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Thread: Lead cover on telephone wire.

  1. #1
    Boolit Bub Keyman's Avatar
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    Question Lead cover on telephone wire.

    The local recycle area at the dump had copper phone wire coated with lead. It is about 5/8 inches across. I did pick it up, and cut it all into 6 inch chunks. These fill three 5 gallon buckets. I do not have the hand strength to slice these length wise and remove the wire, so was going to melt the whole mess down. Yes it will smoke and smell, and be a mess, but will pick a day when the wind will blow away from the neighbors. My real question is how much copper will go into the lead? Will it make the lead hard and brittle? The other thing is I will be cooking this in a cut off propane bottle, and over a wood fire. Yes it will be on a solid stand. So heat will probably get very high. Propane is very cost prohibitive in the woods. Thanks for any ideas and help.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    The Copper won't melt into the Lead in any noticeable amount.
    As the Lead begins to melt, keep stirring & poking at it, and the Copper will float right out.

    It may or may not work, but you might try to split the cable with a hatchet.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winger Ed. View Post
    The Copper won't melt into the Lead in any noticeable amount.
    As the Lead begins to melt, keep stirring & poking at it, and the Copper will float right out.
    +1 on this. Just flux a few times with candle wax and old motor oil and you should come up with clean ingots. This should be pretty soft lead.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    What Ed said about the copper. You have it in short sections now (twice the length might have been ideal), try scoring it around in the center of the length with a hand pruner (for tree branches), then bend it, it will break clean there and pull it apart. Then grab the wires and pull out of the remaining side. This works great when the cable is not kinked or crushed. I have sold that copper to the recycler, once they paid great (I had hundreds of pounds) and the last time the price was very little...it seems to depend on the mood of whoever is doing the buying on a given day. What I have acquire is usually from the 50s (the older stuff anyway will have a ribbon inside with the date of manufacture) and had paper insulation, the newer stuff has plastic insulation, not sure it that matters to the recyclers. It is pretty soft, blend with WWs to stretch them. Might be fine as is if PCing in 45ACP. Always a good find.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    I would also be very careful about adding this to liquid lead. Any moisture could be disastrous.

    Many years ago, I was on the receiving end of a steam explosion and was lucky only a very small piece of lead hit me just under the eye.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master bosterr's Avatar
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    Sit the pieces in your smelting pot and melt a groove lengthwise with a propane torch.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Rapier's Avatar
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    Have a few pounds of lead sheeting from underground cables, much larger diameter than what you are working with. Of the normal materials you run into when melting lead, it is heavier than the rest, so pretty much everything else will separate and float on the top of the pot when fluxed.
    You will have a mess in the pot, if you do not remove the insulation from the wire.
    Normally lead sheeting is almost pure lead. I usually save my sheeting for conical hollow cavity BP bullets. The conical hollow cavity is designed for the skirt to expand, to seal, and fit the barrel lands and grooves.
    That wood fire heat is going to be almost uncontrollable and will cause any combustible impurities to catch fire. A concentrated charcoal fire with a reversed vacuum cleaner, would be more controllable.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    A picture of your find would help make suggestions more useful. However, a discarded knife set lengthwise on the 6 inch cable piece and hammered through it would take these apart. Might take a day or two, but would be a lot better than inhaling plastic fumes.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master 15meter's Avatar
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    Try pulling out just a couple of strands at a time, they won't pull hard. After a dozen or two strands come out the rest will almost fall out.

    You may want to rethink melting them down as a whole. Here in Michigan, I believe it is illegal to sell burnt wiring.

    State did that to discourage open burning of wiring to remove the sheathing.

    Upside of not melting it whole you'll have much cleaner lead to deal with.

    And the insulated copper wire is probably worth a buck a pound. It is around here anyway.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    i had the same thing, just dump it in the pot, the copper will float to the top and the plastic/rubber will burn of. makes a lot of smoke but gives good softish lead
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  11. #11
    Boolit Bub
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    You might want to consider the fuel costs of heating up the entire cable to remove the lead. It takes a lot of propane to heat the copper and plastic just to let it cool again.

    I have used a small pneumatic chisel to open up wire sheathing a couple of times, but it was on larger diameter cable.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Unless this stuff is different from what I had 50 years ago you can usually grab one or two wires with pliers and pull them out from the end. Then a few more and after that it will come out in bundles. Once done all that is left is the paper liner which makes great flux. The wires make fantastic wraps for tying up all kinds of things in the garage.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Thats a nice score! You should be able to pull the copper out of the sheathing. Most scrap places will buy the insulated wire but pay less than bare wire. If you melt it all together you shouldn't have any copper get into the lead but be prepared for lots of smoke. The wire will probably have some type of jell substance on it which will also add to the smoke.

    Cable sheathing is considered to be soft lead. The stuff that I have tested to be 98-98.5% lead.

  14. #14
    Boolit Bub Keyman's Avatar
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    I will try the nick and fold idea today, and pull a few strands also. Yes this lead is going to have water inside with the wire, and I will do a melt from a cold pot each time.
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  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    You might be able to boil off the water if you lay a grate or rack over the top of the pot.
    Put the cable pieces on top as you're melting other chunks of it inside the pot to 'pre-heat' them.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Bub
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    I have a bunch of electrical copper wire that is lead coated. Thinking the next time I light up my oven (full sized kitchen propane oven in my shop) I will throw it in there on a rack with a cookie sheet underneath it to see how little I actually get.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    Cut up 50+ feet last spring. Used an old butcher knife and a dead blow plastic mallet. The first roll I cut to about 4" length and tried splitting the length. Did not work too well. Then used needle nose pliers to pull the wire out, 2 or 3 at a time till I got 15-20 out and then I could get quite a few more at a time. On the next roll I cut a few sections about 8 inches long and pulled the wire the same way, was still very slow. I was using the dead blow hammer to drive the butcher knife through the wire. About three blows would sever the cable.

    At that point I still had about 3 1/2 rolls and decided to try another way. I cut the cable into about 16 inch sections, unless there were bad kinks. I would make a section longer or shorter to cut at a kink. Then I would straighten the sections so they would roll easily. About 4 inches from the end I would put the knife across the cable at a 90° angle, press down on the knife and rolled the cable 360° with the edge of the knife. That would cut through the lead but not the copper. Then I would pull the lead off. Do it again, and the again at the other end. This was by far the fastest way that I tried. A few of the sections had enough dents that I wad unable to pull the lead off so I set them aside. After doing what I could, I put the dented sections on a flat surface and used the dead blow to flatten them a bit, then rotated 90° and flattened again. Then I started rolling and tapping back to round. Once I had them straight and round, I was able to remove the lead 3-4 inches at a time.
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  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Use a hatchet to split the sheathing. It will be well worth your time. Trying to melt the lead from around the copper and plastic will be a nightmare.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Pulling the copper wire out of 6" sections should not be that hard ... melting the lead , copper wire and plastic insulation will be a mess ... removing the copper wires from the melted lead will be tedious, you can't just scoop them up ... pick up each wire one at a time ...no
    Pull out as much of the copper as you can from the short sections ...will be less work and smoke in long run . Inhaling smoke from burning plastic can't be good for the lungs !!!
    Split one end with a hatchet to get to wires and get the pulling started , wrap a wire end around a screwdriver (or any tool) to help you pull on the wire ...you get one out and the rest will follow easily .
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  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have a small roll<100ft>and I tried to melt a little and rolled it back up. When I run out I may use it. I thought about cutting into 6" strips with bolt cutters and using the 12lb pot.
    Last edited by 45DUDE; 04-03-2022 at 01:33 PM.

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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