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Store-bought lead furnace or grill+dutch oven?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by petrophase, Nov 15, 2010.

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  1. petrophase

    petrophase Member

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    I'm getting into reloading and would also like to cast my own bullets for 38/357. A purpose built electric furnace doesn't run that much, about $35 for a model that will hold 10 lbs of Pb. However, is there any reason I can't just use my propane grill and an old dutch oven?
     
  2. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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  3. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    You can do the grill and iron pot routine but a casting furnace is designed for the job, is more convenient and has better temperature control.

    I've done both.
     
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    And get something that holds more then 10 pounds.

    You will be stopped waiting for ingots to melt more then you are casting with only 10 pounds of alloy.

    Thats only 300 .45 bullets till it runs completely dry, and you will want it 1/2 - 2/3 full all the time to dip out of it and keep the temp constant.

    rc
     
  5. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    You'll get Pb on your grill.
    For the price of dutch oven, ladle, and new shoes for the Mrs. to console her for getting lead splatter on the family grill.....you could have a nice bottom pour melter.
     
  6. dagger dog

    dagger dog Member

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    petro,

    I would suggest both. If you are using pre smelted bullet alloy metal ingots, lead, antimony etc, you can just drop that in the lead casting pot and melt it down, it will be clean enough and you won't need to flux alot , that has been already done at the source.

    But if you are going to try to save a few bucks and experiment with wheel weights,or range salvage lead, then you need to use a propane fired or other powered smelter.

    It is used to process rather dirty alloy into clean ingots , it will usually mean a lot of fluxing SMOKE AND FUMES, and is best done out side or with plenty of ventilation.

    This process of smelting in the outdoor pot then if bringing in the CLEN ingots to drop in your casting furnace, is the most common way done.

    Also pre- cleaning of your salvage lead, getting rid of dust and grit before it is introduced to either the smelting or casting furnaces is a good idea, can just be a simple a using a collander to sift out the unwanted debris, seperating stick ons, cutting the steel clips from the wheelweights, or picking out jacketed bullets from the range lead collected ,to be smelted as a batch at another time.

    You can melt small batches with a large casting furnace, and the bottom pour is an advantage.

    check out the casboolits site for more info.
     
  7. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

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    My old shop teacher used angle iron for his ingots five pieces of 2" angle welded to flat stock at the ends and to each other, for I think 2lb bars (Ok class, to day we are making these, each of you will need to make one, the parts are on that table over there, you need to get it done (checking the thermometer) in about 20 minutes...)

    He melted on a single burner camp stove in coffee cans. He must of cleaned out all the wheel shops cause he had a DRUM full of weights.
     
  8. snuffy

    snuffy Member

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    Casting bullets using a gas fired pot is NOT an easy thing to do. The flames and hot gases going out around the pot will singe your fingers, char the handles of your ladle and make you sweat.

    But the most important factor is temperature control. Or lack of control. Even more precisely the lack of one consistent temp. Bullets of consistent diameter and weight are nearly impossible unless you are casting with a steady temperature. Most gas or propane camp stoves haven't enough BTU's to melt lead and keep it hot.

    A lee pro 4-20 is about the minimum I would suggest.

    [​IMG]

    Here;
    http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/?productNumber=645810

    It's rated at 20 pounds, but really holds 18 pounds for a working weight.
     
  9. Skip_a_roo

    Skip_a_roo Member

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    I say both too. You will not want to smelt your wheel weights in the same pot you cast out of. There are others that have made setups where a 10lb pot is secured above the 20lb as a "pre-melter". Make ingots, put some in both pots and let them both melt. As the one you are casting out of gets empty, simply fill the top one and allow it to melt. You should be able to keep casting in a steady stream, pun intended!

    I have never used this setup but have seen pictures of it at castboolits forum.

    I use a turkey fryer and cast iron dutch oven to smelt wheel weights in and then make ingots. I use a 20lb pot like snuffy shows above.

    I know the "old timers" have got the ladle thing down, I have never been able to and am thankful for the bottom pour pot. Makes life a lot simpler!
     
  10. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Member

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    I smelt on a white gas Coleman camp stove and old cast iron pot.... skim the slag and ladel the clean lead into a Lee ingot mold.

    Then melt the ingots in a Lee Pro-20 and cast.

    Casting with the bottom spout is pretty darn fast.

    The Lee bottom spout pots are notorious for being leakers.... but there are a lot of tips on castboolits.com for fixing the problem.

