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Thread: How many BTU's is enough?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master


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    How many BTU's is enough?

    I am looking to build/buy a propane smelter. For a propane burner how many btu's is enough?
    I see some small single burners around 17K btu ($40) ,some heavier burners around 30k btu, and then fish fryers around 75k btu.
    I would like to have a slower melt because I can catch any zinc ww that I missed in my sorting.
    I mostly have coww in a cast iron pot. I currently use a gas Coleman camp stove.
    What do you reccomend in a smelter that is strong enough to support the weight of 30-40 lbs. Of lead?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    pworley1's Avatar
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    I use the fish cooker. But I never turn the burner up more than is necessary to melt the mix.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master


    Springfield's Avatar
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    If you are just doing 30-40 lbs then keep using the Coleman stove, that's what I started with. But the 50,000 btu fish fryer is much, much faster and holds my over 100 capacity lb pot easily.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    Mal Paso's Avatar
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    I do 100 lbs at time on a 50,000 btu Bayou Classic with a cut off propane cylinder pot. After melting the burner can be turned down to minimum while pouring ingots.
    Mal

    Mal Paso means Bad Pass, just so you know.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    Grab a turkey fryer propane cooker from the big box store.
    I don't know its BTU, but they do a great job, and lots of guys use them.
    In school: We learn lessons, and are given tests.
    In life: We are given tests, and learn lessons.


    OK People. Enough of this idle chit-chat.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master
    Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    My turkey/fish fryer is about 54,000 BTU, IIRC (it has been a couple of decades since I bought it). The stand was stout enough for fifty or so pounds, but I wasn't sure of it for more weight.

    After my daughter backed into it with my pickup tire, I rebuilt the stand using 1¼x¼" angle iron. It will now support me doing the monkey jig.

    When dealing with 100 pounds of molten metal there is no such thing as overbuilt.

    Robert

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    A good question, how many BTUs. I have a couple turkey fryers and they are MORE than adequate. MORE than enough if I hope to keep my temps in the 675 degree range I usually have to have the burner so low, the slightest breeze wants to blow it out. I have often wondered if a lower BTU burner wouldn't be better and less likely to blow out.
    “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.” Ronald Reagan


  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oley55 View Post
    I usually have to have the burner so low, the slightest breeze wants to blow it out. I have often wondered if a lower BTU burner wouldn't be better and less likely to blow out.
    Not matter what your burner flame is set on, the wind will really give your pot temp. fits.

    Some guys put a sheet metal screen around the outside edge of the burner frame legs.
    I've seen them with 3 sides, some with all 4.

    The real fancy set up is a concrete base and 3 sided cinder block wall/screen that your burner sets in.
    In school: We learn lessons, and are given tests.
    In life: We are given tests, and learn lessons.


    OK People. Enough of this idle chit-chat.
    This ain't your Grandma's sewing circle.
    EVERYONE!
    Back to your oars. The Captain wants to waterski.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master MarkP's Avatar
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    I built one 10 yrs ago with a Bango burner. Like a giant bottom pour pot to process lead. Plenty of BTU's for processing 75 lbs of lead.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    When I bought mine, I was told to make sure it had the "RED" regulator. It is supposed to be the higher BTU. You can always lower the flame to regulate the temp.
    A vote for anyone other then the conservative candidates is a vote for the liberal candidates.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


    GregLaROCHE's Avatar
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    I can’t talk about BTUs because my burner is an old cast iron three ring. It’s convenient because I can control each ring. All on full to start and then down to just the middle one when starting to cast ingots. The point I want to make, is you want a lot more heat to start to speed things up, but you are going to use more propane total if the heat was less and you waited. I personally can’t wait and it’s full bore for me. Make sure your regulator can handle the volume your burner needs.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
    Mal Paso's Avatar
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    Here are some pictures going back to before I built a wind screen.
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    Mal

    Mal Paso means Bad Pass, just so you know.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Don't fool yourself ... you will not "catch" any zinkers before they melt with a "slow melt" low btu burner ... if you don't catch them in the hand sorting phase you will miss them in the melting phase .

