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In this tutorial, I will show you how to make a very simple wooden mold that you can use for casting lead hunting ammo. The ammo will be in the shape of a cylinder, rather than the shape of a round ball. However, it will still be plenty accurate for hunting, and because of its shape it will generally inflict much greater damage than a ball.

While probably not as dangerous as driving your car on a crowded freeway, working with molten lead is not something to take lightly. I must assume that you have good common sense and a basic understanding of how to protect yourself. I take no responsibility for any injuries you might incur while trying to do this. I am providing this information so that you may see how I do it. If you have any worries or concerns, then by all means do not attempt to carry out this project.

The first step is to make your mold. The easiest material to use is a couple of pieces of scrap standard 2x4. The type of wood does not matter, as long as it is clean and dry. Before some nervous Nelly begins running in circles warning about moisture in wood, let me assure you that if the wood is dry enough to paint or varnish, then it will be just fine for casting lead. So, do not use wood that has been lying out in the rain. If it has been stored under cover, it will be all right.

I suggest you cut two pieces about 12 inches long. You are going to place the two pieces face to face, and you want them to be as good a fit as possible. So to begin, put a sheet of coarse sandpaper between the blocks and rub the blocks against each other.After you have smoothed one side of one block, turn the sandpaper over and rub the blocks together to smooth one side of the other block in the same way. When the two faces are quite smooth to each other, you should see little or no light between them when you place their faces together. Place the edges of the blocks on a flat surface to align them, and clamp the two faces together. Pre-drill some holes, and screw the two blocks together ... I put two screws at each end and two in the middle. You pre-drill the holes to prevent the blocks from cracking, and also to help keep the blocks from being forced apart as the screw passes from one block to the other ... be very careful of this last point. I also use a table saw to take a very light cut across the top and bottom of the joined blocks so they will be smooth across the seam. You could do much the same thing with a good plane or some elbow grease and a sanding block.

Next, mark out points along the seam about one inch from each other, avoiding the screws. Then drill straight down the seam for the length you want your slugs; I went .5 inches. I used a 3/8 inch drill, and that is a pretty good diameter to start. You do not want it too small, or your ammo will not be weighty enough. Nor do you really want it too big. If you later want bigger ammo, just re-drill the holes, to say .5 of an inch in diameter, or make another mold. I used a drill press to drill my holes. I lowered the table of the press so that the drill bit would only penetrate the desired depth. You could use a hand held drill by just putting a piece of masking tape around the bit at the proper depth as a guide.



Since your holes are shallow, you can just flip the block over and drill another line of holes along the seam on the other side. This will allow you to cast two sets of slugs with the same mold. With the mold in the picture, I can cast 11 slugs per side, or a total of 22 slugs in one pour.

After you have drilled the holes, take the blocks apart, and sand the surfaces smooth again, removing any burrs left from the drilling operation. After you have sanded everything smooth again, you can re-assemble your mold. You are now ready to cast lead slugs that are 3/8 of an inch in diameter and .5 of an inch long.

You are probably going to have some excess molten lead at the end. I suggest that you pick up a muffin tin for small muffins at your local second hand store. Before you begin melting lead, smoke the inside of the muffin tin. To do this, just light a standard candle. Then turn the tin over and lower it close to the flame. The smoky flame will deposit a layer of soot on the inside where the muffins would sit. Move the tin around and smoke all the little muffin places. When you are finished casting, you can pour your left over lead into the muffin tin and make little ingots. These ingots will be easier to handle and melt again later. Smoking the muffin tin will make it easier to get the ingots out.



The next step is to prepare and melt your lead. If your lead is in big chunks, use a hammer and chisel to cut it up into smaller pieces that will fit into your melting pot. More about a melting pot in a moment.



I advise you not to use a saw to cut up lead blocks. Sawing will make very fine lead dust, which is easy to inhale and very hard to clean up. Be safe ... use a hammer and chisel.

You are going to be melting lead and pouring molten lead. Lead fumes are toxic. Do not hold your face directly over the molten lead. Do the melting out of doors if possible. If you cannot do it out of doors, do it next to an open window. Avoid water around molten lead ... do not melt lead outdoors in the rain or with a sprinkler running. If you start a fire, pour dry sand or baking soda on it.

