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Thread: fluxing technique

  1. #1
    Boolit Master edadmartin's Avatar
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    fluxing technique

    Ive been reading alot about fluxing and have seen conflicting guidance. I guess fluxing helps bind the unwanted and keeps tin in the mix. One writer says to stir in sawdust and spoon out the slag or droos every time a new ingot is added to the pot to get a shiny surface, another says leave the sawdust covering the lead mix as clean lead will be on the bottom of the pot and all impurities float to the top. I suppose if doing this you would spoon the droos off before adding new lead yes?
    Now Im a woodworker and the stuff from the planer Id say was shavings and the stuff in the dust collector was dust. now days the dust bag will have real wood and mdf or particle board dust,is it all good for fluxing? I dont know! what do you all do.
    "Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler" Albert Einstien

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    I would be leary of particle board treated lumber and chip board as the glues and chemicals could produve dngerous fumes in the pot. Pet bedding wood shavings from the pet store work well and are true wood with few additives. I use saw dust and a small amount of wax together when fluxing. I give the wood a little time to burn ,oisture out then add a small piece of wax and stir working lead thru the mix. I then skim everything off. I ladle cast and the clean surface is a positive for me.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master


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    Adding a spoon full of sawdust and leaving it, is for bottom pour applications. It is intended as a barrier between the melt and Oxygen in the air. This helps retard oxides from forming.
    When adding alloy, I gently add, so it doesn't carry debris to the bottom of the pot. The existing sawdust (carbon) will still be effective. Just wait til the fresh addition has melted, and stir again. You can always add more if needed.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by edadmartin View Post
    Ive been reading alot about fluxing and have seen conflicting guidance. I guess fluxing helps bind the unwanted and keeps tin in the mix.
    There are two (primary) occasions when we melt lead alloy.
    1.) when we are breaking down 'scrap' to clean up the metal, combine into a single homogenous alloy, and cast into ingots for storage ... and, 2.) when we are casting bullets.

    During '1' (most of us use the term 'smelting' even if it IS incorrect) a lot of us use wax of various kinds. It DOES seem to help the various components 'blend' together, and it helps 'gather' trash into a wad for scooping it out.
    Since this is a 'blending / cleaning' process, it seems okay to say we are 'fluxing' the components that we are 'smelting'.

    When casting bullets ('2'), we are dealing with clean alloy. So the only thing we might do is cause oxidised metal to re-combine itself with the molten alloy. This change in oxidized metal is called 'reduction', and reducing oxides is done with carbon-based materials.
    That includes the waxes, but also includes 'wood' (and almost everything else on the planet).
    Allowing the wood to char on top of the lead is good, and it's even better if there is a small fire to help take oxygen molecules out of the oxides. So, wood dust, shavings, chips, and even solid sticks (used while stirring) are commonly used for reduction.

    One writer says to stir in sawdust and spoon out the slag or droos every time a new ingot is added to the pot to get a shiny surface, another says leave the sawdust covering the lead mix as clean lead will be on the bottom of the pot and all impurities float to the top.
    A thick layer of the resulting ash can be left on top of the alloy, if using a bottom pour pot, where it helps to keep atmospheric air away from the surface ... reducing the need for reduction. (pun intended).
    By the way, it's not unusual to hear this reduction process also referred to as 'fluxing', so don't get confused.

    I suppose if doing this you would spoon the droos off before adding new lead yes?
    A person using a dipper will probably skim all of the ash off and make bullets until dross (oxides) build up enough to clean it again.

    Now Im a woodworker and the stuff from the planer Id say was shavings and the stuff in the dust collector was dust. now days the dust bag will have real wood and mdf or particle board dust,is it all good for fluxing? I dont know! what do you all do.
    Almost anything will work, but anything that will melt (unless it's a wax) is probably going to leave a mess.

    CM
    Last edited by montana_charlie; 09-08-2014 at 02:29 PM.
    Retired...TWICE. Now just raisin' cows and livin' on borrowed time.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master trixter's Avatar
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    If you have a sawmill near you that cuts pine, ask for for a 5 gallon bucketful of sawdust, then let it dry out as much as you can. If you have a furniture manufacturer, or a nice cabinet shop that uses a lot of pine to frame stuff. Pine is best, fir will be OK and hard woods will work. I would not use plywood or preserved wood sawdust, because of the chemicals.

  6. #6
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    Actually wax is not a true flux. On your first smelt it would be best to use wood products as they are true fluxes.

    Wax is good for reducing the tin back into the mix.

    My process is to use wood and wax when schmelting. Reduces the tin back in while "cleaning" the alloy.

