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Using Wheel Weights

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Guys and gals,

I have a question. I was recently given a big bucket full of wheel weights for free. I was looking at getting into making some jigs and sinkers. I was reading on do-it's web site that they don't recommend using wheel weights because it is a harder lead. For those who have some experience with this, do you use or would you use wheel weights? You have to clean them I get that but is there any reason once you smelt the lead and go through the whole process you can't use them? People use them all the time I know for bullets. Let me know guys.

Thanks,

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If you are new at this, I would save these for a later date and buy some pure soft lead. reason being, soft lead fills cavities easier and is less problematic. Once you gain experience with pouring, yes you can use the lead wheel weights, and yes it is very hard lead.

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I used to make lead weights for race cars out of them until I had a bad experience.  Washing them, we put them into a 5 gallon bucket with holes in the bottom and and rinsed thoroughly with the water hose.  Let them dry for a couple days, shaking vigorously a couple times a day.  Then we used a turkey fryer and a cast iron skillet.  We would cut 2x2 square tubing into the lengths we need and fill them with molten lead.  

 

If you heat lead and water touches anywhere near it, the lead pops and splatters and burns like crazy.  We stopped after the second time it did this.  VERY DANGEROUS

 

 

Another problem is, with wheel weights you had to pick out the pieces that attach to the rims that do not melt.  I would suggest against it, but it can be done, with extreme caution.

 

Jeff

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Some of the modern wheel weights can't be used because of one of the alloys in them.  I don't remember just what it is.  I think smalljaw is the guy who knows about this.  Perhaps he will see this and chime in.

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I've heard about the hard vs soft lead. I know the wheel weights have some metals added to them. But as long as you smelt the lead and flux. You can clean it. I don't plan on using water on them. All the dirt comes up to the top. I do presort them so I am sure that I'm getting all the steel and zinc ones out. I've read that some people have been using free lead sources for ever. Its a very interesting thing to do. Thanks for your input.

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Yes, you cannot mix lead and zinc weights. Read this thread post #3             

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/132763-cleaning-out-my-melting-pot/

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Be careful the weights are not newer ones, I don't know how to tell the difference but they have a high zinc content and will ruin whatever good lead you have. It is that bad that LEE melting pots now have a large notice with their products telling you not to use wheel weights because of this problem. I used them and would melt them down and pour ingots and mix them with soft lead making my own alloys which were harder than soft lead but the change in manufacturing wheel weights makes it bad for us that like to melt them down to make lures or sinkers. If I were you I'd just get rid of them, you may end up melting them down and have a good pot of lead only to get a few newer ones and end up ruining the whole lot, do yourself a favor and at least research and find out if they are newer, 2008 I'm thinking but that could be wrong but I was told from a guy at a tire shop that in 2008 or around there some time is when they began using the high zinc content and it is even longer with the stick on variety as all of those I encountered were bad.

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The other thing some may have to contend with is, like Maine, other states may have banned lead weights. So they are making us use steel wheel weights now. You can tell them apart but you just wouldn't want to have some of those mixed in with your lead.

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I have been smelting wheel weights for the last seven years. They really don't have a zinc content. Some of the newer ones are made of zinc, pure zinc. You really need a lead thermometer to smelt them correctly. I do it in small batches in a Dutch oven. You can do all the sorting you want and never get all the zinc weights out. Most are marked, but not all. If you keep the temp around 650 degrees you will be safe. Zinc melts around 750 degrees. At 650, all the lead will melt and the zinc, steel, and clips will float to the top and can be skimmed off. I have several Dutch ovens, so when I get one batch done I carefully lift it off the burner and let it start cooling while I start another small batch. When the first batch cools enough, I dump it out. I call the pigs. Right now, I have ten wheelweight pigs and several pure pigs. I also have 7 full buckets of wheelweight that I'm waiting for the weather to break before smelting. I always start with a cold pot full of wheelweight for safety. Like has been said, molten lead and moisture, not just water, but ANY moisture will cause an explosion you don't want to be near. This I call "a visit from the tinsile fairy".

Now I use the wheelweight to make sinkers, NOT jigs. I mix 50/50, wheelweight/pure. When making jigs I use only pure.

