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Thread: The difference between casting and smelting

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

    Pepe Ray's Avatar
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    The difference between casting and smelting

    I just read a posting about a guy building a hugh bottom pour smelter.
    WOW!! Am I impressed ? You bet!! I can't imagine having those talents and resources.

    The following comments are based on my own experiance and I believe, reflect the status of most
    struggeling beginners. Casting VS Smelting




    Smelting; Itís been argued that the word, as used by most of our fraternity, is not correct. As long as we all understand its context, weíll continue to use it.
    The process is so much different from casting Boolets it needs to be addressed.
    Many Boolet casters donít need to smelt. They purchase clean, pre alloyed lead
    from a commercial supplier. Casters using this material should be able to cast on the kitchen cooking range as long as itís not needed for dinner at the moment. Iíve done it. It works. True, you should have a cooperative partner and you always clean up your own messes.

    Smelting is a dirty, noxious and sometimes, dangerous job. No thinking person would try to do it in an enclosed area. Extraordinary venting may allow it but that goes far beyond the resources of a hobbyist reloader. The scrounged materials by there nature is Junk. Wheel weights from the local garage will contain cigarette butts, chewing tobacco plugs, razor blades, syringes, chewing gum and wrappers, truck tire valves, nuts, bolts, urine etc. Depending on the source, the degree of contamination will vary.
    Other scrounged junk includes lavatory traps, roof jacks, chimney flashing, water main joints (sewer main included), battery posts and clamps, Babbitt from various industrial applications, type metal of various alloys, target range reclaim, diving wgts, sail boat keels, machinery counter balances.
    Itís beyond the scope of this post to try to describe the many different alloys found in this assortment of junk. Thatís work for another horse.
    Smelting inside will coat all exposed surfaces with a black carbon like residue that will tempt you to torch the building. Smelting is an outside job. You should do it on a day when a breeze will dissipate the obnoxious smoke.
    Are you a gambler or a thrift nut?
    A gambler dumps all his junk into a large pot, turns up the heat and hope that all the impurities will float to the top to be skimmed off. This is faster but includes the risk of contaminating a lot of good alloy. Once you pour the Coke Cola into the Jack Black youíre done. That mistake canít be corrected, pass the beverage to a gal who may appreciate it, and try again.
    A thrift nut spends a lot of time and worn out gloves to separate the good junk from the bad junk. Within a few hours youíll be able to tell the Zink (Zn) from the iron (Fe) from the lead. One of the advantages of separating now is that you can get a better price for the junk that you take to the recycler. The affirmation of having contaminate free alloy is a big plus when trying to investigate the causes of poor boolets dropping from that new mold.
    Trying to make boolets while smelting is a waste of time. Itís doable with a dipper and experience but when using a bottom pour pot it fouls the pot and the pour spout.

    Comments please,
    Pepe Ray
    The way is ONLY through HIM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    goodsteel's Avatar
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    Good writeup. That's exactly the way I see it.
    Tim Malcolm
    MBT custom rifles & gunsmithing
    www.goodsteelforum.com

    "He who is enslaved by the compass has freedom of the seas"

  3. #3
    Boolit Master cloakndagger's Avatar
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    Yup, was thinking about that yesterday evening, "smelting" compared to "casting" must be nice to have clean pre alloyed stock to start with lol
    Any man who seeks to live free should keep a Bible on his desk and a .45 in the drawer.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    I agree with what you wrote as a whole.. it's well said.

    As a hobbyist caster and reloader who started out with the very basics in casting and smelting, graduating on to bigger and more efficient equipment can be done without lots of talent or resources. I tend to be a scrounge (like most) and have put my setup together on a tight budget.

    Casting indoors.. lots of guys do it safely with little ventilation. Smelting, I can and do smelt in my garage with the closed doors rain or shine. My bottom pour smelter is efficient (300 # at a time) and the homemade hood and blower setup remove all of the fumes and smoke associated with dirty lead. Keeping things simple have allowed me to expand my setup and remove some of the hassles involved

    Smelting and casting at the same time, you hit the nail on the head. For me it's do one or the other, not both that's such a pain.

