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I recently came into possession of a decent quantity of brass bullet casings of a few different sizes.  I know brass isn't cheap, so I figured "gee, I wonder what I could make out of these in the forge?"  Of course, brass isn't the easiest thing to work with, and from my 5 minutes of googling it's not an easy (or even safe, necessarily) thing to just melt down, especially bullet casing brass.

So, any suggestions on what to do with it for knife use?  Anyone done anything decorative with such things before?  Is it easier to melt than I thought?  Is this just a stupid idea and I should send them to be properly recycled elsewhere?  (I give it 50/50 odds on the latter.) 

(I've no idea what the right topic is for this thread; Mods, feel free to move elsewhere if I guessed wrong.)

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There was a guy who melted down a bunch of cartridge brass and then machined an AR lower from the casting. Brass is copper and zinc mainly, so the trick would be to avoid breathing the fumes while melting and casting, and not overheating the melt and losing too much zinc. My non expert opinion based on my research. Youtube has a lot of casting vids.

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   When it comes to copper, brass and bronze I look for "low hanging fruit", meaning low cost processing. Brass in the form of spent shell casings is more trouble than it's worth. If you are already set up to do serious casting and you can get thousands of cases for free that's a different story. Most ranges collect brass and sell it to companies or individuals who re-load so finding a steady stream of them at the magic price point (free) may be problematic.

   I did make a stag handle Bowie for a customer once who was a member of the Single Action Shooters Society. I used a dremel tool to cut the rim and base off of some .45 Long Colt shells and used them to cover the handle pins. Standard woodworking Forstner drills will match the diameter of some calibers of shells so they can be flush mounted into handles. If you can match the caliber to a hunters favorite caliber it might give you a boost on skinning knife sales. I took photos of the Bowie project and added them to my portfolio so when potential customers flip through my work they will see it as an option. You can also inform your hunting clients that they can bring you the spent case from a trophy hunt to be incorporated into a commissioned knife. I have found big game hunters to be quick to reach for their wallets when commemorating the success of a hunt:)

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I don't have hunting clients, or other kinds of clients; I'm just a hobbyist making knives for fun arts and crafts as a break from my otherwise all-digital existence. :-)

Using the shell casings as handle pins is an interesting idea. They'd probably need to be filled with something though to give them better rigidity, no?  Or is there enough glue that it's just decorative?

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2 minutes ago, Larry Garfield said:

I don't have hunting clients, or other kinds of clients; I'm just a hobbyist making knives for fun arts and crafts as a break from my otherwise all-digital existence. :-)

Using the shell casings as handle pins is an interesting idea. They'd probably need to be filled with something though to give them better rigidity, no?  Or is there enough glue that it's just decorative?

Not as pins! I counter sunk the structural handle pins and then covered them with the base of the shells, like little brass buttons positioned so you can read the stamping on the base of the shells. You could inset the shell bases in any area of the handle as ornamentation independent of the structural pins.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm an AVID shooter. I reload a fair portion of my brass however I also have a lot of brass that I don't reload for- obviously .22LR being one of those. I paid my kids (7 and 10) $5 a piece to pick up spent .22 up at my home for an hour. I uh, got a decent pile. I had been working on a small home foundry for recycling my brass, some aluminum I acquired, among other things I have found. I melted down a couple hundred .22 cases and ended up with this. Clearly not a perfect casting. It was my first attempt. But I can definitely see where there is utility in doing this. I'm aware of the concerns with zinc, hexavalent chromium etc so I ensured it was done outdoors with a good fan blowing over it, wore a good respirator (which has not been repurposed-I work in a hospital- so I'm sure you all understand...LOL) so forth. I've also melted down a bunch of old one inch copper tube. It is a little bit more finicky but also can be done. I understand copper needs to be melted in a much more anoxic environment so I throw a chunk of coal in the furnace along with it. All that being said I can definitely see using spent cases to melt down into furniture for a blade such as Clifford Brewer mentioned if you're into growing your hobby and making as many parts of a blade as possible. I like the idea of each part having a "story" so to speak. So being able to say "yeah, I melted down (insert cases here) for the pummel, guard...". Just my .02- oh wait, I need that .02 back, pay cuts and all....

 

brass.jpg

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Hi Chris.  Good to know it's possible.

 

I ended up doing endcaps like Michael suggested for a blade I made for a friend.  (Boy this is an old thread...)  I need to post it properly, but here's a pic of the end result:

 

MVIMG_20200223_171342.jpg

 

It took a bit of doing to get it all positioned and aligned properly, but in the end I think it turned out really well.  (4 bullet ends capping 2 very short brass pins through the tang, purchased brass C guard, 1075 steel, wood handle with polyurethane seal.)

 

I've still got a whole bag more to use, so...

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