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Discussion Starter #1
Hello Gentlemen,

I am new to the fold, and bullet casting, so a big hello. Although I am not new to cast bullet shooting. I have decided to start casting my own because I am just not satisfied with commercial cast bullet quality, plus, I think it will be fun. A couple of questions. What should I start out with for equipment? Lyman has a mster casting kit available, but I can see myself upgrading the furnace, and spending more money. Should I get bottom pour , etc? Any info would be appreciated.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Get a copy of either the Lyman or RCBS cast bullet handbook first, and read it cover to cover.

It will be a lot easier to make intelligent decisions after you have a little background and reference material.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
MikeG said:
Get a copy of either the Lyman or RCBS cast bullet handbook first, and read it cover to cover.

It will be a lot easier to make intelligent decisions after you have a little background and reference material.
Mike,

Thanks for the reply. I have the Lyman handbook, and although it has a wealth of knowledge about the process, it really doesnt inform me on what equipment to buy, or not to buy, or the quality of said equipment. Im just curious as to who uses what and their experiences.
 

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Beartooth Regular
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Hi, jpsw44:

Welcome to the forum. I was in the same situation a couple of years ago. The locally cast bullets were atrocious and so was the cost of shipping on Marshall's excellent bullets.

The kit's a good deal, costing about 30% less than the individually priced items. The Mini-Mag is about the minimum useful unit, but you can get by with it. Older kits have the orange painted 450 sizer instead of the black (or grey?) 4500 sizer. Look for a discount on the older kits.

What are you planning to cast? Most people use bottom pour pots for small and medium sized pistol bullets, but the BPCR shooters stick to big pots and ladles for big bullets, say in the 500 grain range.

Bye
Jack
 

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By all means, purchase the bottom pour pot! Also, in regard to lubrisizers, don't buy the Lyman because it's cheaper.... it's just that.... cheaper, and sooner or later you'll be disappointed in the unit.

The best of the bunch out there is the Star Lubrisizer, now manufactured by Magma Engineering. Following that it's a tie between the Saco and the RCBS sizing machines. I would probably choose the RCBS simply because of the standardization of sizing dies and top punches it utilizes, and their availability from wholesale catalog/online firms.

Also, don't scrimp by not purchasing a good casting thermometer. It will take much of the guesswork out of your casting sessions, help you avert much frustration, and allow you to produce a better quality product, much easier, and with more consistentcy than possible without it.

Finally, buy the very best bullet lube available. Bullets are no more effective or accurate than the lube used on them. Yes, there are lots of homemade lube recipes out on the internet, and they are an interesting diversion for the experienced caster wishing to add one more wrinkle to his self-sufficiency in bullet production, but best left until that time comes. Buy good lube and you'll have more gratifying results, faster.

FWIW.

God Bless,

Marshall
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Marshall Stanton said:
By all means, purchase the bottom pour pot! Also, in regard to lubrisizers, don't buy the Lyman because it's cheaper.... it's just that.... cheaper, and sooner or later you'll be disappointed in the unit.

The best of the bunch out there is the Star Lubrisizer, now manufactured by Magma Engineering. Following that it's a tie between the Saco and the RCBS sizing machines. I would probably choose the RCBS simply because of the standardization of sizing dies and top punches it utilizes, and their availability from wholesale catalog/online firms.

Also, don't scrimp by not purchasing a good casting thermometer. It will take much of the guesswork out of your casting sessions, help you avert much frustration, and allow you to produce a better quality product, much easier, and with more consistentcy than possible without it.

Finally, buy the very best bullet lube available. Bullets are no more effective or accurate than the lube used on them. Yes, there are lots of homemade lube recipes out on the internet, and they are an interesting diversion for the experienced caster wishing to add one more wrinkle to his self-sufficiency in bullet production, but best left until that time comes. Buy good lube and you'll have more gratifying results, faster.

FWIW.

