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  #1  
Old 10-10-2010, 06:47 PM
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how to alloy solder?


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Was at a gunshow this weekend and bought 9 sticks of solder. Some are stamped 60/40 and are pretty easily bent. Some are not stamped and are more difficult to bend. I have never used solder before in casting, just plumbers lead, wheelweights, and linotype. The price was right ($4 and that included 10 pounds of plumbers lead) so I picked them up. Now, how do I use them with my pure lead to make something about the hardness of wheelweights?
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Old 10-10-2010, 10:22 PM
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Mix 11 to 12 parts by weight (11.6 is the exact number, but you won't be able to tell the difference being off a little) of pure lead with 1 part by weight of 60/40 solder. This will make 20:1 lead:tin. I will have no antimony like wheel weights, nor will it have any arsenic like wheel weights, so you won't be able to heat treat it. But it will have about the same hardness as the best wheel weight metal.

I don't know what your other solder is? If it is significantly harder than the 60:40 it may either be linotype or some kind of babbit. If it's very white in color it may be the former. Darker Gray in color spell babbit. Unfortunately for bullet casting, there are so many babbits, I can't guess which one you have. Try a small batch made in the same ratio as the other mix and see what happens and whether your finger nail says it's harder than the good alloy or not? Adjust accordingly.
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Last edited by unclenick; 10-10-2010 at 10:26 PM.
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  #3  
Old 10-11-2010, 02:50 AM
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Thanks for the quick response. I guess I will dig out my Lee hardness tester and check out the unlabeled bars. They appear to be commercially made bars, they just don't have a brand name and ratio stamped on them. I don't heat treat anyway, so that's not going to be a hindrance. I just couldn't pass up what looked like a real bargain, what with the price of bullets nowadays.
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Old 10-11-2010, 10:23 AM
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Most people don't use tin to harden lead alloys anymore, as linotype or other antimony alloys will do the same hardening job for much less. Where the tin is valuable is reducing the surface tension of your alloy so it makes prettier bullets. Also as a hunting alloy, tin works better because it mushrooms instead of shearing like antimony.

Instead of using tin to harden your alloy, you may be better suited to trade with someone that has some linotype and needs some tin for it's other qualities. Just an idea. You may not want to deal with the hassle.

To put it another way, linotype is worth a little over $1/lb and tin is worth around $11-12/lb and lb for lb there isn't much difference in hardening abilities. Some folks would say you were wasting your tin by using it simply to harden your pure lead.

Take care.

Matt
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Old 10-11-2010, 10:41 AM
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Actually, there are differences in the hardening abilities of tin and antimony. The Lyman manual puts wheel weights at 4% antimony and 0.5% tin and 0.02% arsenic, but now they're typically more like 2-3% with 0.5% tin and .02% arsenic, which the LASC puts at around BHN10-11, IIRC. It can't actually be higher than the higher percent antimony Lyman lists, so some measuring issue has come up here. 5% tin gets to BHN 9 or 10, and 10% tin ads a couple more to the BHN number. That is what RCBS used to recommend for all its molds, and may still do (I've not bought one for awhile). 10% tin would require 5 lbs lead to 1 lb 60/40 solder. Pretty expensive. 16:1 lead: tin is about perfect for firelapping bullets. That requires about 9 lbs lead to a pound of 60/40 Sn:Pb solder.

The other differences aren't usually seen except in heat treated bullets or in extreme cold weather shooting. In heat treating, if your tin content exceeds your antimony content, the hardened bullets soften faster and soften more over long time periods. In extreme cold weather, Veral Smith reports even wheel weights will shatter on bone, so tin is preferable for hardening there.

Anyway, the choice between lead and tin depends on your purpose. I often mix alloy that's 4% antimony, 3% tin, and add 5% magnum chilled shot to get enough arsenic for heat treating if that's what I want to do with it. That's plenty hard for normal pistol ammo without heat treating, and I'm too old to feel like it's fun to be out in arctic temperatures, so I don't worry about the cold weather issues.

