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Discussion Starter #1
I've been reloading for several years and am interested in learning to cast bullets. One thing eludes me- where do you find a steady source of lead of a known hardness? Scrap yards? Is there such a place that sells lead ingots that are useable?

Chuck
 

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Buying ingots of known hardness will end up making those homemade bullets as expensive as store bought, if not more.

Wheel weights are my alloy of choice. I mix 19 pounds of wheel weight metal with 1 pound of 50/50 solder for everything right now. Lyman says an alternative #2 alloy can be made up of a 9:1 blend of WW and 50/50 solder, but that's too wasteful for my purposes. Since I can drive a .308 bullet to 1700 FPS without any leading, I'm still waiting for a need to use anything more than my current alloy.

For the rifles and my .38 Super I water harden the bullets (drop them from the mould into a bucket of water), but just today I found out hardening won't be necessary any longer for my .38 Super. Mayeb I'll need to do it when I play around with bullets for my .357 mag.

If you want consistent hardness, then buy a bunch of wheel weights, 50/50 solder, and a hardness tester. Add or subtract these items to get the hardness you desire. I will say that for the .45 auto, worrying about consistenet hardness seems to be a waste of time.

Melt down the wheel weights at less than 800 degrees and get rid of any that float to the top or do anything unusual compared to the others. Flux it with paraffin was from the grocery and skim off all the dirt and metal clips. Depending on the size of your melter, you'll need some kind of ingot mould that will cast ingots that will fit the melter opening. For my Lee production IV pot, teflon coated mini muffin tins work perfectly.

Wheel weights can be found at any tire shop that's willing to sell them to you. The bigger shops that have the most wheel weights will usually not sell to anyone but a recycler, usually due to corporate policy.

I'll pay anywhere from $5 to 420 for a 5 gallon bucket full, but will likely just buy from the sort of local scrap yard for 0.20 per pound. Groveling for wheel weights is getting to be tiresome, but some people enjoy the hunt.

I haven't been casting that long, but will be more than happy to help if you have any more questions. I can even provide two forms of equipment lists (budget minded versus fatter wallet) if you want. Just let me know what bullets you want to cast.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Walking Point,

Thanks. I already have a Lee Production Pot. Bought it used and have had it in storage for about five years now. I would be casting for 45ACP right now, then probably 38 Special and 44 Magnum. I'm guessing that I'll just need molds, a sizer and dies to get started. What type of lube do you use? I see that some need to be heated to work properly.

Chuck
 

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WP, I'd like to see the equipment list. I, too, think I may start trying to cast some .45 ACP bullets - SWC, perhaps.

I'd like to see the "poor boy" list. If I could whittle them while I watched TV, I would.


I've got some lead already, but if I start casting, obviously I will need more. I know one good source, if you are willing to do the dirty work and have the resource: outdoor shooting ranges. The berms behind the targets are a great place to mine lead. Please remember to do this when no one is shooting.



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If God didn't want us to own guns, why did He make the 1911?
 

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These are rough equipment lists of everything that I can remember. The first is a cheapo list that consists of equipment that will do teh job and still be a great long term value if you don't want to upgrade. The next list is slightly upgraded in terms of sizing/lubing.

List #1:

Lee Production Pot IV = $39.77

Lee TL452-200-SWC tumble lube double bullet mould = $16.27

Lee .452 Sizing die complete with liquid alox lube = $10.84

List #2:

Lee Production Pot IV = $39.77

Lee 452-200-SWC double bullet mould = $16.27

Lyman master casting kit (lubrisizer, ingot mould, dipper, lube, cast bullet handbook, and small melting pot) = $99.07

Although the lubrisizer is the main thing needed here, the kit is only around $5 more than the lubrisizer by itself, so what the hell.

Lyman #460 top punch = $5.16

Lyman .452 H&I sizing die = $13.00

Personally I'd go ahead and get several sticks of Orange Magic bullet lube @ $2.97 a tube.

