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Discussion Starter #1
Hello Gents,

Well I recieved my shipment from Midway, with all my casting goodies. For the past couple of days, I have just been mellting down the wheelweights for ingots and have some questions . First, I have been using parrafin as a flux, when I drop it into the melt, it catches on fire. I think this is because im using a propane Colman type setup . Is this normal? Second, the surface seems to be oxidizing pretty quickly, though I try to keep the melt at around 700-750deg. Should the skin be skimmed off frequently or at all ? Which brings me to another point about skimming. Im a little confused about what dross is supposed to look like. I have read that the oxidized metal skin is actually tin and should not be skimmed off, so other than the dirt that rises after stirring, what is dross?
 

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A lot of use still use a bit of bullet lube for flux, but they do sell fluxing material that won't smoke much or ignite. Lube does smoke or ignitte, so what you are seeing is pretty normal at high temperatures...may wnat to back doen on the temp a bit and see if it still flash-ignites. Better would be a commercail flux, but even if you usebullet lube, just stirr deeply and completely....skim off the crap that floats to the top. With wheel weights, expect a LOT of stuff to float up on the first melt.


In the old days, Keith would use saw dust on top of the melt to help with oxidation....wome people use cat litter today. The cheap stuff, not the stuff with deoderat crystals or other additives for clumping...and PLEASE, make it UNUSED cat litter. The cheapest stuff is just a type of clay. Cut off from an air supply, it won't oxidize.

Does add the proble of what to do with the layer of cat litter whan you want to re-fill and re-flux the pot. Some people skim it off, set it aside, and re-add it when they've adjusted the pot...one or two just ignore it and let if float back to the top after mixing. I skim it and re-add it.


This layer does one more thing, it raises the temperature of the lead as it insulates the melt from heat loss (and we are only talking about a 1/16-1/8" layer of clay). Reset the temp of the melt accordinly.
 

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Going to add one more method that I do not use, but have seen used.

Have one friend that casts nice looking bullets and shoots nice scores (a way fo saying he beats me on many occasions). He never skims until he's ready to add more lead to the pot. Just lets that layer of crud sit on top of the melt.

I asked him about that and he's of the opinion that once it's been fluxed out and floats on the top, it's not going back into the melt and can sit there acting like an oxidation barrier so long as you don't distrube it.

He'll flux heavily at the start with a commercail fuxing agent, toss his sprues and reject bullets into a pile, run though 1/2 to 2/3 a pot of alloy before re-filling. Then he'sll skim all the curd off, add alloy (and the rejects/sprues), and start the process all over again.

Works for him...butI still wonder about it.
 

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Hi,
Paraffin burns off too quickly to properly flux the melt if the temperature is too high. A 50-50 mix of paraffin and beeswax burns slower and does a better job. It's probably better to get rid of the junk and dirt in your initial melt than try to save a bit of tin.

If the melt is too cool to start burning the flux in a few seconds, I toss a match in the pot. Here's an article that explains fluxing very well.
http://www.sixguns.com/crew/simplefluxing.htm

Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Ribbonstone,

I probably should have mentioned I am ladel casting, so I dont think a covering layer would work. Can flux that plumbers use for swetting joints be used? Anyway, i did a little more melting today, its really hard for me to control temp with the little RCBS 10lb pot and a propane stove. Jack, you were right aqbout those pots.
 

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Tin floating to the surface is a wives tale. The "skin", as you put it, is oxidized alloy. If you put a layer of clay based cat litter on top of the melt in your Lee bottom pour furnace (you did buy the bottom pour furnace, right?), oxygen from the atmosphere is less prone to oxidize the melt's surface. When you add CLEAN metal to the melt, stir the cat litter through the melt a little and you're ready to cast... crud, if any, and cat litter will float to the top. Don't add any greasy fluxing agent to the bottom pouring furnace. It will work OK for a while, then you'll start to have problems due to crud accumulating in the delivery mechanism. Cleaning the metal is best done in a separate pot if your primary casting source is a bottom pour furnace. Candle wax is fine and does the job inexpensively, although it burns off fast... but so what, it's cheap (especially if your wife/girlfriend is a candle fiend). All you're really doing when you flux is depriving the alloy's surface of oxygen while stirring and a flame from burning candle wax works just as well as a flame from anything else. Toss in the wax, light it, stir as described in Lyman #47 and repeat until the metal is clean. You can cut down on your fluxing time and air pollution by previously washing your wheel weights if they are very greasy. After the raw wheel weights have been melted down, heated to about 750F and "fluxed" dust will accumulate on the surface. This is the crud you'll be removing with an old kitchen spoon, or similar. At this point you can either pour the metal into ingots or pour it directly into the Lee pot (through the cat litter) for delivery into the mould cavities.

