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Old 01-14-2017, 09:37 AM
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Tailoring Your Collet, a tutorial


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So, some have said "My Lee collet die is a POC" or "It takes too much pressure to make my Lee collet die work, it's a POC." or "All Lee dies are P'sOC ."

Well I HOPE to shed some light (as per request) with photos this time, on how to tailor the mandrell of your POC Lee collet die.

All you need is a drill, pedal powered, plug in or battery powered electric or drill press, some 400 grit emery cloth, 000 steel wool or crocus cloth and an inexpensive set of dial calipers.

First, zero you calipers:



You'll notice I have two types, neither of which may be up to some machinists standards, but for the average Joe reloader, they are more than adequate.

Now measure the mandrel (this one's for my .243 die set) at the tip and at spots further up the shaft. Mine measured .241 all the way up.



Run a few cases (or the same one, it doesn't matter) into the die to "mark" where the neck is being sized on the mandrel. Then after you've determined where the neck is actually being sized, chuck the top of the mandrel up in your drill (the top has a wee "mushroom on it) and with the 400 grit emery GENTLY squeeze the cloth between thumb and forefinger in the area already determined. I use 400 grit cloth to prevent the removal of materiel too quickly. Stop the drill and re-measure. Remove at least .001 to start.

Reassemble the die and try (a different case this time) sizing without readjusting the die itself. You should notice two things.

1. The force needed to size the case (over center your press) was substantially less and,

2. When you raised the handle, you felt a bit of a pull before the case was clear of the die.

No? Well, chuck the collet back up and remove more materiel (not much) from the area where the neck is sized, NOT the whole shaft and repeat.

AH!!! Success!!!! The required force was reduced and I felt a bit of pull as the case cleared the bottom of the mandrel!!!!

Now measure the mandrel again:

Here's where my .243 mandrel ended up.



.0015 smaller in the area where the neck is actually being sized.

Too put a nice smooth finish on the mandrel I chuck it back up in the drill and using 000 steel wool or crocus cloth I polish the whole mandrel, not too much, just a little.

You're now saying "But the top of my mandrel got damaged by chucking it up in my drill!!! RJ, your idea is stupid", no you didn't hurt it just because it's got a couple dings in the end, or "RJ, I removed too much materiel form the mandrel, you're an idiot", Sue me. No, seriously, call Lee and tell them what you did and chances are (if you don't do it too many times) they will send you a new mandrel for free.

Another thing you will notice is that as your brass gets work hardened the "tug" or "pull" felt when the case clears the collet is reduced. This means your cases are springing back more as they work harden and may need annealed.

Here's what I use to lubricate my Lee Collet Dies:

It's a lithium grease, not as good a molybdenum disulfide, but it's working.



You can also use anti seize, but it's more mess than it's worth.



I lubricate the "point" of the collet, not the inside (where the light is)



You can see by the grease lines how little there is. I don't want it getting in unwanted places, plus it's easier to wipe off that little bit and reapply than to degunk the whole die.

RJ
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Last edited by recoil junky; 01-15-2017 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 01-14-2017, 10:10 AM
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You done good.

Cheezywan
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Old 01-14-2017, 01:37 PM
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Thanks RJ. I will get me one of these and then I MIGHT understand better how these work. Lol.
I appreciate your efforts!
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Old 01-14-2017, 09:40 PM
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I've made this a "sticky" so it won't get "lost". I will add more pictures later showing where to lube the collet as well.

RJ
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Old 01-15-2017, 07:52 AM
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Good tutorial, RJ. However, isn't that defeating the design of Lee's Collet by having no button to drag back up through the neck? I understand that it's minimal, .0015" or so, but.......... ? My first thought here is go ahead and reduce the mandrel along its entire length, or at least from the point of any conceivable use, and then all the way down to the pin to avoid any drag. You would still get increased neck tension from the reduction in diameter, but would have no resistance on the upstroke. No?
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Old 01-15-2017, 08:58 AM
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There will be a lot of "back lash" with this I know. In the end it's all about what works for YOU!!

If any of this is confusing to you, remember I'm a "think aloud" kind of writer and as it occurs in my pea brain, so it's written on paper . . . . .

