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Thread: Testing hardness with pencils

  1. #41
    I went to Walmart today. Pick up a 12 pack sketching pencils for $4.85 plus tax. 4h, 2h, h, f, hb, b, 2b, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6b, 8b. To my surprize they were not from China.....but from Vietnam. I will try them out and see what the results are.

  2. #42
    I tested some muffins that I poured Sunday. This looked to be mostly plumbers lead. The pencil showed slight scratch with 4b and no scatch with 5b. Pretty soft stuff.

  3. #43
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    Dean D.'s Avatar
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    I want to thank you all for the information you have assembled here!

    For years my Uncle and I (both Journeyman Linemen) have been able to procure lead in small quantities from scrap at work. This scrap consists of hardware used on power poles, specifically the pins on which insulators are installed on. These pins are galvanized steel with a threaded lead tip which the porcelain or glass insulator screws onto. I smelt the lead off the pins then toss the remaining steel into the scrap bin. Since there is only a small amount on each pin it takes quite a few to add up. Heh, needs must eh?

    My only problem was I had NO clue what the composition of this lead is and still don't. But I NOW know it scratches with a 3B Staedtler pencil so must be around 9 BHN or close. My Uncle used this lead for years in his .45 Colt with great success. Now I can see why. I am working up some rifle loads but did not know exactly how hard this lead was. This test helps in that regard too! At least now I have a ballpark idea on how hard it is.

    BTW, $10.99 at the local Office Depot today.
    "The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise." - Benjamin Franklin

    "To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." - Thomas Jefferson


  4. #44
    Boolit Bub
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    Great info guys. I am glad that I stumbled on to this sight.

    I am just getting back into casting after a couple of years of having no space for it.

  5. #45
    Boolit Master

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    I just tested an ingot I poured into a stainless steel condiment cup. (I wanted to see how much it would weigh) When I saw what a nice smooth surface the cup left on the ingot I thought it would be the perfect surface to test, so I grabbed my pencil set (a Staedler Mars Lumograph 12 pencil set), and the HB cut into it, but the B wouldn't, so according to the chart earlier in this thread I have an alloy that's about the same as clip on wheel weights. The alloy was 4lbs on stick on WW and 3lb of linotype mixed with about 1-2 lbs of clip on weights.
    Last edited by MikeS; 04-18-2011 at 11:36 PM. Reason: Spelling
    - MikeS

    Want to checkout my feedback? It's here:
    http://www.castboolits.gunloads.com/...d.php?t=136410

  6. #46
    Boolit Bub
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    Gentlemen, Thank you again for all this valuable information. I did the wally world $4.97 set, today. Going into the man cave to play now.

    castormd

  7. #47
    Boolit Master midnight's Avatar
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    Been following this thread off and on for a while now. I may have missed it but I don't recall any discussion of the preparation of the pencil prior to testing. I keep a square of fine sandpaper mounted on a board with the pencils. Holding the pencil vertically, rub the tip if the pencil on the horizontal sandpaper to give yourself a flat tip at a right angle to the pencil. then scrape the lead to te tested at a 45 degree angle. This should give consistent results. At least that's the way I've been doing it for about 20yrs now.

    Bob
    Si hostes visibilis, etiam tu

  8. #48
    Boolit Man iwottopq's Avatar
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    How many force???

    Hello dear friends.
    I have read the thread and it is very interesting but...how many force you apply to the pencil?
    Sorry if this is a stupid question but I dont understand this point.
    Thanks in advance.
    Ciao
    Nino

  9. #49
    Boolit Master midnight's Avatar
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    I really don't know the amount of pressure applied but it is not very much, probably less than a half a pound. Thats why I sand the tips flat and scrape at a 45° angle. Any lead softer than the pencil wil scratch easily.

    Bob
    Si hostes visibilis, etiam tu

  10. #50
    Moderator Emeritus/Boolit Master in Heavens Range
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwottopq View Post
    Hello dear friends.
    I have read the thread and it is very interesting but...how many force you apply to the pencil? Sorry if this is a stupid question but I dont understand this point.
    Thanks in advance.
    Ciao
    Nino
    Hello Nino,

    That's not a stupid question at all. But the test doesn't rely on an exact amount of force. You hold the pencil at about a 45 degree angle to the lead, and push along the length of the pencil. One of two things should happen: The pencil lead should cut into the alloy, or it should skid and slip over the surface. If it cuts, the pencil is harder than the alloy. If it slips, the pencil is softer than the alloy.

