My first cast bullets

Discussion in 'Casting' started by DaveTNC, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    I was using a small Lee Melter, Lee Ladle, and 2-cavity Lee TL358-158-SWC mold, and range lead ingots from a seller on castboolits.

    Started out with the pot on "6" . Laid the ladle in the molten lead and the mold on the rim of the pot for a few minutes. After several casts of wrinkled and hardly filled out ones I turned up the pot to "6.5", and they started looking better, but the tumble lube grooves weren't being formed good. So I went to "7" and finally started getting some that at least looked like they were close to right.

    They still don't look completely right to me. Some of the grooves look frosted, but not fully formed.

    I learned a few things already.
    (1) Brake cleaner in the face burns like hell. (I was spraying it in the mold cavities to clean them and it splashed back straight into my face) Next time I'll use a Q-tip full of it or something.

    (2) The little Lee Ladle sucks. it doesn't really pour out of the little spout formed into the side of it, and only held about 1-1/2 bullets worth of lead. I started using a dip for each cavity. I need a real casting ladle or eventually I may get a bottom pour pot.

    (3) It's hard to manipulate the mold and little ladle with welding gloves on. I eventually took them off. maybe I can find some leather gloves that have more "feel" through them.

    (4) 86 degree days are not good for casting bullets.

    Here's the picture of the one's I kept. Any hints, tips, or criticism is welcome. :)

    IMG_7011.jpg

    Dave

    Edit: I just weighed and measured the 23 that I saved. They vary in weight from 158.6 to 159.5 grains. As for diameter, the best I can tell using my cheapie Harbor Freight calipers is that most are right at .3585, with a couple each at .3575, .358, and .359.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
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  2. Beef15

    Beef15 B or somesuch

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    Welding gloves are dumb, but they will save you if things go wrong. I often only wear one. Dip the corner of the mold blocks in the lead to pre heat, like half way in, when the lead quits sticking it's hot enough, a good hot mold will fill out even with lead barely over melt temp. Looks like maybe your sprue plate is on the cool side too, base fill out not great, having the sprue plate hot helps the lead flow into the cavities better, for your first few pours always intentionally leave a big sprue puddle to get that thing hot and work at a good pace or everything will cool.

    RCBS ladle is a good size I think, never tried any other.
     
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  3. Beef15

    Beef15 B or somesuch

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    Oh, and they look pretty good just need a little more base fill. Frosted is really not a problem.
     
  4. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    Thanks Beef15. I thought I had a pretty good fill over the sprue plate, once I started using a dipper full for each cavity. My problem might have been how slow I was at it, letting the plate cool down too much between pours. And I'll try dipping the corner of the mold in the melt next time.

    That little 4# pot is pretty small. I wonder if an RCBS ladle would fit in it?
     
  5. cold1

    cold1 Member Supporting Member

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    Keep expirementing with it. Each mold has it's own personality. Get a lead thermometer and keep notes on which temps give you the best bullets for each mold
     
  6. Grits

    Grits I'm a Dirt Bag. Charter Life Member

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    Let the bullet stay a little longer in the mould before you cut the spure. The one base you see at the top of the.pile was cut just a tad early. You can see the crystal of the lead. On the bullet at the bottom you see where it was cut, at the right time where you only see a smooth cut.

    All this takes practice. If you watch the puddle on the spure, you will see the color of the lead flash and change color as it cools. Wait just a tad longer and then cut the spure.

    I told you that August was the wrong time to be casting bullets. I like to do it in the winter when the is a bright crisp day. Long sleve shirts and heavy pants. Just cold.

    Great thing about casting your own, rejects go back in the pot.

    Sent from my SM-J320V using Tapatalk
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  7. JimB

    JimB Picking it up slowly. Benefactor Charter Life Member

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    I bet you were looking and evaluating after each pour. Try not to do that, pour say 20 times paying attention to the rhythm by counting, then check the bullets.
     
  8. Dave951

    Dave951 Happy to be here

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    I run my Lee 20lb bottom pour on 9 all the time, but then again, I'm casting hollow based minie balls for Civil War guns. Those moulds work best at high temps. I have a couple moulds for 40 and 45 and both of those I run the pot at about 8 with good results. I also gently preheat my moulds with a torch prior to casting, makes for fewer rejects as the mould approaches operating temp. A casting thermometer is a good idea as well. You don't have to have the one specifically for lead, I found one for about $25 from a place that makes them for taking temps on bbq ovens. If you laid my bbq thermo beside one of the Lee or RCBS, you couldn't tell them apart. Key is to have one with the correct range designed for the probe to be immersed in the melt. Also watch the lead on the sprue, on most moulds it will dimple just as the lead solidifies. Then, knock the sprue off. This is especially critical when casting minie balls or hollow points. Wide variation in weight will result if you don't have a consistent rhythm and technique. It's not rocket science, just be consistent and try different temps and pace to see what works for your mould and alloy.

    My general order of operations, start pot, go do something else for about 20 minutes checking on the temp. When the thermo says about 700, I start to pay attention as the lead is starting to melt. When the melt gets to 850, I will gently preheat the mould with a torch. One of my moulds for my 54cal Sharps has a very thick sprue plate and it really, really needs to be preheated. After preheating the mould, I cast about a dozen pours and don't bother saving them. The purpose is to get the mould to temp of the pot. Then I start casting for real. I'll run the pot down to about half, them recharge, wait for it to return to temp. Mould is set on rim of pot to stay warm. When the melt is back to temp, cast about a dozen, toss them and start casting for real.
     
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  9. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    I can see this is going to take some practice. I may look into a thermometer.

