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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2011 4:52 pm    Post subject: casting the roman thumb bullets         Reply with quote

in the next few days i plan on castng lead bullets to recreate the famous thumb shaped sling ammunition
the story goes that the romans, when repeatedly attacked, the slingers were reduced to sticking theor thmbs n the dirt and pouring lead into the holes because they couldnt otherwise make bullets fast enough.
i plan on recreatig that, except maybe with a potof sand, or ieces of clay wrapped around my thumb,

my question, what sort of things should i be worried about, using either wet or dry sand? or even clay? or even thick tinfoil wrapped around my thumb in a well sealed manner and stuck in sand?

ive heard steam expulsion and flying lead droplets will be a problem too

what are your experiences with casting lead
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Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
Joined: 14 Jan 2010

Posts: 268

PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2011 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I cast lead bullets for my muzzleloader a few times a year.

Basik precautions apply mostly to not pouring molten lead on yourself. I have as an experiment dropped molten lead on a piece of ~3-4 oz shoe leather and it did not burn through.

As far as problems with water... not going to try that but your can google leidenfrost effect with lead experiment where someone dips their finger in water and then quickly in and out of a pot of molten lead.... mythbusters did that I believe last year... not something I would do but no explosions.

Only thing I would recommend when using a mold (mine are steel and aluminium but I have also seen ones made from soapstone is to coat the inside of the mold with a bit of soot from a candle to prevent any possibility of you soldering your mould together.

The idea of pouring it directly into a depression in say sand... just take a tin can... fill it with sand... make the thumb impression and pour in the lead... the term for this is sand casting and is still done today in industry/hobbyists. Mind you, with something more precise than a thumb but I think you will be suprised how accurate a copy of your thumb you will make in a sand mold.
check out some links to hobbiest casters for more info...
http://myhomefoundry.com/
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Ralph Grinly





Joined: 19 Jan 2011

Posts: 319

PostPosted: Mon 31 Oct, 2011 10:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Make sure whatever you use for mould is DRY. Don't pour lead into anything damp. If you want good looking, fairly accurate sling stones..try down at your local fishing store, check out their sinker moulds. They usually have some that produce bean-shaped, ovoid sinkers of reasonable size that are pretty close to roman sling stones. If you're an "arty" type..you can even engrave " Take That" or whatever in latin on the inside of the mould with a dremel or similar Big Grin
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,297

PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2011 5:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm guessing you were inspired by my own experiment?



I honestly don't remember too many details of how I did it, but here's the text for that photo:

"A wood gang mold for casting lead sling bullets. Above it at left is a repro made in a rubber mold taken from an original bullet. Next are 3 from this mold. At right are 2 made by poking my fingers into damp sand and pouring molten lead into the holes, as was done at Velsen. For more slinging info, see http://www.slinging.org."

And of course my own work was inspired by an article called "Pouring Lead in the Pouring Rain", covering experiments done at Velsen at one of the Roman Military Equipment Conferences. So yes, damp sand works fine. You may get some hissing and steam, but no explosions. Dry sand won't hold the impression well enough, though that may depend on the sand.

Some of the Velsen bullets were made by poking conical holes in the sand, maybe with a buttspike, and casting the bullets in those. At first they'd hammer the wide end into something more conical, then they just used them "as is", and THEN they started sticking their fingers in the sand! Must have been a fun afternoon (the battle, I mean, though I'm sure the conference was fun, too!).

Have fun!

Matthew
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2011 9:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
I'm guessing you were inspired by my own experiment?



I honestly don't remember too many details of how I did it, but here's the text for that photo:

"A wood gang mold for casting lead sling bullets. Above it at left is a repro made in a rubber mold taken from an original bullet. Next are 3 from this mold. At right are 2 made by poking my fingers into damp sand and pouring molten lead into the holes, as was done at Velsen. For more slinging info, see http://www.slinging.org."

And of course my own work was inspired by an article called "Pouring Lead in the Pouring Rain", covering experiments done at Velsen at one of the Roman Military Equipment Conferences. So yes, damp sand works fine. You may get some hissing and steam, but no explosions. Dry sand won't hold the impression well enough, though that may depend on the sand.

