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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  The Darksider's Den  |  The Dark Arts (Moderator: Lucky Irish Tom)  |  Topic: Bullet Casting Questions 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Bullet Casting Questions  (Read 16455 times)
Coal Creek Griff
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« on: November 23, 2008, 12:51:50 am »


There isn't really a specific reloading section, but I bet my friends here can answer me.

I'm thinking of giving bullet casting a try, but I don't want to sink all kinds of money into the project at the beginning because I'm not sure I'll keep at it.  I'm willing to spend some, of course, but I'd like to try a "minimalist" approach at first.  If I find it very rewarding, I'll lay down more cash later, even if it means replacing some things I've bought.

Here are my questions:

What do I need to get started?

What can I buy down at the hardware store and use in my trial run--e.g. will a cast iron pot on my camp stove work as a lead pot for now?

Does Lee Liquid Alox lube work well enough to get me going, or should I pan lube or use another method?  (I'll probably load both black powder and the other kind [sorry to you purists]).

If I use Alox, do I have to use Lee's special tumble lube bullet molds?

I have a couple of cans full of fired bullets.  Can I use those at first for my lead?

What is a good source of casting alloy (it must cost a fortune to ship)?  Where I live may not be the middle of nowhere, but maybe it is on the edge of nowhere, so I do most of my shopping by mail.

What is a good manual to get me started?

My challenge is to try out bullet casting with the lowest startup cost.  I look at it as a kind of game to see how much I can keep the cost down.  Any suggestions would be a great help!

CC Griff
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« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2008, 09:22:36 am »

Howdy Pard,

Goatlips has a great site on casting and pan-lubing.  If you Google "Goatlips" you will find him. 

I started out with a used Lee bottom drop pot I paid $20.00 for.  If you buy lead ingots for casting (Midway USA sells them, perhaps they will ship USPS bulk flat rate) you can forego the whole smelting process which gets the dirt and impurities out of the bulk/scrap lead. 

The fired bullets can be melted and reused but you may want to use another pot so the casting pot does not get fouled.  If you are using a pot on your stove keep some wax handy and drop it in to flux out the dirt.  If you flux the pot you can probably use the ladle and pot method for sure.
 I chose to smelt used lead to try to keep the costs down.  It likely cost another $60.00 but with Spencer bullets costing 36 cents each, (two years ago), I figure it will pay for itself.  I have also found trying to find bullets very frustrating.  I waited 3-4 months for some 45 LC bullets.  I now have a mold for those as well.
For smelting I bought a cast iron pot at an antique store, I think I paid $16.00 dollars for.  I was given some wheel weight lead and bullet trap lead from friends.  I tried the side burner on my gas grill, but it did not get hot enough.  I found a turkey frying outfit never used at a yard sale for $40.00.  The turkey pot burner really gets good and hot.   So far I have only cast bullets for my 56-50 Armi-Sport Spencer. 

You will also need a steel or cast iron ladle for pouring.  I have never tried using a ladle to pour into the mold, but that would be cheaper than buying a pot. (In my case, I bought the pot first since it was a fair deal).  The key is to have the lead hot enough to completely fill the mold. 

If you  use over powder cards, (with a dollop of BP lube under the bullet for BP), you can use the bullets for either Smokeless or BP.  DIck Dastadly makes some real good molds for BP that will work just as well with smokeless.  I am sure you will hear some good info here.

Good luck, Amigo,

Panhead Pete
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« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2008, 10:25:52 am »

Hi CCG, a camping stove and cast iron pot are exactly the way I started 25+ years ago!
I graduated to a bottom pour furnace when I started getting more moulds and more calibres to feed but have gone back to the original method since us Brits lost our cartridge pistols.
Used bullets are easily the best way because they normally retain a certain amount of lube and are self-fluxing to remove dirt etc to the surface of the molten lead.
One last tip; find someone who already casts to give you some pointers about temperature of lead and moulds.

