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Thread: Need Advice on Bullet Casting Equipment

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    Default Need Advice on Bullet Casting Equipment

    I have wanted to start casting my own bullets for years and am ready to take the leap to buy some equipment. A few questions:

    1. What furnace would make a good starter piece that would give good service and not need replacing as I progress in this hobby. Basically, I don't want to spend 50 bucks on a starter furnace only to find I needed to spend more for one that would do better maintaining temperature, quantity of lead, and last for years. (Not planning on massive production, but would like to cast for 9mm, 38/357, 44, 45 auto, 45 colt, and maybe for 30-30 and 45-70.

    2. Who makes the best molds? Lyman, Lee, RCBS?? I have The Lyman hand book and have been reading some. Looking for someone experienced in casting that can give me some practical start up tips, 2 cavity molds, 4, 6?? ect...

    3. Best and most economical sources of lead. I probably have 150lbs of wheel weights to start up with.

    Thanks for replies/advice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HUNTERKJL View Post
    I have wanted to start casting my own bullets for years and am ready to take the leap to buy some equipment. A few questions:

    1. What furnace would make a good starter piece that would give good service and not need replacing as I progress in this hobby. Basically, I don't want to spend 50 bucks on a starter furnace only to find I needed to spend more for one that would do better maintaining temperature, quantity of lead, and last for years. (Not planning on massive production, but would like to cast for 9mm, 38/357, 44, 45 auto, 45 colt, and maybe for 30-30 and 45-70.

    2. Who makes the best molds? Lyman, Lee, RCBS?? I have The Lyman hand book and have been reading some. Looking for someone experienced in casting that can give me some practical start up tips, 2 cavity molds, 4, 6?? ect...

    3. Best and most economical sources of lead. I probably have 150lbs of wheel weights to start up with.

    Thanks for replies/advice.
    You can get started pretty cheap with Lee products. Go to their website and order the free catalog for starters. Your one jump ahead already with the wheel wieghts.
    Lee has an online catalog you can order from also and they ship anywhere in the US for $4.50 handling charge.
    I can do the impossible right away. Be patient, miracles take me a bit longer.

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    Default Getting into bullet casting

    A good place to start is the gun shows. I've picked up a number of molds and sizers at shows over the years. At the last show here in Anchorage I picked up a number of Lyman and RCBS molds and a RCBS sizer with a bunch of sizing dies and top punches for less than $100 total.

    The Lee stuff is a good place to start until you pick up some more stuff along the way. I've got all kinds of brands but the Lee stuff work pretty well esp. for my .500 S&W and my 310 gr. 44 bullets. I tried some the Lee .500 440 gr mold and sizer when I first got my S&W along with the liquid Alox and by golly it worked dang well to my surprise. Downside is it is a bit slow - fine for larger calibers but I don't use it for .357 or .45 acp calibers I shoot a lot.

    I use a RCBS pot I got cheap ($20) some years ago at an auction and I have an old Lyman electric pot I used for years. I also cast thousands of bullets off my kitchen stove or Coleman stoves when I first got started way back in the 60s.

    If cost is no object go with Lyman, RCBS, or SAECO molds. Best sizers are the SAECO and Star unless you want to go to to 50 cal in which case you need to go with the Lyman or RCBS. The RCBS pot is nice but pricy; I haven't tried the new Lyman pot. If you can hook up go with the 220 v units to heat up faster.

    Bullet casting adds a whole new dimension to reloading and save a bunch of money on the large caliber pistols and rifles. You will end shooting a lot more and have a lot more fun!
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    Thank you for the good advice! I think I will end up at the gun show this weekend and will keep my eyes peeled for used equipment. I wish I could say price was no detractor, but like most folks now days every cent counts. My main concern is not spending hard earned dollars for basic low end start up equipment only to find out six months down the road I can't turn out the quality or quantity I want.