Some of the Velsen bullets were made by poking conical holes in the sand, maybe with a buttspike, and casting the bullets in those. At first they'd hammer the wide end into something more conical, then they just used them "as is", and THEN they started sticking their fingers in the sand! Must have been a fun afternoon (the battle, I mean, though I'm sure the conference was fun, too!).

Have fun!

Matthew

possiby... i indeed remember something about thmb shaped bullets. AH yes i think from nikolas lloyd mentioning them, thats where, plus my fellowreenactors who are also ofthe sydney ancients confirmed the story

i was worried about wet molds because empire tota; war mentioned that when casting cannons, a damp mould caused a steam explosion that DESTROYED THW WHOLE FOUNDRY. i realise theres a difference between lead and molten iron or bronze. but i think afer an anecdote like thatyoud understand my concern.


wait, is that ALL the bullet was? i thought you made it all the way up to the first knuckle.. not just the end of the fingernail? which for me is roughly an nch long. maybe abit less.
as for the velsen bullets allow my to make sure i understand that they made a conical hole in the sand and then reshaped that previously conical bullet into something that pointed both ways.

i have paper bullets for the reenactment of marathon here in sydney and on THEM will i write take that and 'a present from william, ive also nicknamed them 'the twelve apostles' in reference to the 12 charges of gunpowder carried by rennaisance musketeers on a bandolier.
and yes one will be named judas, which is to e saved solely for membes of my own group Evil mwa haha

more importantly, what safety gear would you reccomend, im purchasing welding gloves and will commandeeer a face shield from my university for the day (yes i know.) the crucible will be aluminium or maybe iron, dependingon how hot the fire is.]

and how mch hissing and spluttering will occur? and what is the risk of lead being sprayed everywhere which is what ive been warned will occur when the hissing and steam spluttering happens, that lead droplets will fly around

as i MAY, this is a massive MAYBE, do so in my own university lab, taking advantage of the bunsen burner which is alot easir than a charcoal fire.but i dont want the benches ruined by led being sprayed everywhere and the lab has numerous safety features andmethodsfor heatng or cooling substances,

but of course i wont if theres a big risk of ruining uni property.

i realise fully this is technically wrong, and probably breakinga thousand rules. but it might be the most efficiant method of doing this.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2011 9:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Make sure whatever you use for mould is DRY. Don't pour lead into anything damp. If you want good looking, fairly accurate sling stones..try down at your local fishing store, check out their sinker moulds. They usually have some that produce bean-shaped, ovoid sinkers of reasonable size that are pretty close to roman sling stones. If you're an "arty" type..you can even engrave " Take That" or whatever in latin on the inside of the mould with a dremel or similar Big Grin


ui already have a few, its the famous thumb shaped bullets that im interested in, thanks for the advice anyway
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,297

PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2011 5:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
i was worried about wet molds because empire tota; war mentioned that when casting cannons, a damp mould caused a steam explosion that DESTROYED THW WHOLE FOUNDRY. i realise theres a difference between lead and molten iron or bronze. but i think afer an anecdote like thatyoud understand my concern.


Ha, yes, that would inspire some respect for the craft, eh? No worries, respect is good.


Quote:
wait, is that ALL the bullet was? i thought you made it all the way up to the first knuckle.. not just the end of the fingernail? which for me is roughly an nch long. maybe abit less.


Yup, that's all you need, about an ounce. Remember that a .75 caliber musket ball is about the same weight, c. 3/4 inch in diameter. That's a scale of inches across the top. And I used 3 fingers, not the thumb--more holes at once.

Quote:
as for the velsen bullets allow my to make sure i understand that they made a conical hole in the sand and then reshaped that previously conical bullet into something that pointed both ways.


Yup. A bunch were found like that.

Quote:
more importantly, what safety gear would you reccomend, im purchasing welding gloves and will commandeeer a face shield from my university for the day (yes i know.) the crucible will be aluminium or maybe iron, dependingon how hot the fire is.]


