tin and antimony source?
     
  6. Beef15

    Beef15 B or somesuch

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    Haven't used propane. Use the hot plate for "smelting" and getting ingots hot/melted while casting from my bottom pour so I can top it without having to wait for it to remelt. When I first started I cast from it with a ladle very nice bullets, but pretty slow. My understanding is propane's main advantage is when doing large volume pots, I am thinking about getting on to expedite smelting. They're all slow to melt.
    If you keep with it look for a used Lee 4:20, I scored mine for <$35.
     
  7. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    I don’t see myself doing large amounts at first so slow is fine by me since I’m new to this. Thanks for the tips.
     
  8. Beef15

    Beef15 B or somesuch

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    I forgot some things in my initial reply.

    Get a casting thermometer, you don't want to run your alloy too hot or the tin will separate and oxidize.

    Ingot molds: muffin tins, but they're flimsy and the crimped together ones could come apart on you. If you can find cast iron corn bread pans some use those. Nothing wrong with Lee ingot molds either. You can even make one time use ingot molds from aluminum cans. Some guys make little troughs from angle iron.

    Bullet molds: I started with Lee two cavity molds, using a ladle two cavities is probably all you want. I now have a Lee six banger, a couple NOEs, and an Arsenal mold.

    How are you planning to lube your boolits? Tumble, pan, lubrisizer, or PC/HiTek?
     
  9. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    Oh yeah I forgot about the thermometer. I thought about a lubrisizer. What’s a PC/HiTek?
     
  10. bigfelipe

    bigfelipe I go my own way... Charter Life Member

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    Rotometal.com
     
  11. Gazengine

    Gazengine 8 Track guy stuck in a digital world Charter Life Member

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    PC is Powder coating the bullets at home. The lead alloy can be lots softer and not have as much problems leading. The pure lead is too soft for most bullets. I mix linotype with pure lead to make it harder. You can sometimes buy this at scrapyards.
    I use the propane turkey cooker and an old cast Dutch oven to melt the bulk lead and cast the ingots. Then I use a Lee electric pot to cast bullets later. This is easier for me to control the casting temperature.
    You will need a good Lyman or Sarco thermometer. If you do get into melting COWW, this will help you keep out the Zinc ones.
     
  12. Combat Diver

    Combat Diver Well-Known Member

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    Where to start on this one. Been casting for over a decade and it can get addicting.

    I've go a Lee 10lb bottom pour pot but it clogged up and now just use my dippers. I have an electric plate but it doesn't heat up my pot hot enough (you'll need about 327 degrees, zinc is 419 degrees and stay below that) I use several molds at a time and rotate them, pour, set aside and then open another. I preheat my molds on the hot plate however. Smelting I do in my Lee although I have a 6 qt dutch oven for when I do. I scrounge whenever I'm home for wheel weights or other scrape lead. I pour my lead into a cast iron ear of corn, cornbread pan. Once they are cool, use a sharpie/paint marker to mark the ingot with either Pb for pure lead (stick on wheel weights), WW of clip on wheel weights and RS for range scrape. I have a range in the backyard I remine every so often. I used to go to tire dealers and get wheel weights but now you get most zinc and steel. Still some lead however. I toss the steel but keep the zinc for fishing weights. Keep separate items for that so not to containment your lead ie molds won't fill out anymore and hence casting below 400 degrees in the event a zinc wheel weight makes it to the pot. Have about a dozen molds from .311 Round Ball to .490 MiniBalls, single to six cavity molds.

    When I start I also turn on a box fan by the window for extra ventilation and open both shed doors. My casting table is an old folding fest table I picked up in Germany in 90'. Turn on pot and hot plate, get molds and everything together (all within 4 feet). Have some sawdust, candle wax or commercial flux available to get rid of the impurities out of the lead as it melts. As you cast your bullets the mold may not fill out the bullets at first as the mold needs to get hot. Usually good to go after couple pours however. I drop my bullets unto either a towel or into a five gal bucket of cold water to water quench them (makes for a harder bullet, needed for high speed without adding additional tin/amonly (sp) or a gas check)

    After bullets cool and harden, you'll possibly need to size and lube them. Two major methods are Lee tumble lube or use a sizer. I use both methods as some of my molds are Lee Tumble Lube which uses a liquid Alox that you shake onto. Sizing requires a Sizer, Lube and punch. I have a older Lyman 450. I used to try and make my own lube but easier if you just buy it. Another method is to Powder Coat the bullets but I've never done that or know the process. Now when I shoot a box of ammo only costs me the powder (7000grains/lb) and primers. 100rds of 9mm cost me $5-6 or so. .41/.44 Mag about $6-7 per 100.

    RotoMetals good source as noted above and check out
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forum.php Member there with the same log in.

    Good luck!