Any questions, please ask, UKshooter.
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2008, 10:43:01 am »

I've been casting since around 1972 and you can invest thousands or a few dollars. My first suggestion would be to buy or borrow the Lyman bullet casting book. It will answer alot of questions and will be a valuable guide later on. Alox is a no-no for bp but works great in the other stuff, I forgot what its called. Lee molds are sometimes tricky for new casters but can be mastered. They don't offer a BP mold however you can buy those from DD. For the simple way of lubing you can also use Lee $13 kits or wrap up over $300 in a star. This site is filled wiyh people who are willing to steer you in the right direction. I'm an old time caster and reloader as I said but new to the Frontier Cartridge in SASS and myself have received valuable info from it. See Ya Down the Trail Fairshake
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2008, 12:30:10 am »

Thanks to Pete for the kind words, but the definitive site for neophytes AND hoary old moss covered casters is right here:

http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forumdisplay.php?f=8

The cast boolit folks are the Mensa-grade overseers of casting and without doubt the friendliest. Lotsa Cowboys there too.  Grin

Goatlips
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2008, 01:57:24 pm »

I have tried most all ways to cast, so here is my take on it. Buy a new or used LEE 10 lb pot and a 2 cavity mould and some LEE Alox. This will be only slightly more expensive then buying the cast iron pot, camp stove and ladle, but will be easier to sell if you don't like casting. And you won't have to upgrade so soon if you do like it. As long as there isn't lots of dirt on them the used bullets shold do fine in the pot as long as you flux well. This way you don't have the pot and stove and ladle laying around your garage for years after you upgrade to the better and bigger pots and moulds. And go to www.castboolits.gunloads.com, they know everything.
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2008, 04:37:58 pm »

Make friends with telephone repairmen plumbers, roofers and tire shops. Repairmen for the lead sheathing around telephone cables, plumbers and roofers for discarded lead pipe and roofing and tire shops for wheel weights. Watch for hospital remodeling, old x-ray rooms are a wonderful source.
I started with an iron pot and a propane campstove. Still is an effective way to pour bullets.

No one has mentioned that this initial melting of the base metal is very smoky and stinky. For the initial melt, I put about a half an inch of clay based kitty litter on top of the metal. This will absorb a lot of the smoke and stink. You will need a ingot mold of some sort. Teflon coated muffin tins work well.
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« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2008, 09:19:36 pm »

http://www.expertvillage.com/video-series/500_bullet-casting.htm
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQY/is_4_49/ai_98124194/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1
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« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2008, 10:13:59 pm »

for lead you can use old wheel weights from your local tire shop, I melt them in a big pot over a
turkey fryer, all the steel clips come to the top and are dipped off. then use a bit of parafin for flux
and stir it in good the junk will float to the top, keep doing this until you have good clean lead. I dip it into
1lb bars This works fine for cowboy shooting distances and if you get the right connections will be
cheap or free.


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Coal Creek Griff
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2008, 03:33:13 pm »

Well, I plunged in.  I bought the very basic equipment (mostly Lee due to my efforts to keep the cost down).  I acquired some alloy (from eBay and other sources) and tried casting over the weekend.  I was surprized at how well things went; Almost all of the bullets look good.  Of course, the proof is in the shooting, but I think I'm hooked now.

Thanks again for the pointers--more questions are sure to follow.

CC Griff
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Coal Creek Griff
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2008, 11:42:08 pm »

I've always said that I'm not sure which I enjoy more: shooting or reloading.  Now I have another aspect of reloading to enjoy.  I just have to figure out this whole pan-lubing business.

Griff
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« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2008, 11:15:39 am »

Pan lubing is a widely used option, and there is plenty of advice out there. 

I don't bother.  I pick a pea-sized glob off a lube stick and apply it to the grooves by hand.  It doesn't make much of a mess either, and I can do it while watching the magic-lantern show.
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« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2009, 01:36:25 pm »

These days if you can get a bucket of wheelweights you will find that a lot of them are stick ons. Stick on weights are near pure lead. Melt all of them down and the mix will be plenty soft. Less than 20-1, that is for sure.

I started with Lee pot. I still use it alongside my RCBS. The Lee pot that works well is called a Pro 4. You can get started with Lee molds too, they are the cheapest out there, but they still drop a nice bullet. You don't need a thermometer. If your melt is coming from the down pour Lee, it is at least warm enough to get started. If the bullets are wrinkled add more heat and if the get to just frosty you are good to go. Mark the dial for referrence. You are now casting at about 700 degrees. Flux? Just use a bit of bullet lube. Scoop the crud off with a ladle of dedicated large spoon. Gonna make ingots? Get a metal muffin tin and pour into it. Level muffins of lead in my 6 hole tin weigh right at 5 lbs each. Learn to smoke your molds. They make a spray on but that stuff fills in the mold and you loose definition on your bullets. Of course you need gloves and leather welding gloves are ideal, but they have cheaper leather gloves at places like garden centers, Lowes, etc. Anything else just ask.

