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Discussion Starter #1
...with a Lee hardness tester?

I am new to casting, have all my stuff and molds for most of my Guns, and have melted my Collected WWs into ingots. I have about 70 lbs of ingots melted from stick on WWs that should be pure lead and about the same amount of ingots I melted from clip ons that should be harder.

I have a Lee Brinnell hardness tester but it seems From the instructions I have to use an actual buddet to test...

...Can I test an ingot before I start trying to cast bullets?
 
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I cant answer this. but it reminded me i need to get a harness tester. heck ive cast bullets for guns i dont even own....lol though they are on my shopping list.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I know the feeling! I have accumulated molds for Guns I don’t even own (yet)
 
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Short answer, no. You'll have to cast a bullet. However, there might be a way to learn the hardness of your lead. Look up "testing BHN with a lead pencil". I read enough about it to be dangerous but, evidently it is quite accurate.
 

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The Ole Gun Crank
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I have a Lee Brinnell hardness tester but it seems From the instructions I have to use an actual buddet to test...
.Can I test an ingot before I start trying to cast bullets?
I do. you can use the tester if the ingots are not too big.
I have found that it is pretty close to the finished product.
The ingot BHN was about 12.8..I added 1/2Lb of soft lead to the batch and the finished bullet was about 11 BHN.
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Discussion Starter #6
Dave, thanks for the pics, I’ve read and reread the instructions but I feel much better having seen your setup. Haven’t used the little microscope yet...but I heard it’s tough to use, is it?

I have two batches, one I know should be pure lead I got from melting stick on weights, it gouges with my thumbnail as you would expect soft lead to do, but I just got done melting down a big batch of clip ons, fluxed heavily with wax, but frankly it seems like they scratch with my fingernail just like the soft, I’m just curious to know before I actually start casting my first bullets. I’m planning on using the soft for my wife’s powder puff WC loads for her 2” J frame, I only get maybe 550 FPS with Hornady 148 HBWC now, I might add more powder next batch but probably won’t exceed 650-700. The harder stuff (if it is!)I plan to use for my loads for my J, My 9x18, my 9, .45 and my .45 Colt.
 
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The Ole Gun Crank
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From my experience water quench does give a little hardness.
I do not use the scope. Some practice with a set of calipers produce better results for me. Just for comparison
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Yes, do it all the time. As long as the ingot fits in the press between the ram and the probe, it works. I don't use the scope provided in the Lee kit, too much trouble. I use my magnifying visor and my dial calipers, with a good strong light. I can measure the indent fairly accurately and I get a good reading to check against the chart. Using a home BHN tster wil get you close, but not up to laboratory/foundry standards, and that's OK. I use a lot of 12 BHN (which is probably more like 10 or 11 to 13 BHN), but that's my measurement and it works quite well for me (32 ACP up to 45 Colt, all styles, all velocities)...
 

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However, there might be a way to learn the hardness of your lead. Look up "testing BHN with a lead pencil". I read enough about it to be dangerous but, evidently it is quite accurate.
I got this info on pencil testing from a website that deals in cast boollits.

6B = Pure lead, about 5 BHN
5B
4B
3B = 1in20 tin/lead alloy, age softened, about 10 BHN
2B
B
HB = Lyman no 2 alloy, about 15 BHN
H = Linotype, supposedly about 22 BHN, but that seems high
2H
3H
4H

If you can get your hardness tester to work on the ingots, you have it made.
 

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Dave, thanks for the pics, I’ve read and reread the instructions but I feel much better having seen your setup. Haven’t used the little microscope yet...but I heard it’s tough to use, is it?

