Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cast away.

I've never tried casting my own boolits at home, although it looks to be all kinds of fun and practical.

I'm just worried about having a place to do it that is well-ventilated enough that I don't need to pull my socks off to count past ten after a long session.

40 comments:

og said...

I cast in the summer so i can use the back porch.

Jack said...

Do your casting outside when there's no rain in the forecast and a light breeze at your back. A hotplate or Coleman stove and a 2 qt steel saucepan is all you need for a start. Have fun.

Homer said...

Got a garage? Set up shop in front of the door with a fan behind you gently blowing out, you're all set. FYI, daylight only, unless the opening is screened. You don't want to see what happens to a pot full of molten lead when a nice, moist moth lands in it.

Anonymous said...

Most of the people who I do action shooting with shoot and reload enough to have lead in the 'danger' zone even without casting. So, no thanks!

Great skill to have, just in case, though.

Joanna said...

You don't want to see what happens to a pot full of molten lead when a nice, moist moth lands in it.

Hee hee hee hee hee awesome.

Anonymous said...

Well, lets first establish a baseline on you. Can you count past ten now? :)

Seriously, all good advice above. Do it outside, on a hard surface, and take it easy.

The Duck said...

Yeah, I had a friend who whould cast in his kitchen, he has long pauses in his speech sometimes, like he forgot what he was talking about to start with.

Keads said...

As long as Hornady or Sierra is out there, I have to refrain; there is a reason there are few old auto body techs around, they used to lead the seams in back in the day with few (or no) containment practices.

Netpackrat said...

I would wager the reason there are few old auto body men left has more to do with poor painting practices than with poor leading practices. I have been told (but do not have the data to back up at the moment) that painters have one of the lowest life expectancies of all the industrialized trades. So long as you follow sane casting practices, and have plenty of ventilation, the dangers of lead are overstated. On the other hand, unless you have a free, or nearly free source of lead, I probably wouldn't bother getting set up to cast.

Justthisguy said...

I mind the time I was helping a guy paint an old house, in an Atlanta neighborhood about 1/2 mile east of Little Five Points. The place was built in the teens or twenties of the last century. First we pressure-washed the wazoo out of it, and then went over the whole thing with hand scrapers. I was rolling my own cigarettes at the time, and suddenly noticed that they tasted really sweet. Yikes!

Back before it turned into a fern bar, the Atkins Park Deli was a painter's bar which opened at 0700 so that the painters could get a head start on "treating their lead poisoning."

Tam said...

Le sigh... I miss Va-Hi.

Actually, I miss being twenty-something with not a care in the world in Va-Hi...

Fred said...

We were in the garage with a couple doors open. With the crappy weather there was a decent breeze, so most of the smoke and whatnot went out the big door.

Keads said...

@Netpackrat,

You may be right our it was a combination of both to some degree. Free lead? Oh great, now I have to keep an eye on my wheel weights on the car!

Matt G said...

Keep a cross-draft going, and you're okay. As I understand it, your worst danger comes from breathing oxidized powdered lead. (like on very old unprotected lead bullets, that get crusty white.)

I grew up handling lots and lots of lead around Dad, as he cast in the garage, on the porch, and, uh, elsewhere. And truly, the biggest danger is to developing kids.

Mr.B said...

You'll get more lead shooting (mostly from primers than anything else) and handling the boolits than you will from casting them.

You are melting lead, not vaporizing it. Lead doesn't want to go into the vapor phase at temps you are heating it to, unless you do something really stupid. Most furnaces keep it at proper temps and not above.

Wash your hands afterwards and you will be fine.

Zdogk9 said...

Even paying way too much for wheel weights, and factoring in overpriced primers and powder. I shoot .45 for about the cost of .22 LR. Less than the cost of good .22 LR. I put a new hood in the kitchen a few years back. The old one is over the bench I use for casting in the garage. I do smelt the wheel weights OUTSIDE when there is a good breeze blowing away from the house.

