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Thread: Testing hardness with pencils

  1. #21
    Boolit Buddy
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    It's called a "Kimberly Graphite Drawing Set #25" and they are manufactured by the General Pencil Company in Jersey City, NJ. I think it's the only thing I've bought at Walmart lately that was actually made in the US. They may be softer than the other brand, more likely the difference lies in my technique. But for the most part the test served my purpose. I was able to sort from hardest to softest and things I expected to be identical were identical. I did a search and found you're original post with a brief outline of how to do the test. I'll work on my technique and retest. I do like this test method. I started casting my own to save money. I just saved a bunch more $$$. I've already seen enough to know that I can get adequate data to manage my casting alloys for less than $10. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Molly View Post
    Wow! I wonder what brand they are. Personally, I've never seen 8B lead, etc. But so long as you are consistent in how you use them, they will still let you reproduce your alloy hardnesses. But you might want to read the ASTM description (ask your library) of how to use them to test hardness properly.

    As an afterthought: Could you be rating your pencil tests by the softest pencil that will polish or scratch the ingot? If so, it would explain your very soft readings. The correct way of using the pencils is to find the softest pencil that will CUT INTO the surface. You should be able to see a tiny curl or chip of lead that is peeled out of the surface.

    The reason that tiny scratches or polishing of the surface are not reliable is that the composition of the pencil cores is not perfectly uinform: The process of mixing the clays, graphites, etc that go into each core hardness will leave tiny particles, much like mixing concrete will leave granules of sand. But by requiring that the core shave lead, you are testing the actual core hardness or strength, not some scrap of impurity in the clay that was used.

    Molly

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by acl864 View Post
    It's called a "Kimberly Graphite Drawing Set #25" and they are manufactured by the General Pencil Company in Jersey City, NJ. I think it's the only thing I've bought at Walmart lately that was actually made in the US. They may be softer than the other brand, more likely the difference lies in my technique. But for the most part the test served my purpose. I was able to sort from hardest to softest and things I expected to be identical were identical. I did a search and found you're original post with a brief outline of how to do the test. I'll work on my technique and retest. I do like this test method. I started casting my own to save money. I just saved a bunch more $$$. I've already seen enough to know that I can get adequate data to manage my casting alloys for less than $10. Thanks!
    Interesting. I'm not familiar with them, but I'm glad you're happy with the test. It's sure been a godsend to me.
    Regards,

    Molly

    "The remedy for evil men is not the abrogation of the rights of law abiding citizens. The remedy for evil men is the gallows." Thomas Jefferson

  3. #23
    Boolit Man chasw's Avatar
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    Staedtler hardness rating

    Molly said: "As an afterthought: Could you be rating your pencil tests by the softest pencil that will polish or scratch the ingot? If so, it would explain your very soft readings. The correct way of using the pencils is to find the softest pencil that will CUT INTO the surface. You should be able to see a tiny curl or chip of lead that is peeled out of the surface."

    Right on, Molly. I suggest we adopt the above as a best practice for testing lead alloy hardness with standard pencils. Start by flattening a small section of the alloy surface with a file. The base of a large caliber bullet is sufficient. Prepare the pencil by sanding a small flat or "meplat" on the tip of the pencil with 400 grit sandpaper. Then hold the pencil at 45 degrees, as if writing, and press firmly down and forward with the sharp edge. If the pencil skids over the alloy surface, even if it leaves a slight scratch, its still not harder than the lead alloy.

    Work your way up to progressively harder pencils, until you get to one where the sharp edge of the pencil "meplat" really digs into the surface, pushing up a curl or mound of alloy in front of it. At that point you stop and consider the hardest pencil that will not dig into the alloy in this manner, to be the "Staedtler" rating of the alloy in question.

    For example, my little store of 1in20 (tin-lead) alloy skids on a 3B but digs in on a 2B, therefore its Staedtler hardness is 3B. Some Hornady swaged lead bullets I have will skid on 4B but dig in on 3B, therefore the Staedtler hardness rating is 4B. I also suggest we stick to the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencil sets, since the maker claims they conform to ASTM standard D-4236 for consistency. They are cheap and readily available at Office Depot and other stores.

