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Thread: Keeping Tin In Range Lead

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Keeping Tin In Range Lead

    I've been reading gobs of threads and find plenty of advice to stir back in any tin that skins on top.
    And also to remove any zinc from the melted alloy, and you can use sulfur to pull out the zinc.
    From my research I found that these metals melt at:

    - Melting point of Lead- 621.43*F

    - Melting point of Antimony- 1167.13*F

    - Melting point of Tin- 449.47*F

    - Melting point of Zinc- ​787.15*F

    I'm going to be smelting/ liquefying 4-5 5 gal. buckets of range scrap for my first "smelting" job. This to eventually cast 9mm boolits and powdercoat them with safety ever in mind.

    With all of my reading I haven't found answers to these questions-
    - Is there a maximum temperature you stay below when smelting range lead?
    - Do you constantly stir in the skinned Tin so it doesn't stick to the dross (range junk) as you spoon it out, or pull the skins out and place them into something while removing all the dross and add then back in after finishing fluxing and removing the zinc?
    - Or is anyone worrying about the zinc, maybe its fine to leave it in? - 787* to get it out wow!
    I haven't found anything anywhere to give the procedural steps like this when smelting.
    Thanks guys.
    Last edited by Muser; 04-27-2021 at 02:23 AM. Reason: * - added a thought

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    Keep the melt right at 700 degrees F and the zinc weights will float to the top of the melt. They can be skimmed off with the steel clips from wheel weights. Skim the clips out of the melt and then flux with candle wax or wood shavings. As you stir in the flux, the tin and antimony will flow back into the melt without issue. Flux twice, skim after each flux, and pour ingots into your muffin tin or ingot mold. All should be good.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Starting with range scrap I wouldn’t worry about either zinc or tin. If zinc was in someone’s bullets it’s already alloyed and will be a tiny percentage. Since it’s all already alloys, the melting point of the elements isn’t useful info, the alloy melting temp is determined by the elements in the alloy, but the elements in an alloy don’t each melt at their melting points, the alloy melts at its melting point.

    Use a bolt cutter to break open any TMJ bullets, fill pot, cover, heat with med flame until melted, stir with wooden stick a couple times scraping sides and bottom, skim, flux, skim, flux, skim, flux, skim, pour ingots. If the lead starts to gel at any point turn up the heat. I always use a wind screen.

    To test the “removing tin” hypothesis I re-melted and refluxed (heavily, lot of wax) everything I had skimmed off from a 225 lb batch, collecting from that another 7 or 8 lbs of clean metal. I had that tested and it had no more tin than did the rest of the ingots produced from that batch. Based on this I believe that the oxides on the surface being tin is a myth. After I did this BNE told me that he’d done similar testing at up to 900F with the same results.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master BNE's Avatar
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    JimB pretty much covered it. Tin oxidizing at the surface of the pot is not a myth, but that layer is incredibly thin (think microns) that scraping it off and throwing it away will not measurably change your mix ratio. I have tested this multiple times with very hot torture test mixes. The myth is that this incredibly thin layer matters!

    BNE
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  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    Use a bolt cutter to break open any TMJ bullets
    ^^^good info here. If not a bolt cutter, anything that will tear or open the copper encasement. It's sorta amazing how well those thinly plated bullets seal the lead in. I had a bunch of pulled and otherwise unusable plated bullets that I tried to recycle and I failed to to crush or cut them in advance. They will puff up and a couple actually squirted a tiny stream of of lead 20-30 inches from a weak or thin area. I ended up sifting them out of the smelt and letting them cool before crushing/cutting them.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master


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    JimB is correct;

    "I believe that the oxides on the surface being tin is a myth."

    What many believe is tin separated from the lead on the surface is actually just oxidized alloy, what ever the alloy is. Fluxing simply mixes it back into the melt. Some alloy will stick to the jackets as you skim those off, it is to be expected. However, it will be minimal depending on the care you use when "skimming". I usually remove most of the jacket material and don't worry so much about any minute amount of alloy lost. Then I flux real well and remove the remaining jackets and debris and then flux again and remove the debris before pouring into ingots. The ingot alloy is fluxed again after melting in the casting furnace/pot.
    Larry Gibson

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  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Good information to have. Thanks for posting, gentlemen.
    I was always concerned that I might be throwing away something necessary when I skimmed of my melted range scrap. Now I won't worry about it.
    The alloy I ended up with always cast and performed well in all my handguns so this just confirms it.

