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Thread: A myth about water and molten lead

  1. #61
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    Suo Gan's Avatar
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    I remember the first few pots I melted down. The guys had me scared to death that eventually my pot would explode. It was not a question of if but when, lol. This is one of those things that you understand has necessary hyperbole because if there was not any exaggeration, neophytes would not heed precautions. Its a rite of passage, standing there dressed like you are a scientist taking samples during nuclear winter over your little lead pot. Pretty soon you learn that its like most things in life. When the potential risk to family jewels is increased act accordingly. I wear a mask when 'smelting', I just wear my glasses when pouring boolits.
    For new guys, don't be scared, but do not underestimate the amount of hurt 20 pounds of 700 degree lead can deliver either. This is another example of casters making things much more difficult than need be. Is there no happy medium with you people?
    Last edited by Suo Gan; 10-30-2010 at 02:11 AM.
    Lotta people die in bed: Dangerous place to be!

  2. #62
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    waksupi that was before maintenance free batteries and calcium in the lead plates. I again have some old batteries on new property I bought and have found that I can salvage most of the lead using charcoal to reduce lead oxides back to lead and this is a outside only chore with a tight cover for pot.

  3. #63
    Moderator Emeritus/Boolit Master in Heavens Range
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    Quote Originally Posted by sundog View Post
    Try adding cold ingots to already working pot..., don't ask.
    As a young man, I was living in Atlanta Ga one summer, and was casting bullets and sweating like I was trying to fill a wading pol for the kids. Sweat dripped off my chin and ran down my arms.

    I didn't think too much of it, but when the pot got down to about 3/4 full, I decided to add another ingot to avoid the temperature swings that would result if I waited and had to add several ingots. So I reached and picked up an ingot, held it with the tip end in the melt so it wouldn't splash, and let go.

    The ingot settled below the surface in nothing flat, and quickly thereafter there was an M-80 like explosion that emptied the pot. Molten wheelweight alloy was sprayed across two rooms, doing a pretty good job of coating them too. It did a pretty good job of coating my hands, face and open eyes as well.

    After the shock, I realized there was one tiny spot in my right eye that wasn't covered, which enabled me to get to an emergency room. The doctor peeled lead sheeting off my face and eyes like it was aluminum foil. He said that the only thing that saved my face and eyes was the fact that the explosion was so violent that it splattered into a sheet so thin that it didn't have the heat (thermal energy) that a thicker sheet would have had.

    In retrospect, it became obvious that my hand had transferred quite a bit of sweat to the ingot, which carried it below the surface of the melt. The cold ingot instantly froze the molten led into a solid, encircling container. But the sweat flashed off pretty quickly at some 700 degrees or so, and the cooled lead encapsulating it couldn't take the pressure. It was - in essence - a steam boiler with no pressure relief valve. BOOM!!! BIG TIME!!!

    I came close to giving up casting, but realized that all I had to do was be darn sure the ingot is DRY before adding it to the melt. Laying an ingot on the top of the furnace for a couple of minutes will do this very nicely, and became my standard practice. Get it hot enough that you have to handle it with a pair of Channel Locks will guarantee that there is no trapped moisture on the ingot.

    I was now sensitized to the problem though, and discovered that moisture on an ingot can come from an astonishing range of sources. If you store your ingots in an unheated garage, bring them into the house the night before you plan to cast. Be very observant of gas fired cooking or heating stoves: Their combustion produces moisture in the air that can condense on ingots faster than you would believe. Even a sneeze in the direction of your ingot pile is not a good thing.
    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

  4. #64
    Boolit Mold
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    Darn!!! Just finished culling and water quenching about 300 lbs. of Pb mini-muffins. Do I need to re-melt fron cold?

  5. #65
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    You guys that think some of these cautionary tales express excessive concern are just among the fortunate class that haven't YET had the experience. Be warned: The process of convincing you otherwise is traumatic!

    Kinda puts me in mind of the definition of a conservative gun owner: A (former) gun hating liberal who's been mugged!
    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. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by xereaux View Post
    Darn!!! Just finished culling and water quenching about 300 lbs. of Pb mini-muffins. Do I need to re-melt fron cold?
    Depends. Any chance of water filled shrinkage cavities? If not, just make sure they are plenty hot when you put them in your melt.
    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

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by sagacious View Post
    100% correct. I always get a chuckle when someone says that a drop of sweat falling into the pot will cause a huge explosion. Pouring water on molten lead just makes a huge cloud of steam.

    Newbies should be aware, though, that water near the pot can lead to water droplets on ingots and tools, and that can lead to accidents. Be careful.
    I am a commercial caster of several years. I have half written a very detailed book about bullet casting, in which the safety chapter warns against letting moisture anywhere near the melt.

    I prepare my alloy in bulk. Casting ingots gets the inot moulds so hot that they need to be water quenched. That gets water on my hand and forearm. Although I wipe it off with an old towel, occasionally a droplet fals into the melt as I dip the ladle.