God Bless,

Marshall
Mr Montieth and Mr. Stanton,

Thank you much for the info. Any preference as to furnace makers? I have heard some bad things about the Lyman Mag20 and also Lyman customer service. As far as RCBS, I don't think Ive seen a bad review yet. Any comments. I hear you about bullet lube. I think thats half the problem with commercial cast bullets. That hard crayon type lube isn't good for much. I was thinking Javelina or Thompson.
 

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Regarding lubes: I've done extensive testing with lubes, and the Javelina lube, unless their 50/50 Alox Beeswax lube is not worth taking home. The Thompson lubes have been good stuff for years, but in extreme cold weather tend to break down, and lose not only their lubricity, but their ability to stay in lube grooves. Below freezing, their lubes tend to just turn to powder when jostled or vibrated on bullets in the least.

I've not heard adverse things about the Lyman Mag 20, and nothing but praise and good words for the excellent RCBS Propour. Good equipment to be sure.
 

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Beartooth Regular
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Hi, Gents:
I haven't heard too many complaints about the Lyman Mag 20 either, but Lyman's customer service doesn't equal RCBS's. Parts aren't available for some of Lyman's earlier models. Lees have problems with dripping spouts and poor temperature control. You can hold temperature by preheating ingots and keeping the lead level as constant as possible, from what I've heard.

I'm casting on a Coleman stove and a thermometer is absolutely necessary, for me at least. :D

I've finally got some of Marshall's lube in the sizer, but so far I've used Lyman Orange Magic. It's low smoke, compared to the Alox lubes. Pretty easy to compare, when we're shooting in our little 3 lane indoor range. I haven't had any leading with max loads in the .357 either, although the Lyman 358665 bullet carries a lot of lube compared to many other designs.

From what I've heard, the new Lyman 4500 has a better bottom seal and a stronger linkage than the older 450. I got my 450 at a very good price and I haven't broken anything yet and I don't see anything that can't be fixed.

The biggest complaint about the new RCBS unit is the T handle on the pressure screw. It's much less convenient than the ratchet on the older RCBS units and the Lymans.

Lyman and RCBS dies and top punches are interchangeable. The word is that Lyman dies have a better finish, which makes for easier sizing. One gent got a new 4500 and found a few older Lyman and RCBS dies that wouldn't fit. The 4500 die chamber was at minimum diameter and the dies were over the max diameter of .702".

To repeat what Marshall said, Saeco dies and top punches are unique to Saeco, and they have a limited selection. The machine is a copy of a century old Lyman design and very well made. If you look at the picture of the Lyman #1 on page 40 of the Lyman cast bullet book, you'll know what a Saeco looks like.

The Star is in a different class, more of a production
machine than a hobbyist unit. Marshall can tell you how much faster it is than the others, and I don't think it's all that more expensive. kciH, are you listening? What's the latest?

Lyman's been a bit slow at keeping up with what the casters are doing. The old 45 sizer was good enough for the soft lead-tin bullets and soft (gooey at room temp) lubes of it's day. Bullets got harder as casters switched to wheelweights, then they started water quenching. Sizers broke. Add in hard lubes and seals blew. Time will tell if the 4500 is good enough. BTW, there's an older blue painted 450 sizer with a weaker handle than the orange ones.

Bye
Jack
 

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First of all welcome to casting... this is where your hobby really takes on a new dimension.

In my opinion the single most important piece of equipment is your furnace, not because it holds the most alloy or its production rate is unsurpassed but because it maintains a constant temperature. The next most important single piece of equipment is your thermometer because you need to make sure you're casting in a productive and safe temperature range. Lubing can be done with a pan and if you make your own lube at a fraction of the cost, it doesn't matter if you need two pounds of lube to fill the pan. However, you will need a good way to apply gaschecks (if necessary) and that can be accomplished superbly with a Lyman 450 (orange paint job, not the gray old timer with the cheesy linkage fasteners) using its gas check seater (sold separately?)

With that in mind, if accuracy and low bullet rejection rate is more important than mass quantities of bullets (I'm a rifle crank) go with a dipper unit and an RCBS dipper. Now that I think about it, a good dipper is even more important than a good thermometer!