    With this method you can quickly determine the Staedtler hardness of a given alloy and begin to gauge which alloys are best for your loads and firearms. While its possible to roughly equate Staedtler hardness ratings to Brinell hardness numbers, that question is moot, so long as you stick to the pencil method for testing all your alloys. - CW
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  4. #24
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    Good afternoon
    A drafting supplier should also be a source of quality pencils. I think I would be inclined to find a highschool drafting teacher.
    But scratching lead would not need be of such great accuracy.
    This sure has been fun to read.
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  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasw View Post
    Right on, Molly. I suggest we adopt the above as a best practice for testing lead alloy hardness with standard pencils. Start by flattening a small section of the alloy surface with a file. The base of a large caliber bullet is sufficient. Prepare the pencil by sanding a small flat or "meplat" on the tip of the pencil with 400 grit sandpaper. Then hold the pencil at 45 degrees, as if writing, and press firmly down and forward with the sharp edge. If the pencil skids over the alloy surface, even if it leaves a slight scratch, its still not harder than the lead alloy.

    Work your way up to progressively harder pencils, until you get to one where the sharp edge of the pencil "meplat" really digs into the surface, pushing up a curl or mound of alloy in front of it. At that point you stop and consider the hardest pencil that will not dig into the alloy in this manner, to be the "Staedtler" rating of the alloy in question.

    For example, my little store of 1in20 (tin-lead) alloy skids on a 3B but digs in on a 2B, therefore its Staedtler hardness is 3B. Some Hornady swaged lead bullets I have will skid on 4B but dig in on 3B, therefore the Staedtler hardness rating is 4B. I also suggest we stick to the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencil sets, since the maker claims they conform to ASTM standard D-4236 for consistency. They are cheap and readily available at Office Depot and other stores.

    With this method you can quickly determine the Staedtler hardness of a given alloy and begin to gauge which alloys are best for your loads and firearms. While its possible to roughly equate Staedtler hardness ratings to Brinell hardness numbers, that question is moot, so long as you stick to the pencil method for testing all your alloys. - CW
    Right on yourself! You've obviously gone to the trouble to dig out and read the ASTM document for pencil hardness. Nice job of summarizing it. I'm not familiar with Staedtler pencils myself. We mostly used Eagle brand. Eagle sels two versions: First a conventional wooden pencil as you'd expect, as well as a mechanical pencil which uses the different hardness cores. I like this because it always gives a sharp edge from the sandpaper.
    Regards,

    Molly

    "The remedy for evil men is not the abrogation of the rights of law abiding citizens. The remedy for evil men is the gallows." Thomas Jefferson

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasw View Post
    Molly said: "As an afterthought: Could you be rating your pencil tests by the softest pencil that will polish or scratch the ingot? If so, it would explain your very soft readings. The correct way of using the pencils is to find the softest pencil that will CUT INTO the surface. You should be able to see a tiny curl or chip of lead that is peeled out of the surface."

    Right on, Molly. I suggest we adopt the above as a best practice for testing lead alloy hardness with standard pencils. Start by flattening a small section of the alloy surface with a file. The base of a large caliber bullet is sufficient. Prepare the pencil by sanding a small flat or "meplat" on the tip of the pencil with 400 grit sandpaper. Then hold the pencil at 45 degrees, as if writing, and press firmly down and forward with the sharp edge. If the pencil skids over the alloy surface, even if it leaves a slight scratch, its still not harder than the lead alloy.

    Work your way up to progressively harder pencils, until you get to one where the sharp edge of the pencil "meplat" really digs into the surface, pushing up a curl or mound of alloy in front of it. At that point you stop and consider the hardest pencil that will not dig into the alloy in this manner, to be the "Staedtler" rating of the alloy in question.

