Easy case annealing

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by JLA, Jun 27, 2011.

  1. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    I have been meaning to do a thread on a simple means of case annealing for some time now. Finally got around to it.

    Tools required:

    A propane torch
    A Lee case length guage & lock ring for the caliber being annealed
    A Lee trimmer & drill stud
    A Hi speed hand drill

    I included the case length guage and trimmer not only because you have to buy them to get the lock ring and drill stud, but also because I trim and anneal at the same time.

    I did 50 .308 cases here and it took me about 30 minutes start to finish. So its relatively quick and simple.

    so here we go...
  2. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    First, get everything set up.

    I like to sit the torch in the floor at my feet just off to the side of my chair.

    Load the brass case into the drill stud and lock it down. Rotate the case at full speed in the drill and stick the neck into the flame. It just takes a couple seconds to anneal so you gotta pay close attention. Watch the flame coming off the casemouth and pull the case when the flame turns orange (approxiamtely 3-4 seconds). I then insert the caselength guage and trimmer and trim them to minimum spec. After trimming i unlock them from the drill stud and set them aside. Dont worry they are suprisingly cool for just having spent 4 seconds in a 2500 degree flame..

    Attached Files:

  3. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    Ill admit there is somewhat of an art to this method in that you dont have a thermometer, or an jig to automatically reproduce the same results time after time, or anything like that. So ill show you guys the 'orange flag' again. The 'Orange Flag' tells you its done annealing and any longer and you will scorch the case and make the neck brittle, thus ruining it.

    Note the orange flame coming just off the casemouth. it will only do this just as the case starts to glow red and it is the exact moment you want to remove the case from the flame.

    Attached Files:

  4. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    It takes just a little practice to get the hang of it and once you do your cases will last longer and look just like factory annealed brass..

    Attached Files:

  5. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    Oh yeah. and it helps to have a helper when you reload. ;)

    This little guy is always pulling the press handle for me and helping me sort cases.

    Attached Files:

  6. American Leader

    American Leader Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2011
    Way to go JLA! However, I read an article about this that stated any exposure to temp of 950 degrees or over for any amount of time made the brass too soft and dangerous. Are you sure you're hitting 2500 degrees? Here's the article where I read this, maybe I misunderstood.

  7. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2006
    Getting the case hotter won't make it brittle, only softer.
  8. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    I turn them in the flame just until the mouth begins to turn cherry then remove it. If you watch an induction annealing process or a commercial furnace conveyor like the factories use they all are using different methods to get the same end result. The case mouth just starts to glow when the case is pulled away from the heat and set aside to cool or water quenched.

    Im NOT heating the cases to 2500 degrees thats just my guess at the approximate temp of the map gas flame. Which is a tad low. Its actually alot closer to 4000 degrees farenheit according to wiki.

    The cases are prolly getting to somewhere between 200 and 300 degrees below the shoulder as I can handle them long enough to take them out of the lock stud after annealing. The mouth is the only part that even comes close to glowing red. Which is exactly what you want. Some folks quench with water, I only quench small cases like .223s. The bigger cases I air cool.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
  9. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    Correct you are Bill, I 'wiki'd' it to confirm. I find the end result is the same. If I burn a case they will split out on the next firing. I first started trying my hand at annealing with .30-06 cases. I scorched them big time. I held them to the heat til the entire neck and shoulder were cherry red. 40 out of the 50 split from mid case body to mouth on the next firing. I was disappointed to say the least. It was Nosler custom brass..:(
  10. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA

    Why not use the temperature sensitive paints to assure you never get above the temperature that hurts the brass. It is said to be a narrow band of temperature of less than about 50 degrees or so (?) that is "correct" for proper annealing without ruining the brass. See the article below from http://www.6mmbr.com/annealing.html:

    The problem with winging the temperature is that a subtle grain change occurs at higher temps that reduced the strength of the brass significantly according to the article (??).


    Optimal Case Temperatures for Successful Annealing

    Brass is an excellent conductor of heat. A flame applied at any point on a case for a short time will cause the rest of the case to heat very quickly. There are several temperatures at which brass is affected. Also, the time the brass remains at a given temperature will have an effect. Brass which has been "work hardened" (sometimes referred to as "cold worked") is unaffected by temperatures (Fahrenheit) up to 482 degrees (F) regardless of the time it is left at this temperature. At about 495 degrees (F) some changes in grain structure begins to occur, although the brass remains about as hard as before--it would take a laboratory analysis to see the changes that take place at this temperature.

    The trick is to heat the neck just to the point where the grain structure becomes sufficiently large enough to give the case a springy property, leaving the body changed but little, and the head of the case virtually unchanged.

    If cases are heated to about 600 degrees (F) for one hour, they will be thoroughly annealed--head and body included. That is, they will be ruined. (For a temperature comparison, pure lead melts at 621.3 degrees F).

    The critical time and temperature at which the grain structure reforms into something suitable for case necks is 662 degrees (F) for some 15 minutes. A higher temperature, say from 750 to 800 degrees, will do the same job in a few seconds. If brass is allowed to reach temperatures higher than this (regardless of the time), it will be made irretrievably and irrevocably too soft.

    Brass will begin to glow a faint orange at about 950 degrees (F). Even if the heating is stopped at a couple of hundred degrees below this temperature, the damage has been done--it will be too soft. From this discussion we can see that there are four considerations concerning time and temperature:

    1. Due to conduction, the amount of heat necessary to sufficiently anneal the case neck is great enough to ruin the rest of the case.

    2. If the case necks are exposed to heat for a sufficient period of time, a lower temperature can be used.

    3. The longer the case necks are exposed to heat, the greater the possibility that too much heat will be conducted into the body and head, thereby ruining the cases.

    4. The higher the temperature, the less time the case necks will be exposed to heat, and there will be insufficient time for heat to be conducted into the body and head.

    You can see that there are a couple of Catch-22s involved in this annealing business. On the one hand, the brass conducts heat quite rapidly, and a fairly high temperature with sufficient time must be attained to do the job. On the other hand, too much time cancels the effect, and we will be left with a case that is too soft and not suitable for anything but scrap. Obviously, there must be a solution; otherwise, not even the cartridge manufacturers could do it right.
  11. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    Tempilaq would be a good thing to use if youre just starting out. But once you get a feel for it and you establish a routine and know what you are lookin for it isnt necessary IMO. I have been annealing this way for a couple years now and havnet screwed any cases up since that first batch of .30-06s, well and the first time i did .223s. Thats when i decided .223s and other small cases need quenching..
  12. garydude

    garydude Member

    Excellent post Josh! Thanks for helping the masses understand annealing.

    BTW, your little one is as cute as they come.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  13. Marlin T

    Marlin T Well-Known Member

    Jul 8, 2005
    New Mexico
    JLA, that last picture is the best :)
  14. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

    Jan 11, 2010
    JLA, thanks for posting this .. i'm gonna rip it off and PDF it and put it in the reloading section for all the want to reload folks

    cheers and well done eh
  15. gdmoody

    gdmoody Moderator Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Athens, Georgia
    Here are a couple of silly questions and ones I should probably know the answer to . . . . but . . . what is the benefit of annealing the case neck? And is only the neck that gets annealed?
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