Basically, I would suggest to get started as simply as possible and add on. Most casters that have been doing this for years have two or three specialized pots and several ways to size and lube bullets. My recommendation for a first set up would be a good dipper pour furnace with a 20 pound capacity (Lyman or RCBS), RCBS ladle and thermometer and a SAECO plain base bullet mould. The latter item I recommend with reservations because I don't know your shooting interest. However, the idea is to get started on the right foot with good equipment which will flatten out the learning curve somewhat.

44
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Forty Four said:
First of all welcome to casting... this is where your hobby really takes on a new dimension.

In my opinion the single most important piece of equipment is your furnace, not because it holds the most alloy or its production rate is unsurpassed but because it maintains a constant temperature. The next most important single piece of equipment is your thermometer because you need to make sure you're casting in a productive and safe temperature range. Lubing can be done with a pan and if you make your own lube at a fraction of the cost, it doesn't matter if you need two pounds of lube to fill the pan. However, you will need a good way to apply gaschecks (if necessary) and that can be accomplished superbly with a Lyman 450 (orange paint job, not the gray old timer with the cheesy linkage fasteners) using its gas check seater (sold separately?)

With that in mind, if accuracy and low bullet rejection rate is more important than mass quantities of bullets (I'm a rifle crank) go with a dipper unit and an RCBS dipper. Now that I think about it, a good dipper is even more important than a good thermometer!

Basically, I would suggest to get started as simply as possible and add on. Most casters that have been doing this for years have two or three specialized pots and several ways to size and lube bullets. My recommendation for a first set up would be a good dipper pour furnace with a 20 pound capacity (Lyman or RCBS), RCBS ladle and thermometer and a SAECO plain base bullet mould. The latter item I recommend with reservations because I don't know your shooting interest. However, the idea is to get started on the right foot with good equipment which will flatten out the learning curve somewhat.

44
Guys,

First of all, I want to say thank you to all have taken the time to respond. The suggestions have been very helpfull. Ive come up with a grocery list, so tell me what you think.

Lee Pro 20 furnace, or Lyman Mag 20
RCBC Ladel
RCBS, 44 250 keith mould(my favorite)
bullet lube
Lyman 4500or Starr luber/sizer
Thermometer
possibly just a regular pot to mix and clean alloy to pour into ingots
ingot mould
And of course the necessary sizing die and top punch.

I have a source for lead. A friend of mine owns a tire shop and could give me wheelweights by the bucketfull. Im pretty much(for now) looking to cast .44Mag loads(900-1000fps) using Unique with the Keith 250gr bullet.
 

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I would get Lee's "top-of-line" bottom pouring furnace and make sure you clean your metal in another pot; i.e., a cast iron pot on a propane burner. When you fill your Lee furnace with CLEAN metal, top it off with an inch of clay kitty litter which will prevent oxidation at the surface of the melt. Running a cast iron pot on a propane burner along side a Lee bottom pour is an excellent way to feed a .44 handgun and assuming your RCBS 44-250K fits your handgun you're off on a great start!

44
 

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I just wanted to mention that with a set-up as I described above, you should consider a 4-cavity mould or a pair of deuces because you'll probably over heat a single DC 250K by your increased rate of production.

44
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Marshall Stanton said:
Regarding lubes: I've done extensive testing with lubes, and the Javelina lube, unless their 50/50 Alox Beeswax lube is not worth taking home. The Thompson lubes have been good stuff for years, but in extreme cold weather tend to break down, and lose not only their lubricity, but their ability to stay in lube grooves. Below freezing, their lubes tend to just turn to powder when jostled or vibrated on bullets in the least.

I've not heard adverse things about the Lyman Mag 20, and nothing but praise and good words for the excellent RCBS Propour. Good equipment to be sure.
Mr. Stanton,

What would you personally recomend for a good all around lube?

44,

Thanks! Great Info. This forum is one of the best I've ever been on. You guys are great!
 