    As for the size of the pot.... I personally only use two cavity molds and if I can bang out a couple hundred in a casting session that's plenty for me.

    My biggest problem is time. Just can't find enough time to cast and reload and tinker with my guns and shoot, etc...
     
  11. petrophase

    petrophase Member

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    Thanks for the tips! Didn't consider the two-step smelting-casting process. I'll likely do both.
     
  12. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    I used a Coleman one burner camp stove , a pot made from a piece of sch 40 4" pipe, and a ladle for many years and did OK. Finally bought a Lee electric pot. Much better. I still use the stove and pot to smelt and an old cast iron cornbread mold to make ingots.
     
  13. mdi

    mdi Member

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    I too, started simple; a single burner Coleman propane stove, a homemade pot, and some spoons (Navy surplus). For ingot molds I have a six hole muffin pan and a cast aluminum corn bread pan. I then went with the Lee Pro-4 (the one pictured above) for casting and keep the stove/pot for smelting. Since I had a good source of wheel weights, mostly dirty and greasy, smelting in the stove/pot keeps the "drips" out of my Lee.

    BTW, casting your own is a very rewarding asset to reloading. You take some scrap metal and melt it and make precision bullets to fit your individual gun. Then you get into alloying your bullet metal, and of course you'll probably start making your own lube too...:D
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2010
  14. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    Get a $10 electric hotplate from Walgreens (I bought mine on sale for $5) and a 1.5 quart or 2 quart stainless steel saucepan from a thrift store -- preferably with a lid. Make sure the hotplate is the open-coil type, because the ones with a solid cast iron top don't get hot enough. That's all you need for melting scrap to pour your ingots, and you *could* use the same thing plus a bottom-pour ladle for casting bullets, but I recommend the Lee 20 pound bottom-pour furnace.
     
  15. qajaq59

    qajaq59 Member

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    I too have done it both ways, and I agree with zxcvbib and the others. You can use most anything to cast the ingots, but a 20# electric furnace will make casting bullets a whole lot easier.
     
  16. noylj

    noylj Member

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    If you can get a sizable stockpile of wheel weights and other lead alloys, you will want a sizable pot for smelting your lead. Best not to do this in your casting pot. This is where a gas-fired stove and dutch oven or such come in handy (turkey frier?).
    You will want to put clean alloy in your casting pot. The only reasonably priced units are Lee's. For casting, I find that a thermostatic control and a Lyman thermometer are needed for best results.
    One note, I left the alloy in my pot and took a couple year break from casting. When I went to fire up RCBS pot, it had a short. There was no way I could see to open up the pot (all riveted in and I am not that handy) and I wasn't going to ship a 30lb pot.
    Thus, if you have a fancy pot with no "user serviceable" parts, you might want to empty the pot when you are done casting.
     
  17. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Member

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    That's thinking ahead. I'm sure RCBS would make it right...

    You should see if you can use a one rate postal box. The weight limiit is pretty high on the larger one.
     
  18. grubbylabs

    grubbylabs Member

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  19. cheygriz

    cheygriz Member

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    I've been using the same old Lyman bottom pour pot for casting since the late sixties. In the seventies, I added an open top Saeco 20 pound pot to melt ingots to keep the Lyman (10 pound) pot full. 4,8 and 10 cavity molds go through lead fast! :D

    "Back in the day" I bought/traded for wheelweight and linotype ingots from a commercial caster. :):p:)

    Now I'm in the process of trying to talk my son into building me a smelter for the wheelweights. :(:(
     
  20. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    I built the one I have. 3/8" thick pipe with a cheap 3500 watt oven element around it. I used stainless 1/4" rod for the needle on the bottom pour. It holds over 60#'s and doesn't take it too long to heat up. If you have stuff and more time than money, it works.


    caster5.jpg


    caster3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2011
  21. DM~

    DM~ Member

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    My vote is to start out with an old dutch oven, just to see if you like it. It you do, you can buy a GOOD melter like the 20 pounder from RCBS, and use the DO for smelting old lead to clean it up!

    I had a couple cheapo melters crap out pretty fast, then i stepped UP to the RCBS, and it's worked perfectly for more than 20 years now.

    DM
     
  22. highlander 5

    highlander 5 Member

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    As mentioned in another post I bought a double burner camp stove from Dick's that I use to melt my ww. It was the best $100 I ever spent. As far as the casting pot get an RCBS they ain't cheap but you'll have few problem with it and a lifetime warranty if you have a problem with it.
     
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