First foray into Smelting


May 17, 2010, 02:52 AM
Had accumulated about 35 Pounds of Range Lead, all Pistol kinds...melted them down in a cut down Coffee Can on a little Gas Hot Plate, and poured the 'Buttons' to be about 3/4 of an inch thick, using an old Brass Ash Tray for an Ingot Mold.

What fun!

How does one casually test for hardness, to guess at a BN?

I could see some crystal patterns as they cooled, suggesting to my guess, that there is some Zinc present in their alloys. (

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evan price
May 17, 2010, 07:08 AM
Those "crystal patterns" are normal in lead alloys. Not indicative of zinc at all.
I respectfully suggest you head over to Castboolits forum to learn more.

May 17, 2010, 07:28 AM
I always tossed in a little 95/5 solder with wheel weights and/or range lead and they shot just fine in .44 SPl & .45. No idea of the BHN except what I thought it might be from reading about BHN & various lead alloys. It worked, so I was happy.

May 17, 2010, 01:28 PM
Yes, Castboolits has a lot of good information. One expedient hardness test is to scratch your lead with a standard #2 pencil. Number two has a hardness of about BNH of between 12-15 and can leave a scratch on pure lead, but not harder alloys.

The crystals you see might be lead itself or maybe antimony. You will know instantly if there is zinc present because of the volume of foul language upon seeing metalized oatmeal.

I second the lead-free tin-solder idea. I try to make homemade Lyman #2 alloy with 19 lbs of wheelweight lead and one 1lb roll of lead-free plumber's solder. It's 95% tin, 5% antimony. Another good source of tin is old pewter you find at the flea market. Old pewter was at least 82% tin, and contempory pewter is 97% tin (lead-free).

Since range lead is going to be composed of some cast bullets anyway, you might cut the tin percentage down to 2.5. That concentration will still cast beautifully uniform bullets that won't lead at realtively high velocity.
Good luck,

May 17, 2010, 02:51 PM
Oyeboten, that's a good start to making your own boolits! The crystals you see are definitely antimony. That lead should be good for just about any handgun bullets. The addition of some lead free solder would make the lead flow much better, and give the bullets a more shiny appearance,(IF you don't cast them too hot).

Here's my smelting operation, taking range lead, making into usable sizes for the casting pot.

This was from a long neglected indoor range that was used by both 22 rimfire on half of a 10 position firing line. The rest was jacketed and cast handgun.

I've had good luck using it just as it is for 45's. Addition of a small amount of tin,(about 1%), makes it flow better, and the harness is around 12 BHN.

If you REALLY want to KNOW the BHN, then you need to buy a hardness tester. I got the lee system, it works! But there's some learning, mainly about getting enough light on the indentation so you can read the scale in the microscope. There's others, cabine tree, saeco, they're 3 times the price of the lee system.

May 17, 2010, 07:33 PM
Thanks very much everyone!

The Bullets I had salvaged from the Earthbanks were about 65 percent Jacketed .45 ACP and some .380 or .38 Super or 9mm I s'pose...and, about 35 percent unjacketed Lead Bullets of various sorts.

What got me going on gathering Range Lead, was trying to find the Bullets I had shot, and pretty well never succeeding. Lol...But finding so much else, I'd grab an empty To-Go cup from the Car, and fill it up.

I will try the No. 2 Pencil method for a rough test of BN.

I was hoping, that since the vast proportion of the Bullets seemed to be Factory Hardball, that these then would have been pure Lead...and that the unjacketed ones, many seemed to be .38 Special or .45 ACP Wadcuttrers, would be of a medium hardness mostly...thus allowing me a friendly to my Guns Alloy once all were melted together.

So I tried to proportion each two inch high Coffee Can base worth, in which I would melt maybe 3/4 ths of an inch of molten Lead Alloy at a time, to be in around the same mix as the larger spread were.

Nice set up there snuffy!

I have a three Loaf 'Lyman' Ingot Mold, and maybe a Ladle also, but I can not find them...Lol...oh well, one day when I am looking for something else, they will turn up...

May 17, 2010, 10:06 PM
Rule of thumb :

Nail that is , take ya thumb nail & see if ya can put a dent in the ingot ,if easy your no more than 9bhn, small dent your in the 12 range , broken nail & no dent your 15-16 bhn

This is in no way a set in stone proceedure , but it`s the best I can do without my tester & most of the time when I`m scroungin then get to the tester I`m close enuff !

castin was easier when I had less numbers to worry about !!!

May 17, 2010, 10:58 PM
Thank you GP11man,

If I press fairly hard with the edge of a Finger Nail, I can make a dent-line which is just able to be felt if I rub a finger tip over it...being a whole lot of not much for 'deep'.

An 'Office Max' Pencil of the "No. 2" way of faith, will indeed make deeper and better actual incuse lines or small dents than my Finger Nails do, but then too, I never ate enough Jello, probably, so...

