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Lead scrounging


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Do you wash your scrounged lead before you melt it or do you just melt it down and scoop off the top crap? I'm wondering about the more efficient way to recycle it. Do you make ingots first or just clean it up in one step? Thanks in advance.

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Do not wash it unless you absolutely feel the need. Make 10000% sure it is dry before adding to molten lead. 
 

Remove what floats to the top, flux and repeat. Then make into manageable ingots. 
 

 Be on the lookout for zinc  contamination. 

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If the lead I am recycling has enough dirt that washing it off helps remove a lot of it, I wash it.  If it has next to nothing in the way of loose dirt, I don't wash it. 

 

So,  roofing sheet lead usually goes to first melt down right away.   Paint and tar will burn off rather than wash off.

 

Range lead with lots of dirt coating, gets washed.   Range lead from an indoor range with fairly well cleaned traps - melt down.

 

IF you wash anything, it has to dry before putting any of it into a molten lead bath.  Some folks put lead that could be damp into a cold pot and melt it as a big batch, but I don't trust that a large "lead slide" won't occur and carry some damp lead into the liquid - leading to a lead explosion.  Instead, I leave the lead in the high desert sun for a few days, turning it over each day.  Any lead dug out of berms should be treated as if it is damp with water.

 

As for cleaning up lead.  Melt and flux off the majority of the dross (correct name for crud or crap from a metal melting process) in a separate pot, something like 20 to 40 pounds at a time.  That is about what the average person can handle 100% safely while transferring lead into ingots.   DON'T do a first melt down right in your casting pot.  You WILL leave a ton of dross stuck into parts of your casting pot where it is hard to reach.  Especially a bottom-pour pot, where it clogs the pour spout.  Use the ingots you cast from that first melt down.  First melt down fluxing is done pretty easily with a mix of two-cycle oil and sawdust.   In a well ventilated area, that does not blow smoke toward easily-disturbed neighbors.

 

Mark all ingots from each batch with a unique identifying number or name.   Then, if you find all the ingots from one batch have been contaminated with zinc or calcium or lots of copper or aluminum, and won't cast into good bullets, you know which ones to set aside and not attempt more casting with bad alloy.  Keeping melt lot sizes down to a smaller weight helps isolate bad bunches of lead.  Even better, take a hardness test on each batch of ingots and ALSO put that on each ingot, so if you want to make a softer or harder bullet, you know the ingots which you need to put in the casting pot!

 

And make sure you know what you are putting into the first melt.  If you have "mystery" metal - resist EVERY urge to just toss it in with the rest.  It only takes a little of some metals to ruin a large batch of otherwise great casting alloy.   Poured Bearing (Babbitt) metal, low maintenance battery metal,  unsorted wheel weights, bismuth shot, all are "mystery" metal and not worth keeping around.

 

You will find these recommendations closely match those of Glen Fryxell and C E (Ed) Harris, two of the leading experts in cast bullet making.

An excellent book by Fryxell is at:

https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/new-cast-bullet-book-pdf-by-glen-fryxell.615067/

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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To clarify, it's range lead where jacketed ammo is not allowed. There is a lot of dirt stuck to some of it, so I wondered about the dirt. I'm not sure about the eventual hardness of the end result, but it's all cowboy lead so I'm not worried about zinc contamination.

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Zinc WILL make it harder to cast good bullets.  Been there, fought with that.  Best to avoid range lead if it has a lot of zinc in it.  Commonly caused by previous casters not making sure to keep zinc wheelweights out of their first melt down pot.

 

General hardness of range lead runs from 7 to 10 Brinnell hardness.  The lower end if a lot of 22 ammo or jacketed ammo has been shot on range.  Commercial bullets often used by cowboy shooters are cast from 94-4-2 alloy commonly, and run about 13 Brinnell.

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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All scrounged lead should be melted in a different pot, not in the bullet casting pot

*. Scrounged lead, Zero wash.  The dross with fluxing will float to the top of the lead.

* Remove dross and give a second fluxing to remove more dross … stir the flux deep into pot and scrape the walls of the pot

*. Remove dross and pour clean melt into ingots that can used in bullet casting pot

When I clean scrounged lead in the separate,pot, I use a propane weed burner that creates 32, 000  BTU’s

Am a great scrap yard fan of sheet lead, Bhn 5-6 that I can alloy to different ratios … about 1,700 lbs of different alloy & pure ingots stacked up in the basement
 

Edited by John Boy
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My method of turning scrap lead into ingots.   I do range lead the same way.  Start with a cold pot if there any suspension of water or ice in the lead. Don't add to a pot of melted lead. I do a couple of melt downs a year.

