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Thread: help casting bullets

  1. #1
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    Default help casting bullets

    O.K. Tomorrow I'll be picking up the Lyman manual for bullet casting..."first things first" as they say.
    I know that "the book" will be a great resource, but I'd also like to get some opinions.
    1) I've weighed the gas vs. electric melting power, I like the simplicity of electric.., no tank to fill, no hose, and no open flame. However the initial cost isn't bad, a simple turkey fryer and a casting pot.

    2) "Bottom spout or ladle?" It "seems" that passing back and forth from pot to mold and then back again would cause lead to build up on/in the ladle, but..?


    3) Who makes the "better" quality molds when choosing between "good molds and better molds?" Considering 260-300 gr. for .452" and 350-400gr. for .458" (45 colt and 45-70).

    4) Who makes a "trouble free" sizer ?

    5)How did you determine what lube to use for your cast bullets?
    It "seems" that those kind of lubes which are melted in a shallow pan, bullets stood in pan, and then after cooling, bullets are "cookie cut" from out of the lube, are well.., simple. While it "seems" that the "Lubricating-Sizers" can be cantankerous..?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 358wsm View Post
    O.K. Tomorrow I'll be picking up the Lyman manual for bullet casting..."first things first" as they say.
    I know that "the book" will be a great resource, but I'd also like to get some opinions.
    1) I've weighed the gas vs. electric melting power, I like the simplicity of electric.., no tank to fill, no hose, and no open flame. However the initial cost isn't bad, a simple turkey fryer and a casting pot. Electric.

    2) "Bottom spout or ladle?" It "seems" that passing back and forth from pot to mold and then back again would cause lead to build up on/in the ladle, but..? Bottom spout with a mold guide.


    3) Who makes the "better" quality molds when choosing between "good molds and better molds?" Considering 260-300 gr. for .452" and 350-400gr. for .458" (45 colt and 45-70). Saeco are excellent quality and make pretty bullets but are limited in designs. Best bet buy a LBT style mold for the 45 Colt I'd get a 280 grain WFN and a 300 WLN. NEI also makes very nice moulds.

    4) Who makes a "trouble free" sizer ? Lyman or Saeco, but they use different sizer dies. Star is the best but dies are pricey.

    5)How did you determine what lube to use for your cast bullets?
    It "seems" that those kind of lubes which are melted in a shallow pan, bullets stood in pan, and then after cooling, bullets are "cookie cut" from out of the lube, are well.., simple. While it "seems" that the "Lubricating-Sizers" can be cantankerous..?
    Lube sizers are just fine they need proper adjustment and they work fine. I'd never use the cake pan method again.

    Also get a big pot if you want to cast big bullets. The weight of the molten alloy in the pot is pressure to fill out the mold well. Big bullets need a heavy load to make pretty crisp edged bullets.
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  3. #3

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    I started out using a lead pot and ladel on a Coleman stove. Getting the temperature right was a hassle, and didn't work out to my satisfaction till I located a thermometer with the right range. That did my fine for several years till I broke the thermometer. I couldn't locate another at the time. I finally invested in a bottom pour electric furnace, and the improved ease of controlling temps and casting was immense. While I "could" do it again with the pot/ladel/stove setup, I'd hate to.

    I went through more or less the same progression on lubing, starting with pans and cookie cutters, and graduating to a lubrisizer. Same thing. It was such a huge improvement in ease and accuracy, that I couldn't believe the difference. I could still do it with a pan, but I'd hate to.

    On the one hand it might be good for you to use as simple a rig as possible to start out, just so you could fully appreciate a good furnace and lubrisizer later on. But it might frustrate the heck out of you, too.

    If you can afford it reasonably, I'd sure make the dive for good equipment. Using that, the odds are good you'll still be casting bullets when you're 90, but I have less faith that you'll spend a lifetime doing it with a stove, pot, ladel and cookie sheet.

    I've got molds from most of the makers, and don't really have complaints about any of them. Happiness is usually more a question of finding the right bullet design for my needs, no matter who made the mold.

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    I use the turkey fryer and dutch oven method for rendering down my wheel weights into ingots, and then I put only clean ingots into my electric pot. It works very well and can highly recommend it.

    I tried the ladle method and the bottom pour just works better for me. What Murphy says is right on--with the bottom pour pot, the entire contents of the pot is pushing the lead stream into your mould, where with a ladle, you have much less to work with. I know guys who swear by ladle casting, and they are certainly a heck of a lot more knowledgeable than me, but for me bottom pour works better.

    Lee moulds have a reputation for being low quality, but you have to remember that they cost half as much as Saeco, RCBS or Lyman. The moulds I started with were RCBS and Lyman, and in hindsight I think that was a good thing--I think I would have been more frustrated having to learn on Lee moulds. I should point out that the Lee 1, 2, and 4 cavity moulds are much different than their 6 cavity moulds. The 6-cavs are much better quality, although they're still made out of a rather soft aluminum. I'm very happy with the ones I have, you just have to use some care with them (and really, that's not much different than when using steel moulds from any other manufacturer). Casting with aluminum moulds is a little different than with steel, mainly because of the thermal properties of aluminum. It heats up and cools down much faster, and so casting is easier if you use a slightly higher pot temperature. With my aluminum moulds, I go hot enough so that my bullets are frosty in appearance. The older casting books will tell you this indicates that the lead is too hot, but there's no downside and you tend to get better fillout anyhow. If you're trying to decide what moulds you should buy, I guess I'd have to recommend that you first consider bullet weight and design, and not really worry about manufacturer.

