• Why make a melter ?

      After deciding to go ahead with casting I asked Google for instruction on how to melt lead for casting bullets, and was referred to FortuneCookie45LC on YouTube .

      He demonstrated how to use a Lee pot, and the Saeco, so I put a Lee melter on the shopping list.

      One of his instructional videos explains why the ingot casting is best done separately from the bullet casting. Further searches showed that ingot casting is best done with bigger melters than the Lee 20-pound pot.

      The source of lead for casting is scrap, and scrap is not always wheelweights, it could be lead pipe, sheeting, etc. These are irregular size and shape, and physically may not fit into a 20-pound Lee pot to be melted into ingots.

      So I added a bigger pot for scrap to the shopping list as well. Only problem is the biggest lead melter from Lee and RCBS is 20 pound capacity.

      I asked Google to show me lead scrap melting, and I noticed that most of the melting is done with a custom-made pot.

      I would have to make something to melt lead scrap, and if I was going to make a large one I could also make a small one. So I crossed the Lee off my list.

      The simplest melter would have been a cast iron or heavy stainless pot. Compared to dipping with a ladle, the bottom pour melters looked like a much easier job, and I prefer the easy jobs.

      It turned out for the price of a new 20-pound Lee pot, I was able to buy enough material to make two gas-powered lead burners.

      The large one for ingot casting has a 300 kg volume capacity, or 660 pounds. The small melter for casting into bullet moulds, has a volume capacity of 30 kg or 66 pounds of lead.

      The biggest cost items being the gas burners and heat-resistant paint, assuming you already own the necessary tools. Metal I scrounged from what I had lying around, and the rest bought as offcuts. The 75mm rock-wool was cheaper than the paint.

      The pages that follow document the project.

  • The Big Melter

      I couldn't find offcut pipe of sufficient diameter, so I selected the offcut steel plates closest to the size I though the melter should be.

      The steel box tested with water, to make sure it is watertight.

      Made from heavy guage steel tube , because the volume capacity of the melter is 300 kg, or 660 pounds. I don't expect to ever fill it with molten lead, but even 150kg / 330 pounds is substantial and needs proper support.

      The threaded bar here is 16mm diameter.

      The burner shown here is a low pressure double burner.

      The melter complete, ready for the test run.

  • Big Melter Test

      The test run served only to show what was wrong with the build, and what it needed to be able to work properly.

      I was using low pressure gas and a low pressure burner. The heat output was not enough to melt a large quantity of lead. After a couple of hours, all I ended up with was a small ingot of about 2 kg.

      Being outdoors in the wind, the melter was cooling off as fast as it was heating, so I would need more heat, and as insurance, insulate the melter to prevent it losing heat. The burner also needed a wind shield.

  • Big Melter Modifications

      A high pressure burner, T35.

      A 6 inch steel tube to shield the burner flame from the wind.

      Sides of the melter covered with 75mm rockwool, closed off behind 1.6mm plate steel.

      Adjustable feet , because melting outdoors the ground is never level and resting the ingot moulds on the frame caused the level of molten lead in the mould to follow the ground incline.

  • First Ingots

      After the burner modifications, I had the lead melted in 40 minutes, and ingots poured in around one hour from startup, from about 80 kg or 200 pounds of scrap.

      The insulation worked very well, and although most people don't insulate their melter, it proved useful to do so.

      After all the scrap was melted, the melter sprung a small leak in the welding around the nozzle, which started dripping onto the burner, so I turned off the gas. I was able to pour all these ingots with the burner off, and there was only about 1.5cm / 0.5 inch deep left in the melter before it cooled too much to flow.

  • The Small Melter

      Same principle as the big one, just a smaller box.

      A small version is preferred for pouring into moulds. Capacity is 30kg of lead, or 66 pounds, even half full it can pour a few hundred bullets depending on the weight.

      Base to hold the melter

      Small melter before insulation

      Small melter complete, insulated.

      The screw valve here is cut from a C-clamp. I had a 6" C-clamp with no foot on it, and it was easier to cut and weld than machine another taper on the lathe. Using a donor C-clamp is the easiest way to make a bottom pour valve using only a hand drill and some fine sandpaper.

  • Small Melter Test

      5 kg ingot melted in 20 minutes with the low pressure double ring burner. After the first melt there is a bit of lead left behind which will make the next melt quicker.

      Very surprisingly, the very first bullet cast attempt went unexpectedly well. Unexpected, because I was anticipating having a few trial and error cycles before I got anything that resembled a bullet.

      The Lee six-cavity mould was easier to work than the Lyman two-cavity, the bullets just drop from the Lee mould with barely a tap from the wooden mallet.

      The gas burner settings need some practice. After melting, one ring of the burner was turned off, and the second ring to half. The lead was a bit cold, the bullets have visible ripples and fold in them.

      Pouring control is good with the C-Clamp screw, it can pour and close within one quarter turn, and no leaks, over time the operator skill will improve. The sprues started a bit on the fat side, being the very first time attempting to cast bullets. After half an hour, the old muscles gained some pouring control, and the sprues were not gigantic.