Gloves are good (not for poking the holes, doh!). Try not to breathe the fumes when the lead melts. You can get a whole high-end heavy metal respirator, or just make sure the windows are open and maybe a fan going. A fume hood would be perfect! I just do it outdoors and try to limit my exposure. You really won't be melting all that much lead, but yes, more safety is better than too little! Oh, just MELT the lead--if it gets to boiling, i.e. bubbles breaking on the surface, it's way hotter than you need, AND making far more fumes.

Quote:
and how mch hissing and spluttering will occur? and what is the risk of lead being sprayed everywhere which is what ive been warned will occur when the hissing and steam spluttering happens, that lead droplets will fly around


Ever pour eggs or something into a hot frying pan? Maybe something that dramatic, but probably less. Don't stick your hand right in it. I don't think I've ever seen lead flying, unless I spill something (which I have!).

Quote:
as i MAY, this is a massive MAYBE, do so in my own university lab, taking advantage of the bunsen burner which is alot easir than a charcoal fire.but i dont want the benches ruined by led being sprayed everywhere and the lab has numerous safety features andmethodsfor heatng or cooling substances,

but of course i wont if theres a big risk of ruining uni property.


No danger. You could probably pour molten lead directly on the counter and it won't even show a mark. You can see how my wooden mold started to char after a number of pours, but even then it was never in danger of catching fire or anything. I do my melting in a tin can on an electric hotplate. Safer with no open flame, more convenient, not as likely to tip over. Make sure the can is spun with no seam! Or just find an old steel pot or saucepan, small. (NOT to be used for cooking ever again, right?) I think I would not use aluminum, just a gut feeling. I've been doing stuff like this since I was 12 or so, and the worst danger I have had was when the liquid-fueled camp stove burst into flame on me. (Had to carry it up the basement stairs into the back hall, dodge around a door with lace curtains, out onto the porch, through the screen door, and into the back yard, flames blowing in my face so I couldn't see a thing. Realized later I missed tripping over a picnic bench by nearly an inch. Plopped the stove down on the grass, and a few moments later the fire went out. It was a little spilled fuel, is all...)(Freaked out my sister, though, as she heard yelling, running, and saw the back hall light up, ha!)(Go electric, yeah, buddy...)

Oh, when you start slinging, start in the MIDDLE of a very large uninhabited field, ALONE, with nothing even remotely breakable within 200 yards. And then practice with tennis balls for starters. You have NO idea where your first shots will go. If there is a black walnut tree or something else that grows natural ammunition, even better, since you won't have to gather it up afterwards. I believe someone went to a local golf driving range on a quiet day and paid for a bucket of balls to shoot (he DID check with the management, first!). For serious shooting, use stones about the size of the bullets, or a little larger, to avoid lead-poisoning the local flora and fauna. But once you get competent, do try some target shooting with the lead bullets.

Seriously, the fumes are more a danger than anything else. But in this hobby, who's gggggonna know the difdifdifdifference, eh?

Matthew
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Tue 01 Nov, 2011 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

ive been raticing using balls of soaked, then compressed tissue paper as well as other thngs like small potatos, ihavent trid tennis balls since m sling pouch is prety small.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2011 7:52 am    Post subject: photos, finally         Reply with quote

update bump

i cast the bullets a few hours ago, very little spluttering just some hissing, maybe because i poured not too quickly, and the mould was only designedto be small, i.e fit one mould for one bullet

http://www.flickr.com/photos/64955660@N08/ link to the rest of the photos



 Attachment: 150.15 KB
6311776479_7cee925239.jpg
finger based cast lead sling bullets, cast in slightly damp sand moulds, bullets in top row made using a mould of my thumb, bottom row made from moulds of index nnd middle fingers
background is 5mm grid for comparison
thumb bullets weigh on average 56 g

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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,297

PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2011 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, success! Got enough to drive off the next wave of barbarians?

Matthew
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Robert Rytel




Location: Pittsburgh
Joined: 23 Oct 2011

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Fri 04 Nov, 2011 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anywhere have pics of original thumb cast sling stones?
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