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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I cast some bullets out of WW and I thought some of them came out looking pretty good. That is until I looked at them under magnification and found out that the points of the grooves were complete radii instead of having any flats on the OD at all.

I thought maybe I had too much soot built up in the grooves of the mold or maybe I needed a bit mor tin in my melt. So, I cleaned my mold, re-smoked my mold lightly, addeds some Oatey plumbing solder to the mix and tried again. My bullets looked atrocious. Some of them were not even bullets but completely misshapen chunks. I was water dropping and when I pulled some of the bullets out, some were entirely broken in half.

What do you think happened? Was the melt not hot enough? Was the solder a bad idea?


Also, I added some sawdust for flux - maybe 1/4 tablespoon. That left an ash residue floating on top which I just had to skim off. I don't see what good that did at all. I thought flux was supposed to make a molten metal flow and run better. Why don't we use the kind of flux you use when soldering a pipe joint?

Sheesh this is discouraging. My first try casting some pure lead muzzleloader bullets went so easily. After that it has all been downhill and my results are getting worse not better. Very frustrating.
 

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Try a little more heat in your melter & run your mould faster and hotter.
Adding solder didn't hurt anything.
If you are using a bottom pour pot the sawdust ash forms a barrier between the molten metal and the air. This is supposed to be a good thing because it cuts down on oxidation of your alloy.

If you have the time read this -

http://www.lasc.us/Fryxell_Book_Contents.htm

Heck, if you don't have time now bookmark it for later.

..
 

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The bullets breaking apart in the water sounds like you are opening the mold too soon and the bullets aren't solidified before they hit the water. I advise you to drop on a folded towel so you can see the take until you get the hang of it.

Wrinkles generally come from a too cold mold or pouring too slowly. Place the blocks on the edge of your pot when you plug it in and they should be good to go when the lead melts. When you pour, fill the mold and leave a generous sprue puddle. Stop the flow and then watch the sprue. It will change color from a shiny silver to dull. When it turns dull, cut the sprue, dump the bullets and refill the mold.
 

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Kart29,

Don't give up! A little more heat would not hurt, do you have a lead thermometer? When adding to your mix if your getting impurity's from saw dust or wood chips which will work but the flux is not consistent, and that is what makes the difference between a bullet caster and a good bullet caster is consistency. Personally I like Marvelux from Brownells for fluxing, and you will have some impuitys float to the top when ever you flux but if the pot is not hot enough then some of it could be tin and after some expierience you should be able to tell what needs removed and what should remain in the mix. Personally if it is on the top then it really doesn't matter if it is removed because it will not come out of the bottom pour pots. If your bullets are breaking apart then the mix is not hot enough and needs a more thorough fluxing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well, there's some ideas but I still don't know the source of the problem. I went back out the next day without using andy solder and my bullets were turning out much better without any of the grainy, broken bullet problems.

I'm not using a bottom pour. I'm using an old pot on a coleman gas stove.

I have a multi-meter with a temp thermocouple. I tried the lead temp ranging anywhere from 625 or so on up to nearly 1000 degrees. It doesn't matter what the temperature, I always continute to get more and more grayish, clumpy clods that rise to the surface of the melt. I skim it off every minutes or so and more comes to the top again. It seems that the more I stir the melt, the more the stuff comes to the top. When I had the temp way up over 950 degrees I even noticed some of the stop that came to the top became a glowing red ember when the air hit it.

Using the temp probe I can definitely tell I get smoother bullets and less frosting at a lower temp, but the bullets seem to pour better at higher temp.

I don't know, I think something in the solder really messed things up. Now I have some WW ingots with solder mixed in and I don't know which ones they are.
 

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Kart29,

Keep your temperature under 900 as lead gives off a deadly gas over 1000 that you do not want to breath. Lead just melts around 650 and tin is around 700 so in order to flux your temperature must be over 700. I try to keep my melt around 750/800. I cast with both a bottom pour and the dipping method with a ladle which is a very good method but is slower. Nice thing about dipping is that you tend to stir the pot more and this helps in a consistent mix and helps make better bullets, Leave the grey stuff in the pot, this is more than likely your tin and when you start to see this on top the temperature is either to cool or the pot needs a fluxing. Either way you cannot over flux.
Frosting is a sign that the melt is too hot and sometime the thermometers can be off and tell you the melt is cooler or hotter than it actually is.

When I melt a bunch of lead and mix and make ingots I mark each ingot with a permanent marker so I can identify it later and I keep these ingots in separate piles or batches. I melt unknown leads and clean out the dirt, cast a bullet and test the hardness and mark the lead with hardness and a batch number.
 

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I cast .58 and .54 cal. 54 cal is hard lead, the musket (.58) is pure, I had been taught that wax such as used for canning is a good flux. Keep up the heat but make sure your mold is hot enough, I throw the first dozen into a pile to be remelted down before I start keeping any to inspect for flaws.
 

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Cowboy gun said:
I cast .58 and .54 cal. 54 cal is hard lead, the musket (.58) is pure, I had been taught that wax such as used for canning is a good flux. Keep up the heat but make sure your mold is hot enough, I throw the first dozen into a pile to be remelted down before I start keeping any to inspect for flaws.
I set my mold on top of the hot pot while it is warming up, and another way is to dip the corner in to the hot lead for a short time. If my first castings do not look good I drop them out and put back in the pot while they are still hot. If casting for rifles I weigh each bullet and I'm very picky, not so picky with pistol if just for plinking but I have also weighed each of them, weight is the fastest way to find imperfections because if there is much difference it will show in weight.
 