For a melting pot, take a trip to your local second hand store. You are looking for a small aluminum pan, that is about 1/8 of an inch thick. If you have lots of money, you could get a stainless steel pan. Avoid those really thin aluminum pans, as they will not hold up. And do not get a big pan ... lead is heavy, and you do not want to have a lot of it melted all at once. If the pan does not have a good pouring lip on the edge, place the edge across the gap of a vice or a couple of blocks of wood, and using a hammer and blunt chisel or piece of steel bar from the inside, make a divot in the edge so you can pour the molten lead.



Put chunks of lead in your melting pot, and put the pot on the burner of a propane camp stove. I like to keep everything pretty fire safe, so I put it all on an old stainless steel cookie sheet I picked up at a second hand store. You could just use an ordinary cookie sheet.

It will only take about 10 or 15 minutes to melt the lead. You may see some junk floating on the top. Use a spoon to remove this crap ... just dump it to on the side of your cookie sheet, and when cool, throw it away. The surface of your melted lead should look bright and shiny.

Once the lead is melted and you have skimmed off any dross from the surface, it is time to pour it into your mold. You should wear leather gloves to avoid burning yourself during this process. You should also wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. Wear old clothes and long sleeves. When ready, just pick up the pot by the handle, and gently fill each of the holes in your wooden mold. The lead will harden quickly, and look like the following.



If you work quickly, you can scrape a flat piece of scrap steel across the top of the block and remove much of the excess lead before it hardens on top of the block. When you have one side poured, flip the block over and pour the other side.
Place your prepared muffin tin on a fire proof surface, and pour you excess lead into the muffin tin to make small ingots as we discussed above.



Now you can take the mold apart by removing the screws holding the two blocks of wood together. You will probably have to gently wedge the blocks apart with a chisel. Usually prying with your fingers is sufficient to remove the slugs, but you may have to use a pair of pliers if the slugs do not come out easily.



Your mold can be reassembled and used for another casting session. As you can see, the wood was not even scorched by the hot lead.



Use a pair of side-cutting pliers to trim the excess lead from the cast rods. Save the trimmings for a future melt.



My chunks averaged about 140 grains, which is between my .44 caliber balls (126 grains) and my .50 caliber balls (170 grains). Being rod shaped, they sit easily in the pouch and tumble in flight. No matter how they hit, there is always an edge striking the target. The effect on a free standing soda can is exactly the same as a stone.



In short, they do a LOT of damage. For target practice, this ammo is probably not quite as consistent as cast lead balls. But for hunting purposes, you are not likely to find anything better.

So with my one mold I can cast 22 hunting slugs in less than half an hour, starting with a cold lead pot. Even taking the mold apart and putting it back together, I could cast 44 slugs in one hour. These molds are so easy to make and cost nothing if made from scrap, so you could easily make two or three if you wanted to cast a large number of slugs at one sitting.

Cheers ..... Charles
 

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Tex-shooter
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Nicely written article Charles. You can also make a mold by making cardboard box about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 by 12 inches, open on one side. Coat inside with wax paper. Pour 1/2 full with dental plaster (must have some body to it). Spray 1/2 inch marbles with non stick cooking spray (there is probability some in the kitchen) float the marbles 1/2 way deep in the plaster on a line in the middle of dental plaster. You have 1/2 of your mold. Let dry and remove the 2 end marbles. Spray the first half of the mold with non stick cooking spray. Mix and pour second half of mold and let dry. Remove cardboard and wax paper. Separate mold. Remove balls. Set the two mold haves in the hot sun for a couple of hours to be sure there is no moisture left in the mold. Warning, If the is moisture in the plaster it will explode when you pour in the lead. I made one a long time ago like this before I had a metal one. -- Tex
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Nicely written article Charles. You can also make a mold by making cardboard box about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 by 12 inches, open on one side. Coat inside with wax paper. Pour 1/2 full with dental plaster (must have some body to it). Spray 1/2 inch marbles with non stick cooking spray (there is probability some in the kitchen) float the marbles 1/2 way deep in the plaster on a line in the middle of dental plaster. You have 1/2 of your mold. Let dry and remove the 2 end marbles. Spray the first half of the mold with non stick cooking spray. Mix and pour second half of mold and let dry. Remove cardboard and wax paper. Separate mold. Remove balls. Set the two mold haves in the hot sun for a couple of hours to be sure there is no moisture left in the mold. Warning, If the is moisture in the plaster it will explode when you pour in the lead. I made one a long time ago like this before I had a metal one. -- Tex
That's a good idea, Tex. I have heard of this but never done it myself. Good to know from your experience that it works. And of course using marbles to make the mold would allow you to cast round balls. I would have thought the plaster would be a bit fragile. How long did your mold last?

