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Thread: Smelt pot explosion....

  1. #1

    Smelt pot explosion....

    Guy at work said he was smelting led WWs and some bars when the pot "blew" and showered him in liquid lead.

    Q1. Can wet led dumped into melted lead do this? I have heard of a Tinsel Fairy but don't know the exact reaction that implies.

    Q2. Could it have more likely been a LIVE ROUND that he overlooked as he said he was picking them out of the same bucket as the one he was pulling lead from to go into the smelt pot.

    My money is on #2, but would appreciate a description of the "Tinsel Fairy" for future reference please.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Asheville, NC
    yes to both.

    and in Q1, yes that is referring to the "tinsel fairy"

    One live primer will make it very exciting....one drop of water in the bottom, even more so.
    vmthtr@charter.net is NOT my paypal addy

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Southwestern Ohio
    When water changes to steam, it expands 1600 times. So you can see, a steam explosion is a VERY serious thing. NO WATER around molten lead. Repeat after me, NO WATER AROUND MOLTEN LEAD...


  4. #4
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Sounds like a steamer!
    When water turns into steam, it is dramatic, and definately steam.
    All it would take to make the steam explosion you described would be a single drop.
    The piece of lead would have been submerged, and expansion would have been radical, and complete.
    He is lucky he made it.
    Yes, that was the Tinsel Fairy.
    Almost as bad as the Fecal Fairy, although both can visit at the same time.

  5. #5
    Moderator Emeritus

    wiljen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    It sure sounds like your friend got a visit from the tinsel fairy. Hope he isn't too badly burned. Safest thing to do is put lead in pot, then add heat. This lets the water evaporate as the lead heats and prevents the problem of tinsel fairy visits. Even if WW appear dry, they can harbor enough water between the lead and the clip (in that little bitty crack) to be explosive if dropped in a pot of liquid lead.
    Cast Bullet info

    Reloading Data Project - (in retirement)

  6. #6
    Boolit Master ETG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    First off I have never seen a live WW. If he filled the pot up and started smelting I don't think it was steam. If he was dumping stuff in after he had all ready melted lead in the bottom of the pot then that is the problem. If he was melting also melting range pickup could have neen a loaded round - really doubt it - but it also could have been a hollow point that had water in the tip or an incindiary/tracer round that hadn't cooked off when fired. I personally wouldn't reccomend melting WWs, range scrap, and lead bars together because you don't know what you have as far as alloying.

  7. #7
    Appreciate the feedback.

    More information....

    I asked if there was molten lead in the bottom while he was dumping more in... A = Yes

    I asked if the lead WWs might have been wet... A = they were stored inside his garage for 5 years and didn't think so.

    The live rounds he said were in the same bucket as the lead, but he assured me that he "thought" he had separated them all.

    Now, I've had .45 ammo explode outside of the chamber and it's not very impressive so my guess was wet lead at first, but the way he described it, the lead went 6 ft into the air, landed on his head and back. He heard the explosion as he was turning away from the pot, and went into the standing Fetal position.

    He was not burned badly, bud did get blisters on the top of the head where it landed. He will be wearing safety glasses from now on and will put a lid on the pot in the future.

    I just added a sliding lid to my smelting pot for heat retention, but see it has a dual purpose.

    I smelted some sticky backs the other day by filling the pot and melting it. They have water in the bottom of the 5 gal bucket and I had read here that if you start with them in the pot and turn the burner on you are OK. I was OK as nothing happened. I did add some after it started to melt (hard to see a half empty pot and not want to fill it) but stopped when I got to wet WWs. I for sure will not push my luck again in that way though.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

    Johnch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NW Ohio
    I had a live round ( 44 mag ) go off in my pot a few years back while smelting range lead

    Some fool must have threw a live rnd or dud into the pit under the deflector plates and I didn't see it while scooping out the lead , but I found it on the floor after it went off

    It blew the lid off and scattered a little molten lead and 1/3 of a 5 gallon bucket of range lead onto the floor of the shop

    I had started with a cold pot , dumped in the lead and started the burner
    My lid is a 18" disk of 1/4" plate with a handle

    My guess the confined space of the molten lead allows the pressure to build up enough to be interesting

    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.
    And I carry a SIG

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

    theperfessor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Evansville Indiana
    A live round exploding in the air isn't impressive because air pressure isn't high enough to stop the case from expanding, freeing the bullet and allowing the pressure to vent very quickly. I've seen tests where 30-06 and .45 ACP cartridges were put on a hot plate and covered with a corrugated cardboard box. When they cooked off the fragments very rarely penetrated the box. A lot of time the powder barely burned because the pressure never got high enough.

