More casting questions...


PDA






goon
September 12, 2008, 02:26 PM
This is a follow-up to my question last week about getting started casting. Now that I've thought this over, I have some more questions.

Sizing and lubricating-
How well do the Lee sizing dies that fit in a standard press work?
And what about tumble lubing?
It seems that would be the cheapest way for me to get started but I'd imagine that to use a hard lube I'd need to heat it. Can that be done with tumble lubing?

Casting-
It was suggested that I get an old dutch oven or cast iron pot to melt lead scrap in for removing impurities and casting alloy into ingots. Makes sense.
Is there any reason I couldn't use the same pot/heat source for casting bullets into moulds?

Moulds-
Any problems with Lee moulds? They're cheaper than Lyman and RCBS and also include handles. But they're made of Aluminum - are there any problems with casting with them? Do they hold up OK over time?
Lyman? Made from steel - is that good or bad?
RCBS? Cast iron - better than steel? Worse?
Does any of this matter?

Sorry to be the dumb kid in class but I haven't found answers for this stuff in my reloading manuals.

If you enjoyed reading about "More casting questions..." here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
454PB
September 12, 2008, 04:12 PM
The Lee sizing/lubing system works fine in a standard press, but it is a bit messy. The lube is a thick liquid that dries overnight, no need for heat other than to make it flow from the bottle a little easier. I use a microwave oven to warm it.

Most everyone says not to use your casting pot for rendering lead. The reason is that it deposits dirt and oxides on the pot wall, and can gradually plug up the nozzle on a bottom draw pot. I've done it many times, with no problems as long as you scrape the pot walls and flux thoroughly. I also use a dental pick to clear the nozzle. Just insert the pick into the nozzle, then open it and ream it out as the molten lead flows out onto the aluminum base. The lead can then be returned to the pot.

I own 20 Lee moulds, and have yet to have any serious problems. Some people can break an anvil, if you're one of those, heavy duty steel moulds hold up better. Moulds are precision tools and should be used as such. Aluminum transfers heat faster, and requires a slightly different rhythm than steel. I think they are easier to use, less weight and they begin casting good bullets more quickly.

I also own steel moulds from Lyman, RCBS, H&G, and aluminum NEI. In general, I've had fewer problems with RCBS, more problems with Lyman. H&G are no longer made, but are excellent moulds if you can find them.

As you noted, Lee moulds are about 1/3 the cost of other brands, and include the handles in single and two cavity. I recommend trying the Lee moulds first to see if casting is your "thing". The more expensive moulds can come later when you're "hooked".

StrawHat
September 12, 2008, 04:29 PM
If you use cast iron for smelting there is no reason you can not use it for casting IF you clean it well before casting bullets.

The main reason many prefer two different pots is because if some grit is cast into a bullet and it touches the bore of your firearm it might scratch the bore. As long as you clean the pot well, no problem.

If you do use cast iron, resist the urge to smack the handle of your stirring spoon or ladle on the side of the pot. Hot cast iron is succeptble to cracking if struck. It doesn't happen all the time but a couple pounds of molten lead in your lap or on your shoes can be distressing.

Lee molds are okay but they have had a continuing problem of holding tolarence and some of the molds cast undersize bullets. If they are out of spec, Lee will replace them.

I have many molds of different makes and use them all. Each has it's own idiosynchrocis'.

Good luck

goon
September 12, 2008, 05:09 PM
Thanks.
I guess it makes sense to separate smelting from casting because of the dirt.
Just trying to figure out what's going to work for me - doesn't seem quite as direct as reloading so I just want to make sure I have a good understanding of what I'll need before I start buying stuff.
I'm trying to figure out what my "routine" will be to sort of put it together in my head.

Also, I have a line on some used wheelweights.
How much should I be paying per pound for something like that? The guy I was speaking with has some and is willing to sell them but neither of us really knows what they're worth.

RustyFN
September 12, 2008, 07:38 PM
I could be wrong because I have never tried it but I would think trying to keep a steady temp with a cast iron pot and propane would be hard. With a electric pot it's has a thermostat and keeps a good even temp. You can get a Lee pot fairly cheap and I think they work great. The main reason I think to smelt with a cast iron pot besides dirt is because I can smelt 100 pounds at a time in my six quart dutch oven. With my production pot I can only melt 20 pounds at a time and it melts slower than my smelting setup.
Rusty

scrat
September 12, 2008, 08:11 PM
Been there done that.