    Note: If the pencil lead breaks, you're not pushing straight down the length of the pencil.

    Hope this answers your question. Feel free to ask about anything else that isn't clear.

    Here is a Babblefish version in Italian that might help too:

    Ciao Nino, non è una domanda stupida a tutti. Ma il test non si basa su una quantità esatta di forza. Avete in mano la matita in un angolo di circa 45 gradi al piombo, e spingere per tutta la lunghezza della matita. Una delle due cose dovrebbe accadere: la matita di piombo dovrebbe tagliare in lega, o dovrebbe slittare e scivolare sulla superficie. Se tagli, la matita è più duro della lega. Se si scivola, la matita è più morbida rispetto alla lega. Nota: In caso di rottura cavo di matita, non stai spingendo dritto dproprio la lunghezza della matita. Spero che questo risponde alla tua domanda. Non esitare a chiedere su qualsiasi altra cosa che non è chiaro.
    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

  11. #51
    Boolit Man iwottopq's Avatar
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    Hello to all.
    Thanks for the reply to my question. I am reloading from about 20 years but I learm always new tecniques thanks to your help.
    For Midnight and Molly: Your reply is very clear and thanks also for the translade. I am tring to build a hardness tester but the work is long becouse my time is so short...
    Ciao
    Nino

  12. #52
    Boolit Mold
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    First off, thank you all for your info on this thread , incredible amount of info from some really cool ppl. Second, this may sound stupid, but i am trying to get a visual, i am imagining sharpening the pencil as normal, then taking some really fine sandpaper , and squaring up the tip , kinding of making it look like a microscopic nail set. then holding at a 45 trying to gouge. start with the lightest pencil and work up. And i am assuming a very very smooth surface is better. kind of like the condiment cup mentioned earlier. Am i in the right ballpark?

  13. #53
    Moderator Emeritus/Boolit Master in Heavens Range
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    Quote Originally Posted by kooldecker View Post
    First off, thank you all for your info on this thread , incredible amount of info from some really cool ppl. Second, this may sound stupid, but i am trying to get a visual, i am imagining sharpening the pencil as normal, then taking some really fine sandpaper , and squaring up the tip , kinding of making it look like a microscopic nail set. then holding at a 45 trying to gouge. start with the lightest pencil and work up. And i am assuming a very very smooth surface is better. kind of like the condiment cup mentioned earlier. Am i in the right ballpark?
    Hi Kooldecker,

    No, you're just a bit off of the right way to do it. You can't sand the point off of a cone and get a square, 90 degree angle. What you need is shaped like a full wadcutter bullet: Parallel sides that end in a sharp, flat face, with no transition area. Or think of something cut off with a tubing cutter, if that's easier for you to envision.

    The reason for this is that it's the sharp edge that cuts into the alloy. And it's necessary for everyone to use the same angle to form that sharp edge, if you want to have comparable results. The proper way to do this is to peel the wood away from the graphite core of the pencil, which is a thin rod. Then sand the tip of that rod to a 90 degree angle by rubbing it across a sheet of 500 or 600 grit sandpaper while holding it straight up and down.

    The hold the pencil at a 45 degree angle with the surface you are testing, and push down along the length of the pencil, as if you are trying to shove a knife point into the surface. If you try to push the pencil across the surface as if you are writting on in, you will get a much 'softer' result, because the edge won't be cutting into the surface, it will just be rubbing across the surface.

    Hope this helps.
    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

  14. #54
    Boolit Mold
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    It cetainly does molly thanks alot. i actually cant wait to try this and start "grading " some of my lead.
    Jason

  15. #55
    Boolit Master fredj338's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shooter6br View Post
    went to local A.C Moore today Pencil set (see pic) was listed at $19.99 not $9.99 as was Office Depot.I got the manager and showed him the print out from Office Depot. He had no explaination. I told him I would buy the set at the Office Depot price or shop elsewhere. He say "Ok" Point is "My Mama said" You better shop around"Oh by the way I tested some 20-1 alloy i bought from a vender. It was 20-1 although I cant get it to mushroom when i use drilled out hollow points

    With 20-1 alloy, the vel & HP design will matter quite a bit. I can get 20-1 alloy to run fine in unaltered Dev molds @ 1000fps, very nicely expanded bullets. Smaller HP will likely need mroe vel.