 

 

 

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I used to melt my srap yard lead into ignots over an outside fire or gas cooker, because the lead is usually pretty clean I now just brush  it off  & make the pieces small enough to go in the 40lb Magma Caster pot,skim the top & flux regularly...been doing it that way now for approx 4 years with no problems..for me the extra work of making ignots wasn't worth it.

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You will typically spend 3 times the hours casting as you would cleaning up lead and casting into ingots, then casting with known clean lead, with a known hardness that is now under your control.    If you can't spend an hour to make the 3 hours a lot less hot work and guess work, then, maybe you don't have the time to cast bullets....

 

GJ 

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When fluxing I prefer pine or fir sawdust. It will not remove tin and other alloys like commercial fluxes will. 
 

I get it from the local lumber store. A 3lb coffee can full lasts a long time.
 

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Back on topic: If the lot is big enough, from a tire shop, I sort first. It a bit labor intensive, but given the amount of non-lead weights, it is worth it. 

 

Zinc goes in one pile, steel in another. 

 

Clip on gets separated from stick on: clip on are harder, higher in antimony. Stick on are mostly soft lead.

 

Outdoors: the clip on get smelted first, use paraffin to flux, or oil, any cheap stuff like canola or whatever. I use a temp gauge, don't go much over 600 ºF. If any zinc got into the mix it will float. After all the clips and crap are skimmed off, I clean the alloy with a sawdust flux, followed by a paraffin or 2.  Basically i've found it better to have a clean alloy than to try and save the valuable Sb and Sn. The trick is to not touch the alloy if it is below 600 ºF and not to let it get any hotter than 700 ºF. 

 

I pour it into ingots, count them and that # becomes my batch #. 

 

A clean alloy will remain shiny for a while after fluxing. Also, it will have a slight convex surface. 

 

Sawdust will remove some of the zinc, sometimes. It will also help take out some of the copper. Sometimes you'll get some unknown stuff, and you may be able to separate them out. The trick is to have the temp exactly at 600 ºF and swirl the alloy. The contaminates, being lighter than lead will "swim" to the center, scoop them off.

 

OR, just buy 94-4-2 from a metal supplier. It will be clean, and it's just melt and cast. 

 

Old motor oil is a bad thing to use as flux, nasty stuff when it starts smoking. Beeswax isn't nasty, but the yellow residue is annoying. Paraffin burns pretty clean.

 

I usually enrich my COWW alloy with a bit of lino, and perhaps some tin. Most of the time my bullets are nice, sometimes not, such are the joys of making your own alloy without the benefit of an handheld xrf metal analyzer.

 

Commercial casters are fairly competitive, buying bullets lets me save a bit of time. But, for those specialty loads, sometimes you just have to cast your own.

 

BB  

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Okay, so how do you tell zinc from lead?

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On 10/5/2021 at 5:44 PM, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

You will find these recommendations closely match those of Glen Fryxell and C E (Ed) Harris, two of the leading experts in cast bullet making.

An excellent book by Fryxell is at:

https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/new-cast-bullet-book-pdf-by-glen-fryxell.615067/

 

Thanks for the link -- this is a good read. The author claims sawdust and sawdust alone accomplishes all the goals of fluxing the melt. I have some paraffin too, so I think I'm going to try a bit of paraffin and a spoon of sawdust to get the best of both worlds.

 

Is there any reason to not combine paraffin and sawdust, or is it just overkill?

 

I scored a small pile of lead cable sheath recently, and it's fairly clean, but it does have some dirt caked in it from where it was laying on the ground for a few years. I'll probably wash it, dry it, then flux with sawdust and paraffin before casting into ingots. This will be my first attempt at melting scrap down -- thanks for the great guidance in this thread!

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18 hours ago, DeaconKC said:

Okay, so how do you tell zinc from lead?

Razor knife;). Even though I know most of the brand names w/stamp and shapes, some of the zinc ones are getting so close to look alike.

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I carry a pair of sidecutters...If I cant squeeze a cut into it-it aint lead
The few that get through float to the top when cleaning and making ingots (gotta pay attention and not just walk away from the pot-that way they dont melt in with the good lead)

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5 hours ago, C.N. Double said:

Is there any reason to not combine paraffin and sawdust, or is it just overkill?

 

I find that just sawdust is hard to get stirred into the metal pool to make it work.  It wants STRONGLY to float way up high, even above any dross that starts collecting at the surface.   Adding a little paraffin or 2-cycle mix oil to the sawdust adds weight to the sawdust, and helps drag the sawdust under when stirred.  You have to stir it in quick, because the wax/oil will get hot and even break into flames much above 700 F.   Sawdust sitting on the surface will not work on the main part of the metal pool in the pot.  It takes stirring (a lot) and some time for the oxide reduction and the dross separation from the metal to happen.  Some fellows allow the first-melt 700 F lead alloy to sit for 15 minutes, skim dross, then flux again with deep stirring, sit for 15 minutes,  skim off dross  - and keep repeating that until very little dross comes to the surface.   One of those fellows - is me!