First can you do it HELL YES.

think about it men have been casting lead for a few hundred or so years now. If it worked in the civil war im sure it will work now. Nobody had electric pots. or even propane stoves. so let me address a few.

Casting on a propane stove

Here is what i used to do. After fluxing and cleaning up the pot really good. i would make ingots out of the lead. Then when i went to cast i made sure the pot was clean. Put the lead ingots in the pot and put the stove on a rather high heat. (a 2 burner stove works best). When the lead was starting to melt down i would start up the other burner and put it on a medium to low heat and put the mold on top of it. While this is going on i would flux the lead one more time. Then lower the heat to medium. I want it so that i can scoop it up in a liquid form and be able to hold it for a good 10 seconds before it starts to harden up. This is how i usually guaged how hot the lead was.

Back in the civil war days the pot was moved around on coals or rocks to cool it down or heat it up. Same kinda method.

Now best other advice. ( get a 12x12 piece of plywood and 2 ladels). i would guage my mold temp by its marks. Meaning if i could run the mold against the plywood and it will barely put a burn mark on it. Im good to go. Same time this is what you would set your ladels and molds on to let them cool down on.

Now start casting.

As for the lee lube. i have used so many differnt types of lube. I have an rcbs lubrisizer. So i have messed around with a lot of lubes. I however keep coming back to the lee liquid alox. I have found that it works very good. Little to no leading of the barrel for one. Then its just so quick and easy to size bullets. i take a two litter bottle and cut it to make a bowl about 5 inches. then pour in the bullets, squeeze in a good amount of lee liquid alox. then shake them all around. then pour them out on a piece of wax paper. Check on them the next day. if your not too crazy of the stickiness. Then you could put some Talc powder over them a bit. It will get rid of the stickyness and still has no effect on the lube. But it just works so easy. you have to try it out. you will see

goon
September 12, 2008, 10:14 PM
Thanks.
Right now I'm starting to get a mental pikcture of what I need to be looking to buy. I'm thinking...
- Lee electric furnace without a spout. It is my understanding that the spout will leak. I don't need molten lead leaking out and setting stuff on fire.
- dipper
- Lee .358 sizer
- 158 grain RNFP mould but I'm not sure which make yet. Have to read some more on castboolits.com. The economy of the Lee appeals to me and so does its faster heat-up. They also seem to have pretty good reviews and they come with handles.
- the wheel weights I mentioned earlier. Still not sure how much to offer the guy but I'm thinking $20 for 50 pounds would maybe be fair. (???) I also need to go the local scrapyard/recycling place to sell some brass so I'll ask about some scrap lead and at least get a fair price to offer the other guy while I'm there.
- I'll look around for a cast iron pot of some description. I think there is probably one around somewhere that I could pilfer. Same for an old muffin pan for making ingots.
- Camp stove for smelting.


At the very least, I want to get enough to make my "ingots". It's at least some progress.

RustyFN
September 12, 2008, 11:19 PM
Lee electric furnace without a spout. It is my understanding that the spout will leak. I don't need molten lead leaking out and setting stuff on fire.
You don't have to worry about a fire. It will leak onto the bottom plate of the pot. It is also very easy to eliminate the leak. I use a 10 pound Lee bottom pour and Mine doesd't leak any more.
the wheel weights I mentioned earlier. Still not sure how much to offer the guy but I'm thinking $20 for 50 pounds would maybe be fair.
Around me and a lot of others I know WW's are going for $20 to $30 for a full five gallon bucket.
I'll look around for a cast iron pot of some description
I bought mine at Harbor Freight for $12. It's a six quart with a lid.
Same for an old muffin pan for making ingots.
Make sure whatever you are going to use for an ingot mold will fit in your production pot. The muffin ingots wouldn't fit in my ten pound pot but they will fit in my 20 pound pot. Hope this helps.
Rusty

ultramag44
September 12, 2008, 11:25 PM
Goon: Here are two articles that adress all your questions. First is about LEE molds & electric pots, second is about lubricatorsizers.

http://www.surplusrifle.com/shooting2006/swwheelgun2/index.asp

http://www.surplusrifle.com/shooting2006/swwheelgun3/index.asp

scrat
September 12, 2008, 11:25 PM
take a small soup can or even cut a soda can in half. i put it under my 10lbs pot. So if it leaks it goes in the can. The lead can splatter when it hits the bottom. Only time i have ever been burned is from the splatter. Also get some jumbo paper clips. If you dont have any go buy some or just find some. You want to bend them into an L shape.