    I have tried the Lee liquid Alox on some older cast bullets that had lost most of the lube and had good results as well. I guess melting lead on a stove top, the hardest thing would be keeping the temp regulated?? Really want to get started as I shoot mostly cast bullets now out of all my hand guns and would rather spend my money on the casting equipment than to keep buying by the thousands!

    Thanks Again!

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    I think the question to ask is, Who makes the Best Lubri-sizer? IMO, that is the beeg issue.

    Lee sells a sizer, but it isn't a Lubri-Sizer. Lee does it a different way, with tumble lubing, and even has bullet designs for tumble lubing.

    Even if you wanna to go the route of a Lubri-sizer, which is the best way, I'm sure, the Lee way is cheap enough, that it shouldn't preclude that.

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    Sooner rather than later you'll have to deal with lead sources and hardness. You'll go through lots of lead and it's expensive to buy. Scrap lead will become your best friend, but it will come in all sorts of shapes and alloys. I'd add a hardness tester to your kit right away.

    Another thing I'd do is raid your kitchen, or if your wife catches you, resort to garage sales for a cast iron pot for melting scrap lead. Your setup will work best if your lead and alloys are in one-pound ingots before they ever hit your casting furnace. Use the cast iron pot, your Coleman stove or crab cooker, a steel ladle and a mold for 1-pound ingots to get the lead ready before you ever step up to the casting furnace.

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    I use a Lee pot and Lee molds with no complaints. I've talked to a few guys who have used the same lee pot for 20-30 years. I also have a Lyman mold that works great but cost several times as much pluse handles cose extra. The only thing I dont have ia a lube/sizer which will be my next upgrade. For now I size with the Lee sizers which work fine but I have hit and miss luck with getting the grease groves filled evenly with pan lubbing.

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    Thanks for all the advice! I might pick up a ladle and ingot mold & start melting down some of those wheel weights, (I have a 5 gallon bucket full). I have several colman stoves to use. Cast iron?? My wife easily has 30++ cast iron skillets and dutch ovens of all sizes that were her mothers. She won't let me touch one to fry up a bologna sandwich let alone melt lead!!

    I have that one covered though as I found a Lodge small dutch oven with lid that some poor misinformed individual threw in a dumpster because it had surface rust all over it. It cleaned up well and is now my new lead pot for making ingots. I can't wait to start casting those fine Keith style cast bullets!!

    Thank You ALL Again

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    1. The older saeco furnaces are the best, I started with a lee furnace, and I'd say for the $ the 10# bottom pour lee is hard to beat.

    2. Balisticast makes the best molds, but they are expensive, RCBS molds are also very good. I have quite a few lee molds, and they produce excellent bullets. I really like the 6 cavity lee molds, it's a better design than the 2 cavity lee, and costs less than anybody elses 2 cavity molds.

    3. That depends on your ability to scrounge, barter and find deals. I used to be able to buy 5 gal buckets of ww's for $20, but that source dried up, and lead prices have risen since then. WW's are my favorite alloy, they produce great bullets.

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    Default some pointers for ya

    The other guys here have you pretty well lined out on ideas and equipment but I will add some of my thoughts as well….

    First off, dump that 5 gal bucket of weights out onto a blue tarp in your garage and sort out all the stems, beer bottle caps and other assorted crap that will smoke like crazy and add to your work load… then look those weights over really well and make sure you don’t have any of the “new style” zinc weights! They are significantly harder than a standard lead weight and are also usually shinier. If you miss some, and end up getting your lead hot enough to melt the zinc it will pretty much ruin your entire batch of lead.

    Get yourself some paraffin wax from Car’s or Fred Meyer and you can toss a couple small chunks of that in while you are smelting down the weights. This will help break the surface tension on the molten lead and let the dross rise to the top more readily where you can then skim it off along with the clips and other crap. An old perforated spoon from the kitchen works good for this, so long as you have good insulated gloves. If you don’t want to spend money on the paraffin, you can substitute all kinds of stuff… candles, crayons, even saw dust… nothing liquid though!