I do everything these days from a Lyman Mag20 Dipper but would have a big propane unit along side the Mag20 to feed it, if I had the room and/or was still casting 300 plus grain bullets (about 200 to 220 grains is currently plenty heavy enough). If I was doing high volume work, I'd still have the big propane unit but probably substitute a Lee Pro 4-20 for the Mag20. That's not to say I'd unload the Mag20 Dipper because I feel its ability to hold a constant temperature is the reason I can cast easily within a half to a quarter percent of the mean bullet weight after mould temps have stabilized. The only time I flux is right after the melt reaches operating temperature and when I can't control the pile of oxidized metal I keep shoving up against the inside of the pot; i.e., once I detect a piece of crud in a bullet, it becomes time to literally fire-up the pot. In other words, return the oxidized metal to the alloy by stirring while burning and removing anything that looks unmistakably like dirt or dust after a good stir.

44
 

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Discussion Starter #7
44,

No, I bought the Lee 20 Magnum Melter, not the bottom pour furnace, which I probably should have bought. I do melt the wheelweights in a seperate pot , an RCBS 10pd cast iron pot. It's way too small I think. I also only bought one Lyman ingot mold, it casts 4 1lb ingots. I just ordered 2 more, I think that will speed things up a bit.
 

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jpsw,
you might want to order four Lee ingot moulds for the price of the two lyman units if you haven't ordered them already. I just purchased one a while back and it seems to cool faster, so you can process faster. The ingots also drop free easier. It only casts two 1lb ingots and 2 1/2lb, if you want to use them, but it seems to cool much faster than the heavy steel units. The steel ones come up to temperature and hold it for a long time. You can grab the Lee unit in your bare hand within 2 minutes of dropping the ingots out. Try that with your RCBS,Lyman, or SAECO unit and you'll be on the way to the burn unit. The little handle that comes with the ingot mould is also cheaper than the vice grips you'll need with some of the ingot moulds that don't include a handle.

You also might want to look into the Marvelux fluxing agent. It does cost some money, but it works very well and you can flux right in the melting pot with it with no worries. 1lb will last you a long time. They adverise that it even acts as a rust preventative in your casting pot, and I'll concur that there is no rust in or on my furnace.

Why didn't you get a bottom pour? You can use a dipper with them just the same as any other. On the Lee pots I don't think there's even a $10 difference between the two.
 

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Hi, jpsw:
I don't think soldering flux is suitable. It's acidic and I don't think it will reduce the oxidized dross back to metal. I tried sawdust on top and it slowly burns down to a fine black ash. It will mix into the metal and I got the occasional bit into a bullet even with the Rowell bottom pour ladle. So I flux with paraffin or paraffin-beeswax and skim when it gets too cruddy on top. Now somebody might tell me why I shouldn't do this, but I put the skimmed dross back in the pot when I'm done. Toss on a 1/4"- 1/2" of sawdust, let it burn down and skim off the ash. Takes 15 minutes. Proof that this is reducing the dross is that these skimmings weight much less than what you put back in the pot.

Yup, find a 1 quart sauce pan. Not only is it easier to hold your temperature, but it doesn't take much more heat to melt 20 lb in one, compared to a 10 lb. pot. Those little pots are about the same diameter as a Coleman burner, and I think half the heat goes up past them.

Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #10
kciH said:
jpsw,


Why didn't you get a bottom pour? You can use a dipper with them just the same as any other. On the Lee pots I don't think there's even a $10 difference between the two.
Good question! I figured id have enough on plate trying to get used to the process without having to mess around with flow rates and such, bad move I guess. Thats o.k, ill make do for now. Thanks for the tip on the ingot molds!