Might be I am in the ballpark of like a 10 or 11-ish range of BN?

These 'Buttons' or domed Ingots...looking at them and hefting them, kinda makes me want to grab some old heavy Leather, and some Sewing Stuff, and make a nice Sap.

Many of these seem like they would be just right for that.

I don't think it is legal to have a Sap here in Clark County I will refrain...or, I will ask and find out maybe, and see.

May 19, 2010, 12:49 AM
Man, I am missing rcmodel.
He's been spending entirely too much time not being here of late.
I sure hope he is doing something fun.

Anyway, I have a copy of this saved in my Reloading NFO folder.

I use a very scientific method that is also very cheap.
Free in fact.

If I can scratch it with my thumbnail, it is Soft.
If I can't scratch it with my thumbnail, it is Hard.
If it breaks instead of bends, it is Linotype.

Soft is for standard calibers & velocity's.
Hard is for Magnums & Glocks.
Linotype is for rifles.


Thank you rcmodel.



May 19, 2010, 02:34 AM
'Soft' then is what this Lead is then...bent a little 1/4 inch thick spill puddle once cold, bent it back and forth a great deal and it did not work harden but for very slightly.

Perfect! That's what I wanted.

It'll be for .45 Colt, .44 Cap & Ball, .38 Special...maybe .38 ACP...maybe .45 ACP too.

Should do fine for the Velocities these will be doing as long as I can match Boolit to Bore halfway well ( fastest being I s'pose, the .38 Auto, if doing standard loadings, 1100-ish fps with a 130 Grn fastest, or about the same, some of the .44 Cap & Ball Revolvers if full charges and Ball, and long Barrel .45 Colt close behind...and 600s to 900s for .38 Special dependong on Barrel length and Boolit weight. )


Scrounging Range Lead is fun and easy and relaxing...a perfect liesurely wind down after Shooting.

Kinda works out well I'd say.

Well...golly...onto what Mold to try first! and getting the hang of that.

May 19, 2010, 03:43 AM
I use scrounged range lead for just about everything except "magnum" loads. If the bullets don't cast with nice sharp shoulders, I add just a little tin -- maybe 1/2%. This is my major source of lead; about 20 pounds at a time.

Wheel weights for hot loads. Again, 1/2% tin but only if I need it to get sharper bullets.

I also have some pure lead that I want to try casting flat-nosed bullets this summer and see how well they expand at .38 Special +P and .45 Colt velocities.

May 19, 2010, 05:48 AM
Here's the set-up - (

Mold too cold...Lead too cold...heating Mold for it to be too hot, Lead too Hot, Pour, count to ten, see the sprue go frosty, open Mold, Molten lead pours out...

Mold about right but maybe not, Lead alright maybe, Bullets wrinkled or frosty or not filled in...Mold too cold again...

Heat Mo0ld better, and Scorch Handles on Mold...

Like that...

And, after a while of looking for some success, solme harmony of elements, a few dozen shiney, well formed, no wrinkles, no frosty, well filled out ( could use a little Tin maybe ) Bullets, of which these are a few - (

Next I will try some supposed Lead Tin Alloy I have, said to be 5 percent Tin I think, or 20 Lead 1 Tin, and see how it does.

This was fun, and, I have a nice handful of 195 Grain .38 Special Bullets to load up and try or remelt, as I decide. I should be squeezing the Mold Handles tighter I think, as the Bullets appear to be right about .360 in diameter...and some have a whisp of 'feather' at the parting lines.

Next round, I will squeeze tighter..!

Did a few Balls for the .44 Cap and Ball also...those all seemed to come out fine with no disappointments.

Woo Hoo!

I broke the Ice...

May 19, 2010, 02:13 PM
Oyeboten, you've found out first hand why few people cast over a gas flame. It's just too damn hard to regulate the temperature. As you found, there's a sweet spot where the metal and the mold are both at the right temp. In order to stay there, you need a way to regulate the heat.

The simple way to do that is to buy an electric pot. The Lee's are the cheapest, but not C-H-E-E-P, as in junk. The 10 pounder is nicknamed the drip-o-matic, because the bottom pour valve is prone to leaking. The pro-20 is a much better pot, seldom leaks, and holds a lot more metal, and has a bigger opening on top.

How hard you squeeze the handles has little to do with how big the bullets are. As long as the mold is closed completely, the bullets will be whatever size they're supposed to be. Unless you have something in between the mold halves, like some leftover lead from your still molten bullets.

Stick with it, the adventure has just begun. The final joy will be seeing the results on-target, as they say, PRICELESS!:D

May 19, 2010, 02:39 PM
I remember the first bullets I cast. Really good feeling. "Wow, I just made some bullets....cooooooll :D"

May 19, 2010, 06:24 PM
If it is Breezy out, I noticed that the Lead is harder to keep at a right temp on the little Gas Flame...Lol...