Matt G said...

Mr. B points out a good point, which I forgot to mention.

Melting point of lead: 327.5 °C (600.65 K, 621.5 °F)

Boiling point of lead: 1740.0 °C (2013.15 K, 3164.0 °F)

That's a pretty damned big window, right there.

Stranger said...

Well, Rotometals has Lyman #2 ingots at $2.37 a pound delivered to your door. 7000 grains to the pound, comes to less than seven cents each for a 200 grain bullet.

Another 3.5 cents for a primer, and about the same for powder. 15 cents MOL, plus your time. Better pick a load that pretty well fills a case though. Double charges cause most of the bad rap reloading gets.

Danger? Biggest danger is spilling hot metal on yourself. Be welly keerful. Wear heavy gloves and a heavy apron, with an old quilt or some such over your lap and legs. Those burns are slow healing.


Fumes? Carbon monoxide from a blowtorch or Coleman stove is a greater danger. Lead's heavy, so as long as you are well above pot level and there is some air circulation away from you it will be OK.

Starters necessities? A five buck flea market hot plate for heat, an old CAST IRON pot to melt in, a heavy spoon for skimming the dross, a second spoon for filling the mold. Both spoons should have wooden or insulating handles. If you like flea markets a ten dollar bill should set you up.

You will need bullet lube. The old timers melted buffalo grease in a tray and cut the lubed pills out with a jack knife. There are better greases and better ways.

It's always a pleasure to see those brilliantly white bullets drop from the mold - and almost as much fun to see the frosted or deformed ones melt in the pot.

Stranger

Kristopher said...

Matt G: you still get lead vapors ... and the fumes from the flux have a lot of lead compounds.

Best source of free lead is gotten by talking to people in the home renovation trade. Lead sheet was used a lot to waterproof floors under tile.

You can also get it in huge quantities when an old dentist office is torn down, and the demolishers are actually afraid of the stuff ... radiation shielding.

I am still working on a load of lead sheet I got a decade ago back when I lived in Hillsboro.

If you are going to get serious about this, talk to this guy.

Kristopher said...

Oh, and if you are going to use wheel wieghts, buy a good pyrometer ( you can get one at the link I provided ).

Keeping the melt below 600F will cause the zinc to float to the top where you can skim it off and get rid of it before it has a chance to foul your mold.

oneavgjoe said...

Have you been over to "box of truth" lately? He's got a great photo-log of the casting process.

Justthisguy said...

Guys, pay attention to Kristopher, and 'specially to Og. Og has made his living for a lot of his life doing things which involved red-hot metal, and other noxious things. Y'all should have seen how he got all over Steven H. Graham (so-called) for proposing to cook food on a grill which had zinc on it. Google "brass-founders'ague" Heavy metal poisoning is serious business.

Retired Spook said...

Been casting bullets for years and it doesn't bother me bother me bother me....

Seriously, been casting for 40+ years, and no worries. Keep everything well-ventilated, and use good protective gear (safety glasses are good, face shield is better), and yes, back in the day when you could get 1000 primers and a pack of cigarettes with a ten spot, I could shoot .45 ACP cheaper than .22LR.

TJP said...

What Homer said, except I use one garage bay with the door half down, from the inside, and with all the windows open. I've never had a moth land in the pot at night, but I used to use one of those hygroscopic fluxes....then there was this oppressively humid July night, you know? And steam pressure is surprisingly powerful when water goes from 90 degrees to 600 degrees in under a second. You can see where this is going. The little splatter scars on my neck did heal up, though.

It's not a bad idea to have your lead levels checked before and after you've taken up casting, but the risk of poisoning is low, unless you're very, very careless. Lead's vapor pressure is low, and so long as you wear gloves when handling it, and don't track it all over the yard and house, you're good. Also wear natural fiber clothes, and shield bare skin--long sleeves and long pants. Synthetics melt and stick to the skin when they're on fire. Oh, and eye protection.

