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Thread: Did my first melt tonight!

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Did my first melt tonight!

    I melted down about 40-50 lbs of sheet lead with a pound or two reclaimed .22 pellets from my pellet trap. I had all my PPE and was using one of those Lee 20 lb production pots.

    It went... ok... for a while.

    It seemed I had to constantly adjust the screw to keep the Lee from rapidly dripping... and it would go from not dripping, to randomly almost going to a solid stream.

    Finally, (user error) when I was spooning out some dross, I popped the little rod out and... well... it was a good time!

    I managed to catch most of it out of, what was the last pot anyways, and I've since cleaned it all up and put the rod back in. I'm kind of meh about the Lee pot as of now. I'm not sure if it's all me or if I got a finicky one.

    No burns... a small pile of pure lead put away and I've got about as much in weight worth of wheel weights to melt down... then I can start casting some SWCs for my .38!

    Some of the lead has a slight purple hue to it... nit sure if that's from running too hot. I had it at around 1/2 most of the time when pouring/spooning to clean... with it cranked up when trying to melt down the sheets.

    Now that I've done a little... I can *definately* see why folks go with cast iron pots and propane stoves.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    One of the issues with smelting or cleaning up lead with a bottom pour is getting all the dross ( dirt oxidation impurities) out so it dosnt contaminate the spout and valve of the bottom pour pot. Fluxing and removing dross can be harder in a pot due to the valve rod getting in the way. Also bumping the rod can dislodge it from a good seal in the seat. Some add a weight to the handle of the lee pots to help it seat a little tighter for a better seal. On the older pots it wasn't uncommon to lap the seat to the rod for a better seal also.

    The gas fired and larger pots are a plus for a couple reasons. 1) the bigger batches result in more ingots all the same. 2) the bigger pot is simply easier to flux and stir removing dross is easier with no rods in the way. 3) I find a ladle of the appropriate size to make better ingots and in reality a 4-5 lb ladle filling ingot mould full from 1 dip empties the pot much faster for me. I have a ladle made up that pours 2 4 lb ingots in one fill and it empties a pot fast. My ingot moulds are 4 cavities and I have 8 of them made up. So every 2 pur is a full ingot mould on the stand. once all 8 are filled the first is dumped and filled working thru them.

    A lead thermometer ill give a good reading on temps as far as I now the scale is just a set of graduation s and don't conform to temps. Several good ingot moulds saves waiting for them to cool. a good bottom pour ladle rowels are very good and you can pour ingots very quickly.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master dikman's Avatar
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    One thing you never do is use a bottom pour casting pot to smelt dirty lead! Only ever put cleaned lead/alloy into the pot. The Lee pot has a few idiosyncrasies, one of which is the lifting handle is on the light side. Adding extra weight to the handle can help (wrap the knob in several layers of lead, add a big nut to it, replace it with a heavy metal one etc.).

  4. #4
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by dikman View Post
    One thing you never do is use a bottom pour casting pot to smelt dirty lead! Only ever put cleaned lead/alloy into the pot. The Lee pot has a few idiosyncrasies, one of which is the lifting handle is on the light side. Adding extra weight to the handle can help (wrap the knob in several layers of lead, add a big nut to it, replace it with a heavy metal one etc.).
    Yep... that's the first and last time I'm ever doing that. I have a old fish fryer and a few cast iron pots I can get for nothing and that'll definately be what I use next time. The pour rate looks like it'd be great for casting... but to pour clean lead in muffins? Terrible.

    I appreciate the advice on weighing down the handle. I bet that'd help a lot... it just seemed like it didn't want to be seated during the process.

  5. #5
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by country gent View Post
    One of the issues with smelting or cleaning up lead with a bottom pour is getting all the dross ( dirt oxidation impurities) out so it dosnt contaminate the spout and valve of the bottom pour pot. Fluxing and removing dross can be harder in a pot due to the valve rod getting in the way. Also bumping the rod can dislodge it from a good seal in the seat. Some add a weight to the handle of the lee pots to help it seat a little tighter for a better seal. On the older pots it wasn't uncommon to lap the seat to the rod for a better seal also.

    The gas fired and larger pots are a plus for a couple reasons. 1) the bigger batches result in more ingots all the same. 2) the bigger pot is simply easier to flux and stir removing dross is easier with no rods in the way. 3) I find a ladle of the appropriate size to make better ingots and in reality a 4-5 lb ladle filling ingot mould full from 1 dip empties the pot much faster for me. I have a ladle made up that pours 2 4 lb ingots in one fill and it empties a pot fast. My ingot moulds are 4 cavities and I have 8 of them made up. So every 2 pur is a full ingot mould on the stand. once all 8 are filled the first is dumped and filled working thru them.

    A lead thermometer ill give a good reading on temps as far as I now the scale is just a set of graduation s and don't conform to temps. Several good ingot moulds saves waiting for them to cool. a good bottom pour ladle rowels are very good and you can pour ingots very quickly.
    Yep. I'm definitely going with propane with a pot and ladle next time. I just got a wild hair and wanted to give it a go. I figured the sheet lead I had would be decently clean and... it was not. The shape of the Production Pot is totally wrong for using a spoon to get anything out of the bottom and on the side where the rod is.

    But... I was excited to get to do something with it. I'm on leave for the next 2 weeks and will haul back the propane fryer and a decent cast iron pot on my way back home. I have vacation stuff planned for the first week. The second week? Nothing planned... so it'll be my random projects and dorking around week. I've got a pile of wheel weights to melt down and I'll make sure I have the right tools for the job then.