    As my wise old Daddy would tell me ... " Boy ...Don't be acting the fool . "
    Gary
    Certified Cajun
    Proud Member of The Basket of Deplorables
    " Let's Go Brandon !"

  14. #14
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    Minerat's Avatar
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    Mines only 200,000 btu but my thought is that you don't have to use it all but if you need more and don't have it then you are sucking wind. Mine is like this.

    https://www.amazon.com/Flame-King-YS...3?ref=silk_rvp
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    Kilo Charlie zero Golf Papa Tango (kc0gpt)

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    I found three things turned my very high BTU (367,000 claimed) double jet burner from an inefficient propane waster into a fast melting system for my 240# capacity pot: A wind screen to shield the flame, a thermal jacket around the pot to keep the heat in, and a lid to do the same. I went from two melts per 20# propane tank to four or five, and cut the melting time to boot.

    Oh, and I think using a weed burner at the beginning, played over the top of a load of unmelted scrap, saves time and propane both, compared to just using the burner below, since the high btu flame below the pot won’t transmit much heat to the solid scrap inside when there’s barely any contact with the heated inside base and walls; the weed burner creates a melt pool to efficiently conduct heat. Just watch out for spatter from superheated voids in the metal suddenly letting go as you use the weed burner.

  16. #16
    Boolit Buddy
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    Click image for larger version. 

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    Plenty plus more equals enough! Wind shield, insulation, and bottom contact of the melt pool will increase heat transfer and shorten melting time.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master LAKEMASTER's Avatar
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    9 years ago I bought a Coleman white gas stove for a few bucks. Burnt a quart of fuel through it while doing a 300 lb batch of wheel weights.

    Bought a gallon of gas from terribles and used gas ever since.

    I fill up a cast iron skillet with weights and let that little burner go. Melts the lead down within 20 minutes or so. It takes me forever to go through the little tank of fuel. " Gasoline"

    Each skillet batch is 30+ lbs

    So even if it takes 30 minutes to process 30 lbs of wheel weights that's plenty fast for me. Especially considering the stove has a built in wind screen and is self contained for storage.
    Lake Havasu City... Born and raised

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwpercle View Post
    Don't fool yourself ... you will not "catch" any zinkers before they melt with a "slow melt" low btu burner ... if you don't catch them in the hand sorting phase you will miss them in the melting phase .

    As my wise old Daddy would tell me ... " Boy ...Don't be acting the fool . "
    Gary
    I have caught each and every one that has ever been in my melts. You just have to be there watching as it melts. Do not try to melt it in 30 seconds and as SOON as it get mushy start stirring because the stuff on the bottom will already be melting so if any zincs are down there you want to get them stirred up before the mix gets too hot on the bottom. As soon as it is liquid enough to start scooping out clips I turn the heat way down and scoop out all the hard stuff and that is when I get any zincs. At that point the temps, as checked, are never above 700 degrees while stirring. Patience is key if you want to catch zincs before the temp gets to high. I seldom ever let it go above 700 anyway, that is my set point. Once it gets there I drop the heat and leave a thermometer in it.

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master

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    How much is enough? It depends on how much weight you want to melt and how fast you want to melt it.

    I am a more is better kind of guy! My homemade jet burner is built like a weed burner thats advertised as 500,000 BTU's. My smelting pot will hold a little over 400 pounds of lead but I usually try to keep it around 350 to have room to flux and stir aggressively. If I'm melting something bulky like utility pole top pins I'll also use the weed burner from the top. I can melt 350-400 pounds of wheelweights in about 20 minutes or so. My burner stand is strong enough that I can put the bucket on my tractor on it and raise the front of the tractor up.

    I've posted smelting pictures before and many of you have probably seen my set-up. I also don't trust temp control to weed out the Zinc, I carefully hand sort all of my weights.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master LAKEMASTER's Avatar
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    I haven't been melting lead weights for very long or very much. Probably under 600 lbs in my Coleman stove. But I've accidently let zinc weights into batches all along the way and they haven't melted yet. When I find them, they are during the stage where I'm trying to get all the weights to melt or when I'm scooping out the clips.

    I have no melting aid other than checking it every 10 minutes. I'm pretty low tech when it comes to the smelting part of my reloading life
    Lake Havasu City... Born and raised

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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