    Shad
    Last edited by shadowcaster; 02-05-2013 at 07:28 PM. Reason: spacing
    I believe in gold, silver, & lead, and the rights of free honest men... You can keep the "CHANGE"!

    Shad

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    Well written, thank you Pepe Ray.
    I am a scrounger so that is half the fun of this hobby for me.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Years ago I had a small custom reloading and combat games ammo operation ,FFL ,insurered and did a rather large amount of casting. My meltering was on the order of 100 pounds per batch with a home made bottom pour made from a section of welding tank and propane fired. I did this outside during sunny moderate temperatures and it was the part of the operation I liked the least. Only good part was back then printers type was very reasonable and wheel weights were mostly decent alloy and even less expensive than the printers type. Iused a Saeco hardness tester which I still have along with all of my molds and RCBS bottom pour as well as my smaller Lee bottom pour which I started with. The Saeco was used to check a few poured from each batch smeltered and each ingot was stamped with a hardness number.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Mold
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    Ahhhh....and so my journey begins...

  8. #8
    Boolit Man kidmma's Avatar
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    Yes Pepe, nice write up. I struggled for years trying to melt wheel weights in my 10# Lee bottom pour pot to cast bullets as I went. Not the way to do it!
    Now I have a good set-up to clean my scrounged lead, then cast my boolits with less struggling.

  9. #9
    Boolit Mold
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    Thanks for the info. My problem is getting a supply of wheel weights. Most tire shops I've talked with will grudgingly give me a "handful" (sometimes literally) which usually runs to about 10 - 15 lbs. It's beginning to look like I will have to actually purchase lead from local scrapyards. I read in the 1911 forum that over in this forum there are folks selling ww. any possibility of that?

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy

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    I guess I'm a "gambler". I don't have any guns that would really benefit from soft lead, so I just put everything in a cast iron pot and then skim off the clips and other junk that floats to the top. My alloy will probably not be as hard as someone who separates all their clip-on from stick-on wheelweights, but it seems to be good enough for my usage. Just got through smelting down a bunch of wheelweights that I was given by a local auto tire and repair shop that was doing some work on my truck. If you figure the cost of the lead by the amount I paid for the work on the truck, it ended up being rather expensive lead. I started out with what was probably a kitchen trash can full of wheelweights and I have 31 ingots afterward. I think I usually get around 10 lbs each on the ingots, but I didn't fill them as full this time around so that they would fit in my casting pot a bit better while also hopefully not dropping the temperature of the pot as much when I add them. Worked out to be an average of 5.6 lbs per ingot this time for a total weight of 173.68 lbs.

    NOTE: Don't allow the quick oil change places to top off your fluids -- do it yourself and put the right fluid in the right reservoir. Power steering fluid in your brake system can get a bit expensive, especially when your spouse / significant other decides to keep driving the vehicle even after noticing that something is wrong and nearly melts the calipers and discs.
    Last edited by txnative1951; 03-04-2013 at 03:33 AM.

  11. #11
    Boolit Man
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    Once you pour the Coke Cola into the Jack Black you’re done. That mistake can’t be corrected, pass the beverage to a gal who may appreciate it, and try again.
    HEY! I resemble that remark.
    Life is a series of bullseyes and backstraps - Ted Nugent

  12. #12
    Boolit Bub
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    So have never smelted or casted, (but i'm trying to start) Smelting is taking raw **** material and getting the nasties out of it and casting it into ingots right? I'm looking for a furnace right now, I like the ones with the pour valves, but would these be suitable for smelting, while just skimming off the top or should I get a dippable furnace for smelting, and a pour valve one for casting boolits?