Keeping the Mold hot enough was most of the challenge I think.

Pressing my little Gas Hot Plate into this service, was a serendipity, and now that it is splattered with Lead drips, and all cruddy, I do not feel like I want to use it for cooking food, so, it is now officially retired from food, and the designate for other uses...Lol...

That Electric Pot looks nice.

I guess it would make things easier.

Years ago, I did a little of this, using my Wood Stove.

With it's door open, the natural draft of it pulling air in, pulled in all the fumes or kept them in, easy to keep a Mold 'hot', and so on, but, a little awkward having to reaach in with Tongs for the Melting Pot to do the

I will do some looking into the Electric one. Seems pretty elegant...and fewer moves needed.

I guess somewhere around 'now', is when I may get onto setting up my Lubrisizer for sizing and Lubing the Boolits which are getting Cast.

It'd hate to think what all this would be like, if it was hard or difficult or complicated and demanding and needing lots of things to do.


I'm really enjoying this, and glad I finally can be getting a Toe into the Water with it.

May 20, 2010, 06:01 AM
Weighed a few, and they seem to be about 205 Grains...some are like 203, some 207, some right on 205...

Now...need to root around for some Load Data I think I saved for this weight Bullet in .38 Special...

May 20, 2010, 07:07 AM
Nice bullets. What flux did you use?

May 20, 2010, 09:29 AM
You may want to sort out some pure lead for your black powder. The softer the lead the better you will like it. ;)

May 20, 2010, 12:34 PM
Double Post. My bad.


May 20, 2010, 12:38 PM
Shiney bullets will weigh a tad more as the lead/mould is 'colder', frosty a bit less as things come up to temp. But frosty, if you can keep it there, will be more consistent. I guess it has something to do with density.

Lead, like Mercury, is a heavy metal that the body retains. It stacks up and does not go away. I don't cast anymore for that reason. I've got enough problems w/o adding to the mix.

Use good ventilation. Two fans, one pushing the other pulling. Kinda helped with the smoke and to keep the HG moulds 'running'.


May 20, 2010, 03:25 PM
Thanks you guys...

I used Bee's Wax for Fluxing...and fine Sawdust also, for helping things in it's way.

Skimming off all dross before Pouring initial Ingots ( after lifting our all the junk of course...)

Seemed to stay clean very easily for the Boolit Pouring phase.

'Frosty' having it's own characteristics somewhat...interesting!

Yup...had good ventilation, was outside, light Breeze, and long habits of breathing control from working with other things.

Electric Smelting Pots do seem, I will be looking into getting one.

I would use it outside also, and mind the fumes, setting up a Fan if no Breeze were available.

"Lee Manual"...Hmmmm, I have that! Now where did I leave it??? It's here somewhere..!

May 20, 2010, 08:24 PM
Lead, like Mercury, is a heavy metal that the body retains. It stacks up and does not go away. I don't cast anymore for that reason. I've got enough problems w/o adding to the mix.

Use good ventilation. Two fans, one pushing the other pulling. Kinda helped with the smoke and to keep the HG moulds 'running'.

Horse hockey! As colonel Potter used to say! Lead does not stay in the body, should you get some by ingestion. It is gradually eliminated. High doses of vitamin C will speed this process.

Lead fumes are almost non-existent at normal casting temps. Some propane burners CAN reach the temps,(above 1200 degrees), where lead fumes are generated. BUT electric pots just can't reach much above 900 degrees. The SMOKE you see is not lead fumes.

Another myth, lead can be absorbed through the skin. .06% of lead you touch will be absorbed. That's 6 one hundredth of 1 percent.

There's a lot of hype from the EPA about how terrible lead is to work with. I cast a lot, I cast indoors with little or no ventilation, and my lead levels are no more than 7.0!

Use good hygiene, don't eat, smoke or touch your face while handling lead, casting or loading. Then be sure you wash your hands and face afterwards.

May 21, 2010, 04:04 AM
Well, I was thinking to toss a few 'Hockey Pucks' of right from the freezer Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage onto the Smelt, to flux it, and a Tader or two maybe, so help soak up the extra Grease, and, maybe a fast Overeasy Egg or two, to make a nice meal while smelting...I expect they'd float there allright...I get hungry when working.

Would this be bad for the Lead?

( Just kidding...sorry...)

May 23, 2010, 06:11 PM
snuffy, maybe you're right. I really hope so.

I'm not a chemist or do I mess with disection or tissue analysis, just an average jerk who tends to take some stuff to heart.

I can't prove what I mentioned or dis prove your comments. But I firmly think what I said to be true, or I wouldn't have mentioned it. I'm not going to back up from having said it.

Man, I hope you're right.



If you enjoyed reading about "First foray into Smelting" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!