Sunday, July 20, 2014

Casting Ingots I

Before you can cast bullets, you need clean lead in a usable size, at a known hardness.

Lead is often gathered by working a berm at a range, gathering the bullets that collect there over time. Those bullets are dirty, mixed lead, some with copper jackets.

Another source is tire weights. The alloy that tire weights are made from makes pretty good pistol bullets. They are also dirty, with metal clips. When you get a bucket of weights, it has cigarette butts, air valves, and unfortunately, some newer weights not made from lead.

Sometimes large blocks of pure lead can be found. Medical lead blocks for shielding radiation, old sailboat keels, old plumber's lead are all possibilities.

Pure lead is very soft. People add various tin or antimony blends to make the lead harder. Sometimes casters use linotype, a lead alloy that was used in newspaper printing until the 1980s, to make a hard alloy. If you can find some linotype, it is a known hardness. It can be used by itself or mixed with pure lead in known quantities to make consistent alloys.

You have to melt the lead, clean the melted lead of the debris, flux it and remove the dross, then pour the ingots. Safety is a huge issue. Lead melts around 620 degrees. any contact with the lead results in a burn. Lead is a heavy metal, ingesting the lead in any way is serious health risk.

And the end product is only an intermediate step in casting bullets.

5 comments:

Old NFO said...

That's a bullet or three sitting there... And yes, it IS a PITA... Friend of mine burned his barn down many years ago because of that...

Borepatch said...

Now *that's* what I call recycling ...

;-)

Nosmo King said...

Speaking of hazards, one learns very quickly what happens when a moth happens to land in the lead pot. I suspect there's still lead on the garage ceiling of that house, and that was over 30 years ago.....lesson learned: do not cast at night with the garage door open.

Linotype/Monotype (assuming you can find any now) can be alloyed with wheel weight lead to raise hardness. IIRC, Saeco makes a relatively inexpensive hardness tester, or they used to.

I'm also suspicious of what's being used for wheel weights these days. Most of that lead now is coming from overseas someplace, and without testing it you have no idea what the composition is. Lyman #2 is a specific alloy and a reliable standby, and can also be used to improve the hardness of "junk" lead. Kinda spendy, but if it proofs to Lyman #2 and is sold as such by a reputable outfit, a few extra bucks for known good isn't necessarily bad. While muzzle loaders use pure lead for projectiles because it's soft enough to allow rifling to engrave when loading, good bullets for cartridge arms are an alloy of lead, tin and antimony, and that alloy melts in the low-mid 600F range. IIRC, antimony melts at >1100F and tin at about 500F, so building your own L-T-A alloy is a PITA.

If one has the implements, knowledge and experience to cast, it might not be a bad idea to build a stockpile of castable lead. One never knows. In case you're wondering, a 50 caliber ammo can will hold exactly 144 one pound ingots if carefully stacked, and several of them are just dandy for holding stuff together while glue dries....

gunfreezone said...

And keep liquids away from molten lead.... even a drop of sweat can create a spectacular eruption resulting in lead flying & landing where it may hurt...

knottedprop said...

Church roofs make a good source of lead.