 

Sawdust - a long chained organic carbon (with a few flexible organic and water-based compounds) will COKE (convert into almost pure carbon) if it is held under the metal surface at 700 F.   Then, when the black coke comes to the surface, it oxidizes - even breaking into flame.  What you want is the carbon (and some of the carbon monoxide from partial combustion) to react with the oxides in the metal pool to turn tin and antimony oxides back into metal - just like happens at a little higher temperature in a lead smelting or iron making blast furnace.  You will see bubbles of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide escape up out of the metal pool if you can hold the carbonaceous materials under the surface.  Means things (reduction of metal oxides) are working!

 

Sawdust and wax (or oil) are reductants and surfactants.  They tend to reduce tin and antimony oxides back to metal state, so they redissolve into the metal pool where you want them.   And the surface tension increase by adding the wax/oil allows the lead alloy pool to reject the dross particles so they float to the surface easily to be skimmed off.  And it makes the lead LESS likely to stick to the steel of the pot!  Otherwise, they want to stick to the walls and base of the melting pot.  Or stay suspended in the metal alloy itself.  (Sort of the opposite of fluxing when soldering metal, where you want the lead alloy to stick BETTER to the copper, brass or steel you are soldering)

 

I commonly use both sawdust and 2 cycle oil myself.  I also have found ash or scrub-oak leaves (very dry) can do the same work as sawdust.   And I can get those even easier than I can sawdust.  Especially this time of year.

 

There is no overkill when adding cheap household items to clean up lead alloy worth a buck or two per pound.    If  10 cents of fluxing materials saves me 15 minutes of stirring and separating during melt-down, and 15 minutes of re-treating the metal once it goes into the casting furnace, I find that to be a wonderful  tradeoff!

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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Howdy Pards

 

Wow! Lots of different ways to tackle the issue and all offering good perspectives.

 

My thots on the issue? I’m fortunate that the range I use has plenty of bullet scrap available. I try to get to matches early and scrounge a few lbs before the match starts and the range goes hot.

 

Between bullet lube and dirt … well, pretty dirty stuff. I put a few lbs in a large plastic jar, add a little liquid soap, and pour on boiling water. After it’s cooled I give it a good shake, drain the dirty water, and wash, rinse, repeat once or twice more. Then pour out the scrap to dry.

I do flux ( I appreciate the comment about mixing oil and sawdust for fluxing!) and find that there is much less crud rising to the top for skimming off. Then pour into ingot mould. Then, flux once more when ingots are melted for bullet casting.

 

In days of yore I used to apply this method for cleaning used wheel weights which tended to be incredibly dirty and greasy. Remember when wheel weights were abundant and made of lead alloy? Sadly, no more.

 

Adios 

 

Fort Reno Kid 

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Howdy Pards

 

Rereading the responses and noted the question about differentiating lead wheel weights from zinc (and steel and plastic as well).

 

On rare occasions when I get a supply of wheel weights I employ an ultra high-tech method to ferret out the non-lead ones.

 

I put on sturdy gloves and get a 10-penny finishing nail or an old box-cutter knife (hence the gloves). I get each ww and scrape the nail or knife across it. If it’s lead, there’ll be a deep scratch revealing shiny metal. If zinc, steel, or plastic: the sharp instrument will “skitter” across the ww, often with an unpleasant sound.

 

Very effective for me and BTH out of dropping them indiscriminately into the melting pot and watching the bad actors rise to the top and perhaps contaminate the otherwise good lead in the pot.

 

In melting range lead I have on rare occasions had a “mystery” bullet rise to the top and float on the molten lead but it’s never contaminated the rest of the melt.

 

Adios

 

Fort Reno Kid 

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3 hours ago, Fort Reno Kid said:

In melting range lead I have on rare occasions had a “mystery” bullet rise to the top and float on the molten lead

 

Yep, some folks have, in the past and even now, cast target bullets from zinc.  That kind of mystery metal needs to be fished out, exactly as you are doing.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

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depending on The 3 Hs I either buy clean ingots or melt scrap

 

The 3 Hs you say?

 

Heat, Humidity and Health.  

 

Houston in the summer has two of these maxed out and, at 75, Health is a on-again, off-again proposition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Go to castboolits.com. Yes boolits. Loads of information on melting, smelting, cleaning lead. No need to repost here.

There is an alloy calculator that uses proven data for alloys. Usually do 500-1000 lbs a month.

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