Also learn how to scrounge lead. The cost of decent equipment is dwarfed by the cost of casting material if you choose to buy small quantities commercially.

kishnevi said...

My stepfather used to cast bullets
standing in the living room closet; he had a permanent setup between the water heater and the air conditioning unit. The only safety equipment he used was a pair of goggles and keeping the closet door open while he was inside. IIRC he heated the lead (mostly used bullets he had already shot) on the kitchen stove, but that was twenty years ago and I wasn't living in the house most of the time, so I may be wrong.

We often wondered about his sanity level (which is why, ultimately, my mother divorced him--he was impossible to live with), but that was because during his second go around with the Marines (the first was WWII Pacific) he was a medic at Chosin, and back then they called it nothing fancier than shell shock. (He passed away last year.)

Thomas said...

Do it, try casting! I started a few years ago and it's one of the best shooting moves I've made.

Only thing I'd add to the discussion above about lead safety, is to get a "lead level" blood test performed when you get your physical/annual checkup exam. You have to ask for it as it's not standard. Get the test at least annually. You want to be less than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. I started at 0, and after a year of more shooting, reloading, and casting I'd gotten up to 16. I clamped down on the lead hygiene and am back down to 10 now.

Do it, you'll be fine! If you get the scrap lead/wheelweights from some junk heap, you can shoot 230 grain 45s for about 4.5 cents each!

John A said...

Um, my father was a Linotypist for over thirty years. The open melt pot is (as I remember it from forty years ago) about two feet from the keyboard.Yes, melt is not the same as boil - or chewing (the danger of lead paint for babies).

But NOT ON TOPIC if you have the manual dexterity you might look at the safe bullets and guns another blog earlier said might even be OK in Massachusetts -

http://www.nuffy.net/misc/pics/guns-made-out-of-paper.html

Personally I have trouble putting things into envelopes.

Ed Foster said...

Go with Retired Spook and Homer. I used to Coleman stove it in the driveway an a nice spring Saturday with a bit of breeze. Now it's all industrialized and we have a special ventilated welders booth at the shop.

Wheelweights will give you the antimony you need, but if you're casting for .45acp or 9mm you'll have to add some tin to the mix. Autos are designed for jacketed bullets and like them hard.

Do you still have the Lyman cast bullet handbook that was involved in the SVT swap? After the detour through Ohio I don't know if it got to you.

Go with #2 bullet metal and you should be able to do it for 20-25 cents a pound.

Back here in the nautical east there's usually a wrecked sailboat keel to chainsaw apart for peanuts, but try the tire shops for used wheelweights, and don't offer more than fifteen cents a pound.

Moriarty said...

I'm in the process of building a casting hood, similar to the hoods I used back in my lab rat days.

The front will be a salvaged double pane window, with sides and top made of painted plywood. A small exhaust fan with a HEPA filter and vent to the outside will be installed at the top. The casting operation will occur entirely inside the hood, which will be closed when not in use.

I've casted inside an even simpler, disposable version made from a large cardboard box with a sheet of discarded plexiglas duct taped to the front. It may seem like overkill, but I nearly had my day ruined once by a steam explosion (long story) and I decided not to let that happen again. Gloves, apron and face shield are also mandatory for me.

I've had "brass founder's ague" twice, both times from trying to get away with torching galvanized steel in what I considered well- ventilated areas. I don't recommend it. I'm fond of N100 masks when I'm around anything that's particulate that I don't care to inhale. They're cheap and they beat the hell out of spending two days in bed with nausea and rigor or getting dosed with DMSA.

Fred said...

People are paying for lead...? My buddy got a couple five gallon buckets full of used wheel weights for free from some tire places up north. Doesn't cost anything to stop in and ask.

Jack said...

I always forget about proper footware, 'cause I wear casting suitable high top clodhoppers 7 days a week during what passes for summer up here in Kanuckistan. Wear leather and be sure your jeans go over the boot tops.