Why because once in a while the nipple will clog or the flow will just slow down a little. When it does you take the jumbo paper clip run it up the nipple. Be carefull you pull it out as the flow will be really good again. Then keep a small cup of water somewhere near you. As you can put the paper clip in it.




Oh one more thing with the Lee pots. a lot of people use a 1 inch wooden dowel to smack at the mold sprue plate. I dont. What i use is a good sized screw driver flat bladed. i hold it by the metal part screwdriver end. Then wack the big part against the sprue. Why because when that lee pot starts to leak i can quickly turn it around adjust the lever then get back to casting with out having to look around for another tool

goon
September 13, 2008, 12:53 AM
RustyFN, Scrat, and Ultramag44 - thanks.
That is helpful info.

I think I can swing a pot from harbor freight for $12 right now. Maybe I can get an apron for cheap there too (I'm accident prone so if I'm going to do this I'd better take precautions).

I still think I'll go with the ladle arrangement for casting though. It just seems less complicated and I have found that complications are my arch nemesis so I'll go with simple for now.

.38 Special
September 13, 2008, 01:44 AM
I generally dislike Lee but have had fair success with their bottom pour pots. I am currently using one of their 20 pound pots and it rarely leaks. Part of the issue is that the lead does need to be kept clean if the pot is to stay relatively "leakless". Smelting wheelweights in a bottom pour pot is a recipe for misery.

Lee moulds do occasionally have tolerance issues. You may not quite get the diameter you were looking for. Oversize is fixed by the lubrisizer -- unless you are tumble lubing without sizing -- but undersize is a problem. Your guns will NOT be happy with undersize bullets, and if you get a mold that drops a few thousandths undersize you have a useless mold -- although you can search the cast boolits website for "Beagling" which purports to solve that trouble.

Lee also has a tendency to make molds with imperfections in the cavities. This normally does not affect the bullet itself, but does make dropping the fresh bullets a matter of multiple whacks with the mallet, which gets REALLY annoying during a long casting session. This can often be fixed, though -- search the cast boolits website for "Leementing" -- but does require some work.

Lee six cavity molds have a much better reputation than their two cavity molds, so it may be worth the extra money. IMO, it is worth it just in time saved.

I like my Lyman and RCBS molds. They are more uniform than the Lees and are generally much easier to work with.

Steel/iron, aluminum, and brass molds all work well, in my experience. Brass may actually be best of all, but you don't generally find them. The mold maker's skill and tooling is much more important than the material, and this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. It's true that aluminum generally heats up faster, but it also overheats faster. I personally prefer to preheat molds either on a hot plate or by floating the mold on the molten lead for 30 seconds and then immersing the front edge for another minute. (Most mold makers, Lee excepted, tell you not to do this, but I have never damaged a mold via the technique.) This generally results in perfect bullets from the first pour.

Smelted and ingoted wheelweights generally go for around a dollar a pound. Raw wheelweights maybe half of that.

You can learn an awful lot from the cast boolit website. Lymans "Cast Bullet Handbook" is also a very good resource. Veral Smith authored a book, available from the Lead Bullets Technology website, which is horribly written but really is the graduate level text on the subject.

HTH!

goon
September 13, 2008, 02:01 AM
Thanks. I'll look for the Lee manual too. I'll be hitting the gun shops tomorrow.
And thanks for giving me an idea of what to pay for wheelweights. The ones I am considering are raw, exactly as they came off the rim, so $20 for 50 pounds doesn't sound unfair to me.

MAGNUM44
September 13, 2008, 06:10 AM
GOON a couple of notes here when you cast make sure you do it either outdoors or in a place where you have pleanty of ventelation as so you dont be breathing in any of the lead fumes that are toxic, and make sure you buy a good pair of heavy gloves that are heat resistant for wearing when you are casting the mold handles etc get awefull hot at times and i have burned the s--t out of my hands in the past believe me the gloves help a lot, and try to ues and get linotype metal for casting great stuff and produce good hard bullets

snuffy
September 13, 2008, 12:04 PM
GOON a couple of notes here when you cast make sure you do it either outdoors or in a place where you have pleanty of ventelation as so you dont be breathing in any of the lead fumes that are toxic, and make sure you buy a good pair of heavy gloves that are heat resistant for wearing when you are casting the mold handles etc get awefull hot at times and i have burned the s--t out of my hands in the past believe me the gloves help a lot, and try to ues and get linotype metal for casting great stuff and produce good hard bullets

BS! There's no lead fumes present at normal casting temperatures. In order to have lead fumes, the lead must be boiling. Lead boils at 3,180 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal casting temp seldom goes above 900 degrees. The myth that we will all die from lead poisoning is straight from the greenie, tree huggers in our society. Yes, you do need to be careful when handling lead. Do not eat, smoke, or even pick your nose while casting. The be sure to THOROUGHLY wash your hands when you're finished.

