Lead casting

I haven't decided if I want to cast vast quantities of bullets. Lots of pros and cons here. Lead scares me and I would want to make sure it's
extremely safe. But, it's cheap to get all the stuff needed to produce quality parts. I figure <$250. I would want to do 9mm, .38, and .45 in six cavity Lee molds, a 20# Lee pot and the other odds and ends. Any casting advice? The cheapest cast, sized and lubed bullets that I can find are $29/k. Of course, my time is donated.
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On Mon, 02 Nov 2009 19:09:00 -0500, Buerste wrote:

Are those $29/k bullets good enough for you? How does that compare to the cost of the lead and fuel, and the upkeep on the tools? How many are you _really_ going to make in a lifetime, and how does the capital expense pencil out?
It would be interesting to see just what sort of safety precautions you'd need to take with lead casting -- gloves and clothing, for sure, but what about all the residue from cleanup, splashes, etc. -- and does hot lead vaporize or otherwise go into the air (I've heard it does, but unless there's some chemical reaction going on I just can't see the stuff evaporating).
For anything I want to acquire, the make/buy decision always boils down to the following three factors:
1: I can get it cheaper that way, at least at a reasonable quality. 2: I can get it better that way, at least at a reasonable price. 3: I just plain like doing it.
-- and never underestimate the power of #3.
--
www.wescottdesign.com

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I don't have a horse in the race, so feel free to ignore me. I would think that at three cents a bullet, even donating your time, you won't break even unless you are automating the process. Six cavity moulds aren't going to be economic for large quantities. If it's a labour of love or a way to get rid of undocumented DU stocks, ok, but not as an economic proposition for any quantity of bullets you can get from the store.
This opinion was worth almost as much as it cost :-)
regards Mark Rand RTFM
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wrote:

Cast bullets, if you get the lead for free..are basicly free. Labor excepted. Once you have amortized the cost of the equipment..the only expense one has are gas checks and bullet lube..gas checks being used primarily for rifle bullets and bullet lube is cheap..really cheap. And one can use various shake and bake compounds..dump the bullets in a bag, add a half teaspoon of powdered wonder lube..and shake. This of course doesnt size them..but most moulds turn out bullets that are pretty close to the proper size already. Lee is very good about that.
Time..is something that only the individual can calculate a value on. On the other hand..when a box of jacketed bullets cost $0.21-$1.00 x 100....labor costs are pretty small.
Most serious shooters cast their own, simply due to the cost savings..which when you are shooting 35k a year down range..can be excessive.
Gunner

"IMHO, some people here give Jeff far more attention than he deserves, but obviously craves. The most appropriate response, and perhaps the cruelest, IMO, is to simply killfile and ignore him. An alternative, if you must, would be to post the same standard reply to his every post, listing the manifold reasons why he ought to be ignored. Just my $0.02 worth."
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wrote:

At 200-400/mo. the economics don't factor in either way. It's something to do and there's a bit of pride involved. I used to cast .38s 30 years ago. It was fun and we didn't have any money. I think every reloader does SOME casting at one time or another. I do worry about lead fumes and burns.
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I worry about the cost #1
The fumes are easily removed with a small fan. The burns..simply toughens ya hup a bit....<G>
Gunner
"IMHO, some people here give Jeff far more attention than he deserves, but obviously craves. The most appropriate response, and perhaps the cruelest, IMO, is to simply killfile and ignore him. An alternative, if you must, would be to post the same standard reply to his every post, listing the manifold reasons why he ought to be ignored. Just my $0.02 worth."
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Buerste wrote:

Lead is only dangerous when it's moving fast! Lead is way too overrated as a source of all evil. Its oxides are far more dangerous, but in the scheme of poisons only one of them really makes the grade. And that particular oxide ( Pb3O4) is not easily produced in quantities in normal air atmospheres. Lead has become a blame-all in company with CO2, Ozone, republicans, democrats and GW Bush.
cheers T.Alan
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Six gang moulds are unweildy as hell and slow to use. You would actually be better off with Lee 2 cavity moulds and cast with 3 of them at a time. So you would be casting 3 different bullets at the same time, 2 bullets with each dump. A good used Lyman sizer luber should cost you ..hummm $50...er...$75 if you buy on Ebay....
http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p3907.m38.l1313&_nkw=bullet+sizer&_sacat=See-All-Categories
Sizing dies are ....$20 each (drop me an email and ask for used dies) http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=bullet+sizing+dies&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=bullet+sizer&_osacat=0
and a nose punch should cost...$5
http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=bullet+top+punch&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=bullet+sizer&_osacat=0 ' Moulds of course are $20ish new for Lee... http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=bullet+mould+lee&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=bullet+mould&_osacat=0 http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=lee+bullet+mold&_frs=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m359
And of course..the melting pot..which you can build in your own shop quite cheaply, using a large bullplug and a gas ring. Im sure you have natural gas in your shop..
Though if you want to buy one...$75 on ebay
http://sporting-goods.shop.ebay.com/Outdoor-Sports-/159043/i.html?_nkw=lead+pot&_catref=1&_fln=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m282
Close to $250 for the entire setup for all 3 calibers
And if you can get wheel weights for free...thats all you will ever need.
Once you have the pot and sizer..all you will ever need is a mould, sizer die and top punch. $50 or less.
This assumes you cannot find them locally for far less. And Ill bet you can. Craigslist For Sale and Craigslist Wanted can bring all manner of fun stuff to the top....
Now..Ive got 50 some moulds in various sizes and pick up odd ball ones from time to time..but then..I load for some 53 different cartridges ..shrug
Some cartridges can be shot easily with cast bullets, some will take some work. 7mm Magnum takes some work in most guns. Though I have one that will punch an antimony alloy bullet out at 2600 fps with no leading. Its not an original barrel..and no idea who produced it.
3006..I can average 2400 fps with nearly all of mine..and so forth.
If you are serious...Ill dig in and see what I can spare.
Btw...the old Lyman pots are very very good. Bottom pour of course.
Gunner
"IMHO, some people here give Jeff far more attention than he deserves, but obviously craves. The most appropriate response, and perhaps the cruelest, IMO, is to simply killfile and ignore him. An alternative, if you must, would be to post the same standard reply to his every post, listing the manifold reasons why he ought to be ignored. Just my $0.02 worth."
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wrote:

http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p3907.m38.l1313&_nkw=bullet+sizer&_sacat=See-All-Categories
http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=bullet+sizing+dies&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=bullet+sizer&_osacat=0
http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=bullet+top+punch&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=bullet+sizer&_osacat=0
http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=bullet+mould+lee&_sacat=0&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=bullet+mould&_osacat=0
http://sporting-goods.shop.ebay.com/Outdoor-Sports-/159043/i.html?_nkw=lead+pot&_catref=1&_fln=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m282
Have you seen that tool that makes gas checks from pop cans?
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I saw one some year ago..and read varying reviews on the gas checks.
I rather like the Horneday gas checks...they have thicker rims, so when you size one on..they actually dig into the lead, rather than simply "hope" that they stay on. Ive fired far far too many of the Lymans and Stars and others that didnt stay on..and Im afraid didnt stay on in the cartridge prior to fireing either.
There are several gas check "makers"
http://www.castbulletassoc.org/forum/view_topic.php?id '08&forum_idI
http://www.milsurps.com/showthread.php?tW99
Ive heard good and marginal in reference to the Corbin http://www.corbins.com/gascheck.htm
Some others...
http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?pq1297
Ive not kept up on the various makers over the years..but Im going to review everything that I can over the next little while..and maybe Ill crank out something to make my own gas checks with. Shrug..it cant be all that tough..and I do have a 5 ton arbor press <G>
Gunner
"IMHO, some people here give Jeff far more attention than he deserves, but obviously craves. The most appropriate response, and perhaps the cruelest, IMO, is to simply killfile and ignore him. An alternative, if you must, would be to post the same standard reply to his every post, listing the manifold reasons why he ought to be ignored. Just my $0.02 worth."
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for what it's worth, I still have a line on some lead and lead alloys that I can get to you for a little under $2 per pound delivered in 6- pound batches

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Don't eat, smoke, or lick your hands and you will be fine.
Seriously, the lead isn't flying of the pot trying to kill you at normal casting temps.
Collect dross and put in a can with a lid. I keep a tub of alcohol wipes to keep my hands clean after handling lead.
In general, use good hygiene.
At your age you are going to die from something else anyway.
Wes
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Buerste wrote:

Before you invest in equipment contact your local gun club or range master. Find a member that is already casting their own. Get friendly and generous.
Get a sense of the physical requirements to casting. Like reloading it takes patients and concentration. Distractions can be painful. Once you find a rhythm, bullets will multiply rapidly. So will fatigue which will lead you to bad pours and other frustrations. Think 60 pours per hour if solo and faster if you have help to sort good cast from bad and re-melt your defects.
I don't know what sources you have locally, but your investment target seems low. Three molds alone will run at least $50 a piece used for decent 6 cavity molds for popular calibers. Then a sizing press with inserts for each caliber. You will want a heater block for the hard lubes to flow into the sizing press dies.
While Lee molds will cast a decent bullet, they get temperamental during long casting sessions. I prefer steel molds of 2 to 4 cavity when available.
Melting the lead is the least of your worries. I have worked with lead as a hobby for 25+ years. Ventilation is key. Work outside or under a lean two and stay up wind of the melt pot and have a way to control the temp. If your concerned about toxicity, get your doctor to test you before you start and monitor your level yearly.
I'm sure there are other things to consider, but I'm tired and going to bed.
Good luck and good shooting
Jim Vrzal Holiday, Fl.
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You can use cheap wheelweights for .38 and .45 target loads. 9mm is more finicky, depending on what gun you have, since bore sizes range from .354" to .360" or greater and the round runs at a lot higher pressures. Lee molds are exactly on size, you can fire the bullets without sizing if you use their liquid Alox lube. Biggest thing is a source of lead alloy, you'll save little money if you have to buy lead alloys retail. There's little lead pipe on the scrap market these days, tin beer cooler coils are things of legend. If you gotta, you can use mostly tin lead-free solder to add a little tin to the mix, although the hardware-store solder these days has a lot more stuff than tin in it. Keep the zinc ones out of your wheelweight collection, just one turns a pot full of metal into an uncastable mess.
I've used 6-cavity Lee molds, I can usually out-produce those using dual-cavity molds and they're cheaper. Lee molds aren't really suited for producing "vast quantities", just one of those draw-backs of aluminum molds. You have to follow directions exactly, lube what they say to lube and smoke what they say to smoke and how. If you can't/ won't follow directions, you'll turn the mold into scrap. Iron molds aren't as fragile, but take longer to get up to heat and can take awhile to break in. Thorough degreasing helps, a can of brake cleaner is a must. You have to take care of the iron molds, they'll rust in a heart-beat if put away without some sort of coating. Slam-bang operation will turn any of them into scrap. If the mold is up to temp, bullets should just drop out after opening the sprue cutter with a gloved hand. I've got a couple old Lyman molds that need a tap at the handle pivot to get the bullets to drop, they're old designs with very square grooves.
Multi-cavity molds produce better-quality bullets if used with a ladle, not a bottom-pour pot. I can run through the cycle faster and the finished product is a lot closer in weight spread.
Cheap purchased cast bullets are an illusion, you've got no control over the alloy used, hardest possible isn't necessarily the best, and no control over the diameter. Unless you're very lucky, you'll have to make acquaintance with a Lewis Lead Remover sooner than you'd want.
Casting is best done outside, lead is volatile and you don't want the smoke from fluxing inside. I had my blood tested recently after decades of casting and gallery shooting, it came out around 3 picograms, over 10 is cause to worry. So if you work in a well- ventilated area, don't eat donuts while casting and take the normal precautions of washing up before handling food and such, lead isn't that much of a hazard. Some kind of non-flammable floor covering is needed, I like a thin steel sheet since I can just up-end it and capture most of the splash and escaped sprues for reuse. On concrete, the stuff flows into every crack and you have to pry the stuff loose. Don't work hunched over the pot, get the thing up to a height where you can see things without strain.
A leather welding apron and gauntlets come in handy, wear high-top leather shoes and cotton pants and shirt.
Budget for a lead thermometer, without that you're just guessing. If you use Lee molds and your bore size matches the mold, you don't really need a lubrisizer to start with as long as you use the liquid Alox. This time of year, used equipment is frequently found at the gun shows, make sure you look at any used molds thoroughly for burrs and abuse. Small lead pots are a pain, go for at least a 20lb model. If you are lucky, you can sometimes find a plumber's firepot and crucibles for cheap. That's where the thermometer comes into play more.
Stan
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wrote:

You can use cheap wheelweights for .38 and .45 target loads. 9mm is more finicky, depending on what gun you have, since bore sizes range from .354" to .360" or greater and the round runs at a lot higher pressures. Lee molds are exactly on size, you can fire the bullets without sizing if you use their liquid Alox lube. Biggest thing is a source of lead alloy, you'll save little money if you have to buy lead alloys retail. There's little lead pipe on the scrap market these days, tin beer cooler coils are things of legend. If you gotta, you can use mostly tin lead-free solder to add a little tin to the mix, although the hardware-store solder these days has a lot more stuff than tin in it. Keep the zinc ones out of your wheelweight collection, just one turns a pot full of metal into an uncastable mess.
I've used 6-cavity Lee molds, I can usually out-produce those using dual-cavity molds and they're cheaper. Lee molds aren't really suited for producing "vast quantities", just one of those draw-backs of aluminum molds. You have to follow directions exactly, lube what they say to lube and smoke what they say to smoke and how. If you can't/ won't follow directions, you'll turn the mold into scrap. Iron molds aren't as fragile, but take longer to get up to heat and can take awhile to break in. Thorough degreasing helps, a can of brake cleaner is a must. You have to take care of the iron molds, they'll rust in a heart-beat if put away without some sort of coating. Slam-bang operation will turn any of them into scrap. If the mold is up to temp, bullets should just drop out after opening the sprue cutter with a gloved hand. I've got a couple old Lyman molds that need a tap at the handle pivot to get the bullets to drop, they're old designs with very square grooves.
Multi-cavity molds produce better-quality bullets if used with a ladle, not a bottom-pour pot. I can run through the cycle faster and the finished product is a lot closer in weight spread.
Cheap purchased cast bullets are an illusion, you've got no control over the alloy used, hardest possible isn't necessarily the best, and no control over the diameter. Unless you're very lucky, you'll have to make acquaintance with a Lewis Lead Remover sooner than you'd want.
Casting is best done outside, lead is volatile and you don't want the smoke from fluxing inside. I had my blood tested recently after decades of casting and gallery shooting, it came out around 3 picograms, over 10 is cause to worry. So if you work in a well- ventilated area, don't eat donuts while casting and take the normal precautions of washing up before handling food and such, lead isn't that much of a hazard. Some kind of non-flammable floor covering is needed, I like a thin steel sheet since I can just up-end it and capture most of the splash and escaped sprues for reuse. On concrete, the stuff flows into every crack and you have to pry the stuff loose. Don't work hunched over the pot, get the thing up to a height where you can see things without strain.
A leather welding apron and gauntlets come in handy, wear high-top leather shoes and cotton pants and shirt.
Budget for a lead thermometer, without that you're just guessing. If you use Lee molds and your bore size matches the mold, you don't really need a lubrisizer to start with as long as you use the liquid Alox. This time of year, used equipment is frequently found at the gun shows, make sure you look at any used molds thoroughly for burrs and abuse. Small lead pots are a pain, go for at least a 20lb model. If you are lucky, you can sometimes find a plumber's firepot and crucibles for cheap. That's where the thermometer comes into play more.
Stan ************************************************
Thanks! Good info. I've slugged all but the 9mm XD-9. I was just reading about alloy vs. pressure in Lee's book "Modern Reloading". Although the book is like a big advertisement for Lee Precision, it has a wealth of good information and quite a bit on casting.
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Does anyone know if the lead cell interconnectors on an industrial forklift battery would be good for casting?
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wrote:

Lee has a simple hardness tester.
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Depends on whether they're pure lead or alloyed. Usually battery plates aren't worth messing with, too much oxide in them and reducing that isn't a home basement occupation. Not sure about the interconnects. If it can be easily gouged with a thumbnail, it's probably pretty close to pure lead. It would need some tin to make decent bullets for anything other than BP shooting. A hardness tester would be handy to have in a case like that.
I'm not sure if the big industrial batteries like that use calcium like the current crop of car batteries or not. Calcium in the alloy can lead to poisonous outgassing of the dross when it gets damp. Not something anyone needs. Safest answer would be not to use anything related to lead-acid batteries for home casting. Swap for a supply of scrap wheelweights at the recyclers.
Stan
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On Wed, 4 Nov 2009 12:47:39 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@prolynx.com wrote:

I agree 100%
One should note also..that zinc can be cast into bullets suitable for SOME cartridges
Gunner
"IMHO, some people here give Jeff far more attention than he deserves, but obviously craves. The most appropriate response, and perhaps the cruelest, IMO, is to simply killfile and ignore him. An alternative, if you must, would be to post the same standard reply to his every post, listing the manifold reasons why he ought to be ignored. Just my $0.02 worth."
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Most..most batteries use a high calcium lead alloy and they tend to turn to shit when melting. Calcium is not a particularly good alloy for bullet making. and the body tends to confuse lead with calcium..so doesnt do your bones much good in large doeses. Plus it makes the bullets a tad brittle.
But hey...melt down 20 lbs and see what they do when cast into bullets
"IMHO, some people here give Jeff far more attention than he deserves, but obviously craves. The most appropriate response, and perhaps the cruelest, IMO, is to simply killfile and ignore him. An alternative, if you must, would be to post the same standard reply to his every post, listing the manifold reasons why he ought to be ignored. Just my $0.02 worth."
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