Lube heater = $29.81 This will be needed for the Orange Magic lube, or any lube that requires heat to flow. I like Orange Magic or Thompson Blue Angel lube, but this culd eb considered overkill for the low velocity .45 auto. I like it because I can use it for my .308 loads or anything else I feel like loading. You could stick with Alox or Super Moly and not have to worry about a heater, but the bullets will be sticky and a general pain (IMHO).


For either list you'll need a few other items that can be scrounged from around the house or a trip to the grocery. A couple of other things should be in any well equipped garage, but who knows.

I like a large soup spoon with a small pair of vice grips attached to remove the crap that floats to the top after fluxing or melting down wheel weights.

A metal cat litter scoop can be very useful to remove the clips when melting down wheel weights.

A coleman stove or equivalent heat source for melting down wheel weights. Your marrage will not survive you doing this on the kitchen stove, and you don't want to grunge up your casting melter with all this filth.

A 2 quart pot to melt wheel weights in. You can also use this when alloying metal. If you are tempted to "borrow" a pot from your wife, DON'T!. You'll end up buying her an entire new set of cookware even if you asked her for the pot. Once women see lead being melted in one of their pots, they tend to go a little nuts.

A steel soup ladle to transfer molten metal from the pot to your ingot mould.

A mini muffin tin (teflon coated) as an ingot mould. This is perfect when using the Lee pots and I've never seen anything better for the price.

Safety glasses!

Two pairs of gloves. A pair of welder type gloves to use when melting wheel weights and a pair of leather gloves that fit well for general casting. The welder gloves are too bulky for actual casting, and digging wheel weights out of buckets will really tear up leather gloves. If either pair gets holes in them, get a new pair! Holes = PAIN.

A thick dish towel to drop new bullets onto. No other towel will work as well.

A casting thermometer. Lyman = $21.95 This is absolutely necessary. I have a really nice thermocouple thermometer that will stand constant immersion, but most people don't have something like this in their garage.

Needle nose pliers to handle all the hot stuff involved with casting. I have some tweezers that are about 12" long that are great, but pliers will also work.

A butane lighter for smoking the Lee moulds.

A piece of 2X4 to rest the hot moulds on when you're finished casting.

A wet towel for cooling off hot moulds during the casting process (Lee only). A golf towel works well here, especially if you no longer play golf.

An empty peanut butter jar (plastic) to hold the bullets (once cooled). It must be clear so you can admire your bullets before sizing/lubing.

An empty pickle jar (glass) for holding sprue cut-offs and rejected bullets.

You may want to try some type of mould release. I've tried the Midway stuff but don't really like it. The best thing I've found is Crown #6080 Dry Moly Lubricant. I "borrowed" a case of this stuff from work and it's the best. Moulds that have been properly smoked shouldn't need mould release, but I find that it provideds a little "forgiveness" while casting.

A 5 gallon bucket to use when water hardening bullets.

A large supply of sponges. At least 6 spinges will be placed on top of the water in your bucket to act as a cushion for the bullets and to keep splashign to a minimum. Ideally the bullets shoudl hit the sponge and then roll gently into the water.

That's all I can think of right now, but it should give anyone a good idea of the kind of stuff needed.

I would recommend getting an extra top punch of any type if you decide on a lubrisizer. File this top punch flat and it will work on almost any caliber flat pointed bullet. I have one that used to be a .358 SWC top punch that I now use for .308, .358, and .452 bullets of the correct shape.

Only use Lyman H&I dies but you can use any top punch (Lyman or RCBS).

I love discussing casting, so I'll be happy to elaborate on anything I've mentioned here.
 