    It is completely logical that water on top of the melt should vapourise harmlessly, but I have experienced splattering so violent as to prove that moisture should be kept well away rom the melt.

    I do not dispute that water can be poured on to melted lead if it is done carefully, but it is introducing an unnecessary risk, and I can think of no circumstance in which it should be necessary. I certainly wouldn't do it to protect my cat. I too have a cat. I make sure he can't get near melted lead.

  8. #68
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    Everyone make sure you wear your asbestos panties when you get anywhere near your pot.. You all should probably wear a life jacket when you go to the beach, after all, you COULD drown. I am all about basic safety but I doubt seriously that you have to do your smelting or boolit pouring in a blast shelter. I also sometimes operate my blender within 2 feet of the kitchen sink. OH THE HUMANITY!!!

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  9. #69
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    Stalker / peeper alert!

    How did you know about my asbestos panties?

  10. #70
    Boolit Master
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    When I smelt outside I blast off the condensation with a weed burner. Works like a charm. Indoors I preheat my ingots on an electric griddle usually. I view a pot exploding as serious a threat as a double charge, but I don't shoot my reloads with a string tied to the trigger at 20 paces behind a cinder block wall either. Sometimes you need faith that you can get the job done without making a mistake. But human error does occur. So best do it the same way time after time so rote memorization will be on your side. Grandad always wondered if the cows were smart or stupid for going into the same milking booth day after day.
    Lotta people die in bed: Dangerous place to be!

  11. #71
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    This is a very informative post guys. Thank you.

  12. #72
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    It's funny I found this tread. I'm just about ready to cast the first time and was just asking about steam explosions. i was promised it won't happen as long as you dont get moisture below the surface of the melt.
    But it sounds like things get exciting sometimes if you arn't super careful.
    I guess eye protection, at least, is called for.
    "I think that the world in which we shall live these next thirty years will be a pretty restless and tormented place; I do not think that there will be much of a compromise possible between being of it, and being not of it. -Robert Oppenheimer.

  13. #73
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    Great thread folks

    I've done some reloading, never done any casting, but might at some point in the future.

    If it wasn't for this site, I wouldn't even be thinking about it at all. Not because I was so scared of the idea, but just because I didn't know that much about it. This site has taught me SO much, I know if I were to start casting, I'd be successful much sooner / easier with what I've learned here

    Sounds like there is a wide range of opinions here about some small things like whether a drop of sweat can just fall off of one's brow, land in the pot, and make the "tinsel fairy" appear. Maybe it can, maybe it can't. If I start casting, I KNOW I'm going to get a faceshield, and some sort of thick apron (besides heavy gloves, work shirt).

    Without this thread, I'm pretty sure I would have known about dangers of sweat dropping in there, or any other small amounts of moisture falling in the pot.

    But whats great about this thread (and ones like it) is that it brings up a bunch of things I KNOW I wouldn't have thought of myself (would have just had to learn "the hard way" perhaps) - such as the possibility of getting oxidation / condensation on previously cast ingots that have been sitting around.

    Or, the idea of getting some splash from the drop bucket, and ways to mitigate that.

    Stuff like that is great to know, thanks guys

  14. #74
    Boolit Master
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    If anyone wants to show me this phenomenon in person, I will have about 250lbs of molten WW in my turkey fryer at about 750 degrees waiting. You put your face a foot over the pot, and I'll splash water from my hose into it. We can make a mint off of the video sales.

  15. #75
    Boolit Master

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    That would be mildly retarded. I don't think anyone is denying that it can and does happen. It just doesn't happen because there is a raincloud 12 miles away or a drop of dew on a pine in your yard.
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  16. #76
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    I was going to warn you that lead fumes can cause brain damage; but I think in your case it's too late...

    regards,

    Rich

    I have seen it happen, and can replicate it for you on command. All you have to do is stand there and look down.
    Last edited by Idaho Sharpshooter; 02-09-2011 at 12:29 AM.

  17. #77
    Boolit Master

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    I can see some village in Idaho is missing their idiot.
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  18. #78
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    I used to work in the cast house of what was the Reynolds Metals facility in McCook IL. We cast large aluminum ingots from the furnaces with a typical furnace load being about 100,000 pounds. Back in the '50s there was a catastrophic explosion because aluminum pigs were loaded into the melting furnace that had been sitting out in the yard and had collected moisture in the sinkholes.

    Twelve people died in the explosion. After that they instituted a policy of drying all pigs for 24 hours before charging them into a furnace. Obviously after an accident like that the need to keep water away from the molten metal was a prominent part of the safety training.

    Rich

  19. #79
    Boolit Master
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    Heck Dooby, I'll make it easier for you. Stick your face over the pot and just spit in it!

    Flippin' cracker. Lotsa noise...

    Rich

    Doesn't look like your village is missing theirs.

  20. #80
    Boolit Mold
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    I was at a neighbors and we were casting. Don't know what he put in the pot but it exploded. I was about 8 or so feet away with my back facing the pot. I had molten lead on my back. Had a down vest on and lost feathers with each step I took. He said what he put in it was just the same as we had being using.

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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