    CD
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
  13. copdills

    copdills Member

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    I use a old camp stove and a dutch oven to smelt my lead, it is propane
     
  14. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    Wow, y’all are really giving me a ton of information. Thank you all for the help. Once I get set up I’ll post some pictures up on this thread or I’ll start another thread of what my set up looks like.
     
  15. Jaysq

    Jaysq Against The Wind

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    If you decide to quit melting lead in your CI dutch oven, drill holes in it and mark it so people will not cook in it. I belong to a Cast Iron group on Facebook and people are buying CI at yard sales and flea markets. You can get lead poisoning from CI that has been used to melt lead. Thank you
     
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  16. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    Okay I’ll make sure I do that or I’ll break it into pieces before taking it to a scrapyard.
     
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  17. Dave951

    Dave951 Happy to be here

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    Propane can get expensive when you cost out by the btu. I have 3 Lee pots and they all work fine.

    You don't have to have a thermometer specifically designed for lead. I have one from these guys-
    http://www.kck.com/bbq_pit_grill_thermometer.html
    BBQ250-5-1000-cl
    Temp range is 200-1k with a 6 inch probe. I typically cast with lead in the 800f range. A bit hot, but it fills out best in my muzzle loader molds and yields a very consistent bullet with the mold at operating temp. Aluminum molds run a bit colder. You have to experiment.

    You never mentioned what you were casting for. If modern centerfire, you'll need lead with tin and antimony added for hardness. If you're going old school and shooting black powder and muzzle loaders, you'll most likely need softer lead. What you're planning to do will dictate where you source your lead. I shoot black powder and my muzzleloaders all use as pure lead as I can find (meaning NO wheel weights). I get lead from a local scrap yard and they usually have some of the sheet lead used in x ray rooms in the bin. That's about as pure and dead soft as it comes short of ordering from Rotometals.

    There are a number of mold manufacturers, depends on what you casting for. Lee makes cheap molds that work reasonably well but not the best out there. Lyman, RCBS, NOE and others are much better choices. You will almost certainly have to size bullets to the bore for best accuracy and there are a number of methods and sources for that stuff.
     
  18. Ikarus1

    Ikarus1 Avtomat Krishna-kov

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    An inexpensive source of lead, with antimony? That's easy - wheelweights. If/when you can get some. You will need to sort the cast iron and zinc ones out which can be time consuming. Occasionally they'll pop up here, but I suggest you join castboolits and just buy some wheelweight lead already premade into ingots. Usually around $1 a pound. Or get some pewter and melt into tin. That combined with your nearly pure X-ray lead can get you some decent alloy. I use pure WW (COWW clip on wheel weight) for nearly everything over 1000fps and it works well. Powder coated COWW alloy can even be used without gas checks in rifles up to a point.

    As far as melting what you have into ingots, I have found that a flat-bottomed cheap dutch oven and a 'jet' type propane burner were invaluable, especially with large chunks of lead that may come your way (boat keel weights, etc) or for a bucketful of wheel weights. Got the dutch oven for free, and got the propane burner from academy for $20 on clearance.

    Here's the thermometer that I use https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0055777EU/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=

    It really helps keeping the lead temp below 650 degrees F so I don't accidentally melt the zinc wheel weights I may have missed while sorting. That's a common mistake by newbs.
     
  19. Dave951

    Dave951 Happy to be here

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    I'll say it again- Are you casting for modern guns or black powder. EVERYTHING changes depending on your gun.
     
  20. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    Modern centerfire. Specifically for 45 LC, 45 Auto, and 38 spl.

    That’s the main reason I want/ need a thermometer. I’ve seen pictures and video of molten lead being contaminated by molten zinc. I definitely don’t want that to happen.
     
  21. Ikarus1

    Ikarus1 Avtomat Krishna-kov

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    It's why you need to join castboolits forum as well. There are those who actually ADD zinc in order to chemically remove it with sulfur by adding copper sulfate. Which leaves copper, another hardening agent, in small amounts. And you can find out how to test for zinc with muriatic acid. And how to test hardness with artist pencils very affordably.

    It's really an invaluable place to be a member of for casting.

    You will also find a Excel spreadsheet for calculating Alloy to whatever hardness you would like. It's very handy.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  22. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    I might join there in the future once I begin to cast.
     
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  23. Dave951

    Dave951 Happy to be here

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    Why not join now and start getting edumacated? Could save some grief/time/materials later.
     
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  24. Mad Mallard

    Mad Mallard New Member

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    That’s true. I will probably in the next week or so.
     
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  25. cold1

    cold1 Member Supporting Member

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    The only problem with castboolits is sometimes there is too much info. You can get lost in some of the conversations. That's not a bad thing but sometime as a beginner you just need the basics.

    I still consider myself a beginner, I have been casting for 3 years. I cast from .22 cal up to .458. Most molds are lee 2 cavity. Each mold has its own personality. When casting, each casting session can have it's own personallity. One day you can cast 500 perfect rounds, the next you can't cast 5 good ones. Don't get frustrated, just stop and come back later.