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Any Hazards Machining 41L40 (or Other Lead Alloys)?

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  • Any Hazards Machining 41L40 (or Other Lead Alloys)?

    Hi Folks,

    I'm new to machining and new to this forum. I've got a mechanical engineering background and extensive woodworking experience and am eager to learn as much as possible about metal work. I've recently bought a Logan 850 lathe and am in the process of learning to use it.

    One of the projects that I plan to work on (as soon as skills permit) is a spindle for a woodworking shaper that I have. One of the materials I'm considering for this part is 41L40. It has good machinability and good toughness according to a few catalogs I've looked at.

    My question is, are there any special hazards associated with turning lead-bearing alloys? Any special precautions to avoid potential lead poisoning? I assumed that the metal would come off in large enough chips that there would be no issues in inhaling/ingesting them.

    Any advice that you all can provide would be helpful. Thanks!

    Paul R.

  • #2
    Chip making is probaby not an issue

    I doubt that turning and milling 12L is going to put much lead in the atmosphere, at least at home shop speeds. Grinding might be an different matter and you might consider a mask. Maybe there is someone in the screw machine business hanging around and would like to comment, 12L is used a bunch in that industry.
    James Kilroy


    • #3
      As long as you don't eat it you will be ok.
      Every Mans Work Is A Portrait of Him Self


      • #4
        The lead content is typically about 0.3%. As has been said, don't eat it. On the other hand, have you considered stressproof (1144)?



        • #5
          Seems like one of the trade mags had something about leaded steel recently. Undoubtedly, it won't be long before OSHA or some other agency decides they're too dangerous.

          I recall there are some substitutes available, but don't know what they are.


          • #6
            I've worked in electronics my entire career and have used lead/tin solder almost on a daily basis. Heated to the melting poing and rubbing off on my hands. I wash normally. No problems so far and I am 62.

            I suspect that as long as you do not take it internally or breathe concentrated vapors. you will be OK.

            They are selling lead free solder now, but I personally think it is a solution without a problem. Probably much more dangerous in copper pipes where the water is consumed.
            Paul A.

            Make it fit.
            You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!


            • #7
              "They are selling lead free solder now, but I personally think it is a solution without a problem."

              Worse than that, it is a solution creating a problem.
              Wonder how the EU is going with their growth industry, tin whiskers.

              I'm in the same boat as Paul, used tin/lead solder since I was 16, now 50. No probs.
              Just got my head together
              now my body's falling apart


              • #8
                Ditto the lead solder experience. 40 years now, no lead realted health problems.

                I too am concerned with tin wiskers and lead-free solder, as I deal with manufacturing electromechanical devices that end up in your cars and trucks.
                Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


                • #9
                  Any Hazards?

                  Only if you don't tighten all 3 of the holes in the chuck.


                  • #10
                    Hard Metal Disease

                    I recall that there was a lawsuit down in Houston about 15 years ago involving a plaintiff woman who ground end mills 8-hours a day for a number of years. There was an aqueous spray coolant/dust reduction system on the grinding machine. The woman allegedly died from "hard metal disease" of the lungs, having breathed in so much cobalt-containing steel dust. Ironically, medical evidence presented indicated that the aqueous spray facilitated the onset of the disease! It was the cobalt in the steel that caused the problem, not the iron or carbon.

                    Never heard of a similar case with leaded steel.



                    • #11
                      Lead in ?

                      Let's see I'm 63 and i used to help PoP's melt lead with a blow torch to make sinkers. Yup looking right over the top of the soup can through the fumes I was breathing , to see if it was melted . Then I ha dto cut the spru off etc . after it was cooled.
                      How about mixing " white lead into house paint " with my bare hands about every other summer at our house or at grandma's or someones house .
                      Not to mention scraping off the old paint with a blow torch .

                      How about doing re-loading with lead bullets ? and making your own ?

                      Pops was a firm believer that when you soldered copper pipes you couldn't use too much lead !!!! I've drank water from copper /lead soldered pipes all my life .

                      I think all this lead hype is way over pushed . Why didn't kids of the 19 teens - 1980's never have a problem with lead poisoning ??

                      Seems this all started when some inner city folk needed something to bitch about and or the EPA needed to start something that they could say LOOK WHAT WE SOLVED .



                      • #12
                        Repeated here from a previous thread:

                        It has always been my theory that the children of the poor and ignorant suffered most from lead exposure. We've heard the stories of children eating chips and flakes of lead-based paint, the paint found in older, poorly maintained rental houses, etc. Lead oxide has a vaguely sweet taste (I am told), so attractive to a child, especially one that is hungry. Poor diets may be calcium deficient, and as calcium is insturmental in eliminatinon of lead from the body, the paint-eating child retains the lead and is harmed.