  16. #56
    Boolit Master
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    i have been using graded pencils for about 1 yr. When calibrated to the alloy ,They give a good reading of the alloy. I got lead pipe I thought it would be pure lead. Turns out to be 20-1 alloy( may have solder joint material mixed in).I find a 3B is 20-1.... 4b 25-1.... and.... 6B pure lead....... Lyman # 2 is a 4B .... 16-1 is 2B...Linotype H... (You results may vary) Tells hardness not actual compostion

  17. #57
    Boolit Master
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    As others have mentioned this is a great post and many thanks to those who have brought it to light.

    I am new to casting and for the most part am concerned with only a few boolits for a couple of handguns, mainly one in particular. While I have spent some of my slush funds on needed items like the thermometer set, and a few tools to help out, this will indeed be something I will pursue ASAP.

    I have fire tested one batch of boolits in probably the most demanding handgun and they worked with only very minimum leading on the first cylinder of several. I have a couple of boolits from this pour sitting around that haven't been sized or fitted with the GC's. I was wandering is there a time frame which is best to test the alloy, that would be better for a more accurate result, like a day, week, or so after pouring, or does it really matter so long as you test it within the same time frame every time ?

    I have but two really different types of allow, WW and plain soft lead. The initial pour of boolits was with a batch of WW that I had smelted down probably a year or so ago, which I simply remelted, fluxed and poured. I air cooled half and water quenched the other half, both of which shot great so far in my limited testing of them with what I would call top end load for them. So I am simply looking to duplicate this alloy with the next batch I get ready to use. I figure I should pour up both AC and WQ boolits again from that alloy, and then use the pencil test to verify they are in the same ball park with a newer batch, before pouring up a full pot and getting different results.

    Thanks again for all of the great folks who have put this together. This truly is a great place of sharing ideas and innovations.

  18. #58

    Enjoyed this thread and learned something!

    Wow Guyz -
    I'm impressed (pun intended) with the level of inquiry and camaraderie on this thread. The trick with the #2 (standard "school" pencil) and the 2H sounds like something I might'a done when I was a Surveyor/Engineering Tech with the Feds (I often had an overly ambitious supervisor "on my case"!)
    I still have a lot of the harder technical leads and lead holders from my pre-CAD days. My softest is 2B if I remember - up to 6H. I used 2H in my surveyor's field-books, unless it was real humid - I then went to H as the 2H tore the paper if soggy. Probably a fair correlation between the pencil leads and BHN, just needs a lot of testing.
    By the way, do to advanced osteoarthritis in my knees (Rocky Mountains did 'em in!), I take huge doses of Calcium Citrate, Cal-Mag . etc. As a result, my toenails are probably good indicators up to about 20 - 22 BHN - just kiddin', but maybe?
    I really enjoyed all of your posts. I just received my LBT a week or so back and have yet to get set up to cast, etc. I cast a bunch back in the early 70's - bought an all Saeco outfit from a police friend of mine. The bullets I cast got me started in centerfire pistol. I miss that set now - I'm going to start, with the Lee sizers.
    I don't know if this constitutes a new thread (or the protocol yet - I'm a newbie w/ forums), but any suggestions re: using other than Lees Liquid Alox w/ cast bullets AND Lee sizers, ie., harder lubes IN the grooves?

  19. #59
    Boolit Master



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    Maui Doug;
    You might want to look at my article on pan lubing:

    http://www.castpics.net/subsite2/HowTo/Dale_Lube.pdf

    One thing I want to add to the article. When you use some of the modern lubes, like Lars' White Label Carnauba Red, you might want to get a silicone baking pan (I bought mine at a discount from "Linens and Such" or "Bed, Bath, and Beyond") as these lubes are tenacious and don't want to release from a normal cake pan. However, the silicone pans make this a breeze. You DO want to support the silicone pan with a piece of thin plywood or masonite as the pans are so flexible that they might want to dump a load of bullets without that support when you pick up the pan.

    Dale53

  20. #60
    Boolit Master
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    HOWDY YA`LL; Thanks for the good imfo. Here`s what I have found, if I air cool WW, I can cut it with my #2 pencil.Good for nonmag handguns, and probability a little faster.If I water drop WW, #2 pencil won`t cut it. Good for mag. handguns. About the same as thumbnail trick. What do you guys think? Am I in the ball park here?

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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