    A wooden, or rawhide mallet is great for whacking the sprue plate on your molds.

    Clean and degrease your moulds before use and then give them a final wipe down with alcohol to get all the remaining oils and residue off of them. Then soot the mold cavity with a sooty flame from a wood match.

    Disregard the mold makers advice about preheating them with direct flame. It’s a bunch of hooey! Unless you like dumping dozens of wrinkled bullets back into you pot while you wait for that mold to come up to temperature, then you can save yourself a bunch of time and effort by preheating your mould with a small propane torch. Don’t go crazy and turn the thing red…. Just preheat on all six sides for a little bit to get it up around 5-6 hundred degrees. That way you wont be casting for 20 minutes trying to get the mold up to temp.

    Some folks really like the Lee Tumble Lube stuff…. I personally don’t care for it mainly because it tends to gum up my bullet seating die. Same goes for hard lubes. The required heater for hard lubes adds expense and the little flakes or pieces of hard lube that inevitably end up in your loading dies is a pain to clean out. Stick with the standard 50/50% alox lube and you cant go wrong here in Alaska. It never gets hot enough to cause a problem with the soft lube up here… at least not in my experience, and the stuff is much easier to clean out of your equipment, and seems to actually do a better job of lubing the bullets as they travel down the barrel than the hard lubes do.

    Don’t ever store you gas checks anywhere near your case tumbling corncob media! Even a pinch of that stuff inside your box of gas checks will make you want to cry… or at least toss them in the garbage and buy a new box.

    If you load with gas checks, don’t shoot those loads over your chronograph…. For what ever reason, gas checks hate chronographs and will make every effort to jump off the base of you bullets and home directly in on your chronograph screen…. Like evil little chrony seeking missiles!

    Don’t be picky about your plinking bullets. Provided the base is well formed and the bullet is round enough to make it thru the lube sizer die, they will likely shoot just fine. I have purposely shot some truly hideous bullets just to see how much they effect accuracy, and it is amazing how well a totally deformed, wrinkled blob of lead will shoot at normal pistol velocities and ranges.

    The Lee bottom pour pots are inexpensive, have pretty decent capacity and heating controls and work very well. The do tend to be pretty “drippy” so you don’t want to leave them unattended while they heat up.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    One more thing to add to your do's and don'ts. If like me, you score a bunch of lead from a range, sort through it really carefully. You don't even want to think about what happens with a live round in a lead pot, even a 22. It happens, just about as often as someone loses a live round at the range.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alangaq View Post
    Don’t ever store you gas checks anywhere near your case tumbling corncob media! Even a pinch of that stuff inside your box of gas checks will make you want to cry… or at least toss them in the garbage and buy a new box.
    Alangaq:
    That is quite a dissertation there, and a beeg help too.

    BUT, I sure don't unnerstan what you mean by the above. What happens when you get the corn cob, inside the box of gas checks? It sounds like another interesting story.

    I’ll be watchin for you at the Gun Show this weekend, at the Wasilla HS.

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    Default Another couple of bullet casting thoughts

    Make absolutely certain no water ever gets near the hot lead in any pot - period! It sometimes happens like a drop of sweat or a chunk of lead or wheel weight that isn't 100% dry or has some snow or even frost on it.

    When you flux with wax keep a march or butane lighter around to light the fumes - this will cut down on the odor and smoke from the pot.

    Aersoel brake cleaner works great for cleaning molds. Buy the cheap stuff and drench the mold cavities and wipe clean while still wet with a clean rag or towel.