    The sizer I use, an RCBS Lube-a-matic, came with the gear I first started loading with. An uncle picked it all up at a garage sale in the 1970's, and later gave it to me. It's been very trouble free for me, but I need to point out I've never used anything else. I have heard very good things about Star lubesizers, but they're more expensive.

    For lubes, I started with Lyman super moly, and it worked well. Later I tried some from The Bullshop in Delta Junction. (http://bullshop.gunloads.com). His "Speed Green" is very good and is about the same price as the Lyman stuff. I also use "Carnauba Red" from White Label Lube. This lube is made by a really nice guy in Idaho who's a vet. His prices are the best I've found anywhere. The Carnauba Red requires a little heat on the lubesizer to flow well, but he just came out with something similar to the Carnauba Red which doesn't require any heat. When I get low I think I'm going to order some of that new stuff from him.

    I've never tried pan lubing, but if my wife caught me lubing bullets in our new oven, the police would probably never find my body.

    One thing you should definitely do is go over to the Castboolit site, http://castboolits.gunloads.com It's probably the single best resource I've ever found with regard to bullet casting.

    Good luck,
    Mike

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    Default Moulds

    I like Brooks moulds, I am biased though as he is my FIL.

    Steve will build them to any specs that you want.

    http://www.brooksmoulds.com/

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    358wsm, speaking of the Castboolits website, I just found this particular thread of do's and don'ts for new casters and thought it was a good one:

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?t=48852

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by 358wsm View Post
    O.K. Tomorrow I'll be picking up the Lyman manual for bullet casting..."first things first" as they say.
    I know that "the book" will be a great resource, but I'd also like to get some opinions.
    1) I've weighed the gas vs. electric melting power, I like the simplicity of electric.., no tank to fill, no hose, and no open flame. However the initial cost isn't bad, a simple turkey fryer and a casting pot.

    2) "Bottom spout or ladle?" It "seems" that passing back and forth from pot to mold and then back again would cause lead to build up on/in the ladle, but..?


    3) Who makes the "better" quality molds when choosing between "good molds and better molds?" Considering 260-300 gr. for .452" and 350-400gr. for .458" (45 colt and 45-70).

    4) Who makes a "trouble free" sizer ?

    5)How did you determine what lube to use for your cast bullets?
    It "seems" that those kind of lubes which are melted in a shallow pan, bullets stood in pan, and then after cooling, bullets are "cookie cut" from out of the lube, are well.., simple. While it "seems" that the "Lubricating-Sizers" can be cantankerous..?
    I learned with a bottom spout furnace, and have found it produces good bullets. The lee furnace works as well as others, though they tend to dribble. I use an old pot over an old coleman stove, outside to turn raw ww's into cleaned ingots. I also currently use Saeco bottom pour furnaces.

    Better molds, well RCBS makes a good commercial mold, ballisticast makes an excellent mold, and Mountain Molds makes custom molds that don't cost much more than RCBS. Lyman molds are so/so, Lee are cheap, but produce good bullets, but considering you can get a 6 cavity mold for less than a steel 2 cavity mold, they are a great deal.

    Star lube sizers are great units, I've been using an old Lyman (actually and ideal) and it works well enough.

    Lube sizers aren't cantankerous and if you cast bullets in any quantity you'll quickly hate the melt lube in a pan and cookie cutter aproach, way too time consuming.

    As to lubes, just get LBT blue and forget the rest. I've tried most every commercial lube and have found lbt the best. Or you can make up your own quality lube by mixing beeswax and moly/lythium axle greese. Avoid hard lubes, they only thing they are good for is staying in the grooves of commercially cast bullets during shipping. They are an inferior lube.

    Thats the summary of my ~1000 pounds of ww's turned into big bore cast pistol bullets.

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    I agree with the others about bottem pour being better. For one thing, you dont' get the slag and other surface crud ending up in your bullets. And I think that jet of hot lead flying out forcefully tends to fill out the sharp edges in the mould better.
    I like both Lyman and RCBS moulds for generally excellent quality. I am sure the custom moulds are equally good, but then you pay at least double the price. I'd rate the Lee moulds at the bottem of the heap.
    I have a Lee electric melter, and mine tends to "dribble" also...


    Marshall/Ak

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    These guys have you pretty well lined out, and I agree with most all of the posts thus far.

    As with any hobby, economics is often a serious consideration. Additionally the time available and expected results can play a very important part in your decision making in regards to the equipment.

