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Published on Dec 24, 2011
Some techniques for sorting out Lead from Zinc, and Steel wheel weights for bullet casting. There are numerous ways to sort.
While I prefer pre-sorting other alternatives are to carefully control your melt as not to exceed the melting temperature of zinc. Once the lead is molten the zinc and steel will float on the surface and can be skimmed off.
Some useful techniques for testing during hand sorting include cutting with cross cutters or dikes to test softness. Lead will be soft, zinc and steel will be very hard.
Another method shows in tapping the wheel weight on a hard object. Lead will have a dull thud while zinc and steel will ring.
Zinc contamination will result in poor mold fillout and a lumpy looking melt. Once Zinc has alloyed into your lead there is no removing it. You can only dillute it with more lead or ditch it and start over.
Once you sort enough you will also learn to ID them visually but still use the above listed methods for questionable wheel weights. Once sorted you can then safely smelt, clean, flux, then pour your lead into useful sized ingots. More modern lead wheel weights don't contain as much tin as they used to so you may need to add tin to your melting pot when casting bullets. A good cheap source of tin is pewter from thrift stores and yard sales or solder. Tin is the key to nice mold fillout and good looking bullets.
Your final bullet should be mostly lead with small amounts of antimony and tin. I have found that smelting with a wood fire is most cost effective for me but many people melt lead with propane stoves and turkey fryers, others with electric pots but those are often limited in capacity.
be sure to wear plenty of safety gear and keep moisture away from your molten lead. Moisture can cause catastrophic and highly dangerous explosions with molten lead everywhere. Heavy gloves, etc.
The fumes from lead at these temperature is not a concern but you should be very careful with the fumes from all the wheel weight filth and contaminates burning off. Cleaning wheel weights with a hose can be dangerous if they have not compeltely dried prior to smelting. If you must melt wet lead then put it in the pot prior to applying heat, this will allow the heat to evaporate and dry the lead.
Lead poisoning is a very serious concern. Keep children away from your lead and don't eat or touch your face while working.
Lead wheel weights are mostly phased out at this point but many garages have old buckets of them laying around. Inquire, you have nothing to lose!