BTW, I learned a huge amount about casting when I got started on the websites  Graybeards Outdoors and Cast Boolits. There is a world of info there and you can do searches for answers.
It is fun once you get to makin' yer own. Grin

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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2009, 01:50:43 pm »

I been using a Lee 10 pounder for years along with Lee moulds, 2 and 6 cavity.  Wheel weights are my norm for cartridge bullets as I got the stuff for free.  Hard to beat that price.  Wink  I save the really soft lead for my round balls.  This stuff is harder to come by, but through the years I've built up a stash that'll out last me.  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2009, 01:59:07 pm »

Please explain smoking my molds?
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 02:19:59 pm »

Please explain smoking my molds?

It's to keep the lead from sticking, acts like a mold release. Get a nice beeswax & tallow candle and let the wick get long enough to make smoke. Coat the inside of the mold by holding it over the candle, then cast. Like everything else about casting, it's an art that takes patience and practice to get good at. Maybe one day I'll get the chance to do it instead of just reading about it.  Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2009, 03:15:58 pm »

Frenchie has that smoking the molds down pat. I made the referral, because I had bought a can of the spray on release, it is like primer and then found that the stuff fills in the mold where you don't want it to. It is a bear to clean out too. So, new molds, you clean with brake clean, alcohol or thinner. Then before using you smoke the inside of the cavities and the bullets drop right out.  Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2009, 04:21:42 pm »

Myself I grab 3-4 kitchen matches and light and use them, have never tried the candle because I read/was told one time candles can sometimes leave a bit of waxy soot on the mould.  don't know if this is true, but why I always have used kitchen matches.

Also use the same type match when I want to smoke a seegar. Grin
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2009, 11:39:45 pm »

 Start with the Lee 1-lb production pot and a lee mold or two. Then when you get things down pat,you can move on to the better quality molds such as RCBS Lyman etc.
 You can use straight wheelweights for 99% of the cast bullet shooting you'll ever do. If you can't get them local, there's plenty of folks selling them already rendered and put into ingots on Ebay.
 For high quality certified alloy at reasonable prices I like these folks www.rotometals.com
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« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2009, 09:20:29 am »

The Big Lube™ bullet molds I sell are made by LEE Precision.  If you are using these molds you will find the best practices in the free pamphlet included with each mold.

For smoking the cavities I prefer a good hardwood splint.  Get it burning well and smoke the mold above the wood flame.  I've found that some candle flames will deposit a dimensionally measurable thickness of soot inside the cavities.  This soot would cause the molds to drop undersize bullets.  The flame from a clean hardwood splint will not deposit this much thickness.

Spray on mold release agents have caused problems for casters.  I think that they are being applied too liberally.  I don't recommend them because of this.  If too much of the spray release gets into the cavities, it will have to be cleaned out.  Cleaning the stuff out isn't an easy job and it has to be completely done before the mold will drop correct size cast bullets.  The problem is compounded with Six cavity molds because the bullets may not be uniform from one cavity to the next.

So, if you are using new molds that come in Red and White LEE boxes, pull out that instruction sheet and read it.

DD-DLoS
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2009, 11:29:42 am »

Howdy all,
I must say that I think this "smoking" of the mould is unnecessary.
I tried it once, after reading about it, some years after successfully casting thousands of bullets and balls.
I found that when the lead mix and the mould were up to good casting temperature, there was no sign of the smoking left or visible in the cavities.
I have never done it since, even with brand new moulds.
What I have found is that you must take great care to ensure that the moulds, and particularly the cavities, are clean and dry before starting.
Thats my two-pennorth, for what it's worth,,,, UKshooter
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« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2009, 05:31:12 pm »

Do you have to smoke them everytime you use them or just the one time?  Do you have to clean the moulds?  I had a bunch of other questions at the start of this thread maybe some of you with more experience then me could revisit my original post and give some more advice on a couple of the other questions.  The info gathered so far has been a big help and is much appreciated.