+1 on the Antimony Man. Just be aware that phoning Mr. Bill Ferguson can get expensive, but the education you'll get on lead will be worth it.

HTRN said...

Others have pointed out that bullet casting is relatively safe - the big concern is inhaling lead dust, which shows up frequently in buckets of wheel weights as they shift around and abrade each other. You can get molten lead to emit dangerous fumes, but you got to get it over 900F, and the fumes are of the "kill you right now" variety, not the "give you cancer in 20 years" that everybody worries about.

As for finding wheel weights - it's getting harder. Major chain places like Sears and Costco dispose of them internally, mostly because of EPA fears. The large independent tire places know the scrap is worth something, and more often than not, have somebody that buys it from them.

Balhincher said...

I think the danger of lead exposure from casting bullets is overblown. I've been making my own since college and am now poised to break into that SS lockbox we all hope is there and don't think I've suffered any brain damage from the process. (Some people would probably disagree.)
I've got a setup on my work bench with a discarded range hood that vents fumes to the outside. I believe this is more useful in getting rid of fumes generated by melting oily wheelweights and fluxing the metal than managing lead fumes. I believe most problems with workinig around lead come from the dust and particles getting on your hands and into your food rather than the fumes. At the temperatures used for bullet casting, alloys don't really produce much lead vapor. And not to be a nanny but a smoker already has something far worse for your health to worry about.
I would recommend getting a Lee electric lead pot rather than using a camp stove or other heat source. It is enough better to make it worth the additional cost. I prefer the one with the bottom pour spout, not for filling the mold but for emptying the pot when changing alloys or cleaning. Like any part of the shooting hobby you can easily and quickly accumulate enough gadgets and accessories to make the payback period extend well past the end of your life but absolute essentials are really not that costly. A Lee mold (best for the money), a lead dipper and lead pot are about all you have to have.
I would recommend visiting these two web sites for more information about cast bullets.
http://www.castbulletassoc.org/
http://castboolits.gunloads.com/

GuardDuck said...

I used to work in an auto body shop - the old painter was indeed goofier than Mickey's dog.

Will said...

Netpackrat had it right.
It's the paints that are the problem, not working with lead. My dad started in body work about 1943-44, and continued until a couple years before he died. Bondo was introduced about 1959.
Dupont came out with the first catalyzed auto paint late '60s or so. First (and only) time he sprayed it, he said hes arms felt weird for two weeks. After that, he refused to add the hardener to that enamel. He never used any of those two part paints again. He told me that every custom painter he knew all developed neurological problems, and died much younger than they should have. he outlived them all. Turns out you have to spray that stuff in a full space suit, since it can be absorbed through your skin, in addition to your lungs. He died at 82, and was self sufficient and driving until about 6 months before.

Will said...

I should add that he continued to use lead if a customer requested it, but charged double for the job. The factories used lead at least through the mid '60s, since I found lead on my untouched '65 Mustang when I did a paint job on it about '72. One of the cars I regret selling, (sigh).

og said...

There are still people selling equipment for reclaiming 22LR brasss as jackets for .223 ammo.

http://www.shootingtimes.com/ammunition/st_223short_200711/index.html

The Corbin die set seems to work well, and while they use lead wire i still wonder why you couldn't cast the lead right in the 22 shells and swage after.

Kristopher said...

og: lead wire is more consistent, and easier all around to deal with.

They do sell molds to cast blanks for corbin presses, for folks too cheap to buy the wire.

og said...

I'm all about cheap.

Netpackrat said...

Will: The cab of a '78 Chevy pickup I salvaged had lead in the windshield post in what I believe was a factory repair. I removed it with a torch, eliminated the surrounding rust, and replaced the lead when I was finished (the thickness needed was too much for Bondo). Since it is way more permanent than any plastic filler, I'm sure the factories only gave up lead when they were forced to by the EPA/OSHA. Not many people left who still know how to use it, and fewer still in my generation.