  13. #13
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewTenney View Post
    So have never smelted or casted, (but i'm trying to start) Smelting is taking raw **** material and getting the nasties out of it and casting it into ingots right? I'm looking for a furnace right now, I like the ones with the pour valves, but would these be suitable for smelting, while just skimming off the top or should I get a dippable furnace for smelting, and a pour valve one for casting boolits?
    I like my Lee 4-20 for casting. Some molds prefer a ladle still, but I get alot done with Ol Drippy. I use a cast iron pot over a fish fryer burner for smelting. You don't want to be dealing with the crud of smelting in a bottom pour pot, you may never get all the crud out. I wouldn't want to use an electric furnace for smelting, even if it wasn't bottom pour. I just don't have the patience.
    ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

  14. #14
    Boolit Bub
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    I have a good supplier for wheel weights, do I need to smelt these or just melt em down and pull out the clips? So I wouldn't actually have to smelt them right?

  15. #15
    Boolit Bub
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    Disregard, I spent a few more hours researching here and have educated myself!

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I have always before referred to scrap lead melting to recover the good and clear away the bad as "RENDERING". Smelting is what the refineries do to obtain lead from ore; but I agree, so long as we know what is meant, communication is achieved. So we say smelt instead of render. Then I alloy, that is, intentionally add other elements to PB to get, maybe, what I want. Then I can use that product in my casting adventures.

    Good write-up.

    prs

  17. #17
    Boolit Mold
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    My experience with the word rendering is cooking down pig fat to get the tallow for soap. But guess in essence it the same process. Cooking down one to get out of it what you need.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master Baron von Trollwhack's Avatar
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    Actually, SMELTING is the conversion of elemental ore into metal, i.e., LEAD, in our discussion.

    That is why those lucky enough to have virgin lead, as in a strip of 5 pound lead ingots as cast, by a SMELTING COMPANY, see and often comment on the shiny, brilliant colors of purple and gold they see when MELTING the virgin lead for use. Those colors are produced by trace mineral and metallic elements in the ore that was used.

    When we scrounge and convert lead alloy junk into usable bullet alloy, that is MELTING the scrap containing lead, to make it into boolits. SMELT ore, MELT scrap or virgin metal.

    BvT
    Every lawbreaker we allow into our nation, or tolerate in our citizen population leads to the further escalation of law breaking of all kinds and acceptance of evil.
    Since almost all aspects of our cultural existence are LIBERAL in most states, this means that the nation is on a trajectory to dissolution by the burden of toleration and acceptance of LAWBREAKING as a norm, a trajectory back to the dark ages of history.

    BvT

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I reclaim my range scrap and wheelweights in my Lee bottom pour pot and store as ingots. I keep my lead shot, typemetal some wheelweights and solder in its original forms until I use it. I could never cast in my house, I use a lot of corn cob and saw dust for reducing, fluxing and to form a barrier on top of my pot. The ash causes a lot of dust and smoke. I save my dross and reduce it in a crucible on a gas burner with a lot of saw dust and wax to get what I can out of it before I toss the residue, what I recover must be mostly lead or tin as it is no harder than my range scrap.

    I collet range scrap about equal to what I shoot so I don't need much more lead than I have gathered over the years, around 200 lbs. I don't do any heavy duty "smelting" my biggest chore is jacketed bullet range scrap.

    Tim

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron von Trollwhack View Post
    Actually, SMELTING is the conversion of elemental ore into metal, i.e., LEAD, in our discussion.

    When we scrounge and convert lead alloy junk into usable bullet alloy, that is MELTING the scrap containing lead, to make it into boolits. SMELT ore, MELT scrap or virgin metal.

    BvT
    You are correct that in the true sense of the word that we DO NOT smelt our lead. We melt it, clean/render it into ingots for future use. Now .. with that said, most everyone here uses the term smelting in place of cleaning/rendering our scrap lead for the sake of simplicity.

    Shad
    I believe in gold, silver, & lead, and the rights of free honest men... You can keep the "CHANGE"!

    Shad

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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