    For example, my little store of 1in20 (tin-lead) alloy skids on a 3B but digs in on a 2B, therefore its Staedtler hardness is 3B. Some Hornady swaged lead bullets I have will skid on 4B but dig in on 3B, therefore the Staedtler hardness rating is 4B. I also suggest we stick to the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencil sets, since the maker claims they conform to ASTM standard D-4236 for consistency. They are cheap and readily available at Office Depot and other stores.

    With this method you can quickly determine the Staedtler hardness of a given alloy and begin to gauge which alloys are best for your loads and firearms. While its possible to roughly equate Staedtler hardness ratings to Brinell hardness numbers, that question is moot, so long as you stick to the pencil method for testing all your alloys. - CW
    This sounds good to me. I wasn't really going into this in order to be able to compare and share data, but if there are others who are going to be using this technique to test for relative hardness, it only makes sense that we all try to use the same pencils and methods. At some point I'll test some alloys with both the Staedtler and General brand pencils just for the sake of comparison.

  7. #27
    Boolit Master evan price's Avatar
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    OfficeMAX has a Faber-Castell pencil set that does 6b, 4b, 2b, b, hb, 2h and comes in a case with a sharpener and eraser for $6.99 plus tax.

    FYI, a standard #2 pencil is "HB" so if you have a #2 in your pocket- the little stubby ones from golf or library are free and useful!- you can do a quick and dirty classification of any unknown lumps of lead you find at a scrap yard.

    That's really all the hardness levels we'll want to bother with in casting boolits I think.

    My air-cooled wheel weight ingots from the past summer all test out at "B".

    My air-cooled range scrap ingots from the past summer tested out at "2B"

    A big 5-kilo plate counterweight I poured and later scrapped checked out at "3B"- I'd been beating on it with a maul and it just creased and deformed and wouldn't come apart- that's why.

    My water-dropped range scrap boolits cast a few weeks ago test right at "B".

    Stick-on lead WWs measured softer than "6B" because "6B" could scratch them.

    An ingot of Babbitt was unscratchable as to be expected.

    My lino spacers and flats came up as "HB" or "B".

    My lino came up as a bit harder than "HB", the "HB" could almost scratch it but the "2H" could not- I don't have an "H" but I would bet that's "H" for linotype.

    A Hornady swaged lead bullet came up "6B".

    A commercial-cast 300-gr 44 bullet tested at 2H.

    Most of my monotype came up at "2H" from the larger blocks & letters I tested.

    I have a few foundry type items that are harder than "2H".
    Due to market fluctuations I am no longer buying range scrap jackets.

    Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc

  8. #28
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    Sticky anyone? Looks worthy.


    L.Bottoms

  9. #29
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    At the beginning of this thread I went out and bought a set of Faber Castell pencils and sharpening to a flat point as suggested and pushing at roughly a 45 deg angle here are my results:

    Pure lead Wire --5B cuts, 6B does not
    50/50-WW/lino--2H cuts, H does not
    New lino spacers--Same as 50/50
    ACWW--HB cuts, B does not

    I was a little disappointed that I could not differentiate between lino and a 50/50 mix. I also found it hard to differentiate between several batches of scrap lead that varied 2-4 bhn. Currently if I want the hardness of a batch I use the ball bearing trick between pure lead and the unknown sample and do the math. In the end I'm mainly a handgun and pistol cartridge rifle caster so my hardness requirements are pretty flexible.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
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  10. #30
    Boolit Master at Heavens Range Bob Krack's Avatar
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    Most of you are right, but it doesn't matter if your dog can catch his tail of not.

    If I can identify the approximate hardness of a sample I can make an intelligent - or at least educated opinion to use it, modify it, inventory it for trade, or pass.

    I would not give a rodents rear end to know the absolute BHN of an alloy if it did not tell me what to expect with more certainty than what my firearm liked.


    If I have a piece of alloy that tests 3M or 9G or whatever, and it performs well, and I find some more that tests the same or can figure how to modify it to make it read the same I will try to procure it.