    Thanks for the info. I'll be getting a thermometer too. I thought I could get by w/o it doing pure lead... but seeing how temps were likely way too high, I don't want to mess up by wrecking the WW lead.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    Glad you were not hurt and did not have a huge mess to clean up! Like all hobbies, there is a learning curve with casting and smelting. When using a fish cooker or turkey fryer, be sure that it will be strong enough to support the weight. Consider using an old propane tank, cut off, as a smelting pot. Some cast iron cookware is pretty valuable and should not be used with food once it has had lead in it. It can also crack if heated too quickly or struck when its hot. There is a sticky about home smelting set-ups that has a lot of neat ideas and is well worth reading. Also, check out the sticky about sorting wheel weights.
    Last edited by lightman; 06-09-2018 at 01:16 PM.

  7. #7
    Boolit Mold
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    Yep... all over the wheel weight sticky when I sorted earlier this week. There were a few pieces of cast iron that had been out in the weather and had some pitting that I recovered a few years back. A couple were salvageable... some less so. I figured I'd sacrifice one.

    Nothing ever got too out of hand... I just found out that, for cleaning purposes... the Prod pot is totally the wrong tool for the job. I still came out with all the lead getting cleaned up... it just took a lot longer and more effort, along with complications, than it otherwise would have been. I'd dressed appropriately and had gloves, an apron and a faceshield so I was ready if things had went badly as well. As it was, other than the rod coming out, there was no drama.

    I wish there was someone I knew around who did casting, or my old man was still around. I reached out to pretty much all my buddies but was met with almost universal, "Casting yourself? Are you crazy?" responses.

    I've spent months reading now and then before I even bought the stuff, and probably should have waited until I got the fryer/pot... but the lead looked so clean... so deceptively clean...

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    A cast iron pot works well and is very useable. One thing to remember with the turkey fryers or weed burners is to start low and warm the cast iron up to temp over 10-15 mins. Cast Iron dosnt handle expansion well and full blown heat all at once with out a warm up can cause it to crack. Start out with about 1/3 needed heat and up to 2/3 after 5-8 mins then full heat after 10-15 mins. The slower warm up helps a lot.
    Another area to inspect and watch is the propane fryers stand some are plenty heavy enough but some are on the light side and 100+ lbs of metal under heat may eventually collapse them.

  9. #9
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by country gent View Post
    A cast iron pot works well and is very useable. One thing to remember with the turkey fryers or weed burners is to start low and warm the cast iron up to temp over 10-15 mins. Cast Iron dosnt handle expansion well and full blown heat all at once with out a warm up can cause it to crack. Start out with about 1/3 needed heat and up to 2/3 after 5-8 mins then full heat after 10-15 mins. The slower warm up helps a lot.
    Another area to inspect and watch is the propane fryers stand some are plenty heavy enough but some are on the light side and 100+ lbs of metal under heat may eventually collapse them.
    Thanks for the advice. I'll admit to not being very familiar with cast iron cooking, let alone using it to melt metals. The fryer is a steel framed one my old man used to cook on when I was a kid, so it oughta be plenty study enough. I'll definitely check to make sure it's stable with weight up top before I use it to melt lead.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master dikman's Avatar
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    Ignore your buddies' comments, they've got no idea of the satisfaction that you get when you tell someone you smelt the stuff, cast with it, coat it and reload it! It takes you to the next level.

    I can understand you getting a new toy and wanting to use it straight away, you've learned a lot in a short time now . Virtually any lead that you come across that hasn't been re-melted and fluxed should be treated as dirty - it's amazing how much grit can come off a sheet of lead that "looks" clean, and grit is the enemy of a bottom pour pot.
    I used a large stainless steel cooking pot for a while to smelt stuff but progressed to a half propane tank 'cos it holds more (about 130 lbs).

    Keep at it, you're doing well.

  11. #11
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by dikman View Post
    Ignore your buddies' comments, they've got no idea of the satisfaction that you get when you tell someone you smelt the stuff, cast with it, coat it and reload it! It takes you to the next level.

    I can understand you getting a new toy and wanting to use it straight away, you've learned a lot in a short time now . Virtually any lead that you come across that hasn't been re-melted and fluxed should be treated as dirty - it's amazing how much grit can come off a sheet of lead that "looks" clean, and grit is the enemy of a bottom pour pot.
    I used a large stainless steel cooking pot for a while to smelt stuff but progressed to a half propane tank 'cos it holds more (about 130 lbs).

    Keep at it, you're doing well.
    Thanks a bunch! I'm on my first day of my 2 week vacation... and will be checking out my late father's old fryer. It's been sitting out in his work building unused for at least 20 years. He'd be happy it was getting used. Funny... he hated cooking/eating fish so im not sure why he ever got it. Its got to be as old as me.

    He told me stories of casting wheel weights before I was born so he'd probably think it's funny that, all these years later... I was trying to do the same thing. I'm running around this week but will be back home with a whole week off to do the wheel weights that I've already sorted. I figure I'll melt WWs and pure Pb and do a 50/50 mod for my first perspective bullets... those Lee 115 gr. SWCs. We'll see how they measure and whether or not I need to size them (probably... I haven't gotten the sizing die yet, but I have a micrometer to see how they come out. I also have yet to slug any barrels). I'm just trying to kind of do a bunch of each step of the process right now rather than do a little of the whole thing to try to get each one down.

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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