Your TMA Officers and Board of Directors
Support the TMA! ~ Traditional Muzzleloaders ~ The TMA is here for YOU!
*** JOIN in on the TMA 2021 POSTAL MATCH *** it's FREE for ALL !

Postal Match Scoreboard >>> April * May * June * July * August * September * October

For TMA related products, please check out the new TMA Store !

For smartphone and tablet users, a TMA mobile theme is available!



Author Topic: Running Balls  (Read 1107 times)

Online RobD

  • TMA Admin
  • ****
  • Posts: 3049
  • TMA President & TMA Contributing Member
Running Balls
« on: March 27, 2019, 07:24:02 AM »
There are probably as many reasons for casting your muzzleloader's balls as there are for not bothering with that "chore" and just buying a box of swagged balls from Hornady or whomever.  But, even if you only get to the range or afield just a few times a year, casting balls can be as much apart of the experience of traditional muzzleloading as the shooting part.  The same can be said for making powder horns, ball boards, ramrods, guns, knives, period utensils and clothing, etc.  It's the historic aspect along with the personal satisfaction of DIY.

It can be really Really REALLY cheap to cast balls for your gun(s) by just buying a mould and using a large spoon to melt range lead over a good campfire.  That's period primitive, for sure.  The next step up is to eliminate the campfire and use a small and cheap electric ladle furnace.   The other end of the casting spectrum involves a large and costly PID furnace, along with sundry casting accoutrements.  The in between of all these is a small 8lb to 10lb ladle furnace, lead ladle, and of course, a mould.  No matter what casting gear is used, a pair of gloves and eye protection are mandatory.

Lotta good ways to cast, here's what I do for casting .575 pure lead balls for a smoothbore. 



I cast for both traditional muzzleloader balls and BPCR .45-70 and .40-65 grease groove and paper patched bullets.  For muzzleloader balls I use a small 8lb Lyman furnace and lead from Roto-Metals (online).  The ladle is a Lyman, the aluminum double ball mould is from Lee Loading.  A furnace thermometer isn't absolutely essential, but it takes the guesswork out of knowing when the lead is at the right temperature for casting.  I also use a dollar store hard rubber mallet to whack the mould and sprue.

I use a pair of hefty leather gloves, safety glasses, heavy denim apron, leather boots, long pants and long sleeve shirt, all for protection.  I made a "casting station" by rigging a large vent fan to a basement window.  This fan sucks out all the fumes and smoke Fast and allows me to cast indoors.  Without really good ventilation, casting Must be done outdoors.

The mould and ladle are left on the rim of the pot to heat up as the lead melts.  I double up a #64 rubber band on the ends of the mould handle to keep a constant pressure on the mould halves, to insure good castings.

When the lead has melted, I put a 1/4 teaspoon of sawdust, or a pea sized piece of beeswax, into the pot as flux, stir, then skim off any of the slag with a spoon.

At 700F to 750F I begin casting and check to see the balls drop mirror shiny and smooth.  If not, back in the pot, check the lead temperature, allow the mould to reheat, try again.  By waiting until the pot comes up to temperature I can usually drop good balls on the first cast.

Balls are dropped on a soft, folded all COTTON towel - any synthetic material will melt!

After the last ball drops, I fill the mould up and let it cool.  The mould is not opened, the ball is not removed and remains in the mould.  When the mould is cold, it gets wrapped tightly in Glad "Press'n Seal" - this eliminates having to oil the mould to preserve it, and no de-oiling for the next casting session ... just unwrap the Press'n Seal, open the mould and remove the balls - ready to heat up for casting!

 [ Invalid Attachment ]

The cast balls are weighed to make sure they're within +/- half to one grain, put in a plastic baggie with a few squirts of WD-40 to keep from oxidizing, or used to immediately load a ball board.

Offline Lonewolfe20

  • TMA Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
  • TMA Member: Member # 757 Expires 7/25/2020, Member & State Representative.
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2019, 08:58:01 AM »
Great write up
Iíve never heard of leaving the mold full and wrapping it
Iíll be excited to cast a little this year and try that
NRA Member
State Representative for South Dakota, contact me for more SD info
TMA #757

Online rollingb

  • TMA BoD
  • ****
  • Posts: 6464
  • TMA Founder
  • TMA: Founder
  • TMA Member: TMA Charter Member#6
  • Location: Northwest KS
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2019, 09:35:45 AM »
 :hairy That's pretty much how I do it too.  :hairy

Sans the protective eye-wear, and extra clothing, though I DON'T recommend casting without either of those (but I do it anyway :)).

My casting "set-up" consists of a LOT of molds I've accumulated over the 50 years I've been casting, and two 20 lb. melting pots.
One pot for casting pure lead balls, and one pot for casting hardened balls and bullets out of wheel weights.

I use a 1" oak dowel (wrapped with rawhide) to gently "whack" the the sprue cutter and again to "tap" the hinge of my mold handles to knock a stubborn ball from the mold's cavity (whenever needed).

I cast outside (on my deck) since I don't have a ventilation system set up in the house, and sometimes run a 24" shop fan for "cross-ventilation" when casting without a natural "breeze" to move the fumes.