The LASC site has an article that includes a list of how much each alloy hardens lead. I can't find it offhand, but this one is interesting (scroll down past the blank page) and has recipes at the end. As I recall, copper, used in the harder and higher cost babbits, is one of the best at hardening lead. I have no idea what fluxing agents or minimum temperatures are needed to alloy copper with lead, but I'd like to find out.
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Last edited by unclenick; 10-11-2010 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 10-11-2010, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unclenick View Post
Actually, there are differences in the hardening abilities, but you don't usually see them except in heat treated bullets or in extreme cold weather. I heat treating, if your tin content exceeds your antimony content, the hardened bullets soften faster and soften more over time. In extreme cold weather, antimony over a percent or two, and this includes wheel weights, will shatter on bone, so tin is preferable there. So it depends on your purpose.

The LASC site includes a list of how much each alloy hardens lead. As I recall, copper, used in the harder and higher cost babbits, is one of the best. I have no idea what fluxing agents or minimum temperatures are needed to alloy copper with lead, but I'd like to find out.
Sounds like a lot of work unless you just like to tinker. If I need anything harder than water quenched wheel weights, i'll use a jacketed bullet.

Heck i've used 50/50 PB/WW and water quenched with my SKS, which makes a bullet around 16-18BHN, and they didn't lead all the way up to 1900fps.
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Old 10-11-2010, 11:25 AM
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You might want to take a read through Richard Lee's experiments with bullets hardened not merely to avoid leading, but to prevent peak pressure exceeding the tensile strength of the alloy. That prevents distortion of the base under pressure. He cut his groups about in half as I recall, but it takes some very hard bullets at rifle pressures. Most of us are happy to have alloy hard enough not to distort at muzzle pressure, much less at chamber peak pressure.
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Last edited by unclenick; 10-14-2010 at 09:31 AM.
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  #8  
Old 10-11-2010, 02:46 PM
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Well, for the price I paid, I am not to worried about the expense of the solder. I was really wanting the 10 pounds of lead in ingots. Unless of course, someone out there wants to swap me weight for weight for some linotype. Then I might consider not mixing it in with my regular alloy. How much do those sticks of solder way anyway? I have 2 that say "KESTER SOLDER ASTM CLASS A E 60/40" and are about 12" long. The other 7 don't have any writing or symbols on them but are thicker and heavier but the same length. More curiosity than anything else. I am sure I will end up making some bullets for my .308 with it.
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Old 10-14-2010, 09:41 AM
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They often use those same size stick molds for multiple things. They are convenient for adding alloy to a large pot, as on a wave soldering machine, for example. You can hold the back end with your fingers until it is most of the way in, then just let it go.

The different alloys have different densities, so they don't weigh the same coming out of that one mold size. I recommend you just get a scale. I have a decent platform scale I can use for up to 50 lbs, but I later got a digital 25 lb scale at Gander Mountain's fishing department that works well, too and is a little easier to read than stooping over to see a dial. Pick up a paint bucket with it and zero it. Then put your lead components in the bucket. For small quantities that scale is great and it resolves fractional pounds or ounces, as you choose. More than good enough resolution for alloying.
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  #10  
Old 11-17-2010, 11:46 AM
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I've achieved 2000 fps with "non-lead solder" 95% tin, 5% antimony alloy in the .45 acp. I used the 155gr swc from lee, then hollowbased the bullets to 75 grs, hollowpointed them to 70 grs. had to use Bullseye, so much of it that Net readers blow their stacks when I give the amounts, but 8.0 grs of it didn't even cycle the slide!
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Old 11-17-2010, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ah-ha View Post
I've achieved 2000 fps with "non-lead solder" 95% tin, 5% antimony alloy in the .45 acp. I used the 155gr swc from lee, then hollowbased the bullets to 75 grs, hollowpointed them to 70 grs. had to use Bullseye, so much of it that Net readers blow their stacks when I give the amounts, but 8.0 grs of it didn't even cycle the slide!
Oh my! What make/model .45 ACP?
Dan
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:35 AM
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Springfield Compact, others. See, the reason that you are aghast is you don't realize how much pressure is reduced by having a very lw, very short bullet, and having said bullet be of tin, lubed with ALOX, and have a huge hollowbase in its rear. Personal Protection Systems, 30 years ago, had a 100 gr copper HP at 2000 fps in the .45 ACP, without the benefit of the thicker, stronger .460 Rowland brass that I use (shortened to max OAL .45 ACP length, or the fully supported barrel of the Spld.

Last edited by ah-ha; 11-18-2010 at 08:37 AM. Reason: errors
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