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Measuring Fine Powders

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by ArtP, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. ArtP

    ArtP Well-Known Member

    I use a cheap Lee powder thrower that has served me well with the exception of metering very fine powders, such as H110/W296. With that powder, my unit binds and/or leaks badly regardless of adjustment.

    Can anyone recommend a thrower that handles fine powders better?

    Extra Credit: Can you explain the difference, mechanically, between the Lee I use now and what you might be proposing? I'm aware the Lee unit is cheap, a reminder of that doesn't help. I'm looking for the specific difference in throwers, besides the color (brand), that explains why one works and one doesn't, before I plop down cash.
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Generally speaking, I believe the Lee uses a plastic seal.
    That they leak is well known.

    Most high quality measures from the other reloading equipment manufactures use fitted steel drums or other metal in the moving parts.

    I have three old Lyman #55's, and one old Herters drum measure, and none of them leak anything, because they are so well fitted, there is no place they can leak.

  3. GLOOB

    GLOOB Well-Known Member

    The reason the Lee leaks is because it's made of plastic, and the parts warp while they set. The design is fine, it's just the manufacturing/finish which is not always the best. When you tighten the screw on the right side of your PPM too tight, the arm doesn't move anymore, because the joint isn't perfectly symmetrical. So you have to loosen it, and then it starts to leak out the left side, like a sieve.

    Other throwers use parts that are better fitted, so they don't leak or grind. At least as bad. Most of them also use a drum-in-sleeve joint, which works fine. But if it leaks or grinds powder, you're up the creek without a paddle. If you tried to sand it, the gap would just get bigger. The Lee PPM uses a 45 degree cone-shaped joint. This necessitates there's a bit of tension on the joint screw to keep the halves tightly together. So there's a tiny little bit of friction to the lever throw. But the plus side is if it leaks, all you have to is lap the parts together to get a perfect fit. When you put it together, the joint screw will just go a little tighter than before.

    So the Lee doesn't have to leak. I dunno if you saw the dozen posts I already made on the subject this last week. But it's quite easy to fix. I would never have used my PPM the way it came out of the box. But now it doesn't leak, grind, or bind with H110 or H335, at all. Quite accurate with those powders, too.

    Other than the manufacturing, there is also one other major difference between a Lee and other measures. The Lee uses a soft elastomer wipe. This is the part that's sorta like a "blade" that closes the measure off from the hopper when you turn the arm. This blade basically divides the powder column into the hopper side and the meter side. This is the reason the Lee has the reputation for handling stick powders without cutting/crushing the powder. A flake that is halfway between the hopper and the meter has a chance to get pushed under the wipe and held there until the next throw, in cushioned safety between the soft wipe and the hard cone of the thrower body/joint. Other throwers have a hard metal/plastic wipe that is more likely to cut these grains of powder in half. With a fine ball powder, one might argue that a rigid blade would be more accurate. But with a really fine ball powder, what happens is this tiny "reservoir" under the elastomer wipe gets filled with powder on each throw, and the hard plastic behind the wipe acts as the true wipe. So I dunno how big a difference that actually makes.

    Precision throwers also usually have a baffle in the hopper to minimize the effects of powder column height. Some also come with micrometers which are easier to set and change in a predictable way. RCBS (I think) also has a fully screw adjustable meter that you can swap out the meter with spares, so you don't have to change your settings between loads, at all.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  4. kingmt

    kingmt Well-Known Member

    Which measure do you have?

    Yes Lee is cheap but that doesn't mean not good. My Pro Disk doesn't leak & I prefer it over the LNL. I actually just bought 2 more of them. One is going on my LNL EZJect.
  5. 4895

    4895 Well-Known Member

    I have the Lee Perfect Powder Measure and an Ohaus measure. These two are what I use when not using a progressive press and although I do not use the LEE very much at all, I do know it measures stick powders very well. So well in fact, I think the only drawback is the size of the reservoir. I use the OHAUS ($40 at gun show) more than the LEE even though I cut every 5th load or so and have to pour out and measure the powder better. I would use the LEE more but it is at the back of the bench. It is not a great measure but functional with no frills. If I invested top dollar for every reloading tool in my arsenal, I couldn't afford primers.
  6. T Bran

    T Bran Well-Known Member

    Guess I just got a good one since my Perfect has never leaked with any powder from ball to stick. I never even had to adjust the tension screw. Wish I could help with your search hope you find a good one.
  7. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Well-Known Member

    I have a Lyman 55 and an RCBS Uniflow. Both are very good measures that do NOT leak because as someone else said, they're very closely fitted. I use both of them about equally, but if I had to choose one, it'd be the RCBS.

