First Try At Smelting (And it Went Well!)


Smokey Joe
October 7, 2010, 07:52 PM
This is a report from a newbie bullet caster--actually, I haven't even gotten that far--YET!

Got a screaming deal I couldn't pass up on an RCBS bottom-pour bullet casting furnace a while back. So of course I had to get all the other "stuff" that went with it, which I have been accumulating here & there, catch-as-catch-can.

Also have been bringing fired bullets back from whatever range I'm on, as well as accumulating Pb from whatever source.

So the first step in bullet manufacture is to smelt some lead of a mix to cast bullets. I figured the easy way would be best for a newbie--Just melt up the fired bullets, clean off all the dirt and various jackets, etc, and cast ingots! Today was the day. I'll use these to make target bullets, so if they're a little soft, well, they won't be going very fast anyhow. Hard-cast hunting bullets will be later.

Pic # 248 shows the set-up. Pic # 252 is a closer look. Actually I had 3x that much dross--emptied the little cans twice before! Pic # 249 is the finished product--the first ingots poured are on the upper right--HA! Practice makes perfect. The 2 plastic jars were each about 3/4 full of bullets, for the raw material for this project. Pic # 253--My wife being absent for the afternoon, Rajah assumed supervisory duties.

Results & Conclusions:

1. This is easy--If I can do it then anyone can do it. I wore all-cotton, plus work boots, safety glasses, and work gloves. There was no splashing of molten lead or any other bad cess.

2. Products that worked: Frankford Arsenal (Midway's house brand) Drop Out coated the inside of the Lyman ingot mould, and the ingots fell right out when the mould was turned over. Likewise the Frankford Arsenal Clean Cast Fluxing compound did its job also. Used Birchwood Casey's Gun Scrubber to hit the frying pan, the big ladle, the small spoon, and the ingot mould before starting. (But non-chlorinated brake cleaner would have worked just as good and is cheaper.) An ordinary stainless steel teaspoon was great for picking out bullet jackets and dirt floating on the molten lead. The big ladle worked fine for dipping lead and pouring it into the Lyman ingot mould, after I figured out to heat it before dipping. The Lyman mould itself also worked just fine, and the ingots will fit into the RCBS furnace nicely.

3. Products that didn't work so well: The propane-fired iron cook-stove didn't heat the lead very well--the lead kept trying to solidify around the edge of the pan, and the bullets took FOREVER to get melted. I used the little propane torch to "augment" the cook-stove, and to heat the ladle before dipping and pouring with it. The cook-stove may just need some adjustment--it burned with a partly yellow flame.

It was time-consuming: This little smelting job took about 4 hours to set-up, do, clean up after, and tear down & put away. I expect it'll go faster when/if I can get my cook-stove adjusted properly. On the other hand, I've now got material to cast a couple hundred target bullets. Already got the mould for that, and a Lyman lubricator/sizer.

So there you are, FWIW. :)

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Smokey Joe
October 7, 2010, 08:01 PM
We'll try again:

Smokey Joe
October 7, 2010, 08:15 PM
Here's the last pic, I HOPE!! :fire: :banghead: This uploading takes forever.

Maj Dad
October 7, 2010, 08:59 PM
You're going to have a blast making cast boolits, fiddling with alloys, fluxing and skimming, then getting the molds ready, smoking them with a match or whatever, casting those first silver slugs, getting discouraged at the less-than-perfect first results, getting stoked on the better ones that follow... but I digress... Like I said, welcome! Your setup sent me careening down memory lane, back to 1973 and all the fun (and flak from the wife) I had. It's still fun, but you're having more right now :D
George J.

Smokey Joe
October 7, 2010, 09:05 PM
Thanks for your encouragement! And thanks too, for your service.

October 7, 2010, 11:16 PM
Smokey Joe, one day I will get into casting, right now I have too many demands on my time, but I have been reading about it. One of the things that I have read several places is that you should leave a little lead in the bottom of your pan and let it cool. The large surface area in contact with the pan will heat a lot more quickly next time and allow you to melt additional lead much faster.

October 8, 2010, 12:50 AM
It is a lot of fun, and very satisfying when you fire those first few home cast bullets!

I am still very new at it myself. Just shot my first batch of home brewed a few months ago. I still grin like an idiot every time I pull the trigger on one of my 357 or 45 loads that's only costing me about 6 or 7 cents per round, and shoots much better than any store bought jacketed ammo.

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