I often find it difficult to stop casting once I "get going",.... maybe Rob has experienced this very same "problem".  :) :bl th up :laffing

I buy my pure lead from "foundry over-runs" when their government contracts have been met, and they have extra lead ingots left over.

I agree with Rob 100%,.... when he says "But, even if you only get to the range or afield just a few times a year, casting balls can be as much apart of the experience of traditional muzzleloading as the shooting part.  The same can be said for making powder horns, ball boards, ramrods, guns, knives, period utensils and clothing, etc.  It's the historic aspect along with the personal satisfaction of DIY."

I should be casting today, since the weatherman is predicting a "high" of 77 degrees,.... but I'm still trying to catch up on some other things I've put off due to winter.
"An honest man is worth his weight in gold"
For only $1.25 per-month, you too can help preserve our traditional muzzleloading heritage.
TMA Founder
TMA Charter Member #6

Online Bigsmoke

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3686
  • TMA: Charter Member #150
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2019, 01:33:21 PM »
I don't know, I never have really enjoyed casting round ball.

But

Back in the early 1970's, my wife gave me a T/C Renegade for my birthday.  About the same time, my next door neighbor bought one as well.  So, I went down to the local big gun shop to equip myself.  Came away with the T/C kit (20 maxi balls, short starter, powder measure and the T/C bullet lube), a capper, a pound of powder and a tin of caps.  Went up into the mountains to a friend's place and we broke that ol' T/C in.  It didn't take a real long time to go through those 20 Maxis.  So, that week I again made the trek to the gun shop and asked for more bullets.  The only thing they had to offer was the T/C Kit.  Well, heck, I opined, I'm gonna wind up with a whole bunch of pieces and parts.  So, I left. 

Over beers that evening, my friend and I decided that the best thing we could do was to equip ourselves with a .530 mold, a casting pot and a ladle.  Somewhere along the line, we decided that since round ball was not readily available, maybe we should go into business for ourselves and start casting commercially.  Yeah, (snicker, snicker)  cast commercially with single cavity molds?  Whatever.  So, starting with .530, we outfitted ourselves with .440, .490, .451 etc. sized molds and started melting lead.  We started going to various local rendezvous and set up a table and did pretty good selling round ball.  After a couple of years, Linda and i got out of Dodge and moved to N. Idaho and supposedly left lead casting behind.  My plan was to never cast another ball for the rest of my life.  As they say, "Man plans - God laughs!!!"

By this time, we had acquired October Country and we were developing it nearly to the level I envisioned.  Somewhere along the line, we had started getting inquiries as to whether or not we would carry Minie Balls.  Enough that I decided that we should start making them.  So, I bought a Lyman furnace, got a ladle and so forth.  And once a week, I would stay home and make some Minnies at the house.  That worked pretty good.

Then after a while, we started in with the big bore rifles.  So, I got some Jeff Tanner moulds in .610, .678, .715, .820 and .980.  I kept doing that until we sold OC in 2005.  And this time I sold the moulds, and again said I am through with casting.  So far, so good.  With no moulds and the furnace securely tucked away, I think the odds are pretty good that I can keep my promise.  Plus with Hornady and Speer round balls in .530 so available, I cannot think of a single reason to try to find my furnace again.  Actually, with the supply of r/b's that I have on hand, no doubt I have a life time supply already.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
John
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest Up to God.

BigSmoke - John Shorb
TMA Charter Member #150  
NRA - Life
Coeur d'Alene Muzzleloaders - Life

Offline prairie dog

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 798
  • TMA Member: Contributing Member #678
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2019, 04:54:40 PM »
I don't get too sophisticated about it.

I fire up the fish cooker.
 [ Invalid Attachment ]

Toss some of this in the pot.
 [ Invalid Attachment ]

Put on my welding gloves and make a bunch of these.

 [ Invalid Attachment ]  
Steve Sells

Offline prairie dog

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 798
  • TMA Member: Contributing Member #678
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2019, 04:57:47 PM »
And my balls shoot true because they have X-ray vision.
Steve Sells

Offline Uncle Russ

  • TMA BoD
  • ****
  • Posts: 7247
  • TMA Founder. Walk softly & carry a big Smoothbore!
  • TMA Member: Founder / Charter Member #004 Expires 8/12/2022
  • Location: Columbia Basin, Washington State
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2019, 05:06:59 PM »
Do I enjoy casting? Absolutely!
I also believe that safety should be foremost in everyone's mind when doing this....this can't be overstressed.
I have been casting for a bit over six decades, and I have been witness to several ugly mishaps that could have been prevented.

I cast for every gun I own, and I also own a few modern guns, along with all my Muzzleloaders.
Casting is a hobby all on its own, having the guns to shoot all the stuff in is nothing short of a blessing.
As I have so often said, "It adds a whole 'nother dimension to your shootin game'.