I've been casting lead boolits since 1972, loading, shooting them. I recently,(last year), got my lead levels tested at the VA. It was 5.0! 20.0 is the level where you have to be worried.

BTW, that's the longest sentence I've seen for quite a while. But wait it wasn't a sentence, no period!

ultramag44
September 13, 2008, 12:45 PM
.38 Special made some good points. My comments in bold:

I generally dislike Lee but have had fair success with their bottom pour pots. I am currently using one of their 20 pound pots and it rarely leaks.

The OLD Lee pots (25 years ago were dribblers) new ones are almost leak proof.

Oversize is fixed by the lubrisizer -- unless you are tumble lubing without sizing -- but undersize is a problem. Your guns will NOT be happy with undersize bullets.

Agreed!


Lee six cavity molds have a much better reputation than their two cavity molds, so it may be worth the extra money. IMO, it is worth it just in time saved.

Agreed Again!

I like my Lyman and RCBS molds. They are more uniform than the Lees and are generally much easier to work with.

I find Lyman molds are more persnickery then any other ferrous mold (they can be tinkered w/ toi make great bullets though). I find Seaco the best ferrous mold to work with


Aluminum generally heats up faster, but it also overheats faster. I personally prefer to preheat molds either on a hot plate or by floating the mold on the molten lead for 30 seconds and then immersing the front edge for another minute. (Most mold makers, Lee excepted, tell you not to do this, but I have never damaged a mold via the technique.) This generally results in perfect bullets from the first pour.

Use 2 molds together to overcome the "overheating" problem. you can only reduce heat so much!

armoredman
September 13, 2008, 12:54 PM
I use Lee moulds, Lee 10 pound production pot, Lee Liquid Alox, and my firearms are quite content! BTW, I found my Lee 356 124 2R actually drops at .360, so I can size the same bullet for both 9mm and .38spl. This picture shows the excellent 158gr SWC from the Lee C358 158 2R mould, my very first one.

http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b13/armoredman/stages.jpg

RustyFN
September 13, 2008, 01:11 PM
I generally dislike Lee but have had fair success with their bottom pour pots. I am currently using one of their 20 pound pots and it rarely leaks.
Goon my experience has been more of a slow drip not a leak. The stem that starts and stops the lead flow has a screwdriver slot in it. If you give that a couple of turns the leak is gone. Here is a picture of my Lee ten pound bottom pour pot. Not a great picture. If you would like some better pictures let me know.
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b8db07b3127ccec460ae1ea36300000040O00DZOGblm4Yg9vPhI/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D480/ry%3D320/

If you are going to ladle pour then you will want to get a bottom pour ladle like this one. It pours the lead from the bottom where it stays the hottest.
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b8db29b3127ccec445c632843100000010O00DZOGblm4Yg9vPhI/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D480/ry%3D320/

If you know how to weld or have a friend that does you can make some ingot molds cheap. I made these out of 3" angle and pour them half full to fit the ten pound pot. Full ones will fit the 20 pound pot.
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b8db32b3127ccec44fb99be1fb00000010O00DZOGblm4Yg9vPhI/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D480/ry%3D320/

Here are the homemade mold and muffin mold ingots. Both work great.
http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b8d834b3127ccec40aa52d077800000020O00DZOGblm4Yg9vPhI/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D480/ry%3D320/

Again if you would like pictures of anything let me know.
Rusty

HisSoldier
September 13, 2008, 01:34 PM
Steel molds? No kidding? I though the three common materials were cast iron, aluminum and brass. I've never seen a modern brass mold except cap and ball repro's, but read that one obscure maker makes them. I have Lyman and RCBS molds at this time.

scrat
September 13, 2008, 02:22 PM
Rusty thats why i use a pig flat bladed screwdriver to whack at the sprue plate. as if it leaks i turn it around and adjust the screw on the back.

If you enjoyed reading about "More casting questions..." here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!