  8. #8
    Boolit Mold
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    Thank-you guys, I very much appreciate your experience and help.
    I've been waiting for this weather perfect day for smelting.

    No wheel weights for me, my wife and I just got our CCW a year ago before everything went off of the rails. So I'm very fortunate to get range scrap from my gun club.
    I'm in the middle of my first smelting session right now. I've got about an inch and a half in my 14 qt. pot right now.
    after removing the bullet casings and dross, the surface of the melted alloy is golden.
    Does this indicate a need to change the heat +/- to the pot? Or rather, indicate the presence of a specific metal in the alloy?

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Perhaps a little hot, no real issue. Be very careful when adding cold metal to a fluid pot, steam explosions are dangerous and harmful. Better to let the melt slush up well, before adding anything and then bring the heat back up.

    Some prefer to be a bit more careful by letting the pot cool down even more to prevent injury.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    ^^^^THIS^^^^

    Water hitting the top of the melt is not terrible, but if there is just a little water that gets pushed down into the melt you have real problems. I have suspended stuff over the pot to help ensure that it’s totally dry, but pouring off ingots and starting with a new cold pot full of scrap is much safer.

    BTW, in my experience, the hotter the melt the faster it skins over.

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    If you get a nice sunny day put the scrap out in the sun on sheet trays and let them dry out.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    And one little thing I do at end may help you out, depending on your melting pot configuration if it has a larger open rim. As stated above starting from a cold pot or hardened bottom is definitely great advice and to be heeded, Ms. Tinsel Fairy can be a nasty itch. I leave about 1/2"-3/4" of melt in bottom to cool with wire (old coat hanger) bent to a flat circle dropped down in melt and bent loop out above to use as handle. Post total cool remove and type/date/etc. for future melt of same. Having a little in bottom matching contour it melts faster in bottom and really speeds up melting time above using less gas eating the new loose pile above it.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    For range lead, just melt, flux with sawdust and wax/candle wax and skim off thr jackets. There will be zero zinc or not enough zinc to worry about. If you try to remove the nonexistent zinc you will remove the tin and antimony present and have basically a pure lead or too soft for you 9mm bullets.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by JimB.. View Post
    Starting with range scrap I wouldn’t worry about either zinc or tin. If zinc was in someone’s bullets it’s already alloyed and will be a tiny percentage. Since it’s all already alloys, the melting point of the elements isn’t useful info, the alloy melting temp is determined by the elements in the alloy, but the elements in an alloy don’t each melt at their melting points, the alloy melts at its melting point.

    Use a bolt cutter to break open any TMJ bullets, fill pot, cover, heat with med flame until melted, stir with wooden stick a couple times scraping sides and bottom, skim, flux, skim, flux, skim, flux, skim, pour ingots. If the lead starts to gel at any point turn up the heat. I always use a wind screen.

    To test the “removing tin” hypothesis I re-melted and refluxed (heavily, lot of wax) everything I had skimmed off from a 225 lb batch, collecting from that another 7 or 8 lbs of clean metal. I had that tested and it had no more tin than did the rest of the ingots produced from that batch. Based on this I believe that the oxides on the surface being tin is a myth. After I did this BNE told me that he’d done similar testing at up to 900F with the same results.
    Agreed..besides... Unless lots of reloaders shoot at the range the scrap came from..there usually isn't much tin anyway..mostly lead..some antimony.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Range scrap will contain no zinc . You get zinc in wheel weights .
    Flux and stir the scrap a few times then remove the trash with a slotted or perforated cooking spoon , the kind sold in places that sell outdoor cookig grills and fryers . Stainless steel 12 - 16 inch long keeps your hands away from the heat . These spoons allow the good melt to pass through the holes and the large bowl catches the trash ... I like perferated best .
    Fluxing keeps all the good stuff in the melt and all the bad stuff out ... several small fluxings with wax, wood shavings and Marvelux ( I use all three) keep any metals from seperating and beats one or two BIG stinky fire and flaming up inducing fluxes ... trust me . Beeswax/ parrafin and wood shavings will flash fire and scare the BeJeezus out of you .
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    I always melt my scrap and WWs at 700°. That keeps the tin in and the zinc out.