    I read lots of stories about the Lee measures leaking fine powder and how to fix them. I guess if you want to buy a $20 powder measure then piddle with it with trying to make it an $80, that's your prerogative.

    Since the good measures won't ever wear out, you could always buy a used one. Lyman 55's and Uniflow's on eBay go for anywhere from $35 to $50.

  8. GLOOB

    GLOOB Well-Known Member

    But if you already have a PPM and some sort of buffing compound laying around, you can fix it in less time that it takes to drive to the store and open your wallet. Besides, most reloaders are in the hobby to do exactly this. Piddle with things to save money. :)

    Actually, the joint design of the Lee PPM ensures that it will never wear out, either. Once you get it fitted, it will only get smoother over time.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  9. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    I agree, my Pro Auto-Disk is a very good tool and does not leak at all for me. I use mostly Ball powders too including W231, W296 and AA#5 without leakage.

    Which Lee powder measure are you talking about?
  10. ArtP

    ArtP Well-Known Member

    I have the $20 PPM. Gloob makes a good point, I've already got one as part of kit. I doubt I'd ever buy one on its own.

    As stated elsewhere, it really does work fantastic for extruded powder. It can be off +/- .2 (total spread of .4).
  11. Kevin Rohrer

    Kevin Rohrer Well-Known Member

    Any measure that is not junk will handle ball powders w/o a problem; it's the larger stick powders and some flake powders that a few measures have a problem with. Any measure made by RCBS, Redding, Lyman, Hollywood, CH, and B&M will work fine. I can't speak about Hornady as I have no experience with their products.
  12. brickeyee

    brickeyee Well-Known Member


    It is made of cast iron.
    Beats plastic every day.

    Use a baffle and a micrometer head if you change loads often.
  13. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Well-Known Member

    My Uniflow measures H110 just fine, with no leakage. I can't comment on other measures because the Uniflow is the only one I've ever owned. Judging by the way it's performed for me though, I don't see a reason to ever change.
  14. GLOOB

    GLOOB Well-Known Member

    Are you sure? Cast iron and aluminum parts need to be lubricated, and cast iron is susceptible to rust.

    I'm also curious, how do you empty the Uniflow? Do you really have to dismount it and turn the whole thing upside down? With a PPM, you twist the hopper to close it off. Drop a few throws to clear out the meter. Then lift the hopper off and pour it back into the jar. Does this not "beat a Uniflow every day?"
  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    I have to turn my measures over to empty them, but it doesn't bother me at all. I like to make sure every single flake is gone, so I would have it up off the mount to check anyway. I would rather have metal than plastic, and will accept the issue of possible rust and rust prevention, which hasn't been an issue.

    I like my measures, but do not care what other folks use.

    A leaky measure would drive me nuts, while others could care less. Who is right? Neither of us. :)
  16. kingmt

    kingmt Well-Known Member

    How do you keep the powder from pack around the convex part of the meter in your LNL? I was thinking of turning it off flat.

    I sent Hornady a message a week ago but they never responded.
  17. kingmt

    kingmt Well-Known Member

    I like be able to take the hopper off & set the hole over the small opening of the container then turn it on. No funnel needed.
  18. GLOOB

    GLOOB Well-Known Member

    To make sure every single flake is gone, you have to completely disassemble the meter. A fine ball powder will often leave a few ball in the bottom of the anodized aluminum metering chamber. I don't suppose this is any different between a PPM or a Uniflow, or any other brand. But in practice, tap the measure while working the arm, and it's as clean as it needs to be! If your meter is accurate to within a 1/10 of a grain with these ball powders, then what's the worst that could happen?

    Sure. But the PPM doesn't have to leak! So there! :)
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  19. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    With my 10X and my BR-30 I can get it all out. I do have to run the micrometer insert close to zero to see the cup in the stem. Neither the drum or the stem are aluminum. Is the LNL micrometer insert aluminum? I'll have to check mine. I have only used it for rifle with Trail Boss, AA 5744, N-133and H-322. They all come out easily.

    Evidently some don't leak. :)
  20. GLOOB

    GLOOB Well-Known Member

    Most of them do leak. But it's an easy fix. Not a fiddly, kinda sorta fix. A permanent fix, as in now my $20 measure does everything a $80.00 dispenser does, only it does stick powders better and has Lee's unique hopper system. It's just an easily remedied fit/finish issue.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012

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