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Hi, jpsw44:
How much do you want to bet that Marshall recommends his own lube. :D
http://www.beartoothbullets.com/bulletselect/lube.htm

Definitely melt your wheelweights in a separate pot, outside. Clean up the melt as well as possible before you pour your ingots. You wouldn't believe the amount of dirt that sticks to the sides and bottom of the pot until you scrape it loose and you don't want it in your bottom pour pot. Muffin tins make good ingot molds as a big one makes a dozen 2 lb. muffins at once. Old cast iron muffin tins are best as the lead won't stick to them. Tinned sheet metal ones are a different matter, as the lead will solder it's self to the tin, solidly. I smoke mine up with the acetylene torch. Beats the anti-stick stuff. The Lyman ingot mould has a convenient wooden handle, but you supply your own Vice-Grip with the RCBS and Saeco. I use the Lyman for small jobs and cleaning up.

The 1 lb. Rowell bottom pour ladle is another good one. I can easily fill a 200 grain double cavity mould with one dip, even when the pot is getting low.
http://www.theantimonyman.com/ladles.htm

A second set of mould handles is the next item on my goodie list. I get tired of waving the mould around, trying to cool it.

Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Jack Monteith said:
Hi, jpsw44:
How much do you want to bet that Marshall recommends his own lube. :D
http://www.beartoothbullets.com/bulletselect/lube.htm

Definitely melt your wheelweights in a separate pot, outside. Clean up the melt as well as possible before you pour your ingots. You wouldn't believe the amount of dirt that sticks to the sides and bottom of the pot until you scrape it loose and you don't want it in your bottom pour pot. Muffin tins make good ingot molds as a big one makes a dozen 2 lb. muffins at once. Old cast iron muffin tins are best as the lead won't stick to them. Tinned sheet metal ones are a different matter, as the lead will solder it's self to the tin, solidly. I smoke mine up with the acetylene torch. Beats the anti-stick stuff. The Lyman ingot mould has a convenient wooden handle, but you supply your own Vice-Grip with the RCBS and Saeco. I use the Lyman for small jobs and cleaning up.

The 1 lb. Rowell bottom pour ladle is another good one. I can easily fill a 200 grain double cavity mould with one dip, even when the pot is getting low.
http://www.theantimonyman.com/ladles.htm

A second set of mould handles is the next item on my goodie list. I get tired of waving the mould around, trying to cool it.

Bye
Jack

Jack,

I didn't realize Marshall was Beartooth. I don't know why i didn't make the connection(the big Beartooth Bullets URL at the bottom of his signature)! From what I hear, those are some excellent cast bullets. Anyway, Im still debating wether or not im getting the bottom pour, I think Ill stick with ladeling to start. By the way, how do most people empty the furnace after a casting session? I know it sounds like a stupid question but, just curious.
 

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A nice addition to any casting work area is small electric fan. Not only does it help the caster out during the summer months, but placing a just filled mould directly in front of it, sprues first, for about three seconds, cool the sprues more quickly and eliminates lead smearing under the sprue plate.

44
 

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Jack,
a little slow today. I had reconstructive nose surgery this morning, between the blood dripping from my nose, the pain, and the pain pills, I'm a liitle slow on the draw. :)

Not buying the Star lube sizer is probably the biggest mistake you can make when getting started. It is at least twice as fast as the RCBS,Lyman, SAECO. The additonal $50 more that it costs up from will be saved in top punches and frustration on you part. It will lube bevel base bullets without leaving lube in the bevel. One sizing punch will do any caliber from 9mm to .45, unless you use a gas check bullet, then you will need the individual punch for each diameter, but you can still size as many different varieties of bullet with no additional tooling. The Star sized bullets nose first, which I believe to be the better way of doing it, it's a push through design that is twice as fast as the others as a result of this feature. It can also be accesorized to with many options that the others cannot. Star will make you ANY size sizing die that will fit in the machine with no need to have to custom dies made. I could go on and on, but I'll suffice it to say it's just better in every way than any of the others three. The Star machines can be purchased used, typically for about $140 on Ebay, I'd spend the extra $35 and get a new one.

