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Thread: Guide to Hand Sorting Wheel Weights

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Revolver's Avatar
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    Guide to Hand Sorting Wheel Weights

    Guide to Hand Sorting Wheel Weights

    As the industry replaces lead wheel weights with alternative materials you may wish to sort these items out.

    Although WW can be separated by controlling heat sometimes it may be desirable to hand sort your wheel weights prior to melting . Some advantages of pre sorting this are:

    • Less wasted energy going into your melt
    • Less chance of accidentally getting zinc in your lead
    • The ability to separate ZINC from STEEL for other reasons such as selling for scrap or using the Zinc for other projects.
    • Separating stick ons (Typically softer and useful for other purposes)
    • Removing other debris

    The picture below are some common examples of wheel weights.





    The two main designs of WW are Clip-on and Stick-on. Stick on WW are typically much softer lead than Clip ons and can be used for other purposes.



    There seem to be 5 materials that wheel weights are made from:

    • Lead – USABLE
    • Zinc – QUESTIONABLE USE or SCRAP
    • Steel – NOT USABLE, SCRAP
    • Composite – NOT USABLE - (highly flexible polymer composite stick on)
    • Plastic – NOT USABLE



    Be careful, some designs are the same but the materials are different:



    Composites have no apparent re-uses.

    Common Methods of identification:

    VISUAL IDENTIFICATION

    After a little experience you should be able to sort WW visually with a good degree of accuracy. After using other methods to accurately ID various types of wheel weights you will learn which is which. Assuming you have no previous experience, here are some other methods of visually determining the make up of wheel weights.

    LEAD: Look for deformation, gouges, deep scratches, and scarring, these generally only occur on lead. I also have never seen a WW labeled “Micro” that wasn’t lead.



    ZINC: Look for the label Z or Zn (except when used as "oz" specifying weight, which can be lead) Some Zinc WW are not labeled and must be tested using other methods.





    STEEL: The easiest to identify and poses no risk if a mistake is made. Typically marked "Fe" and always have the printing stamped (recessed) into the material.


    CRIMPING/CUTTING IDENTIFICATION

    When in question lead can always be confirmed with a pair of cutters. Lead is the only type of WW that you will be able to cut a notch into without much trouble. I prefer to use a large set of cutters as it provides more leverage and better feedback with less work. Zinc and Steel will not give the same results.

    (See image further down)

    AUDIBLE IDENTIFICATION

    Lead can be differentiated from Zinc and Steel by tapping it against a hard object and listening to the sound. This works best with large and medium size WW but becomes less reliable with smaller ones. Holding the WW limp tap it against a heavy hard object (I use a large chunk of steel). Lead will make a dull thud, steel and zinc will make a higher pitch pinging noise.


    SCRATCHING IDENTIFICATION

    Sometimes scratching is a quick way to confirm lead. Instead of taking the time to use cutters simply drag its edge against the edge of something hard. if it feel soft and you end up with a nice shiny line then it's lead. If it's noisy, you can feel it grinding, and there is not a generous amount of shiny metal exposed then it's probably not lead.




    MAGNET IDENTIFICATION

    Lead, Zinc, and Steel WW all have steel clips that will be attracted to a magnet, so you can't very well use a magnet to pull out all your steel WW. A magnet is good for confirming your suspicions about questionable wheel weights. Check the end of the WW (farthest from the clip) against a magnet to test it.
    Lead and Zinc are not attracted to magnets (but remember, their clips are).

    WEIGHT IDENTIFICATION

    Most WW are labeled with a weight. Zinc and Steel are significantly lighter than. If you are questioning the composition of a WW simply compare size and/or weight against a known WW.

    ACID IDENTIFICATION

    It is said that Zinc will react to muriatic acid (and perhaps others) and that lead will not. I have not tried this. It has been used to test if there is any amount of Zinc alloyed into your alloy.

    SAFETY

    Wheel weights are dirty and poisonous. Your health is priceless escpecially vs. a bunch of filthy dog pee covered lead. Besides the hazards of lead they may also be contaminated from brake dust, road grime, and tire shop junk. Some examples to consider are:

    Lead dust
    Brake dust
    Asbestos
    Dog Urine
    Tobacco Spit
    Cigarette Butts
    Razor Blades
    Any other garbage or junk

    I wear gloves and a quality respirator (3M with P100 Filters, under $15 shipped on ebay). I also cover my work surface with cardboard that can be disposed of and keep my “lead working clothes” in a sealed tote so that it doesn’t contaminate anything in the house or get mixed with the laundry. Of course don’t eat, rub your eyes, pick your nose, pet the cat, pick the cat's nose, etc. I simply keep the frame of mind that I am contaminating anything I touch. When sorting WW the dust will get on you, take a shower and change your clothes when you are done!

