modern wheel weights

  • Last Post 01 March 2019
loophole posted this 28 February 2019

I have a friend who owns a tire store and he gives me an almost unlimited supply of wheel weights in 5 gallon buckets. These were the basis for making #2 alloy and for pistol bullets for years.  The last couple of buckets I got from him contained about as many zinc and other non lead weights as they did the lead alloy kind.  These apparently contaminate the mixture when we melt them down.  They are a real  nuisance not only because I have real difficulty with my back, and moving all this weight of useless zinc is a problem, but I have no way to conveniently separate them.  I have a thermometer and I try not to get the pot hot enough to melt zinc in case I let some get through my sorting, but I've read that any zinc probably will permanently contaminate the mold.

How many of you still use wheelweights, and how do you handle the zinc problem

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onondaga posted this 28 February 2019


It is not a big deal to be patient but a change in your method will help a lot too. Never again set your pot to high starting a melt. Bring it up slowly to 725 F. Zinc melts at 782 F. At 725 the Lead, Tin and Antimony are fluid and the zinc weights will only float. pick them off and discard them.  If you start your pot off on high it will melt zinc on the pot bottom before you can turn it down so don't do that. Only 1% zinc in your mix severely hurts bullet casting quality. Bring pot temp up slowly with your thermometer in the pot and don't go over 725 F. Do that and you get 0% Zinc melted in your pot. It is not complicated, Zinc melts at 782 F don't even go close to that, bring it up slowly and your problem is gone.


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M3 Mitch posted this 28 February 2019

I'll just add the point that when you are dropping wheel weights into a pot of melted alloy, be careful, dammit.  Dress as if you expect the contents of the pot to be blown out all over you, because, that can happen.  A full face shield is not IMHO overkill.  Boots with long pants worn outside the boot, not tucked in or bloused.  Beyond that make damn sure that the unmelted items are dry. 

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Ross Smith posted this 01 March 2019

Well I can't see your pile of ww's so forgive me if this doesn't apply. The stick on type ww's marked with either a pb or zn denoting their make up. The lead ones are disappearing and the zn marked ones I pick out before melting. I only melt the clip on style ww's. I still think these are softer than they used to be and I mix 1 linotype to 3 ww's and get no leafing at 2000+ fps. This is FWIW. Ross


What Mitch said.

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Dukem posted this 01 March 2019

I sit down with a small anvil and a ball pein hammer. Any suspicious weights I can't otherwise identify by their markings or construction, get hit with the ball pein. You will instantly know if it is lead or not. Yup, it isn't real fast but it is positive and I end up with no zinc in my melt.


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beltfed posted this 01 March 2019

Besides looking for the "Zn" on the COWWs,

I try to carve a sliver off of EACH WW, with a utility/razor knife. YES, EVERY ONE.

The knife will carve a silvery sliver and feel kind of "smooth and buttery" to cut.onThe lead alloy WW

The knife will chatter on a Zn ww

And , of course, I am getting a lot more Iron/Steel COWW in the buckets I get.

Those are easy to spot the rivets and also, the knife will NOT cut into them, but just skid

the Utility knife technique actually works rather quickly and I can spend 20-30 min here and there doing it

Easier than the hammer technique that I had also tried.



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beltfed posted this 01 March 2019

Oh,actually if I see the "Zn" on a WW, I don't bother to try to carve on it.

It goes directly into a bucket.  Actually I later, when they accumulate sell

the ZN WW to a metals salvage yard. They call it "diecast" and get a decent price for it.

ditto the Iron/ Fe WWs.  Scrap Iron.... Not much $$ for these. Goes by the Ton.


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max503 posted this 01 March 2019

Drop them.  Lead ones thud.  Zinc pings.  After a while you can tell by sight.

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JeffinNZ posted this 01 March 2019

I sort every WW.  These days a bucket will be a real mix.  If no markings, drop them on concrete.  Pb goes 'thunk', Zn goes 'chink'.

Cheers from New Zealand

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