I have two batches, one I know should be pure lead I got from melting stick on weights, it gouges with my thumbnail as you would expect soft lead to do, but I just got done melting down a big batch of clip ons, fluxed heavily with wax, but frankly it seems like they scratch with my fingernail just like the soft, I’m just curious to know before I actually start casting my first bullets. I’m planning on using the soft for my wife’s powder puff WC loads for her 2” J frame, I only get maybe 550 FPS with Hornady 148 HBWC now, I might add more powder next batch but probably won’t exceed 650-700. The harder stuff (if it is!)I plan to use for my loads for my J, My 9x18, my 9, .45 and my .45 Colt.
Wheel weights and similar alloys are usually soft enough to scratch with a thumb nail. Pure lead is soft enough to indent with a thumbnail by pushing the nail straight in to the lead, you generally can't dent a wheel weight with your thumb nail by pushing it straight in even though if you drag your nail across it it will scratch it. Granted you can't tell the brinnell hardness with a thumb nail because not everyone's thumb nails are the same hardness, but you can get a good indication if it is soft enough to cast muzzle loading and cap n ball revolver bullets using the "rule of thumb". Pardon the bad pun. :)

Something that is also important to using cast lead bullets is proper sizing, if the bullet is too small or too large for the gun, you are going to have lead fouling regardless of the hardness.
 

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I do. you can use the tester if the ingots are not too big.
I have found that it is pretty close to the finished product.
The ingot BHN was about 12.8..I added 1/2Lb of soft lead to the batch and the finished bullet was about 11 BHN.
View attachment 235670 View attachment 235672
I did not know that so I stand corrected. I have the Saeco tester because it's so easy to use but you must have a bullet. I wrongly assumed the Lee was similar.
 
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The Ole Gun Crank
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Sorry Sharps didnt mean to step on you.
I could never use my thumb nail with my whimpie thin nail, they split and break too easy.
if you know the material you are mixing its pretty easy to get within a hardness range. But i still like some where between 11and 15Bhn so far that works for the loads I shoot.
 

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Been casting since 1973 and NEVER worried about the exact hardness. I knew that wheel weights plus a little Sn/Pb solder gave me bullets that worked from .45 Auto to hot .44 Rem Mag loads without leading. This alloy also worked well in rifles, where I used gas checks for velocities over about 1600-1700 fps without leading.
Can you check lead hardness? Yes. Look up pencil testing of lead hardness.
Hardness Reference
Pencil BHN Common Alloys
7B 4 pure & sheet lead
6B 5 lead wire
5B 7-8 40:1 (Pb:Sb), Remington Golden Bullet 22LR
4B 9 25:1, Many types of 22LR
3B 10 20:1, WW, My Casts
2B 11-12 Range Scrap
B 13
HB 14-15 Lyman #2, 1:1 Linotype
F 16-18 Commercial cast bullets
H 20-22 linotype/WW, linotype

You can go to
https://www.artfulbullet.com/index.php?threads/alloy-calculator.5196/
and download a lead alloy calculator.
Description Tin % Antimony % Arsenic % Copper % Silver % Lead % Weight (lbs) Hardness
40:1 2.44% 0% 0% 0% 0% 97.6%
Brinell 8
30:1 3.23% 0% 0% 0% 0% 96.8%
Brinell 9
25:1 3.85% 0% 0% 0% 0% 96.2%
Brinell 9
20:1 4.76% 0% 0% 0% 0% 95.2%
Brinell 10
16:1 5.88% 0% 0% 0% 0% 94.1%
Brinell 11
10:1 9.09% 0% 0% 0% 0% 90.9%
Brinell 12

Pure Antimony 0% 100.00% 0% 0% 0% 0.0%
Brinell 50
Chilled Shot 0% 2.00% 0.625% 0% 0% 97.4%
Brinell 10
Magnum Shot (6 or 9) 0% 4.00% 1.25% 0% 0% 94.8%
Brinell 13
Magnum Shot (7 - 8.5) 0% 6.00% 1.25% 0% 0% 92.8%
Brinell 13
Antimonial Lead 0% 5.00% 0% 0% 0% 95.0%
Brinell 13
Rotometals Super Hard 0% 30.00% 0% 0% 0% 70.0%
Brinell 36