    While you want the cavities clean of grease you need to carefully lube a few parts on the molds and handles. I use a touch of wax on the handle pivots, alignment pins, and spruce pivot. You can also wet the bottom of the spruce plate and fill hole with wax to keep the bullets from sticking to it and/or lead from building up. Don't use too much anywhere or it will get into the cavities and you will get wrinkled bullets. I melt a bit of wax on the handle hindges and then wet my cotton gloves with a bit and then wipe it over the surfaces where I don't want to lead to stick

    No two molds are exactly alike. You will may need to use different temperatures and poruing techiques for different molds. You may also need to tap the handles- never the mold blocks - at different points to get the bullets to drop out.

    Wear some sort of gloves and glasses whenever you cast or melt lead. Even a thin pair of cotton gloves will protect your hands from most burns that result from the unavoidable lead splatter. Ditto for glasses - it doesn't take much to protect your eyes from lead splatter BUT you do something.
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    Midway has a great mold release spray, much easier than smoking the inside of the mold. Just a quick spray, let dry a few seconds, use, the bullets just fall out of the mold. I used to make 39,000 bullets a day and it made the job much easier.

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    Lot of good advise. If you are going to start with Lee molds, the 6cavs are made to much better standards than the 2cavs and make bullets almost as fast as you can shoot them. I have two of the Lee 10# bottom pour pots, One is about 35years old and other than having a drippy nose, has never given a minutes problem. There are better molds on the market but the Lees, even the 2 cav, can be made to work very well through a process called Leementing. Try using welding gloves and open the mold by hand instead of whacking it with anything. Your molds will last a lifetime if handled carefully. Although wax, grease, oil and other stuff will lube your molds, there is a product called Bullplate lube that works better than all these other things I have tried. Google a site called "cast boolits". It's dedicated to casting and can answer any question you have and a whole lot you haven't even thought up yet. There are threads on every thing you can think of including getting started.

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    Thank you guys So!! much for the good start up advice. It is really helpful to receive free information from guys who have been casting for years. Great advice on the gloves and eye protection as well as the part about any moisture getting into the pot. I have read that a pot of molten lead can actually explode if a drop of water gets into it in one of the casting books?? Not a mistake I would care to make. Going to the gun show tomorrow and see what I can find.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    Make absolutely certain no water ever gets near the hot lead in any pot - period! It sometimes happens like a drop of sweat or a chunk of lead or wheel weight that isn't 100% dry or has some snow or even frost on it.
    Quote Originally Posted by HUNTERKJL View Post
    I have read that a pot of molten lead can actually explode if a drop of water gets into it in one of the casting books?? Not a mistake I would care to make.
    I too have heard this and have read this over the years I've been casting. I've been very careful to keep water away from my lead pot. Then one evening I'm watching Myth Busters and I just can't believe what I'm seeing! They're testing a myth that says if you wet your hand with WATER, you then can dip it into molten lead and not burn your hand. They go through the whole process, dipping several (wet) things in lead, ending with one of them dipping their wet hand in molten lead, 600-700 degrees, without anything happening. I'm sitting there saying to myself, "Where's the KABOOM? I was promised if water was submerged in lead there'd be a KABOOM!" So can anybody shed any light on this? Now, not being in my teens or twenties any more I have no desire to test this for myself, so I'll keep water away from my pot.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HUNTERKJL View Post
    Thank you for the good advice! I think I will end up at the gun show this weekend and will keep my eyes peeled for used equipment. I wish I could say price was no detractor, but like most folks now days every cent counts. My main concern is not spending hard earned dollars for basic low end start up equipment only to find out six months down the road I can't turn out the quality or quantity I want.

    I have tried the Lee liquid Alox on some older cast bullets that had lost most of the lube and had good results as well. I guess melting lead on a stove top, the hardest thing would be keeping the temp regulated?? Really want to get started as I shoot mostly cast bullets now out of all my hand guns and would rather spend my money on the casting equipment than to keep buying by the thousands!

    Thanks Again!
    From everything you said, the section I made bold stuck out the most. I was in the same boat about a year ago when I first started casting. I bought the cheapest of everything - which is Lee. I actually leaned toward Lee anyway though, since I've been so pleased with their reloading equipment.