Cheers ..... Charles
 

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The dental plaster it a little tougher than regular. but it still don't last very long. I think that I got about 15 cast out of mine. -- Tex
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
nice Charles I good thing is sand too just use your finger for the holes
I have heard of this, but never tried it. I would think it would be hard to get consistent size. And doesn't the sand get embedded in the lead?

Cheers ...... Charles
 

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Should I wear a gas mask for this?
 

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I use to cast many ammos using a similar mould before. Mine was a 1pc mould without the split. All I did was drill holes like yours in a block of wood and after the pour knock the mould on a hard surface and the slugs would drop off.

I use to cut the excess first while the slugs were still in the mould (using a bevelled chisel), no trimming necessary as you de-mould the slugs!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
[quote name='Abe_Stranger' timestamp='1327036949' post='151363']
Should I wear a gas mask for this?
[/quote]

That is probably overkill, in my opinion, as long as you have good ventilation. But if you have one and do not mind wearing it, then perhaps better safe than sorry.

Cheers ......... Charles
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I use to cast many ammos using a similar mould before. Mine was a 1pc mould without the split. All I did was drill holes like yours in a block of wood and after the pour knock the mould on a hard surface and the slugs would drop off.

I use to cut the excess first while the slugs were still in the mould (using a bevelled chisel), no trimming necessary as you de-mould the slugs!
I am using scrap fir lumber. I am certian my slugs will not drop out, no matter how hard you bang the mold ... the drilled surface is way too rough, and the molten lead forms to that surface. Perhaps other types of wood would be smooth enough for that treatment. It would be hard to get cast slugs out of a solid machined steel mold unless the holes were conical.

Cheers ...... Charles
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I remember my mould was made of a hardwood called Balau.

Mine were 6.5mm x aprox 7mm deep. Knock off easily.

I also used to cast fishing leads thst way with 12.5mm dia drill, 12mm- 15mm deep but it had a wire that I pulled!
Thanks for the information, Jack. I do not know the wood you mention. Perhaps a really hard, close grained wood, and a very sharp bit would work without the split ... maybe oak or maple. But the split mold allows you to use any scrap lumber available, and it is very easy to make one.

Cheers ........ Charles
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Someone just sent me a PM asking how my hunting ammo compared to round ball. After I made the tutorial, I cast a couple hundred of the slugs, and I have been shooting them all week. I am pleasantly surprised to find that I am more accurate with them at 10 meters (33 feet) than I am with round ball. I speculate that there are several reasons. For one, the cylinder shape is easier to place properly in the pouch; I just lay it on its side. And it is easier to hold. I also think I have a more consistent release ... my thumb does not slip off to one side or the other. And those cylinders do not slip off center as the pouch accelerates ... I think sometimes the ball rolls off the top or the bottom of the pouch, but the cylinder can't do that. They are heavy, but I prefer heavier ammo ... with the exception of a set half doubled 1745 Chinese tubes, my other slingshots with a variety of bands (1 inch Theraband gold, 1 inch other exercise band, Sparco 107 at 7.5 inches, Sparco 107 at 12 inches in full butterfly draw) seem to send those cylinders to the same point of aim as 3/8 lead ball. I am really quite pleased with them.

Cheers ..... Charles
 

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Just one li'l bit of safety advice:

If you're dumb enough to have your face/head above the pot of molten lead, at the very least wear a bandana to keep your sweat from dripping into the pot and causing an explosion.

A Best Bet for safety is probably a clear face shield from Harbor Freight.

Ok, that was two li'l pieces of advice, so sue me.

Best2u,
Mike
 
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Excellent tutorial. I have been using hardwood flooring, (solid) and it's kind of nice because it's flat on both sides, is dry as dry
gets, and when you put two pieces together (finished sides) they have grooves which keep the lead from dripping off the edges
which makes for a clean setup.
 
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