The wheelweight that melt at 650 degrees are made of roughly 97% lead,2% antimony,and 1% tin. That 2% antimony is what makes them hard, that's why I mix 50/50. I could use pure wheelweight for sinkers, but I make thousands of them and everyone has a sprue that I have to cut off. Adding the pure makes it easier on my old hands. I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade, just sharing what I have found over the last 7 years and tons of weights that I have melted. Hope this helps and sorry so long, but I could really go on and on about this. Good luck, Tom

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I have been smelting wheel weights for the last seven years. They really don't have a zinc content. Some of the newer ones are made of zinc, pure zinc. You really need a lead thermometer to smelt them correctly. I do it in small batches in a Dutch oven. You can do all the sorting you want and never get all the zinc weights out. Most are marked, but not all. If you keep the temp around 650 degrees you will be safe. Zinc melts around 750 degrees. At 650, all the lead will melt and the zinc, steel, and clips will float to the top and can be skimmed off. I have several Dutch ovens, so when I get one batch done I carefully lift it off the burner and let it start cooling while I start another small batch. When the first batch cools enough, I dump it out. I call the pigs. Right now, I have ten wheelweight pigs and several pure pigs. I also have 7 full buckets of wheelweight that I'm waiting for the weather to break before smelting. I always start with a cold pot full of wheelweight for safety. Like has been said, molten lead and moisture, not just water, but ANY moisture will cause an explosion you don't want to be near. This I call "a visit from the tinsile fairy".

Now I use the wheelweight to make sinkers, NOT jigs. I mix 50/50, wheelweight/pure. When making jigs I use only pure.

The wheelweight that melt at 650 degrees are made of roughly 97% lead,2% antimony,and 1% tin. That 2% antimony is what makes them hard, that's why I mix 50/50. I could use pure wheelweight for sinkers, but I make thousands of them and everyone has a sprue that I have to cut off. Adding the pure makes it easier on my old hands. I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade, just sharing what I have found over the last 7 years and tons of weights that I have melted. Hope this helps and sorry so long, but I could really go on and on about this. Good luck, Tom

 

How do you maintain the temp at 650 degrees?  I've been using a LEE precision melter that is only 4lbs, I used it to make 1lb ingots of wheel weight lead but my immersion probe gives me a temp of 714 degrees and the zinc melted, well it made all of the lead gooey. The next batch I turned the thermostat back and could even get the lead ingots to melt let alone the wheel weights, so I made a small adjustment and waited for 15 minutes, nothing, made another small adjustment and the lead melted, threw in the wheel weights and as they melted I checked the temp to keep it low to see what happened to my lead that is became bad. The temp was at 708 and I threw in some wheel weights and bingo, gooey mess so I turned it up and got it to 900 degrees, same thing, totally ruined lead. I talked to some people and did some research and found it was likely zinc contamination but how did that happen if I never got it to 750 degrees? I totally believe you, I know you use a dutch oven but what is the heating source, I'm thinking the LEE pots I'm using on a small scale may just be getting it too hot to melt, like I said, it seems it either isn't melting at all or it is 700 degrees, and it may be melting the zince part way which is why it gets gooey, I don't know but I'm interested in this dutch oven method. I do this same thing though with the slag, I will remelt slag and see what I get out of it and I normally can get another pound of lead out of 5lbs of slag but after the remelt is get discarded at the scrap yard.

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Smalljaw, I use a turkey fryer propane setup. I just keep the flame low and when it starts to melt I stir stir stir. Got to keep stirring because if you don't, your thermometer might say 650, but there are hotter spots you can't control unless you keep stirring.

I had a dude weld me up a bottom pour smelter out of a piece of 12" pipe. Send me your email addy and I'll send you some pics.

The pigs I was talking about go into my bottom pour smelting pot. Temp isn't a big deal at this point. I had another dude make me up some 6 ingot ingot molds that I use to make the ingots that I feed into my casting pot, which is an old Saeco 10lb pot from around WW2 era. It's old and the thermostat took a crap on me. It's now wired direct(no thermastat, which works well for pouring lots of bigger sinkers fast. This thing might only hold 10lb, but it will keep right up melting lead as I pour and I pour fast. I also have a RCBS promelt that holds 22lb, but it tends to freeze up the spout if I try adding too much lead.

I think you definitely need to smelt your wheelweights on a turkey cooker setup rather then your little lee. After I get my pigs in my smelter and it liquifies, I can pour 200lb of ingots in around 25 minutes. That's why I spent the money for this setup. I have pretty good acsess to WW's. Pure lead is harder for me to find, but not impossible. Sometimes I put an add in the local paper for lead and can usually get it for .30-.40 per pound. The only thing I have ever bought from Rotometal is a ladle and a skimmer for the clips on the wheelweights. Send me your email and I'll get you some pics. Take care, Tom

toddo1@woh.rr.com

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All I ever use is wheel lead. I've never had a problem with them and I pour buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs which all have a lot of inserts. I feel the key to success is temp. I allow the mold and inserts to heat up. So IMO  I would give them a shot. I woudnt wash them at all.. Just melt them and skim off all the slag. I also flux my lead. This is done by adding a small piece of paraffin wax to the hot lead. It causes all of the impurities to separate out and then you can skim them off the top. A word of caution, The wax will flame up briefly so doing this  out side is a must.

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I just did a box of wheel waits in my lee pot last week, not the one with the spout but the open one. I had some steel ones mixed in that i just tossed out but I was able to skin and pour ingots that turned out fairly well. I've poured a few jigs with em and havent had an issue yet. Like said before take your time and flux it and you should be good.

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