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Thread: pay attention while smelting

  1. #1
    I'm A Honcho!

    69daytona's Avatar
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    Unhappy pay attention while smelting

    Last night I was smelting some indoor range material and all was going good until I dropped in a scoop of material that had some water in it, That was the closest call to major third degree burns I have ever had.
    The pot of molten lead went up like it was shot out of a cannon, as soon as I heard the pop I new what was going to happen and I dove as far as I could.
    Hot lead landed all around me but none got on me, this was just about a 30 lb pot of melt.
    Will never buy indoor range scrap from that guy again.
    Water and melted lead dont mix, I knew that before I started but dint see any wet spots in this mix of ****.
    Glad im not in the hospital.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by 69daytona View Post
    Will never buy indoor range scrap from that guy again.
    .
    1st ..glad your not toasted, but you gotta explain that stement more...how was it his fault that some moisture was in the mix??

    ALways always always when dealing with range scrap or any and all metal for that matter you need to fill the vessel before melting or heat it very substantially before adding the material to already molten metal...it was your fault not his....alot of us have done it...it is the fault of the smelter not the man you got the metal from. Just storing the metal in an atmosphere that has changed temp or changes temperature can put enough moisture in the mix to invite the tinsel fairy. I live downwind of Lake Michigan maybe I am just used to the effect of humidity and unstable temp changes...... CYOA applies here

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Dennis Eugene's Avatar
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    I agree it's no ones fault but your own. Blameing the man you bought the range lead from is just silly. Dennis

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Learning by experience ain't always fun, is it? Glad you weren't hurt. I learned to empty my pot before I put another batch of lead into it, or else call it a day.
    Tom
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  5. #5
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    Glad you are ok, but it was a (near) self inflicted wound.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    pop flume

    Yessir, glad you're OK!
    Had a minor visit from the tinsel fairy not too long ago. Something I've never had happen to this degree. Melted about 15# pot to temperature. Dunked the ladle in (cast Lyman) open top up as usual and pop flume! What tha heck! Just the light spots of soldered alloy on parts of the ladle and the usual oxidation coat. Only thing I can think of is whatever the oxidation coating was had absorbed a little moisture since the temps have been -0 lately. May show how little water is required? Good ole glasses, gloves and long sleeve shirt!

  7. #7
    I'm A Honcho!

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    Yea guess it is my fault, being new to casting I guess you have to learn the hard way since not everything is wrote down at your finger tips. I will be spreading my lead out in a wheel barrow from now on and heating it up to make sure its dry.
    wont be buying anymore indoor range lead either, out of 500lbs I got 300 lbs of mostly dirt with a few copper jackets and 200 lbs of good usable lead. came out to 25 cents a lb but not worth my time, I will stick to wheel weights from now on.

  8. #8
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    I would collect any form of lead you can get your paws on, never know whats gonna happen, especially with nobama and co. coming into "rule" this country.

    I have always found range lead to be very usable...If I had a source other than my own traps I would hord it like the world is against me.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master


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    If I am smelting, I empty my smelting pot completely or I wait until it solidifies before I add more material. It is not like it takes that long once you turn the heat off for it to get solid, and it doesn't take long to heat the material back up. I also don't see how it was anyone's fault but your own for the appearance of the tinsel fairy. Everyone of us here who has smelted lead, has made some sort of mistake that brought about the tinsel fairy, and adding scrap lead to a molten pot is one of the most common.

    Best wishes from the Boer Ranch,

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  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    I had some lead once that appeared to be damp. I got it from my brother-in-law and he's a mechanic. He had them in antifreeze jugs. I turned the lead off and waited for it to cool down quite a bit and then I put it on top of the hardened lead and turned it ack on that way as it heated if there was any moisture, it would evaporate as it got hot. I also was doing this outside and din't stick around to watch it melt either.
    Years ago when I first started and before I new better I put damp lead I had washed in the pot. Lead everywhere including myself and to this day I don't know how I got out of it without so much as a burn but I learned my lesson. I think allot of us here have mad that mistake at one time or another so don't feel bad, just chalk it up as lesson learnt!
    Aim small, miss small!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    I melt down indoor range lead all the time

    First wash it
    I use a big plastic tub , dump in a 5 gallon bucket of raw range lead , add 15 gallon of water
    Stir with a hoe
    Dump off the paper, wood and other light stuff with the water
    I save the water in to old kiddie pool as I strain through a burlap bag
    That way I can reuse the water and not risk putting lead into the soil

    I then spread the washed lead out on plastic on my driveway and allow the sun to dry it

    But I still finish a batch , before adding new

    I always plan on 10-15% per volume of paper, wood ect

    John
    Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Daytona,
    Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask questions here. I GUARANTEE YOU, we all started this hobby without a clue. Some of us just started a lot longer ago than others.