    That said, I try to balance cost versus time, with the priority being on my time (I can always make more money, but there just aint no way to cram an extra hour into a day) so I am inclined to spend a little more cash if it will increase my efficiency an appreciable amount. A couple examples… Lee moulds. I have used quite a few, and gave them up for RCBS and Lyman products because I found that I could consistently produce better bullets in lest time over an extended casting session. Same goes for the pot and ladle set up… the bottom pours are simply much faster. One exception is the Lee “tumble lube” bullets. These would seem to be much faster than traditional lubing with a lubrisizer, but my personal doubts concerning it suitability for bullets in the 2000 fps range, keeps me from trying them.

    Attached are pictures of the home made smelting furnace. It is simply a 400,000 BTU weed burner welded to the bottom of a metal table… it melts LOTS of lead FAST and has the added benefit of sounding like a rocket and shooting up a 6 foot tall blue flame when you turn it way up! Fun!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 235_3555.JPG   235_3554.JPG  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alangaq View Post
    These guys have you pretty well lined out, and I agree with most all of the posts thus far.

    As with any hobby, economics is often a serious consideration. Additionally the time available and expected results can play a very important part in your decision making in regards to the equipment.

    That said, I try to balance cost versus time, with the priority being on my time (I can always make more money, but there just aint no way to cram an extra hour into a day) so I am inclined to spend a little more cash if it will increase my efficiency an appreciable amount. A couple examples… Lee moulds. I have used quite a few, and gave them up for RCBS and Lyman products because I found that I could consistently produce better bullets in lest time over an extended casting session. Same goes for the pot and ladle set up… the bottom pours are simply much faster. One exception is the Lee “tumble lube” bullets. These would seem to be much faster than traditional lubing with a lubrisizer, but my personal doubts concerning it suitability for bullets in the 2000 fps range, keeps me from trying them.

    Attached are pictures of the home made smelting furnace. It is simply a 400,000 BTU weed burner welded to the bottom of a metal table… it melts LOTS of lead FAST and has the added benefit of sounding like a rocket and shooting up a 6 foot tall blue flame when you turn it way up! Fun!
    Smelting is a good winter outdoor job and I like your setup. I use my blacksmith forge for smelting as I have it anyway, it would be overkill just for smelting. I used to despise smelting for most of the year when I lived in Arizona and had to do it almost every month to keep up with the shooting habits of my family. In Alaska it’s fun but I don’t need to do it very much with only me and the wife shooting.

    As for the Lee tumble lube, it works great for handgun bullets but at the tolerances needed for 2Kfps I would not bother with them. A lubersizer gives much more accrete tolerances and does a cleaner better job for fast bullets.

    A good source of pure lead (or close to pure) is old car batters but be careful to neutralize the acid and properly dispose of it.

    Some very good info here.

    Andy

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    OLD CAR BATTERIES?
    Those things contain lots more than lead, none of it good. There are all kinds of heavy metals in any car battery less than thirty years old.
    You might want to search for threads on this site and over at Cast Boolits. Those things can kill you.
    If you decide to play Russian Roulette with car batteries, just make sure you have good life insurance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowtigger View Post
    OLD CAR BATTERIES?
    Those things contain lots more than lead, none of it good. There are all kinds of heavy metals in any car battery less than thirty years old.
    You might want to search for threads on this site and over at Cast Boolits. Those things can kill you.
    If you decide to play Russian Roulette with car batteries, just make sure you have good life insurance.
    Agreed--the plates from car batteries from the past couple of decades are definitely something I'd stay away from. However the posts are pure lead and can relatively easily be cleaned up and removed with little risk.

    Mike

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    Yes lead-acid batteries are something that you need to know what you are doing to disassemble, but there are vast numbers of people who know how. For those that do know how there is about 10 to 20 pounds of lead in a car battery that is not that hard or unsafe to get at. Like anything to do with heavy metals dissolved in a solution you need to be smart about it or leave it alone. Even gold can make you sick or kill by heavy metal poisoning when in a solution but considered safe to eat in solid form.

    Some would use the CYA mantra “Don’t try this at home” and that could apply here. However, I have always viewed that statement as a challenge like most people do, so I don’t like to bring it up at all. That’s why I only post it where I think the people are smart enough to know what they are qualified to do and not try something over their head or research well before proceeding. Many people that know little about guns fear them also, but when in the hands of someone with knowledge they are quite safe.

    Andy

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Yes lead-acid batteries are something that you need to know what you are doing to disassemble, but there are vast numbers of people who know how. For those that do know how there is about 10 to 20 pounds of lead in a car battery that is not that hard or unsafe to get at. Like anything to do with heavy metals dissolved in a solution you need to be smart about it or leave it alone. Even gold can make you sick or kill by heavy metal poisoning when in a solution but considered safe to eat in solid form.

    Some would use the CYA mantra “Don’t try this at home” and that could apply here. However, I have always viewed that statement as a challenge like most people do, so I don’t like to bring it up at all. That’s why I only post it where I think the people are smart enough to know what they are qualified to do and not try something over their head or research well before proceeding. Many people that know little about guns fear them also, but when in the hands of someone with knowledge they are quite safe.

    Andy

    What do you do with the acid? (that also contains lead ions)
    How do you reduce the lead sulfate and lead oxides plates back to useable ingots?

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