    I think most of my sprues were OK except a few toward the end when things were finally getting heated up and it was taking a few seconds for the lead to solidify. I might have hurried a few of them. I know you told me that August is not casting weather, but I wanted to try a few and see how it went. I get impatient seeing the equipment just sitting there in the boxes.

    You know it, Jim. I had to see how they were dropping, and I'm sure that let things cool down between pours. Towards the end, though, when they started getting halfway decent, I quit doing that. Maybe that's why things got better toward the end, too.

    Thanks for the tips, Dave951. I found those $25 grill thermometers, just haven't pulled the trigger on one yet. I think it's mainly just going to take some practice, now that I've actually done it once, to work on getting the temps right and finding a consistent rhythm. And maybe a thermometer and a Lyman/RCBS ladle.

    Dave
     
  10. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    Someone pointed out to me that the mold I'm using has a slight bevel at the base, so maybe they aren't as bad as I thought... https://leeprecision.com/mold-dc-tl358-158swc.html But mine don't look anywhere as nice as the one in this picture.:)
     
  11. Beef15

    Beef15 B or somesuch

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    Yeah, I think all lee handgun molds are. I cast a few of them, getting the bevel sharp and not rounded is the biggest challenge I face with them.
    I see a possibly a few in the pic the bevel looks good on (the one near the middle sole bullet in the top layer, and the one base up at its 5 o-clock), most look rounded.
    I'm not convinced the targets can tell a difference, but I cull them these days.
     
  12. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    OK, I see what you're saying about them being rounded instead of having well-defined bevels at the bases. Thanks!

    I think these will shoot well enough for me, but I want to keep trying to get them better.

    Dave
     
  13. jim borzumato

    jim borzumato New Member

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    suggest you wear a full face sheild, splashes can be dangerous, so ain't brake cleaner.

    jim
     
  14. Grits

    Grits I'm a Dirt Bag. Charter Life Member

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    You don't want a visit from the tinsel fairy.

    Sent from my SM-J320V using Tapatalk
     
  15. JohnFreeman

    JohnFreeman The bane of my existence Benefactor Charter Life Member

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    Good to see another caster. It's been a while since I did any and I need to rebuild my bottom pour Lee Leaker so it's less drippy. I really don't know that much about casting other than it takes a while for everything (including you!) to reach equilibrium . In the interim, everything goes back into the pot and there's no loss. There's a certain rhythm that happens and once you get in the groove it goes pretty quickly.

    It's enjoyable to me anyway. A lot of reloading is a Zen-like repetitive motion. I usually use 2x or 4x Lee aluminum molds for my 9mm stuff.

    It's fun to shoot ammunition you made yourself.
     
  16. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    I have a face shield, but was just using safety glasses when I was messing with the pot. Unfortunately I had taken them off when I was cleaning the molds. Luckily I was able to find my way into the house and to the sink and wash my eyes and face with the kitchen sprayer. Won't do that again.

    I've read stories about the tinsel fairy and plan to do everything I can to keep her away.
     
  17. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    You're right, I'm looking forward to shooting bullets that I actually forged with my own hand.:)

    I found that reloading gets my mind off of all the other things that invade it during the day, and as I do more if it it's becoming almost relaxing in a way. I'm guessing that casting will be similar.

    This time though, the vast majority of my work went back into the pot.
     
  18. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    Here they are, tumble lubed in straight Lee Liquid Alox. I may have got it just a little heavy. They're not really "tacky", but don't feel completely dry. Hard to describe, kind of "greasy" feeling. What's Alox supposed to feel like when it's set up?

    Now to load 'em and shoot'em!

    Lubed.jpg
     
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  19. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    And loaded. :)

    Loaded.jpg

    Now to find time to get to the range...
     
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  20. Combat Diver

    Combat Diver Well-Known Member

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    Looking great. I started casting this week after 4 yrs off (been working down range). I used the exact same mold as you Dave. Couple things I do to help. First I set up my box fan to blow all fumes out the open double doors of my shop. You don't want to breathe the fumes. Second set up the hot plate next to my Lee 10 lb bottom pour (spout jammed up years ago, so just use a dipper) I pre heat my molds and dipper on it as my lead melts in the pot. My boolits are good to go on the first pour. I use anywhere from 4-6 molds at once. Pour one, open next in line and dump out. When I dump the boolits I have a bucket of cold water below to the side to help quench the bullet. This makes it harder. I had 5 molds going this morning. With a RCBS dipper I can fill all six cavities of that Lee TL358-158-SWC on one pass and have enough sprue on top too. For gloves I like a well used pair of USGI leather work gloves (ones with the double palm).

    CD
     
  21. DaveTNC

    DaveTNC Happy to be here

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    Thanks for the tips, CD. I do have a (new-to-me) RCBS ladle now that I'll try out next time. I've heard several people mention a hotplate for preheating. I may have to look into that. And I have two molds, both two-cavity. One is the TL358-158-SWC that I used the first time, the second is a TL358-148-WC. But I'm not sure I'm ready to use more than one at a time right now.

    I did get a chance to shoot the first 20 pictured above last weekend. I didn't set up paper targets, just shooting at steel plates, but they did OK for that. I'm looking forward to making some more.
     
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  22. Combat Diver

    Combat Diver Well-Known Member

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    Forgot to mention my Lee 358-158 is a 6 cav mold. Using two molds allows one to cool and settle. Using one mold you're waiting for it to cool, so that time could be spent casting another 2 bullets. Doubling your output. If your just loading for .38 Special below 900 fps you could just use pure lead and still not worry about leading. Just use the Alox and tumble lube. Pushing faster then you want a harder bullet, ie adding tim or using wheel weights. This morning had 3 two cav molds and two singles. I need one of Lee's 18 cav 00 buck .330 molds. Two .311 RB or a single .375 is too slow for when I load 9/6 per 12 ga hull!

    CD