                        Reasonably affluent or informed families may live in houses of equal lead hazard but survive without harm simply by virtue of a good diet and housecleaning and maintenance. A coat of paint can stabilize the lead even if only temporarily.

                        I once built and installed a control system that went into a radiator manufacturing plant. They monitored lead fume exposure and provided milk and orange juice - indeed, mandated breaks for milk or juice consumption if the employee's badge indicated overexposure.
                        Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                        ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


                        • #13
                          "Get the lead out"

                          When I was younger, "Get the lead out" meant "getcha finga out" and get going - or else.

                          I think that some are in more danger of getting Mesothelioma (as from asbestos) from the dust and fibres in the cotton wool they are wrapped in.

                          I've heard more than enough of the "Why me", "I'm a victim" stuff lately from the "panic merchants" and professional stirrers.

                          My father was a "Linesman" with our Post and Telephone Department for years. Much of his work was making, repairing and "wiping" lead joints in the casings for telephone cables. He worked in small pits with no forced air ventilation or extraction and it was compounded by having to work in a small "tent" cover during adverse weather as well. He was a smoker as well as most men were then (Dad was born in 1904). He died at 70 but lead-poisoning was not an issue.

                          Asbestos has been the big killer here not including drugs an alcohol.

                          Would my Dad work in those conditions now withe the knowledge we have now that we didn't have then?


                          With a sizable family to feed he probably had no choice - even if he "knew".

                          Lead was an essential qualification for Plumbers as lead was in huge use for sealing, "safes", gas and waste pipes, flashing etc. as well as soldering.

                          I can still recall and smell that bloody Salomaniac (??) that Plumbers used. You literally choked on it and your eyes watered like you would not believe and it left a large cloud that you had trouble seeing through.


                          • #14
                            Lead-Free Solder

                            For plumbing anyway, it's a good idea, especially if your water's at all acid.

                            Mainly, lead leaches into the water when it's standing in the pipes, e.g. overnight; the more acid the water, the more lead you get in it. A friend had his water tested and the "overnight draw" contained 'way more than the permissible amount. However, if he let it run for 5 minutes, it dropped to near-zero.

                            The lead-free solder I've seen is either tin-silver (96/4) or tin-antimony (97/3). The silver-bearing stuff costs more than the tin-antimony. Personally, I'd be nervous about the antimony, which isn't exactly good for you either. Maybe it doesn't dissolve... I'll have to check on that.

                            BTW, when I was a kid I too cast sinkers - melted the lead in an old fryingpan on the gas stove - and later on cast slugs for muzzle-loaders, likewise in the kitchen. No ventilation to speak of, except maybe an open window. At 63, I don't see any evidence of lead poisoning (twitch, twitch).

                            However, over a 25-year period, I did see some mental deterioration in a fellow I knew, who ran a commercial bullet-casting and reloading operation... there would be several hundred pounds of lino metal and lead melting in the automatic caster, while the other machines sized the slugs and loaded the cartridges. So there was lead vapor, lead dust, and (it being lino metal) antimony as well. And virtually no ventilation, certainly no forced exhaust.

                            If I was to do that kind of thing NOW, I'd set up some kind of exhaust fan.
                            Funny, i'n't it, how the older you get, the more you worry about living still longer?

                            Pete in NJ


                            • #15
                              I think all this lead hype is way over pushed .
                              That's one of the symptoms of lead poisoning.

                              I have had the same life long experience with soldering and other exposures. I can't say I have no problems but I don't think they are related to lead exposure. But, how can anyone say that their previous exposure hasn't affected them? One of the things it does is reduce your mental capacity. If your mental capacity is reduced you don't have anything to compare your present capacity to if it hadn't been reduced.

                              There is also a huge amount of individual variability in the ability to handle toxins. We are NOT all the same in our ability to eliminate and detoxify our bodies even if all external variables are controlled. Some people are many more times sensitive than most and that isn't just a very few exceptional cases. This kind of variability is the rule and not the exception. My great uncle, Roger Williams, studied human biological variability for most of his life and it was on this background that he developed the RDA's that we still use for most of the vitamins we need.

                              Everyone is different and what may not affect you may be bitter poison for the next person. Lead, in particular, is most damaging during the years the brain and nervous system are developing. That is why the main concerns about lead exposure center around children. Once your nervous system is fully developed the toxic effects are different and much greater exposure is required to show it.
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