    Not saying it wouldn't cause personal damage, especially to the eyes, but its probably not gonna kill you.

    A live round submerged in lead is already under a lot higher pressure by a dense fluid that would resist expansion and gas venting long enough for most of the powder to burn and a massive gas bubble to form. Bingo, Mt. Saint Helens in your face.

    But it could have been steam too. Hard to call unless you could find the case floating in the melt with an intact primer.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    gulf of mexico
    i dropped a cold ingot into a pot of hot lead.

    it started bubbling and fizzing lead everywhere.

    i ran away but only a few globs splattered out.

  11. #11
    Moderator Emeritus

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    SW Montana
    I finished casting and threw a bunch of reject boolits off my bench into the pot. Included was a 38 primed nickel case. It went boom-splat about then same time as i was walking back into the house. I believe the lead was dry and the empty case had to have had an active primer. it soesn't take much.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    I found out the hard way , don't drop boolits in anything wet around where you are smelting !
    my ole feet could not move fast enough !!!!!

  13. #13
    Boolit Master fredj338's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    As noted, yes to both. One reason I routinely sort range scrap & even ww. I had a metal valve stem pop & make a small mess in a smelt. It probably had a bit of moisture trapped in it. I also put the heavy cast irom lid on the pot immediately after adding more metal, just in case.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
    wallenba's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    S. E. Michigan
    Even a fat juicy bug that falls in can wreak havoc, bird poo too. keep a roof over it outside.

    "The future ain't what it used to be".
    -Yogi Berra.

  15. #15
    Boolit Man cumminsnut76's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Mexico, MO
    yep learned the hard way but I got off easy only a very small drop landed on top of my thumb nail. Yess it hurt like #@$$ but no blister or anything yet but I will definatly be more careful next time

  16. #16
    Boolit Master Baron von Trollwhack's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Northern Kentucky
    Now you know how people double charge cases: the same indifference to the hazards at hand. BvT
    Every lawbreaker we allow into our nation, or tolerate in our citizen population leads to the further escalation of law breaking of all kinds and acceptance of evil.
    Since almost all aspects of our cultural existence are LIBERAL in most states, this means that the nation is on a trajectory to dissolution by the burden of toleration and acceptance of LAWBREAKING as a norm, a trajectory back to the dark ages of history.


  17. #17
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    North East Pennsylvania
    Met the Tinsel Fairy once, and she's a mean fairy, don't want to meet her again, P.S. it has to be a woman to be so hard on you for making one little mistake, LOL...........steg

  18. #18
    Boolit Master peter nap's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Interesting question.

    Shortly after I got here, I got into a ...spirited...thread about steam explosions. I thought it was an old wives tale because I'd never had problems in the forge....so I set out to disprove the myth.

    It didn't take long for me to make a good old fashioned explosion with wet wheel weights.

    It's not something I want to do again.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    .357's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Nuevo Mexico
    i once grabbed a fist full of commercially cast, 230 grain round nose bullets i had pulled from 45 colt brass into the pot. Missing the small pieces of Unique stuck to the bottom of them, boy was that a suprise when my pot lit on FIRE! Startling to say the least.
    Μολὼν λάβε

    Lord, make me fast and accurate. Let my aim be true and my hand faster than those who would seek to destroy me. Grant me victory over my foes and those that wish to harm to me and mine. Let not my last thought be “If only I had my gun”; and Lord if today is truly the day that You call me home, let me die in a pile of brass.

    I am out of town, enjoy your holidays.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    NC Arkansas
    With my limited casting, have not had a visit from the tinsel fairy yet. However, back about '73 I worked in a factory making wheelweights. The molds were 4 pieces, two front and 2 back. Occasionally a blob would keep the mold from closing completely. When the molten metal was injected under pressure, it would fly 10-15 feet. Had a pair of jeans that still had lead stuck to them when they wore out 10 years later. Also had side shields on my glasses that were buggered by molten lead.

    How I would love to have a pallet or two of those pigs now. They were about 80-85 lbs each. About 20-25 pigs per pallet.
    Last edited by ulav8r; 04-15-2010 at 03:59 PM. Reason: corrected spelling of blob

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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