    BTW anyone who wants to know how to get the degree symbol; its easy. Hold down the alt button and type 0176. When you release the alt button, the degree symbol appears.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master



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    The most important thing is not get the lead too hot while melting it for ingots. I keep stirring mine frequently and flux with sawdust. I pour the ingots as soon as possible to avoid overheating the lead. Also, I now don’t worry about getting my lead super clean. Less chance of cooking the tin out of it and more chance of oxidizing it, resulting in less total amount of lead. I flux and clean it in the casting pot with sawdust and beeswax. I get decent fill out normally without needing to add tin. However, I do collect from an indoor range where jacketed bullets are not allowed.

  18. #18
    Boolit Mold
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    Thanks again for all of your help guys.
    I've gotten through my first smelting session and it was a huge success. I got to use my new 220,000 Btu burner and 14 qt. pot.
    I worked through 2 1/2 five gal. buckets of range scrap, half my supply.
    I have no idea what my temperatures were, but the burner was turned down a lot from its max. output.

    I now have more than 85 lbs. of ready to use alloy bars for casting some 9mm. swc bullets in my Lee 6 cavity mold!

    Then I'll get to try my hand at powdercoating. So many cool things to learn.

  19. #19
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  20. #20
    AKA: GRMPS Conditor22's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muser View Post
    I've been reading gobs of threads and find plenty of advice to stir back in any tin that skins on top.
    And also to remove any zinc from the melted alloy, and you can use sulfur to pull out the zinc.
    From my research I found that these metals melt at:

    - Melting point of Lead- 621.43*F

    - Melting point of Antimony- 1167.13*F

    - Melting point of Tin- 449.47*F

    - Melting point of Zinc- ​787.15*F

    I'm going to be smelting/ liquefying 4-5 5 gal. buckets of range scrap for my first "smelting" job. This to eventually cast 9mm boolits and powdercoat them with safety ever in mind.

    With all of my reading I haven't found answers to these questions-
    - Is there a maximum temperature you stay below when smelting range lead?
    - Do you constantly stir in the skinned Tin so it doesn't stick to the dross (range junk) as you spoon it out, or pull the skins out and place them into something while removing all the dross and add then back in after finishing fluxing and removing the zinc?
    - Or is anyone worrying about the zinc, maybe its fine to leave it in? - 787* to get it out wow!
    I haven't found anything anywhere to give the procedural steps like this when smelting.
    Thanks guys.

    You posted the melting point of the metals in their pure form, once they are alloyed everything changes.

    Harder alloyed metals will melt at lower temperatures than pure lead.

    You should keep ALL lead under 750° (800° max)
    "When folks were posting pix of their indoor casting enclosures, I started an internet search of the vaporization question (at least in my mind). I found that lead starts to vaporive at about 1600*F but lead oxide starts at 820*F. Since our tin-pb alloys start to oxidize at 750*F, at least the tin, then it doesn't seem to be any stretch of the imagination that some lead oxide is also taking place. "

    I find that fluxing with BOTH pine sawdust and wax does a better job than either one by itself. I flux range scrap several times BEFORE removing the jackets (copper jackets are worth over $2 a pound at most scrap yards so don't throw them away

    Small amounts of zinc are not a bad thing. The amount of zinc you would get from range lead is negligible EXCEPT -- IF you run across someone who is shooting zinc boolits!!!!

    Patience is a good thing/requirement in all things reloading.

    My smelting tools (in my garbage trailer )
    Left to right: sawdust, wax, big dipper, best skimmer I've found, skimmer, wire whisk for fluxing, long handle BBQ spoon, small dipper, strainer on pole for fluxing and removing clips, bullet hulls, channel locks [not shown heavy cotton clothing, closed top shoes, long pants I can attest to these two , leather gloves, and glasses ** stay up-wind**


    DIY 1 1/2" angle iron ingot molds. *** notice I level the board's the ingot molds are on before each session to help get even fill***





    lead storage

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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