Lead Processing

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Andrew Robinson
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Lead Processing

Post by Andrew Robinson » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:30 am

Made some connections through an old colleague and got access to several TONS of lead for FREE! This is just the second of many loads and a few pictures of what has already been processed. Most of it is raw 1/4" - 1/2" sheet. Incredibly heavy as you can imagine. Most of this will be going towards some custom castings for some specific shielding applications for our research, however, we are going to have SO MUCH left over! Been processing initial raw ingots now for a few weeks. Will ultimately be casting stack-able bricks with whats left over. Once we get a new shielding block built, the rest of the bricks I will probably sell at a REALLY good price. Just enough to cover labor for transport, reclamation, casting, etc. I may bring a good number of them to HEAS so keep that in mind if you are attending this year (Bring money, space in car, and load considerations for your vehicle). This is pure lead pulled from research laboratory used specifically for shielding. Not wheel weight junk lead.
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Here is the second of many loads. This was the max we could transport in one trip. This actually bottomed out the back of my truck.
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These were from the first test load. We have been using the molds from our lead pigs to make these initial cylindrical ingots. This is just to process the raw lead lead initially into an easily manageable form factor. From these, we'll cast useful shielding blocks.
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More of the initial load stacked up on a small dolly. This is quickly maxing out these small wooden dollies.
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Andrew Robinson
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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Andrew Robinson » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:33 pm

We spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday processing all the heavy chunks. Decided to go with larger brick ingots right away to save time. Pretty nice weather here in Raleigh for some smelting. Blue skies, light breeze, shady spot under the tree with an ice cold beer while the furnace does the work. Fairly pleasant afternoon. Made a pretty good dent in the second load too. Each brick ingot we cast is about 33lbs in weight according to the math. Total, we processed about 720+ lbs of lead yesterday in one sitting. Not too shabby! MUCH MORE TO GO...
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Went by the machine shop the night before and quickly hand milled some 6061 to make a quick brick ingot mold. Not perfectly efficient, but as a last minute solution the night before, this worked out really well.
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Pile outside mid day.
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Side view of brick stack. Poor little dolly...
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Top view of brick stack.
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Still a lot left in current pile.
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Richard Hull
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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:33 am

As a bullet caster and low melting alloy producer, I have worked with lead, cadmium, tin, zinc, and antimony a good bit. It is definitely an outside effort when melting and casting any of these heavy metals. I am glad to hear you did the right thing especially when working with such large surface areas in the melt and cast. After many years at it, I drool continuously in small amounts and the tremors are bearable. I forget a lot, too. (just kiding)

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Rex Allers » Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:21 am

Andrew,
Interesting HEAVY project you are undertaking. Looks like eventual completion is a lead brick cinch. What are you using to melt all this stuff? Is it a home-brew furnace or something commercial? Gas fired?

I wouldn't mind getting some clean lead but being on the west coast, I think I'll just watch from afar. I have received a couple test proofs of "if it fits it ships", but if that could work I'm not sure I would want to punish my local USPS guy at that extreme.

Richard, was that a reference to lead poisoning symptoms? I was trying to think of a clever "mad as a hatter"-type reference but nothing came to me.
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Andrew Robinson
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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Andrew Robinson » Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:02 pm

Hahaha, yup you know me Richard. I always use an abundance of caution in everything I do.
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Mostly for toxins burning off from glue and other nasty stuff, but there was quite a bit of lead dust that was initially stirred up as well. Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.
Rex, currently I use a high volume gas burner with a large (deep) cast iron dutch oven that you can find at most camping suppliers. This gives a large enough volume to fully fill several very large ladles which allows us to cast large objects. We currently use two 6" diameter ladles. This is about as large as you want to go. Anything larger and it becomes so heavy that its difficult to handle and pour. The burner runs off propane. We can get several hours (8+) on a single tank. The melt time is exceptional too with the exception of the beginning of the day when everything is cold. Once up to temp, the process is very quick. As for shipping, yeah that is going to be tough... This stuff is difficult enough as it is just moving it a few feet across the room. I think I will probably stick to dealing locally. Sorry.
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Bayou classic works fantastic! I may look into building my own super burner soon though.
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Richard Hull
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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:35 pm

Rex, yes, I was being humourous about the symptoms of heavy metals poisoning.

I, like Andrew, do wear a proper filtered mask to breathe in and around a melt, even outdoors. The vapor pressures of particularly, cadmium, zinc and lead, in that order, are high enough that theycan cause serious long term effects.

I have ordered large amounts of lead in the form of 25 pound sacks of reclaimed shot from Rotometals who offer free shipping of same if the order exceeds $100. A hundred bucks buys a lot of lead! I suppliment my lead orders of 50 lbs with Lyman #2 bullet alloy that Rotometals also kindly mixes up for me or anyone, actually. I used to have to melt into existence this special bullet alloy, but Rotometals now saves me that task.

Rex noted "if it fits it ships".. Silly USP! I got a 50 lb order of shot in a single rather small USP prioity box that was covered with nylon filament tape. The postman would not deliver it to the house as it was too heavy. I took the pink slip to my local post office and they brought it out on a hand truck. The rectangular box had, in shipping, assumed the shape of a small mellon!! Thank goodness for that half roll of filament tape!

I find that lead shielding need not be cast up! A good heavy wooden box of the correct desired dimensions can be filled with the tiny #7 shot which rotometals ships, avoiding the need for melting. Actually, the shot is not graded as it is reclaimed. I asume it is reclaimed from shotgun ranges. The shot ranges from #7 through #9 in size, but is small enough to not allow any significant air space voids between shot pellets in large dimensional thicknesses.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Andrew Robinson » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:54 pm

Richard Hull wrote: A good heavy wooden box of the correct desired dimensions can be filled with the tiny #7 shot
Yeah I have done similar solutions in the past. Its a somewhat hackish solution though and there is always the possibility of breaks and spills. Casting custom solid shapes in my opinion is always the best and most professional solution if you have the capability.

I'll have to bookmark Rotometals. Looks fairly reasonable for pre-processed lead.
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Re: Lead Processing

Post by Rex Allers » Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:42 pm

On USPS packages, I ordered a bunch of Corian counter top cutoff scraps from ebay to use as insulators and whatever. That came in one Priority box and survived only by strong tape. The mail guy delivered the heavy box to my door and asked what was inside.

For lead, I ordered two 50 lb rolls of lead flashing (0.050" thick). That should serve my immediate shielding needs and should not be difficult to wrap around any sturdy form or device. I can't remember if they came by USPS. They may have. I do remember that something resembling a package only remained due to strong tape.
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