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« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2009, 08:21:58 pm »

As more of a comment than an answer, I started casting recently myself.  I wasn't sure whether I was going to stick with it, and I didn't want to invest a great deal of money.  I found a good deal on a Lee production pot and I ordered Lee molds. 

I smoked my first mold because I read that it was a good idea.  I didn't smoke my others because I wanted to try it out.  I see no improvement with smoking the mold (with the specific molds that I have).  The bullets drop free as well with all three of my molds.

I have been very pleased with how the casting has worked for me.  I bought lead from ebay and so far my guns shoot just fine, as far as I can tell.  I haven't been able to do any real accuracy tests yet, but shooting off-hand, they seem very accurate.  There is a deeper satisfaction in shooting bullets I made myself.

CC Griff
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« Reply #23 on: January 06, 2009, 04:36:10 pm »

For smoking the cavities I prefer a good hardwood splint.  Get it burning well and smoke the mold above the wood flame.  I've found that some candle flames will deposit a dimensionally measurable thickness of soot inside the cavities.  This soot would cause the molds to drop undersize bullets.  The flame from a clean hardwood splint will not deposit this much thickness.

So, if you are using new molds that come in Red and White LEE boxes, pull out that instruction sheet and read it.

DD-DLoS
What DD said about smoking. I use oak splits from shims. Even if you use wood kitchen matches let them burn a few seconds first. They have a small amount of wax below the match head to help start the flame. The flame from a clean hardwood splint will work better. Good luck.

Jefro
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« Reply #24 on: January 06, 2009, 06:11:04 pm »

Howdy Boys

Well, like most things, I seem to do things a bit differently than most. I do use a spray on mold release. The first prototype J/P 45-200 molds were a bear to get the bullets to drop out of. Nothing worked for me, not smoking the molds, or anything else. I finally got ahold of a can of silicon mold release formulated for the injection plastics industry. It was the only way I could get those first J/P 45-200 bullets to drop easily out of the mold. Some minor changes were made in the design when it went to production, and they drop out of the molds much easier now.

I have since broken the valve stem on that can of special mold release, so I just use the regular mold release that Midway sells. I don't notice any problem with it building up and causing undersized bullets. The key is, like the old Brylcreem ads, a little dab will do ya. You don't have to slather it on with a spoon. I usually give my molds a quick, light spray, then I'm ready to go to town. Like any surface treatment, it eventually wears off and may need to be renewed during the casting session. Same with smoking the molds. A quick squirt gets me going again.

And I have to disagree with my good friend Howdy Doody. I find a lead thermometer to be very useful. Making a mark on the dial of a pot will only mark the temperature for the same amount of lead in the pot. When you add lead, the temp drops. Then it takes some time to come up to temp again. I like having a dial I can read. I like to cast a little bit hot, up around 800 degrees or more.

I cast my Mav-Dutchman 44 cal bullets from pure lead. I cast my PRS and J/P 45-200s from a mix of about 1/25 tin/lead. The reason for the different alloys is that is what my molds dictate to end up with the size of bullets I want. Lee molds are slightly less than perfect, and their cavity diameters can vary a few thousandths. I forget exactly how much right now, but the discussions I had with Lee over their tolerances told me that their mold cavities could vary by a few thousandths and still be in spec. My Mav-Dutchman mold is a little bit towards the high side of the tolerance. So I cast them with pure lead. Pure lead shrinks more when it cools then lead with tin added to it. That way, I wind up with bullets around .430 or so in diameter. My 45 molds on the other hand are a bit closer to the low end of the tolerance, so I throw in a little bit of tin to keep them from shrinking too much as they cool.

I've been using that same Lee Pro 4 production pot for a few years now. It works well with the Lee 6 cavity molds. You can empty a 10 pound pot in a real hurry with a 6 cavity mold. The other nice thing about that model is there is a little adjustable shelf under the pot. I have the height set just right so that I plop the mold down under the spigot, open it up, and slide the mold along the shelf so the lead flows into eacn cavity in turn. Kind of like a bartender lining up glasses and fillling them all up in one fell swoop.
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