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Author Topic: Running Balls  (Read 598 times)

Online Rob DiStefano

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Running Balls
« on: March 27, 2019, 07:25:01 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!

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.
Trad Gang ~ Buffalo Rifles ~ TMA ~ NRA ~ NRA RSO ~ GOA ~ VCDL

Online dhaverstick

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Re: Running Balls
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2019, 08:32:58 AM »
Good info! I bought a 62 flinter rifle off a guy last November and he sent me home with a bunch of lead, molds, and melting pot. This post will come in handy since I've never cast balls before. Thanks!