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Thread: Lead prep

  1. #1
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    Default Lead prep

    I'm new to reloading ...so new, that it's all just a pile of money converted to hardware at this point. Hoping to have the bench finished this weekend.

    That said, I look forward to casting and making my own bullets ...like later on this year sometime, not as a first task. I was lucky enough to score an agreement with a local place (top secret!) that apparently didn't have anybody else knocking their door down for wheel weight lead. I've got about half a 5-gallon bucket full so far and will go back next week for more.

    So 3/4ths of this stuff has road dirt on it and what not. I don't have my Lyman lead casting book yet (sent to wrong address, now resent but not received yet). I'm assuming that the metal clips get fished out of the pot when the lead is melted. Anybody have tricks up their sleeves for how to prepare or clean those dirty lead weights? Wire brush and a bucket of detergent water? What're you guys doing?

    thanks,
    Brian

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    You might want to check this forum out:
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/

    And thank your lucky stars for the free wheel weights.
    Tennessee

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    Thanks, I'll check it out. And yes, I stopped by a number of places ...each either had an agreement with some company to pick the stuff up and didn't want to give it to someone else, had an agreement with someone locally who wanted them, or had an employee that grabbed all the weights. This place that I went to didn't seem to have a clue on what someone would want wheel weights for (which means they haven't been harassed by reloaders yet) and said I could have all I want. Works for me

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    If you use a bottom pour casting pot with a mold spout and lift handle, do not melt dirty wheel weights in that pot. If they are really dirty it will clog up the hole. Wheel weights have oil, dirt, rocks, bits of road kill and asphalt on them. That stuff makes a big mess. The hole needs to be fully open to get a good flow, the weight from the flowing lead helps to fill out the bullet in the mold.

    When melting wheel weights, use lots of flux and skim off the drudge often. You can use commercial flux or bullet lube or bees wax but use it often. The little steel clips float (being lighter than the lead they displace) [I think that's a Navy rule] to the top and are skimmed off with the dirt and debris.

    Sooooo, local cops are driving around on unbalanced tires now? You could cast up some bullets from their wheel weights and sell them back to the cops. Sorta like stealing hubcaps and selling them back.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Thanks, guys. I just registered at http://castboolits.gunloads.com

    That's a good site and I realize from my first 1/2 hour of surfing that I have a lot to learn. At least with the lead casting business I am not in a hurry ...I decided to be in lead-collecting mode for awhile. Seems like I should at least get set up for some smelting so I can start storing clean ingots of lead ...just keep saving it up.

    BTW, one source that I did think of ...but might be a lot more work (if a guy were desperate) is junk yards. I'll bet that if you go buy one of those gizmos that are used for pulling lead weights off rims when getting them rebalanced, that a Sunday afternoon stroll through a junk yard would allow you to collect a bunch of wheel weights. I think of this process as a worst-case (next to stealing weights off of cop cars!) source...

    Now I need to figure out what I need to make some ingots... besides a 20# electric furnace (coleman stoves probably don't burn so hot at 20 below...)

    Brian

  6. #6

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    Be careful: my experience indicates water and melted lead do not mix. Steam generated will instantly spew hot lead everywhere and melt skin and clothing. I mean just one drop is bad. I would NOT use water on the weights. Salts could retain moisture, etc ...danger Will Roberts.

    Always wear PPE when casting. Hard to get new eyes.

    I would melt them, flux well, remove dross and steel clips and cast them into ingots, using, as another gent suggested, another pot for this effort. Anything cast iron will work great.

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    The first thing that I learned is that you don't "wash" the wheel weights ... And yes, I'll wear PPE and work outdoors when smelting.

    bd

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    Once upon a time, many, many moons ago, in a land far, far away, some idiot I know used one of those Coleman duel fuel single burner stoves to try and melt 20 pounds of lead in a cast iron pot. Long story short; the huge heavy cast iron pot was able to reflect enough heat back onto the stove to melt thru the plastic pressurization pump assembly thereby allowing the pressurized unleaded gasoline to spew out and ignite. About a millisecond later the whole dang stove went “supernova” which in itself was quite impressive, but not quite as impressive as the drama that unfolded as the 20 pounds of molten lead crushed the remains of the flaming stove and flipped over on the bench pouring a river of molten lead down the bench and onto the yard setting both on fire! Naturally the only rudimentary fire suppressant readily available was the garden hose………………did I mention that molten lead does not like water?!! Also take note that flaming gasoline doesn’t especially like water either, but at least it doesn’t react in the “matter + anti-matter” way that molten lead and water does……….What was it the guy used to say on that show “the A-team”?...................”I love it when a plan comes together” or something like that. The “good news” is that nobody got killed, or even burnt for that matter, the house didn’t burn down, and the casting bench wasn’t beyond hope. And a priceless education had been doled out to a young and inexperienced bullet caster wannabe.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

  9. #9
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    Default Melting wheel weights and other scrap lead

    I started casting bullets over 40 yrs ago when I was in high school -or maybe it was Jr. High. We used to scrounge wheel weights and also dug lead out of the back stop of the pistol range. I shot the cast bullets out of my .357 Mdl 28 and 03-A3 which I had purchased with my paper route money. Primers were around $7/1000 and powder was under $2 lb. but I was only making $2/ hr. or less.