    I bought the smallest, cheapest Lee melting pot with a dipper, and three different Lee two-cavity moulds. One each for .45 auto, .460 S&W and .450 Marlin. I use an old cast-iron skillet to smelt wheel weights for lead, and I bought some Linotype ingots from midway for hardening the alloy for the 460 and 450 marlin.

    I cannot say enough good about Lee reloading and casting equipment. Each mould has it's own different characteristics though, and you will have to learn them by trial and error. You'll need to figure out how hot the pot should be for each of them, and how long to let the lead sit in the mould before breaking the sprue and dropping the bullets. It's an educational, and enjoyable process.

    The greatest wealth of knowledge in the realm of casting bullets in the world is on www.castboolits.com. Go lurk there for a while and you'll get answers to all of your questions. You're more than welcome to shoot me a PM too. If I can't answer your question, I know someone who can. Best of luck getting started!

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    Many years ago we were casting bullets in a friends basement with the garage door open. It was raining outside and somehow a drop of water somhow got into the pot off something wet from the rain. There was lead splatters all over me and the ceiling of the garage. Fortunately no one got hurt but I'll bet there are still traces of lead in that garage.

    I remember from years ago working around the newspaper when they still used linotype that people would spit into the vat of metal to watch it errupt. It was well contained and didn't go anythere but it was worth remembering.

    I used to receover a lot of lead out a dirt backstop and wash the bullets to get the mud off. I was carefully to let the hot lead dry the bullets before they ever sank to the melted level and never had any problems.

    I guess you can be your own "myth buster" on this one but I'd recommend you wait until summer when you can do it outside.





    Quote Originally Posted by .338-06 View Post
    I too have heard this and have read this over the years I've been casting. I've been very careful to keep water away from my lead pot. Then one evening I'm watching Myth Busters and I just can't believe what I'm seeing! They're testing a myth that says if you wet your hand with WATER, you then can dip it into molten lead and not burn your hand. They go through the whole process, dipping several (wet) things in lead, ending with one of them dipping their wet hand in molten lead, 600-700 degrees, without anything happening. I'm sitting there saying to myself, "Where's the KABOOM? I was promised if water was submerged in lead there'd be a KABOOM!" So can anybody shed any light on this? Now, not being in my teens or twenties any more I have no desire to test this for myself, so I'll keep water away from my pot.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
    ".. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" JFK

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    I have met the "Lead Tinsel Fairy" twice in my sordid past and have figured out how to empty a lead pot so fast it will scare you. Really scare you. The lead in your pot usually runs about 700 degrees depending on the mold you are using and the alloy of lead tin etc. you are melting. You can actually put water on top of the meltd lead (dripping, spitting and such) without much fuss. If you manage to get the water under the surface before it turns to steam, you have created a steam cannon with the projectile being molten lead. Hence the visit from the tinsel fairy. Before I knew what was what, I would cast bullets and drop them into water to harden them with the rejects going back into the pot fairly soon. It didn't take too long before I cast one with a void in the bottom. I would dry them on a towel before throwing them back in the pot but the one with the void apparently still had wated in it. Dropping the bullet with water in it in the melt apparently allowed it to go almost to the bottom before the water turned to steam. I don't remember the expansion raito of water to steam but I do know that it is enough to almost completely empty a 10# Lee pot. So, although a drop of water on top of the melt will just steam, a drop under the surface will earn you a visit from the tinsel fairy. Purely nasty experience. The second time was from adding rejects that had sat for a long time but had apparently got moisture on or in one from somewhere. Now I add my ingots into the melt only after they have sat on the edge of the pot long enough to be completely dry. The rejects go in before the lead is hot allowing them to dry before melting. I would think you could plunge your wet hand into melted lead and pull it out quickly without hurting your hand. It does take a second or so before the explosion so I suppose it could be done. The water would be evaporating rapidly and cooling as it evaporated but I'm not going to try it.

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