    When casting I will start to add wax or wood shaving dependent on how quick the surface starts to turn yellowish. No yellow no tin no sense fluxing


    Quote Originally Posted by montana_charlie View Post
    There are two (primary) occasions when we melt lead alloy.
    1.) when we are breaking down 'scrap' to clean up the metal, combine into a single homogenous alloy, and cast into ingots for storage ... and, 2.) when we are casting bullets.

    During '1' (most of us use the term 'smelting' even if it IS incorrect) a lot of us use wax of various kinds. It DOES seem to help the various components 'blend' together, and it helps 'gather' trash into a wad for scooping it out.
    Since this is a 'blending / cleaning' process, it seems okay to say we are 'fluxing' the components that we are 'smelting'.

    When casting bullets ('2'), we are dealing with clean alloy. So the only thing we might do is cause oxidised metal to re-combine itself with the molten alloy. This change in oxidized metal is called 'reduction', and reducing oxides is done with carbon-based materials.
    That includes the waxes, but also includes 'wood' (and almost everything else on the planet).
    Allowing the wood to char on top of the lead is good, and it's even better if there is a small fire to help take oxygen molecules out of the oxides. So, wood dust, shavings, chips, and even solid sticks (used while stirring) are commonly used for reduction.


    A thick layer of the resulting ash can be left on top of the alloy, if using a bottom pour pot, where it helps to keep atmospheric air away from the surface ... reducing the need for reduction. (pun intended).
    By the way, it's not unusual to hear this reduction process also referred to as 'fluxing', so don't get confused.


    A person using a dipper will probably skim all of the ash off and make bullets until dross (oxides) build up enough to clean it again.


    Almost anything will work, but anything that will melt (unless it's a wax) is probably going to leave a mess.

    CM
    Last edited by cdngunner; 09-08-2014 at 05:55 PM.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Garyshome's Avatar
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    I never thought of it as Technique, it is something that just HAS to be done. I have a pile of saw dust under my table saw I use!

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Simple rule I have always used: for "smelting" - flux 3X with sawdust/savings....last time throw in a little parafin wax for reducer.

    In the casting pot, use ONLY beeswax to reduce Sn back in for a nice shiny surface! Beeswax works many times better than standard wax as it flares at a much higher temp (I never get any flare up) and smells great!

    Not rocket science........just melting lead.

    banger

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    Boolit Master edadmartin's Avatar
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    so If you use a dipper youll be cleaning the surface of droos, not so much if you bottom pour, only after adding new ingots I suppose.
    Never new about reducers (wax) much to learn. cool stuff here.
    "Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler" Albert Einstien

  10. #10
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    The actual definition of "flux" as used by us in "smelting" and fluxing during casting. The actual definition should not be confused with "notions" of what "flux" is as we use it or as compared to what a flux is as used in soldering and brazing.


    From Webster's fluxing is, as we use it; a substance used to promote fusion especially of metals and minerals..........

    Wax is a flux because it causes the tin, antimony and sometimes copper to go back into solution with the lead and the tin and antimony to form into the sub metal SbSn. Some waxes work better at fluxing than others.

    Wood also is a flux because it does the same as wax; causes the tin, antimony and sometimes copper to go back into solution with the lead. Some woods work better than others.

    Both wax and wood meet the criteria of the definition. Other substances do also such as commercial chemical fluxes for mixing alloys.

    I've used different woods, different waxes and different commercial fluxes over the years and mostly use paraffin wax for fluxing (2-3 times) when smelting. It is inexpensive, it is readily available and it works quite well. I use beeswax when fluxing during casting. It works very well also as I but a dab on the melted alloy in the pot and then drop 2-3 wood matches on it. The matches light and burn off most of the smoke and reduce the stink considerably. I stir and flux while it is burning. The small amount of residue from the wax and wood along with impurities brought out of the alloy is easily removed. I guess I actually am fluxing with both wax and wood......it works very well.

    There are other ways to flux also and many are good. Having tried many I can't say any one is really better at fluxing binary, ternary or Cu enriched alloys better than any other. The method I've come to use just fits my casting methods and techniques is all.

    Larry Gibson

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by bangerjim View Post
    Simple rule I have always used: for "smelting" - flux 3X with sawdust/savings....last time throw in a little parafin wax for reducer.

    In the casting pot, use ONLY beeswax to reduce Sn back in for a nice shiny surface! Beeswax works many times better than standard wax as it flares at a much higher temp (I never get any flare up) and smells great!

    Not rocket science........just melting lead.

    banger
    banger

    I disagree with wax being referred to as a "reducer". With reference to metals a "reducer" is used to "separate, as pure metal, from a metallic ore." In the case of our use the flux is used to blend the different metals (Pb, Sb, Sn) back into solution which is the opposite of what a "reducer" does by definition. However, I suppose it could be argued the wax, or any flux for that matter, is also a "reducer" as it separates the non metal impurities out of the metal.