What started this were these thoughts "I don't want to EFF up my press by turning the die just another 1/8 of a turn", "Why should I have to turn the case another 1/4 turn and jam the whole thing up again creating more stress and un-due wear on my press (and me)", so I thought "How can I make this easier, but leave the basic accomplishment the same" and "What can it hurt to 'turn' down the mandrel, they're only like $3" and "HEY, I can tailor bullet pull AND tell when I need to anneal!!" All of which started with my Dad whispering in my ear "Do yah no ken lad, yer o'er thenking t' problem. Ye got 't t'ink on 't cheep!" (No, he really didn't talk like that, but in my head he does when he's trying to get a point across, that and a rap on 't noggin' wi' a stick)

By leaving the bottom of the mandrel at it's original diameter I am better able to "feel" how much bullet pull I'm going to get. It's a "gut thing" not a measured thing? Maybe? As stated, the "tug" is also an indicator of how "stiff" the neck is getting and how soon I'm going to have to think about annealing and trimming and deburring, you know the FUN parts of reloading I don't get that "feel" with a button type neck sizing die. It's always the same, squish, tug, then YANK to get the neck back over the expander ball even with some sort of lube in the neck.

By only reducing the part of the mandrel where the work is done, the taper is so slight (.0015 over an inch) that I don't think it's stretching the brass nearly as much as the "tug . . YANK" Also, how is a guy (like me) supposed to get the whole length of the mandrel reduced (.0015") the same along a piece of shaft 3 inches long? Even though the OD of the bottom of the mandrel is still .241, the inside neck measurement is (with freshly annealed brass) .239/.240 as close as I can measure with the crude tooling I have. I'm not a rocket surgeon just ever so slightly above average Joe Reloader.

There are as many theories about neck tension as there are coconuts, but mine is the "softer" the neck, the easier it is to control tension. Remember it's my theory and it works for me

And I get groups like this





from "out of the box" Remingtons.

RJ
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Old 01-15-2017, 09:25 AM
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I've added photos of lubrication points to the original post.

Please PM me with other additions or deletions you might want to add. They will automatically go in the "dust bin" but send them anyway.

RJ
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Old 01-15-2017, 10:28 AM
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Well done RJ
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Old 01-15-2017, 12:08 PM
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I did something similar in a different way (maybe more like, analogous). I've actually lapped the collets into the closers and die body. I went through, IIRC, three grades of lapping compound doing this, finishing with 1200 grit. It took all the roughness out of the feel of operating them and removed the tool marks. I then applied my own version of an old S&W armorer's school recipe for smoothing up revolver double-action function. The school version is to mix some JB Bore compound with some well-shaken Break-Free CLP (shaken to get the Teflon in suspension) to make a slurry, then apply the slurry to all the moving parts and double-action dry fire a hundred times to lap it in. What it seems to do is not only polish but drive the Teflon into the rubbing surfaces until they get a kind of smooth waxed feel that is permanent.

For myself, I used the JB, but I didn't currently have a bottle of the Break-Free product, so I used a short string of a PTFE gun grease that comes in a plastic syringe-type dispenser and added enough light oil to make the slurry. But it worked just fine and the die now operates completely smoothly, even bone dry, and it is easier to apply enough pressure to make it work.

If the fatter part of the mandrel drags only lightly on the case, it probably won't hurt anything. I've had straight necks come off a Redding resizing die I have that has a carbide expander button. I still use graphite powder with it as a dry neck lube, and that combination pulls off easily enough that it doesn't seem to drag necks off axis for me.
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Old 01-15-2017, 12:56 PM
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While I didn't go through quite the trouble with the Teflon slurry, etc., I polished then lapped the top of my collet for my 22-250 sizer. It improved mechanical function slightly but I haven't done others.
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Old 05-03-2017, 11:06 AM
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Do you think a shot of One Shot in there would work? I do spray inside my reg dies with it. Weather it works in them or not, couldn't tell but it does make me feel better!

Last edited by Don Fischer; 05-03-2017 at 11:08 AM.
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Old 05-03-2017, 01:33 PM
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One shot isn't much of a lube. You'd be better off with a very thin smear of wheel bearing grease, or similar, on the outside of the collet fingers.

The only reason we can get away with using relatively poor lubricants for resizing is that brass naturally doesn't want to stick to steel.
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Old 05-03-2017, 03:02 PM
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Yeah, OneShot is like the non-lube of lubes. A co-worker brought me a 300WM FLR die to "see if I could get the case out after using OneShot. I took it home and let him stew for a week even though I had the case out in about ten minutes using my home made case puller then charged him $20. Then I told him about RCBS's water soluble case lube and Imperial Case Wax.

Like was stated, a #2 EP wheel bearing/chassis grease, lithium or molybdenum disulfide, just a dab will last at least 1000 rounds, 500 if you're a worrier, 250 if you really like to take sh . . er . . . stuff apart, and only 20 if you're like my ex sister-in-law

RJ
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