Jack,

Im gonna raid the kitchen tonight and see what my wifes got lying around for cookware :). Yup, most of the heat definately goes around the pot, way too small. Hey, you live and you learn I guess. I have learned quite a bit, just from melting for ingots. As i got down to the bottom half of the bucket of whhelweights that I got, the majority of them were slathered in bead grease. It took forever for that stuff to burn out of the melt. I just hope that the ingot I have already poured, are clean enough.
 

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Hi, jpsw:
OK, I've got a better idea of your setup now. A 1 quart sauce pan is good for casting, but look for a bigger one or a cast iron dutch oven for doing a wheelweight melt, say 2 - 3 quarts. My old Coleman probably can't handle any more than that. Not enough heat and the grill can't take the weight.

Remember that nothing used for lead ever goes back into the kitchen.

Some of those greases take a while to burn off and you'd spend a bundle on solvent cleaning them first. Then there's the stuck on rubber. All the more reason for a bigger pot. As for stuff you didn't get out in your first melt, Rob Applegate, who knows a bit about moulds, said that you should discard all the stuff that comes to the top when you melt your ingots at the start of a casting session. It contains other metals you don't want as well as dirt, so you shouldn't try to flux it back into the melt.

The new Lyman ingot moulds are aluminum with a good wooden handle. They hold 4 lb. compared to Lee's 3 and the price spread up here doesn't make up the difference.

Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Jack,

Thanks for the tips. I just checked Midway, I didn't realize the Lee ingot mold only holds 3 lbs. I already have 1 Lyman ingot mold, guess ill order 2 more. I would never cookanything in a pan that I melted lead in. Although, it might make my wifes cooking tatse better :)

Thanks,

John
 

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JSPW,
Yeah... too small indeed.

Start looking for a sale on turkey friers with heavy stainless steel pots or just a burner on a strong stand (try Wal-Mart) and see if you can find a rusty ol' cast iron pot (with a lid) at someone's garage sale. After you find a dependable source of wheel weights you'll be glad you can process a couple hundred pounds at a time. You also might be able to pick up some sturdy steel muffin pans (12 holers are good) at garage sales too.

Don't worry about not having a bottom pouring furnace right now; however, make sure you've got a good thermometer to calibrate your Lee pot. I understand some of those Lee pots can maintain over 900F. When you get your pot dialed in at about 780F or so, I'd be interested to learn how much its temperature varies during 10 or 15 minutes of casting (w/o adding metal).

44
 

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Back off on the temperature once you have the load melted, just need it hot enough to keep up with your casting and to fill bullets out...any more and you just promote oxidation.

If all we had to do was heat lead to get the tin to come out of an alloy, all us BP shooters would be doing it on a regular baiss...one's it's an alloy, you aren't getting it out that easy.

Nothing wrong withladel pour casting...probably get more usable bullets and fewer rejects that way, so it's not as slow as it seems.

Stay fr away fro plumbers flux...you don't want to breath the vapors andwon't like what those fumes do to anything steel. I'd use bullet lube (about a pea sized bit) untilyou get some commercial cating flux (Marvaflux? can't remeber how to spell it, and mine is in a an old carbide tin without a label). The pure wax you are using probably burns off a bit soon...better to use a higher temperature lube.

Had a friend who insisted on casting some ball from one of those misrible little brass reproduction molds they sell with muzzle loaders. He's a plumber by tradce, so used his plumbing equipment (giant pot...bar solder...plumbers flux). Don't know what he did exactly, but some how he fluxed the mold and manged to solder it shut....everything in his garage made of metal was coated with furry rust a day later.
 

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Good advice. Read the article on Sixgunner that Jack posted the link for. Glen has PhD and you will too shortly if you can read and understand everything. He's a heck of a nice guy and if you have any questions he hangs around over on the Sixgunner.com forums.

Marvelux is a boric acid derivative. Probably not a good choice for ladle casting, but OK for bottom-pour. Forms a thin layer of molten glass, basically, over your melt. Could gum up your ladle. Your mileage may vary. Never had a problem with the stuff in a bottom-pour pot.