40/60 Solder 40.00% 0% 0% 0% 0% 60.0%
Brinell 15
50/50 Solder 50.00% 0% 0% 0% 0% 50.0%
Brinell 14
60/40 Solder 60.00% 0% 0% 0% 0% 40.0%
Brinell 16
63/37 Solder 63.00% 0% 0% 0% 0% 37.0%
Brinell 17
Pewter 92.50% 6.00% 0% 1.50% 0% 0.0%
Brinell 23
Lead Free 95/5 Solder (Cu) 95.00% 0% 0% 5.00% 0% 0.0%
Brinell 15
Lead Free 95/5 Solder (Sb) 95.00% 5.00% 0% 0% 0% 0.0%
Brinell 15
Lead Free 95/5 Solder (Ag) 96.00% 0% 0% 0% 4.00% 0.0%
Brinell 15
Pure Tin 100.00% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0% 0.0625 Brinell 7

Electrotype 2.50% 2.50% 0% 0% 0% 95.0%
Brinell 11
Linotype 4.00% 12.00% 0% 0% 0% 84.0%
Brinell 19
Stereotype 6.00% 14.00% 0% 0% 0% 80.0%
Brinell 23
Monotype 9.00% 19.00% 0% 0% 0% 72.0%
Brinell 26
Foundrytype 15.00% 23.00% 0% 0% 0% 62.0%
Brinell 30

Pure Lead 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100.0% 10 Brinell 5
Stick On Wheel Weight 0.25% 0% 0% 0% 0% 99.8%
Brinell 6
Range Lead (avg.) 0.17% 1.00% 0% 0% 0% 98.8%
Brinell 10
Clip On Wheel Weight 0.50% 3.00% 0.25% 0% 0% 96.3% 10 Brinell 12
Isotope Lead (lg. cores) 1.00% 3.00% 0% 0% 0% 96.0%
Brinell 11
Isotope Lead (ingots) 2.50% 2.50% 0% 0% 0% 95.0%
Brinell 11
Lyman No. 2 5.00% 5.00% 0% 0% 0% 90.0%
Brinell 15
Hardball Alloy 2.00% 6.00% 0% 0% 0% 92.0%
Brinell 16

Water quench: Just note that the bearing surface, after sizing, drops back in hardness.
Worry more about FIT and lube and less about some mystical "hardness".
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Can`t help, but nice to see your still out there Polish.
:cheers:
LTS! Long time gone! How have you been? I was hoping some old time plank holders were still around!
 
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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Well I finally got around to using the Lee tester, and I missed the small print under the chart which says you CAN test ingots if it fits in the press. It does say to test a side that actually touched the mold.

It was funny that when I tested both of my samples it was very easy to “feel” the difference in softness just applying the initial force needed on the handle to after first contact with the ball to get to the correct pressure you had to maintain for 30 seconds.

The microscope took some time to get used to, and the gradations were tough to read against the shiny lead, I had to play with the light. I think the pressure applied to my ingots is not directly vertical due to the odd size of my muffin pan molds.

But the clip on WW holes measured .062 which according to the chart should be 13.4 BHN or thereabouts. It was much easier to check, possibly because the muffin tin I used was larger than the others so I can tell them apart.

The stick on WWs sample measured anywhere from .096 to.100+ I used mini muffin pans for those had trouble getting the impression and I got a lot of distortion so the holes were tough to measure. But in any event the Lee chart only goes to like .079 (8bhn)so its “off the chart” soft.

It only says “.094 or larger is suitable for muzzleloading.” So I guess stick ons are definitely “pure lead.”

I think I have to rethink using the pure lead for low velocity .38 Wadcutters, or else maybe combine some of it maybe 50/50 with the harder stuff. I have about 70 lbs of each in ingots but I don’t need to cast so much for my muzzleloaders, the only other use I will have for the soft stuff may be 12 ga slugs or buckshot.
 

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I think I have to rethink using the pure lead for low velocity .38 Wadcutters, or else maybe combine some of it maybe 50/50 with the harder stuff. I have about 70 lbs of each in ingots but I don’t need to cast so much for my muzzleloaders, the only other use I will have for the soft stuff may be 12 ga slugs or buckshot.
There is always the option of trading your soft lead to a BP shooter for their harder wheel weight lead that they don't want to shoot in a muzzleloader.
 
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