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    How did you dump the stuff in the pot? Did you basically just throw a shovel full in the pot? The reason I ask is because I have never had a steam explosion with lead. I've deliberately tried to create one by drizzling water onto a pot full of lead and all it does is hit the top and hiss like crazy till the lead hardens and it pretty much continues on and on like that. I've read stories where a guy claims a "drop of sweat will cause a major steam event" and just couldn't buy it. The ONLY way I can see this happening is if the water gets well under the surface of the mix and with lead alloy being so much heavier than water I think it would take some work or carelessness to do it. I can see a nice wet bunch of scrap being dumped from a couple feet up into the pot being able to get under the mix, but I put that in the careless category, no flame intended.

    When I smelt down scrap I go through the scrap first and remove the valve stems ( I save them, I'm always losing them and the caps), the odd tool, nuts and bolts and lately live 410 and 22LR shells (!!!). The stickers, paper, odd hunks of this and that just go in the pot as flux. I get the melt going and using a shovel I add material by GENTLY LAYING the raw scrap ON TOP of the melt. Any moisture present will be driven off while on top of the melt. I tossed small apples into the melt and they act like the water- they sizzle and hiss but there was no explosion and a crab apple weighs more than a bird dropping or grasshopper, two causes for explosions I've heard of.

    When I hear of a steam explosion I always feel bad for the guy it happened to, but I always wonder just HOW it happened. Glad you made out okay, next time try my method.

  14. #14
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    Daytona69, You just had a lesson in "ASSUME" You have to accept that entire thing.
    Shooter of the "HOLY BLACK" SASS 81802 AKA FAIRSHAKE; NRA ; BOLD; WARTHOG;Deadwood Marshal;Bayou Bounty Hunter; So That his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat; 44 WCF filled to the top, 210 gr. bullet

  15. #15
    Boolit Master copdills's Avatar
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    Glad you didn't get hurt

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Glad you learned and weren't hurt!

    I would welcome 25 cent a pound lead! I take all the range scrap and wash the crud off it. Then I either set it aside to dry, or heat it on a dedicated ex-cookie sheet in an oven for an hour at 250 or more degrees if I'm in a hurry and need to use it.
    I think you've learned the lesson of putting anything that might contain moisture into a hot pot!

    Happy Shootin'! -Tom

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Bret, when I was working at the sawmill, I was in contact with molten Babbitt every day. We used the Babbitt for saw guides, and I had to mold , remelt and mold some more. The guides were sometimes wet when I put them back into the pot, and it was a big (maybe 800 lbs) pot. I quickly learned that I couldn't tell by looking if the stuff ready to be re-melted was really dry or no. I started to stack them on the edge of the pot and after warning the people in the area, poke them in with an old push broom handle and running like hell. Tinsel Fairy City....

    I found out that a person could pour water ONTO the molten Babbitt and, as you said, it would just steam up really fast, with no ill effect. Likewise, oil didn't seem to have any effect other than a lot of smoke and then it would burst into flame. However, water on the plates, when dropped so the water got UNDER the melt was a whole different story. And hot Babbitt will scar...


    I never had any trouble with bird poop,moths, wasps, grasshoppers, and other bugs. The never got under the surface, and all they did was stink really bad.
    Last edited by Tom W.; 01-04-2009 at 03:43 PM.
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  18. #18
    I'm A Honcho!

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    Well at least I learned something from posting this thread, not from the first few people but others have been very helpful. You never know unless you ask and if it saves someone else thats new all the better.
    To answer one question, I was using a cast iron ladle(holds about 3 lbs) and I lowered into the molten lead resting the bottom on the top of the melt then turned it over. I never drop anything because of splash.
    Thanks for those of you who are a big help and have increased my knowledge. the rest that have nothing constructive to say are just like my dad if I didnt do it right the first time even not knowing what I was doing I got smacked with a 2x4 or whatever was handy.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master




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    Could it have been a round of live ammo that caused the Tinsel Fairy visit? A nickle .45 round could make things interesting. Not much different from the scrap, visually...
    Echo
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  20. #20
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    I will take the 2X4 smack to third degree burns any day of the week...I have had both the smack goeas away alot mo faster than the 3rd degree burns.

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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