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I think you're destroying your alloy. That red sheen you mentioned sounds like antimony that has separated out which means you lost the tin long before that. There is no need to ever go over 800 degrees with 700-750 being preferable. Are you smelting your wheel weights and pouring from the same pot? That is a big no no. Are you absolutely sure you did not get zinc contamination into your alloy? If you didn't use a thermometer during smelting and ran the temperature over 800 degrees you may have melted zinc weights into your mix. Zinc will form heavy dross with clumps as you described. Zinc will not give a good bullet fill out and since zinc is brittle and shrinks more than lead it will crack and break in half when water dropped.

The solder you added will only benefit, not hurt anything. It is the tin that aids in bullet fill out, not the flux. All the flux is suppose to do is help bring impurities to the surface as dross so you can skim it out. The two sites that were suggested to you by others will give you a ton of knowledge. I highly recommend you check them out.

I use no flux agent of any kind when casting. What I do use, is a wooden paint stir stick to stir the mix and scrap the sides of the pot. I do this once when the pot has come up to casting temperature and again each time I add new ingots to the pot. The ash from the stir stick is all that's need as a flux.
I do use and flux with something when smelting the raw wheel weights.

Just a guess on my part but it all sounds like zinc contamination to me and if that is the case then you might as well take the entire batch, make fishing weights and be done with it. By the way, there is nothing wrong with a frosted bullet. They shoot just as well as a pretty shiny bullet. Just don't look as pretty. Some casters I know actually prefer frosty bullets because they lube with Lee Liquid Alox and the lube adheres better.
 

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Zinc wheel weights is you problem .Zinc melts at 787 * F , lead melts at 621 * F , tin melts at 449 * F . NEVER EVER SMELT ABOVE 700-725 *
I've not been around a multi-meter with a temp thermocouple , l know what they are and do use a multi-meter just not used it w/ this config .If you are going to stay w/ this , have you checked it for temp accuracy and if not you better !!!
You'll get to your destination but you have to cross t's and dot i's
castboolits.com will supply what information you need and as stated above what you now have is fishing weights . All the zinc has to be cleaned out before you cast boolits again
 

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All good stuff here guys. I am sure I ain't the only one who reads here and is getting some great info before jumping into casting. I have a friend who cast for a 30-30 and 44 , his boolits are ugly as a pimple on a blister but shoot darn good.

I want to do better so I am still in the learning , research stages .Great stuff, thanks all. :)
 

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Kart29

Just don't panic & don't give up.
Try again with a different batch of wheel weights.

Out of curiosity, what bullet/mould are you casting with?
..
 

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Kart29,
The pards have given some great advice. I wonder about the solder....if it was acid core that might create a problem. The old 50-50 or new 95/5 would not and will actually help the bullets fill out better.

In addition to having your alloy hot enough, a mold that has not been cleaned of all oil, etc. will not fill out properly.

Dennis Marshall who was a metallurgist said that alloys of lead and tin, or lead, tin and antimony are homogenous and once mixed, do not separate. I tested this once with a full pot of w.w.+2% tin at 850F. THe bullets weighed the same from start to finish so if there was any separation and the less dense tin and antimony went to the top of the alloy the bullets would have gotten heavier. They didn't.

w30wcf
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I've wondered about zinc, too. Maybe that is my problem. The crud that comes to the top of my melt isn't a goldish colored film on top of the silver melt, it's little bits of dark, dry, grayish flakey looking stuff. I inspected every single wheel weight that I melted down and threw away anything that had a Zn on it. But maybe something slipped by me. I didn't realize I shouldn't put sticky weights in with the clip ons either.

Why can't you melt your alloy in the same pot you smelted the wheel weight in????

Anyhow, I purchased a Lee Magnum furnace which should be here any day. I really thought I could get into this casting for next to nothing. And the muzzleloader bullets cost me nothing more than the cost of a mold and they shoot great. That got me hooked and now I'm shelling out for an expanding die, a furnace and a box of gas checks. Now I may have to buy a mold for fishing sinkers, too!

I have a Lee mold made to RanchDog design.

Well, I'll see what the purpose built casting furnace and temperature control rheostat do for me. I may smelt down a new batch of wheel weights and start from scratch with my alloy. Live and learn.

I do have about 60 bullets now which look good enough to shoot. I'll load them up soon and see what happens.

I've been reading the lasc.com website quite a bit. Lots of good info there. Thanks for pointing me to that!

More later...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Oh by the way, the solder was not acid-core. I used that once and had no problems. The solder on this occasion was some Oatey plumbing solder and the package said it contained tin, bismuth, copper and maybe something else. No percentages were given. In any case, I don't think I'll be adding any more solder unless I have something that specifically states that it contains only tin and lead, and a bit of copper wouldn't be a problem. I have no reason to trust a solder with bismuth in it.
 

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This may or may not be an option for you...but I bought clean alloy from Rotometals (they have a website) to get started casting.

I do believe it made things much simpler...so much so, I'm considering selling all my WW's and buying more Hardball alloy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
That's an idea I've considered. Buying the alloy kind of defeats my whole reason for get started in bullet casting, though.

But, I've thought it might be a good idea to buy a small amount of good, clean, alloy of known composition and cast a few bullets. That way I can see exactly what a good alloy should look like, cast like, etc. That might give me a good baseline with which to compare my wheel weight melt and help me diagnose possible problems.
 

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I sort through my WW's and separate any that are marked with a "Z" or if they do not look right and seem very hard.
 
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