    I remember a few exciting moments. One was when we somehow got a drop of water in the pot and blew droplets of molden lead all over the inside of my friend's garage. It was raining outside and I don't know if one of use came in from outside and drop rain fell off our clothing or what but it was pretty spectacular. Fortunely no one got burn but we were removing specs of lead from out clothing and hair for a long time. I'm sure the garage still has splatters on the unfinished ceiling.

    Another time we somehow got a live primer into the lead we were recovering from where we had been casting and dropping the spruce plate cutoff and reject bullets. It went off with a bang and blew the hot lead scraps around the room but again no one got hurt.

    Not too many years ago I melted down a number of 5 gal. bullets of lead I had dug out of a range backstop. The mixture contained quite a bit of mud and small gravel along with the bullets. I had to wash the stuff to get most of the mud and rocks out and then melt it down. I found if I let a pretty thick layer of trash accumulate on the surface the new stuff I dumped in would be baked dry before it ever hit the molted lead below. I was doing this over the trusty Coleman stove outdoor and didn't have any problems.

    One note on wheel weights- I read that they are not putting as much antimony in them as they did years ago. I still have a quite a few pounds of the old wheel weight metal - its very hard. I add a few percent tin and it works out to be an excellent alloy although in most of my molds it will cast out good bullets for practice as salvaged.

  10. #10

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    I NEVER put wheel weights straight into my casting pot. I melt them in a skillet on a stove OUTSIDE, and skim the gook and crud off the top as it melts, and take out the steel clips. I end up with nearly pure lead this way. If they are really dirty, I may heat and melt it twice to get all of the contaminates out, or most of it. I either pour it in my RCBS one pound lead molds or just let it cool and harden in the skillet, creating a lead block in the shape of the skillet and stackable, and at various weights.
    Now just why in the hell do I have to press "1" for English???

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    It's been a while since I did it, but I see nothing at all wrong with washing wheel weights before melting them. I think that's a good idea. Use soap. After all, you can bet that they've been wet a number of times, before you got'em.

    You can dry them out, if you like, but when you put them in the pot, I can guarantee they will be dry by the time they melt. (This is not to suggest that you put WET wheel weights into a pot of melted lead. That’s a whole nother smoke.)

    When I got’em melted, I just skimmed the clips and slag off the top with a spoon and dumped it in a coffee can, just like when I was fluxing. It came out pretty clean. No abrasives in my bullets, Nosiree

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    Thanks. I need to get my hands on a cast iron dutch oven or something ...already have a King Kooker type propane cooker. For now, I'm going to smelt the lead and save ingots, then take up the casting game later. Got my Lyman book on the way, but I'm new to reloading too so I'm going to go one step at a time. The first lead bullets that I reload may very well be purchased. Don't know. I've got 500 rounds of plated (Rainier) plinkers to go through first.

    Question: Is there a way to test hardness accurately so I can determine what I need to do to make an alloy? I know that you use softer, even pure, lead for low power rounds so the rifling will seal nicely when you shoot them (prevents lead fouling.) I also know that higher power stuff should use harder alloys, and that the highest power uses harder alloys as well but with gas checks too. Am I wrong? Can't wait for the new book...

    Brian

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    Mixing and blending alloy to obtain a specific hardness of the final product can be both enjoyable and frustrating at the same time. There are many different recipes for lead mixing and an almost endless amount of variables that can effect the final outcome. Then there is heat treating and or water quenching as additional options for harness adjustment. All that being said, I think you will find that wheel weight alloy with 2 to 4 percent tin added and simply air cooled on a towel will suffice for nearly every application. In my experience this alloy works out to be approximately 13 brinnel as tested with my lee hardness tester. I have had good luck accuracy and leading wise with this alloy in everything from mild 45 colt loads at 800 fps, up to max loads in the 45/70 at 2050 fps. As far as terminal performance goes, I cant really say yet, as I haven’t shot any critters with them so far. There are a number of lead hardness testers on the market, but the only two I have used are the Lee and the Saeco. The Saeco is not really a hardness tester so much as a hardness comparator, and requires a standard of known hardness to make any kind of accurate estimate of the hardness of your sample compared to the standard. The Lee uses a spring loaded ball indenter that screws into your press. Once you have dented your sample bullet with the spring loaded indenter you then measure the diameter of the dent thru a small hand held microscope that has graduated lines on the lens. The number from the microscope is then compared to the supplied conversion chart to obtain the hardness value. In regards to the two, the Lee is significantly less expensive (around $40) versus the $100 + price of the Saeco. Both units have limitations in regards to repeatability and accuracy of the measurement, but for the purpose they are intended, they are both more than satisfactory. The Saeco is much faster to use and has less inherent interpretational error, but the Lee, if used properly and carefully tends to be significantly more accurate in my opinion.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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