    Seems we are talking about MPH vs KPH here. Some of us are much more versed in one than the other.

    No flame or disrespect intended. Thank each and everyone of yall for your input.

    Bob
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  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by leadbutt View Post
    Sticky anyone? Looks worthy.
    L.Bottoms
    I'll second the motion.
    Regards,

    Molly

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  12. #32
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    It's a sticky

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  13. #33
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    Pencil "scratch test"

    I use the pencils to test lead alloy. I test Lyman # 1 , 16-1. 20-1, 25-1 and pure lead. This technique is an establish method of testing used in industry for surface hardness. Cheap and gives a "ball park" alloy hardness

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shooter6br View Post
    I use the pencils to test lead alloy. I test Lyman # 1 , 16-1. 20-1, 25-1 and pure lead. This technique is an establish method of testing used in industry for surface hardness. Cheap and gives a "ball park" alloy hardness
    What pencil leads correspond with those alloys?
    Regards,

    Molly

    "The remedy for evil men is not the abrogation of the rights of law abiding citizens. The remedy for evil men is the gallows." Thomas Jefferson

  15. #35
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    Molly--I just tested some 20/1 and 40/1 hollow points that I made from commercial pig lead (5 lb. round plumbers ingots for pipe joints) and bar tin.

    20/1-- HB cuts, B does not

    40/1--4B cuts, 5B does not

    As said in previous post I have some new pure lead wire (for swaging) and that 5B cuts, 6B does not.

    These bullets weren't poured with testing in mind so I won't swear they are exactly 20 or 40 to 1, could be 18 or 22 but close as I could make them at the time. Hope this helps. Nick
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
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  16. #36
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    OK, here's a tabulation of what you guys have reported. Considering that it was accumulated by different untrained people, using different makes of pencils and on alloys of unknown age hardening / softening, it'not too bad. At least, you can get a rough idea where your next batch of scrap lead from the metal salvage yard fits in.

    8B Sheet lead
    7B
    6B Lead wire 5 BHN
    5B 40/1 lead / tin
    4B
    3B 1/20 tin/lead 10 BHN
    3B Clip-on WW
    2B Range scrap
    B 20/1 Lead / tin
    B Quenched range scrap
    B Air cooled WW
    B WW+2% tin
    HB Lyman #2 15 Bhn
    F Lyman #2
    F Commercial cast
    H 50/50 Lino /WW
    H Linotype 20 Bhn
    2H Quenched WW
    2H Monotype
    3H
    4H
    Last edited by Molly; 02-23-2011 at 10:24 PM.
    Regards,

    Molly

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  17. #37
    Boolit Mold
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    Great read guys , awesome research thanks alot.

  18. #38
    Boolit Master AZ-JIM's Avatar
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    good stuff, very interesting
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  19. #39
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    I think that if a person does the test the correct way then readings would be reliable. I do have a problem as each person will hold and bear down with different force. The angle that it crossed the lead at would also cause different results. Molly since you are one whom is using the method over a period of time,am I correct or does it matter. It just seems that you could have many different readings until you were able to duplicate what you did the last time. I use a cabin Tree tester and I find it to be very accurate and easy to use. It is many times more than your set of pencils. My wife has been drafting for over 35 years and we design homes or draw the blue prints as they said in the past. All plans are now done on Bond paper and Blueprints have went the way of the Edsel. In my drafting I prefer and use different leads than my wife. She holds and draws at a complete different angle on the board. Yes I said board, we still do it the old way and don't use CAD. The Cabin Tree is very repeatable with it's readings. You and I will have the same readings every time as it only works one way. To answer shooter6br about his 20-1 hollow point. you did not provide any information that would help someone help you. 20-1 alloy is what I use 100% of the time. It is only a 10BHN. At the correct speed and with a ample size hollow point it should expand.
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  20. #40
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    Just picked up a set of Staedler Mars Lumograph pencils at Staples for $11.99
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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check