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Thread: wrinkles in round balls

  1. #1
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    wrinkles in round balls

    I finally had a few hours to kill so I decided to mold up 100 smoothbore rounds for myself and 100 for a friend. I molded mine yesterday, .678 using a Tanner mold. I had no problems at all, in fact the first ball was a keeper.

    Today I molded for my buddy. Everything was the same except I was using his new Moose Mold. The first 20 - 26 were so badly wrinkled I put them back in the pot. I was never able to eliminate the wrinkles, I did get some balls with no wrinkles but I couldn't ever completely eliminate the problem.

    Both days I was using soft sheet lead from the same sheets, a Lee 20 pound furnace, Rapine mold release, and I use a dipper. I preheated the molds both days for about 15 minutes before I started casting. I have no clue what the lead temp was but I did not change it from yesterday.

    Any Thoughts?

    Dan Mastin
    11th Indiana

  2. #2
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    Normally this is a too cool mould problem. However I had an anal friend one time who was hell bent for leather going to get his lead CLEAN. He skimmed it and skimmed it and skimmed it again until it was the purest silver lead you could ever find. But it would not cast without wrinkles, no way, no temperature-- hopeless. He came to my doorstep in frantic disconbobulation. I told him his lead was too clean -- dirty it up. That cured it.

  3. #3
    Bill w/Knaps is offline
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    Another trick is to dirty up the mold with candle soot. After you have the mold up to casting temperature hold the mold and candle such that the flame projects into the cavity for 10+ seconds to deposit soot inside. Just be careful not to allow the wax to drip into the mold.

  4. #4
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    I'm not familiar with Tanner molds, but the Moose Mold is aluminum.

    Aluminum conducts heat much better than steel or iron does, so it will leach the heat out of the molten lead much faster. This is why Lee (who also makes aluminum molds) advocates "smoking" their molds prior to use. The smoke is not so much a release agent as a thermal barrier between the lead and the mold. This allow you to get better drops faster until the mold heats up. The smoke is usually mostly gone from the cavities after the first dozen or so drops, but by then your mold should be up to temperature. I don't bother with smoking as it is not necessary with a preheated mold.

    Anyway, if you are getting wrinkly bullets, the solution is more heat. If you don't have one, get a bullet casting thermometer, and cast between 750-800F. Also I recommend pre-heating your molds so you don't waste time dropping batches of bad bullets until the mold heats up. I use a small backpacking stove to pre-heat my molds, but I've also used a blowtorch and an electric hot plate. In this way I get good drops from the start.

    You'll have a good idea that your mold is running at the right temperature by watching the sprue puddle as it solidifies. If it solidifies and frosts over almost instantly, your mold is too cold. It should take a few seconds for the puddle to solidify, and you should be able to watch it "suck down" into the mold just before it freezes up.

    Conversely, you can run your molds too hot, which can be seen by the puddle taking forever to solidify and sometimes when you knock the sprue plate molten lead goes flying, which is exciting.

    I try to cast two molds at the same time, letting one sit and solidify while I fill the next one, so that I'm never waiting for the mold to cool off and solidify and I don't get nasty surprises when striking open the mold.

    Adding tin to your lead will also help with fill-out issues, and the additional hardness should not be of any consequence for round balls. I cast my round balls out of wheel weight lead.

    Steve

  5. #5
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    As for the skimming issue that da Eggman speaks of - I have come to the conclusion that such skimming, and even "fluxing" is largely a waste of time.

    If you are casting pure lead (I buy my lead from a lead foundry that is chemically assayed as 99.97% pure), then there are no impurities to flux out of the melt. Even if there are impurities in your melt, most everything is less dense than lead and so will naturally float on top of the lead anyway.

    The surface of the lead, being molten-hot, reacts with the oxygen in the air to form lead oxide. This is the "crust" that forms on the surface of your melt. If you skim that off, all you are doing is exposing a fresh layer of pure lead to the air, which will oxidize also in turn. You could sit there and skim all day long until all the lead was gone from the pot if you wished - it's not going to change anything happening under the surface. All you're going is wasting lead. Some people go to the trouble to try and create a mechanical barrier by floating things like charcoal or kitty litter on top of the lead. I just let a skin form and leave it alone.

    Now when I do first get a full pot melted, I do stick a spoon in there and scrape the sides of the pot - as you empty the pot and the "water level" gets lower and lower sometimes lead oxide chunks get stuck to the side of the pot, and I don't want those possibly going "down the drain" of my bottom pour pot and stopping up the spout. So I give the sides a good scraping and then do one skim of the junk on the top of the pot. But I don't flux and I don't skim again until I re-fill the pot.

    I think most of the time when you "flux" the lead pot the resultant junk you see forming on the surface is just the charred remains of the flux. Also I think some fluxes, like beeswax, give the impression that they have done something because they can give a slight film the surface of the lead that can retard oxidation for a bit, until it burns off. So you might end up with a shiny exposed surface for a bit longer because of your flux.

    Even with wheel weight lead I don't bother fluxing. I haven't fluxed in over a year, I suppose.

    Steve

  6. #6
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    If the mold is new, it could be residual cutting fluid leaching out of the pores in the metal. Some recommend at least 3 complete heat cool cycles with good cleanings between to get all the oil/cutting fluid out. I couldn't swear it's the cutting fluid, but I have had problems with new molds that seem to go away after a while. Kinda like they have to get "Broke in".

  7. #7
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    Also, make sure you're pour rate is sufficient. Are you using a bottom pour lead pot or using a ladle? If you let the lead come out too slowly, it cools and that adds to the wrinkles.

    Everything everyone else said is also true, but pour rate is also important for consistent, smooth ammo.

    -Mike
    Mike 'Bootsie' Bodner
    Palmetto Sharpshooter's, Commander
    9996V

  8. #8
    Smokepole50 is offline
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    Brake Clean is a good prep for a new mold. It will wash all the cutting fluid out of the metal before you start casting.

    Everything oxidizes, even aluminum, and it happens faster when you heat it up. This thin oxide film helps with making smooth bullets and with releasing the bullets.

    Everyone thinks pure lead has to be used, it doesn't. Just a small amount of Tin in the mix goes a long ways towards mold fill out especially if you have grease grooves. With round balls for targets I would mix in some range scrap to get a better round ball free from wrinkles. Or buy some 40:1 or 30:1 alloy from Roto Metals and add a couple pounds to your melt so you have a little Tin in your alloy. For hunting, just buy cold swaged pure lead round balls from Hornady.

    Of course......Zinc in you alloy can cause issue as well but I don't think that's your problem.

  9. #9
    John Holland is offline Moderator
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    Check the pour-hole in the sprue plate, is it the same diameter as the mould with which you had no problems? If it is a smaller diameter just open up the hole for a better flow. A small hole won't permit the lead to enter the mould fast enough thereby causing wrinkles. Just a different thought....from personal experience.

  10. #10
    Smokepole50 is offline
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    Good point John......

    Swede Nelson at NOE said .180 was
    the smallest you could make the pour hole without having issues.

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