Most fluxes are just adding carbon to the mix, as a sacrificial reductant (I think I spelled that right) per Glen's article. Basically the carbon binds with the gunk and floats to the top, is the general idea behind a casting flux. Tin doesn't float out of the mix, but it does start to oxidize around 700F per Lyman cast bullet handbook. If you are starting with wheelweights they'll have hardly any tin to begin with so don't sweat it if you need to run the pot over 700F to get the bullets to fill out. If you are adding tin then you shouldn't have to run over 700 to make the mould fill out.

I'd definitely melt the wheelweights down in the biggest batches possible, to get the most uniform base metal. Old dutch oven at Goodwill is probably a good start.

The story about the plumber made me laugh. He should have known better. Brass moulds can do that if you're not careful. "Flux" is a generic term and can have a lot of different meanings.

Experiment, and report the results back here. That's half the fun, figuring it all out.
 

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Hi, jpsw:
Marvelux is something casters swear by or swear at. I haven't used it myself, so I checked through some archives from other sites that aren't public anymore. Seems a little goes a long way, and the gents that had trouble with it used way too much. So they get a crust over everything and they get rust if there's any dampness in the air. The stuff is hygroscopic and everything it touches has to be preheated before it goes into the melt. Of course, preheating is always a good idea. I'd say that saying that anything that is hygroscopic prevents rust is like saying that Liberals and Democrats have your best interests in mind.

I can see where plumber's flux could take the oxide coating off a steel mould and solder it solid. Drilled some lead last month and it didn't take much speed to solder the bit. I had a mangled roll of acid core solder kicking around so I threw it into the cast iron pot and it rusted up some.

Anyhow, you've got started, so cast for a while before you decide to spend a bunch more money. I'd say a thermometer is #1 if you don't have one already and a couple of old muffin pans beat a Lyman ingot for production.

Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Gents,

You boys have given me a wealth of knowledge to start. I wish I had been here when I started reloading, about 5 yrs ago, it would have saved me some grief. I find that you can read about something all you want to familiarize yourself with the process, but nothing takes the place of actually doing it and asking for advice from people who have done it. I E-mailed the Bill Ferguson (Antimony Man) , to see if he had any 20lb cast iron pots lying around, he E-Mailed me back and asked me for my phone number so that he could discuss casting and such with me . Now thats customer service! I might also get the Rowell Ladel. Anyway, I have enough ingots made for a days casting, so Im gonna try and make some bullets today. I will definately report back on my progress. Thanks again guys.

John
 

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Swap-shops. flea markets, yard sales, and GoodWill stores. Look for the following items:
1. Large heavy gauge (or cast iron) pot. OK if the handle is craked or the pot looks nasty (it will be cheaper that way).
2. Muffin tins. Mine are cast iron corn bread molds and my ingots look like 1/2 an ear of corn or a fish.
3. Large stainless steel soup ladel.

This suposes you have a heat sourse that will work outdoors and generate enough heat to melt a l;arge pot of lead. Will need to scratch out a designe to hold the pot (30-50 pounds of molten lead should scare you into doing a good job at bracing) steady with the heat sourse under. Bricks work great...and they consentrate the heat. Propane burning would be about right, but keep the burner part well away from the tank part.

With this, you melt massive amounts of lead, clean it, and cast ingots...will assure a uniform alloy overtime, and keep the casting pot from collecting the crud and filth of the first melt.

Hunting arround, everything but the heat sourse should run just a few dollars...remember, you aren't ever going to eat from this stuff, so it need not be in nice conditon.
 

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Don't forget a good pair of channel-locks or vise-grips for handling the hot stuff!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Well, I just came back from a long day of casting. It didnt start off on the greatest note, but I think it went pretty well. When I started casting at abotu 750 deg, my first 50 or so were not filling out properly. My mold was warmed on the furnace for about 20min or so. I turned the heat up to about 800 deg, and that pretty much took care of the problem. i didn;t notice any overheating sigfs in the melt, so mayby my thermometer is off. Anyway I cast about a hundred or so that more that came out pretty good. I attached some pics, of an unlubed and one lubed with Thompsons. The pics arent that great as the battery in my camera was dying.
 

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