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Walking Point is giving excellent advice here!! Unless you really love to experiment and do pseudo scientific tests with your bullets (...some people really like casting that much, I don't), don't worry about alloys and hardness too much, just keep it cheap and easy (you can also get good quality this way!!). In my experience, for 45 ACP and 38 spl, 9x19 and .40 S&W speeds (up to 1150 fps) I use water quenched wheelweights, good accuracy and no leading. I only start mixing about 5% of 50/50 solder when I cast for 357 or 44 mag, I drop them on water and no gas checks are needed up to 1300 fps, above that velocity I use gas checks.
If you are interested in saving money, then you must locate a few sources for cheap scrap wheelweights. Not all wheelweight alloys are the same, some cast superb bullets, and some don't, you won't know until you try what is available locally.
 

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Walking Point said
A 2 quart pot to melt wheel weights in. You can also use this when alloying metal. If you are tempted to "borrow" a pot from your wife, DON'T!. You'll end up buying her an entire new set of cookware even if you asked her for the pot. Once women see lead being melted in one of their pots, they tend to go a little nuts.
I don't even recall what I said - it certainly was not overt - but somehow my wife sniffed out my hidden agenda and told me in clear and uncertain terms that I was NOT going to melt lead in the stainless steel saucepans.



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I just use straight wheel weight alloy for 30-30 (gas check), 9mm, 38, 45 acp. I use what ever hard lube I can get the cheapest, including a buddy's home made stuff. I prefer Thompsons Bear lube, just because it's the easiest to apply at 110 degrees.

I don't do any quenching, that takes time, I want hi production. I use a SAECO 10 pound pot and usually run two 4 cavity molds, alternating between them.

I have a small casting bench I built in the garage. It's about belly high to me, on casters and has about a 20 by 30 inch work surface. When I cast, I roll it to the doorway, just under and behind a 20" window fan hanging from the ceiling.

The melting pot is on the right side of the bench top, two small wood bullet boxes to the left of it (for two different calibers, as I'm using two molds), and a 9 x 13 cake pan (stole that from the wife, that's quite a feat!) in front of the boxes. I dump the sprues and rejects into the cake pan, also set the molds in there as I'm working with the other mold.

The good thing about casting is it's versatility. You can go as simple or fancy as you want.

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johnnyb
A slow hit beats a fast miss
 

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Just for info: in this neck of the woods, linotype goes for $0.50/lb while ww goes for $0.20. Several local scrap yards seem to have plenty of both. The name brand tire shops don't seem to be real keen on giving up the scrap weights. Personally, I am using a "Pilgram Lube" from a URL that WP gave me. This stuff is basically beeswax and is cheap to get. Works well in my Lyman 450. I have not seem any leading signs in my .45. Casting, lube/sizing, and assembling the rounds is almost as much fun as putting 'em down range.
 

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Iv`e found that a product called "Marvelux" does a much better job of fluxing, than parrafin. It does`nt smoke, isnt flammable, actually helps to prevent rust in your pot, and generally works better. One more hint, when melting down dirty ww`s, or another alloy, dont skim off the greyish "dust" that is at the top of the pot. It looks like pure dirt, but alot of it is the tin, that has to be put back into the lead, by fluxing. So flux thoroughly, and THEN skim off the dross!Good luck Bruthas!
 

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Wow...very informative Walking Point...question though...what does the added solder do for the lead? is it for consistancy?

and a thought for you...many years ago...I worked at a NAPA parts store...We supplied all the local gas stations there wheel weights....maybe you could cut out the middle man and get your weights right from the suppliers.

Thanks again for the great info.
Greg
 

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I will make an uninformed guess that new wheel weights would not be cost effective.

The solder is used to increase the tin content. This is useful for helping to get the metal to fill the mould better. I'm using solder, but am not completely sold on the idea, sort of a "better safe than sorry" situation right now.

My main concern with consistent casting right now is the temperature of the melt. I'm having to keep my alloy at 770 degrees with Lee moulds and 830 degrees with steel moulds in order to get properly filled out bullets(20:1 or #2 alloy).