    Larry Gibson

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Larry,

    I have been beat up many times by some of the "olde guarde" on here by calling waxes flux (which I KNOW IT IS). But to minimize "flames" to me on this thread, I just did not bring it up.

    And of course our re-melting of WW's and Pb is DEFINITELY NOT "smelting"!!!!!! But that colloquialism was established many moons ago B4 I joined here and I am not going down that "flaming" road again! I work with the copper and gold industry and what they do is true smelting by definition....NOT what we are doing by just simply re-melting lead WW's.

    I am VERY familiar with what oxidation and reduction is, how it works and where it is used and not used.

    Just like "those" that say beeswax is NOT what should be used in the casting pot (only sawdust).

    You and I agree! But if certain people on here read this, you have started another word war!

    banger

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Well, thatīs pretty interesting so.

    I have used saw dust in the past, but wasnīt really happy with it.
    I fluxed and stirred, then casted, added new alloy, took away the old burned saw dust, added new one, fluxed and stirred again,....

    Iīm looking for getting as much bullets as I can, when casting, making bullets for more shooting, donīt shoot to cast more bullets so.

    Working with saw dust was a time killer for me (maybe I did something wrong, donīt know), so I switched back to normal candle wax/parrafin to become faster.

    Beeīs wax as fluxing stuff, really?
    Well, why not, I will try this out.

  14. #14
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    I use sawdust for "rendering" wheelweights in a cast iron dutch oven, and paraffin in the bottom pour pot. Only clean alloy goes in the pot.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master



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    A lot of good info here. I have used bees wax when casting bp round balls, using soft lead. Don't know why I haven't done it when casting hard boolits. I am going to try it.

  16. #16
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    I noticed that WW flux themselves, from all the grease and oil and whatever else is on them. I remove most of the clips but leave most of the dust and some of the clips in there while I pour my refined WW ingots. Never get dross on this step anymore.

    I've experimented with several things that I thought would work well as flux or reducer. Cooking oils tend to splatter but seem to work great to reduce the tin. For non-liquids, I found that it should be as fine as possible, like a powder. Chunks of wood don't carbonize very well sitting on the surface of the melt. Crushed walnut shell is slightly too large but works in a pinch, just takes a long time to turn black. I even tried activated charcoal, which wasn't very good but it worked much better after I crushed it to dust.

    Fireplace ash should work well. That's my theory.. Or if you want pure carbon, there's always sugar + sulfuric acid and then crush and neutralize it before use. I suppose sugar itself would work okay too, since it'll burn to carbon. I wouldn't put any of this **** in your ladling pot, though, just stick to wood and wax. Wood and wax are the best because you can light it up and they can smell nice.

    Don't try DIRT, I had a rock go in and it fn exploded and almost got me.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    After almost every substance know to man has been discussed and cussed, why not stick to the best...........dry sawdust. (NOT the carp from big box stores!) EVERYBODY has a saw or sander or drill or plane, right? Or if you live in a cave, buy some Walmart pet bedding.

    The finer the better. Big chunks do NOT work well at all. Use dust or shavings.

    Any DRY carbon-based life form will work, but the above things have been proven the best and readily available to most people. Why mess with anything else?

    bangerjim

  18. #18
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    We've beat this to death for years on this forum and it seams little progress has been made. The simple truth of the metallurgy of lead alloys is that wax is not flux, wax cannot flux. Wax is and can be used as a reducer but flux it won't/can't.

    Yes, it's true that in purely scientific definition boolit casters and printers in the old days use the term "reducer" incorrectly but that's not likely to change and besides, it works perfectly for us. For us and our lead alloys reduce means to return oxidized tin and antimony back into the alloy.

    The terms smelting and fluxing probably aren't being used correctly in pure scientific definition either but so what, to any boolit caster "fluxing" means to remove impurities. Wax cannot remove impurities so saying that you flux with wax isn't correct even in boolit casters lingo.

    Sawdust is a flux in that it does remove several impurities that we don't want in our boolit alloys. Sawdust is also every bit as good a reducer as is wax. Using both as some seem to think is necessary can't hurt anything, a bit redundant but if it makes you feel better . . .

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  19. #19
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    Yall just stop, ya got my head hurting, flux, reduce, tin, alloys, and stuff.
    I just melt down WW, make ingots and cast boolits to shoot.
    I do put stuff in my smelt pot, stuff comes out, I do melt wax in my pour pot and stuff comes out.
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  20. #20
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    Ah, I see, we disagree, we don't like what was before so we rewrite..........makes perfect sense.........I shall continue to flux with some waxes as they flux perfectly..........but then so does some sawdust........

    Larry Gibson

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