Here is a picture of just some of my molds.
In the lower left corner of the picture is a square looking thing known as a gang mold... six .530 round ball, per side. Once I have everything set up just right with my mold and melt at that just right temperature, I can turn a 20# pot of lead into round balls in just a matter of minutes.
I totally agree that whether you're using a Single Cavity, a DC, or a Gang Mold, you have to establish that "rhythm" with your movements before everything just falls into place....but I believe that's especially true with a Single Cavity. At least for me.

Much like Rob and others, I also drop on a soft folded towel, although I do wet that towel and wring it out good before folding it on the bench to drop on....unless I'm water dropping, then the 5gal. water bucket is located 2 steps behind me and to my left. My "knocker" is the sawed off handle of an old shovel, and trust me it has knocked a few sprues in its lifetime.

In the right lower corner of the upright shelving is a 3' x 3" wooden box with 3 drawers (with little white knobs) that box has most all of my SAECO, Lyman and RCBS molds in it.....although I do have a dozen or so with dedicated handles most of these better molds are in these drawers...these molds all cost three to four times more than the lowly Lee Molds.
FWIW; The "New Model" Lee Mold has turned out to be my favorite mold since it came on the market a few years back.
I have 3 or 4 Jeff Tanner Molds left and, of course, they were used mostly in .58 and .69 calibers....desperately trying to get that "just right" diameter.



My own version of pan Lubing.
I pre-heat the Maxi-Ball, and the lube to 170*....takes about 30 minutes or so to get the Maxi itself up to temp, then I add Mutton and Bees Wax.
After this batch of Maxi-Ball cools, I will simply slide the whole "cake" out of the non-stick-pan, move it to the bench, and then, using an old fashioned Lyman Kake Kutter, I will remove each single Maxi and run it through a sizer, If it wasn't sized previously using Lee Alox.


Two different weights of Maxi-Ball.....both weights of these .50 cal were sized to .496 for paper patching before being lubed.
I have even done .69 cal Round Ball this way when shooting them "bare back"....my very best accuracy using bare-back ball is with the .56 smoothie....but, then again, that particular rifle shoots really great no matter what you feed it.



Casting can add a whole new dimension to your shooting.
However, you must have the interest and something of an adventurous spirit before starting down this road.
It's a road with no end, and you have to be willing to face failure, no matter what your head is telling you should work, only the final product will determine if it works or not.
Much like Bigsmoke said, "Why even bother, when you can buy Round-Ball so cheap"?

I've tried the "Primitive" way, and that's about it. I tried it and quickly decided I shoot waaay too much to go this route, but I can do it and do it well, according to others.
Still yet,  it's just great teaching others the primitive way.
 
It's the many things we don't do that totally sets us apart.
TMA Co-Founder / Charter Member# 4

Online Nessmuk

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 559
  • 2019, 2020 Postal Match Competitor
  • TMA Member: Supporting Member #821. Membership expires 1/1/2022
  • Location: OK
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2019, 10:18:10 AM »
A quick  question  for the experts here. What's  the  difference  between  wet towel dropping and water bucket dropping?

I like the full mold and plastic wrap idea and will try it next casting session.

I haven't  found any cheap round balls around OKC, $17.99 to $20.99 here. Cheaper on-line until you add shipping. I've  been harvesting free lead at the SASS range at our club and casting my own, now THATS  cheap.  :bl th up
I'm  not  H/C or P/C or even a particularly  good shot but I have a hell of a good time!

Dedicated to the TMA.
Join us, Friend

Offline prairie dog

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 798
  • TMA Member: Contributing Member #678
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2019, 10:38:29 AM »
I'm no expert but I store my molds filled and in the house.  No rust and no cleaning or re-smoking between sessions.  My cast ball are much more consistent in size and weight than any swaged ball I've bought.   I much prefer single cavity molds to doubles.  Just can't find singles in the small calibers. 
Steve Sells

Online RobD

  • TMA Admin
  • ****
  • Posts: 3049
  • TMA President & TMA Contributing Member
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2019, 10:41:28 AM »
... Just can't find singles in the small calibers.

"jeff tanner" brass moulds are excellent and ANY size can be had to .001" - i recently ordered and received a perfect .577" ball mould for a smoothbore.

http://www.ballmoulds.com/

Online Winter Hawk

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1655
  • Location: Chauncey, OH
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2019, 12:55:28 PM »
For those using the "lowly" Lee molds, do a search for "Lee-menting" on how to improve the performance you can get from them.  I haven't tried it yet, the bullets I drop are good enough for my uses but it might make those whacks on the handle a little less severe. :laffing

~Kees~
NMLRA Life
"All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse and a good wife." - D. Boone
USN June 1962-Nov. 65, USS Philip, DD-498

Offline prairie dog

  • TMA Contributing Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 798
  • TMA Member: Contributing Member #678
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2019, 07:26:18 PM »
Thanks for the link to the Jeff Tanner molds.  I learn something new every day! 
Steve Sells

Offline Eric Krewson

  • TMA Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 118
Re: Running Balls
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2019, 03:02:54 PM »
I use a coleman stove and a cast iron pot I bought at a flea market for $2, I find the bottom pour Lyman ladle to be the best. I drop my cast balls into an cardboard egg carton. This way I can tell at a glance how many balls I have cast.