Everything I read indicates bullets can be cast at less than 700 degrees. Maybe the guys casting at lower temperatures are using an alloy containing linotype, which I haven't tried yet. I guess as long as I get good bullets I shouldn't care...

This high temperature turned out to be the secret to getting good bullets with my older steel moulds as well as my latest Lyman mould for my .303 Brit (I'll be shooting some of these this morning).
 

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Yep. I used to cast with straight linotype at about 650F back when it was plentiful and cheap (0.17/lb). It made beautiful bullets, albeit much harder than I really needed. But when the price of linotype went through the roof, so did the temperature of my casting pot. When I changed to wheel weights I had to increase the temperature to 830-850F to get good bullets with my Lyman and RCBS moulds. I also have to flux the pot a whole lot more than I used to!-TR

Originally posted by Walking Point:
I'm having to keep my alloy at 770 degrees with Lee moulds and 830 degrees with steel moulds in order to get properly filled out bullets(20:1 or #2 alloy).

Everything I read indicates bullets can be cast at less than 700 degrees. Maybe the guys casting at lower temperatures are using an alloy containing linotype, which I haven't tried yet
 

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It's good to hear that I'm not the only one having to use these high temperatures.

I think it's about time casting info is updated to reflect wheel weights as the bulk source of alloy used by most casters. No where have I seen a rough temperature guide available. Articles that state casting temps need to be below 700 degrees are pretty much out of date according to the casters I've been talking to.

I'm finding that my Lee moulds cast well at around 770 degrees, while the steel moulds cast well at 830 or so.

A few days ago I tried casting with #2 alloy at 650. I preheated the mould to 150, then kept casting until it reached the best temperature just to make sure I didn't overdo it. Needless to say I never got good bullets at that temp. I increased the temp 25 degrees at a time before I reached the temp where the bullets were good.

I wish I could have gotten a Lee mould, but Lee doesn't offer a .314 mould for the .303 Brit.
 

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Hey Walking Point, I agree with ya about them updating the manuals! Has anyone tried to alloy WW`s with 95/5 solder, yet? I am curious if it works as well as 50/50, since it`s hard to find 50/50 nowdays. (In this area, at least!)
 

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I would have to think that 95/5 solder would be superior to 50/50 solder. Ater all, who needs the 50% pure lead to screw up the alloy? 95/5 contains 5% antimony which is not something that is easy to find or handle, yet helps make good bullets.

My situation is that 50/50 solder is easy to find ($2.68/Lb), but 95/5 isn't available from a cost effective source.
 

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95/5 is 95% tin and 5% antimony. 95/5 solder is normally labeled as being "lead free".

I've found that several small spools of solder in my garage are 95/5, but the actual weight is too small to attempt any alloy experiments. I cut them up into 6" pieces and have been adding them to the pot with the theory of improving my 20:1 alloy. Probably just a waste of time.

In all probability, straight wheel weights cast at 800+ degrees are probably all anyone needs. I haven't noticed any difference between Lyman #2 alloy (using 9 lbs WW to 1 Lb 50/50 solder) and my 20:1 alloy. In some cases it appears that the #2 actually has a tendency to lead more.

All my leading problems to date have been with a particular .38 Super. This barrel would lead badly no matter what I did. The leading was eliminated when I replaced the Ed Brown match barrel with a fairly new vintage Colt barrel. Now I can use a 150 grain SWC that feeds very well and cuts nice clean holes in the target.
 

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I just read an interesting piece that warns against allowing alloy temperature to approach 900F. It might be worth a look at http://www.mkcb.com then click on FAQs and Faqtoids, then click on Q&A 0n Casting.-TR

[This message has been edited by TangoRomeo (edited 07-11-2001).]

[This message has been edited by TangoRomeo (edited 07-11-2001).]
 

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I'll have to check it out. I know lead doesn't begin to "fume" below 1100 degrees, but lead isn't all we're melting. Personally I call it quits at 850 degrees.
 
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