    Some of my videos related to lead, smelting, wheel weights, etc. can be found on my youtube channel at:

    http://www.youtube.com/mainejunker

    DISCLAIMER: I hate disclaimers and think people should use common sense. This is a compilation of information that I have learned, there are no guarantees the information is accurate. Do your own research especially where safety is concerned. Only you are responsible for yourself!

    I welcome anyone to correct or add information to this thread.

    I also put together a video with tips on where to find lead. Maybe it will help some fellow forum members.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4KmaXfoIKE

    Last edited by Revolver; 09-22-2012 at 09:51 PM. Reason: Added tips on finding lead.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    This post screams STICKEY! nice primer for the casters just trying muddle through melting wheelweights.
    Thanks
    To lazy to chase arrows.
    Clodhopper

  3. #3
    Very well put together. This will help alot of people.

    LatheRunner

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    Lefty SRH's Avatar
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    Wow, sorting is what I'm doing now.

    I ma getting A LOT of the stick on style lead WW. Should these be set aside from the lead clip on WW when its time to smelt down?

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Revolver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty SRH View Post
    ...I ma getting A LOT of the stick on style lead WW. Should these be set aside from the lead clip on WW when its time to smelt down?
    I would, and I am. The stick ons are supposedly much softer. I have been setting them aside in case my future needs require a softer alloy.

  6. #6
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    I always separate the lead stick-ons from the lead clip-ons. I can always put them back in later if I don't use them in muzzleloader balls. This is what I probably will do since I normally buy the swaged balls for the rifle and the Old Army.
    John
    W.TN

  7. #7
    Awesome post....definitely worthy of a sticky. It's funny because while sorting wheelweights earlier today I thought how useful it would be to have a compilation of a bunch of wheelweight photos to show beginners....then BINGO you made this post. Way to go!

    Branden

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Very nice work; it should definitely be a sticky.
    Last edited by bumpo628; 01-14-2012 at 05:21 PM.
    Ronald Reagan once said that the most terrifying words in the English language are: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help".
    Download my alloy calculator here: http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?t=105952

  9. #9
    Boolit Master BulletFactory's Avatar
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    Sticky

  10. #10
    Boolit Mold
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    Great post! I always sort my wheel weights!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
    Lefty SRH's Avatar
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    Are the stick on WW pure lead? Or atleast ideal for muzzleloaders? Guess I have to go back thru them again!

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    Junker !

    That is probably the best single post I have ever seen.
    This is a complete thread in a single post.

    I understand the amount of work it took to do it.

    Thank you so much.


    .
    Last edited by williamwaco; 01-14-2012 at 10:24 PM.
    First reload: .22 Hornet. 1956.
    More at: http://reloadingtips.com/

    "Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the
    government take care of him better take a closer look at the American Indian."
    - Henry Ford

  13. #13
    Boolit Man biscot's Avatar
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    Very enlightening. Thank you for this post.
    I have no problem whatsoever with paying $1/lb. for WW lead to those forum members who gather these, sort them, smelt them, pack them, mail them, etc., and am very grateful for the effort they put in to do it. Makes casting and reloading look simple by comparison.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
    Lefty SRH's Avatar
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    Ive run across another zinc weight (I think) that in unmarked and is a stick on.

    Junker, can I email a pic of it to you so you can post it?

  15. #15
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    Dean D.'s Avatar
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    I just saw this post and agree that it should be a sticky. Done deal. Thanks Junker!
    "The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise." - Benjamin Franklin

    "To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." - Thomas Jefferson


  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Hey Junker, your the man, great post.

    Thanks for your time and effort putting this all together.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Revolver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty SRH View Post
    Ive run across another zinc weight (I think) that in unmarked and is a stick on.

    Junker, can I email a pic of it to you so you can post it?
    I think it would be a great idea for people to add pictures to this thread.

    Does anyone know if there storage available to host pics on this site or do they have to be linked in from elsewhere?

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Well Done Junker You are a asset to the group Thanks Clint

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    Lefty SRH's Avatar
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    I'll dig thru the scrap box and see if I can find one.

  20. #20
    Boolit Mold
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    great job this is a big help to us newbies.seen the youtube video.that was good also.thanks tk.sticky for sure.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check