Privacy guaranteed - Your email is not shared with anyone.

My first batch of cast bullets

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by VinnieD, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. VinnieD


    Mar 26, 2011
    I just began casting, and found it quite enjoyable and easy. I'm using a Lee 2 cavity mold to cast 158gr Semi wadcutters with space for a gas check. These won't have a gas check installed right now as they're for .38 special though I like having the option when I step up the .357 magnums.

    For melting I'm using ingots of pure lead alloyed with a bit of solder for the tin content (as recommended by the lee manual). Buying lead at the market price of just over $2/lb. isn't bad but I don't intend to keep paying that much if I can find a better source. This was just for experimentation.

    To melt them with I just used an old cast iron pan that was too scratched and pitted to reliably cook with anymore. It melts lead excellently, but is perhaps too big and requires a lot of lead before I can effectively dip from it. My fuel source is a small propane stove which heats quickly and evenly. For this batch I just used a teaspoon with some wood taped to it for safety. It worked alright, but the lead tended to get cold quickly causing a few bad casts early on. I think a proper cast iron lead ladle will improve this. I'm also considering a smaller melting pot that wouldn't need so much lead in it at a time to be able to work. I had to use two pounds of lead to dip effectively, and had to leave half a pound behind.

    One thing I noticed that troubles me is a frosty looking slag would develop on top of the molten lead. At first I assumed these were impurities, but I'm beginning to suspect that the lead on the surface may be reacting with atmospheric oxygen producing a useless lead oxide. Whatever it is, it won't melt, and seems to be useless. Is this normal or should I make adjustments to prevent it?

    Having finished casting I can say it's a good way to save money, and a fun hobby. I wasn't expecting to but I ended up casting 70 bullets before the lead got too shallow to scoop.
  2. Steel Head

    Steel Head Tactical Cat

    Jan 1, 2010
    A cat box in WA
    Cool post.
    I've been wanting to start casting bullets myself.

  3. Zombie Steve

    Zombie Steve Decap Pin Killa

    May 31, 2007
    Old Colorado City
    Seriously consider getting a bottom pour pot. It will make things soooo much easier. You can get a 10 pound Lee pot for $60 or so.

    What size were your bullets dropping? .357"- .358"? Are you going to tumble lube or get a sizer?

    Were you fluxing the lead at all? Throw in some shavings of candle wax, light on fire (less smokey) and stir it in. Think of your alloy like Italian dressing. If it sits too long, it will separate. Lead goes down, tin and antimony float up. You have to get it mixed if you're going to have any consistency at all.
  4. ColoCG


    Mar 18, 2011

    ^^^This^^^^ After you flux and mix your metals any thing left floating on top of your pot is probably useless dross, dirt, or metal clips from wheel weights. These can then be skimmed off. This will help you casting quality a lot.
  5. Colorado4Wheel


    Nov 2, 2006
    I would remelt that old dross if you were not fluxing. I bet its has your antimony and tin in it. Melt it and flux like Steve said.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  6. fredj338


    Dec 22, 2004
    Yep, a cheap Lee 10# BP pot is way better than a spoon & propane IMO, cheaper too in th long run. Flux & stir the dross on top & leave it in palce, it helps prevent further oxidation of the alloy. IMO, you need more than pure lead & tin for really good bullets. Antimony helps harden the alloy. Adding some hardened lead shot will up the antimony.
    Buying foundry alloy is an expensive way to cast. At $2/#, 1000 200gr 45acp cost you about $60 w/ solder for tin. I can have 1000 delivered to my housr for $75. SO a lot of work to save $15. Cheap or free alloy, now you are talking savings. If I cast form free range scrap, my loaded 45acp roudns are $3/100, cheaper than 22lr.
  7. VinnieD


    Mar 26, 2011
    To answer the above questions. Yes I will be gradually upgrading my setup, but not right away. The pan I used was just what I had on hand already.

    Foundry lead was only purchased because I wanted a starting reference. I won't be buying lead at that rate again, and will be looking to secure a supply of scrap lead in its place.

    Thanks for the info on dross. I oddly never heard of adding candle wax before but if can prevent wasting tin and antimony into useless slag, then I'll certainly give it a try. I have a lot of candle wax on hand anyway. I'll definitely try this in the next batch.

    As for lubrication and sizing. I do not have a sizer, and the Lee manual at least claims that the bullets cast don't need sizing. I'll get some calipers to check though. Lubricating I'm using a homemade blend based on several recipes I've read online. As I gather most all bullet lube seems to consist of roughly one part some kind of wax to one part some manner of non petroleum based oil. I took the recommendation to melt together Crisco and parafin. There are fancier recipes that involve more exotic ingredients (and I'm aware that beeswax is generally regarded as superior but it's also more expensive), but this should do for starters. And again I have a good supply of wax available already.
  8. WiskyT

    WiskyT Malcontent

    Jun 12, 2002
    North Carolina
    Dross comes from oxidation. A smaller diameter pot will have less surface area and therefore less oxidation. If you are casting outdoors, use sawdust for flux. It fluxes well, and you leave the ash on top to prevent oxidation. You'll smell like a pork shoulder when done. Use dust, not chips. The chips are too big and will hiss and pop when you stir them in. A buddy who is a woodworker gave me two one gallon bags of mahogany dust and I think it is a lifetime's worth.

    I tried casting with a spoon and a pot and got nowhere. The lead cools off too much by the time you get everything lined up. Get a Lee pot as soon as you can swing it.

    In the meanitime, you can get a cheap steel pot, any size, from a restaurant supply store. I've seen some very cheap, stamped, small steel pots at the supply store on my way home from work. Cast iron is expensive. Big box stores only sell alumium and even those aren't cheap.

    DO NOT use an aluminum pot under any circumstances!! Aluminum gets soft at the temps you will be working with and the bottom can fall out when you lift it.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  9. fredj338


    Dec 22, 2004
    WiskyT is correct. If you ladle cast, leave the ladle or sppon in the lead between pours & it will stay liquid enough to fill a 2cav mold.
    Fluxing is essential for good alloy mix & mold fill out. I prefer sawdust to anything else, It introduces the right amount of carbon into the alloy, far better than wax or oils. Stir it in, leave it while you cast.
    Lubing & sizing, always a debtae. I like to size, that way all my bullets are the same dia. When you cast, size will vary w/ temp & alloy, so sizing makes them all the same. What lube is also highly debated. Parrafin is almost useless, BW is much better, but you have to use what you can get. Just about any lubricant can be mixed w/ a wax to make a bulelt lube. Some work better than others @ diff pressures & vel. Your lube will be fine for low pressure/vel loads. If you step things up, then you will need something that will work @ higher pressures. White Label lubes are very cheap & makes making your own pretty much a non starter unless you haev a lot of free ingrediants.