I have a RCBS Pro-Melt furnace and endorse it as top quality. As mentioned the pour rate adjustment can be trying, but it's no big deal if you have the proper tools at hand to firmly tighten the adjustments. The main problem in the area of adjustment is eliminated by buying and using a casting thermometer. No thermometer would be about your second biggest mistake behind not getting a Star sizer when starting out. I started with a Lee 10lb bottom pour furnace, I still have it, it still works, and is a handy extra to have around for various different alloying and other experiements. If there is one Lee product that I would advocate for bullet casting, aside from their ingot mould, it would be their furnaces used in tandem with a good casting thermometer. I would buy an ingot mould, the 1lb bars store easily and it's easy to stack a few on top of the furnace to pre-heat while you're casting. Keeping a consistent alloy temp is key to good bullets and the one pound bars don't affect a 20lb furnace temp nearly as much as the bigger muffin tin ingots, but that is more a matter of preference on my part.

I've been using the Lyman Orange Magic lube for a while and it is a good lube with less smoke, as Jack pointed out. It works as advertised and the advantages Lyman claims ae real. I haven't tried Marshall's lube, so I offer any imput on that matter.

Who has tried the LEE alloy hardness tester??? Does it work??

For your first mould

Bullet casting eqipment is an investment, if cared for it will last you for many years. If you start out with the proper equipment, of good quality and design, it can very well make the difference of being a rewarding hobby or an exercise in frustration. I started casting when I was young and broke, as a result there are quite a few items I've purchased twice.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Forty Four said:
A nice addition to any casting work area is small electric fan. Not only does it help the caster out during the summer months, but placing a just filled mould directly in front of it, sprues first, for about three seconds, cool the sprues more quickly and eliminates lead smearing under the sprue plate.

44

44,

I was thinking the exact same thing!

kcih,

I checked out the Starr lubrisizer, It looks like a Behemoth! Isn't it a little more than I need?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
kciH said:
Jack,
a little slow today. I had reconstructive nose surgery this morning, between the blood dripping from my nose, the pain, and the pain pills, I'm a liitle slow on the draw. :)

Not buying the Star lube sizer is probably the biggest mistake you can make when getting started. It is at least twice as fast as the RCBS,Lyman, SAECO. The additonal $50 more that it costs up from will be saved in top punches and frustration on you part. It will lube bevel base bullets without leaving lube in the bevel. One sizing punch will do any caliber from 9mm to .45, unless you use a gas check bullet, then you will need the individual punch for each diameter, but you can still size as many different varieties of bullet with no additional tooling. The Star sized bullets nose first, which I believe to be the better way of doing it, it's a push through design that is twice as fast as the others as a result of this feature. It can also be accesorized to with many options that the others cannot. Star will make you ANY size sizing die that will fit in the machine with no need to have to custom dies made. I could go on and on, but I'll suffice it to say it's just better in every way than any of the others three. The Star machines can be purchased used, typically for about $140 on Ebay, I'd spend the extra $35 and get a new one.

I have a RCBS Pro-Melt furnace and endorse it as top quality. As mentioned the pour rate adjustment can be trying, but it's no big deal if you have the proper tools at hand to firmly tighten the adjustments. The main problem in the area of adjustment is eliminated by buying and using a casting thermometer. No thermometer would be about your second biggest mistake behind not getting a Star sizer when starting out. I started with a Lee 10lb bottom pour furnace, I still have it, it still works, and is a handy extra to have around for various different alloying and other experiements. If there is one Lee product that I would advocate for bullet casting, aside from their ingot mould, it would be their furnaces used in tandem with a good casting thermometer. I would buy an ingot mould, the 1lb bars store easily and it's easy to stack a few on top of the furnace to pre-heat while you're casting. Keeping a consistent alloy temp is key to good bullets and the one pound bars don't affect a 20lb furnace temp nearly as much as the bigger muffin tin ingots, but that is more a matter of preference on my part.

I've been using the Lyman Orange Magic lube for a while and it is a good lube with less smoke, as Jack pointed out. It works as advertised and the advantages Lyman claims ae real. I haven't tried Marshall's lube, so I offer any imput on that matter.

Who has tried the LEE alloy hardness tester??? Does it work??

For your first mould

Bullet casting eqipment is an investment, if cared for it will last you for many years. If you start out with the proper equipment, of good quality and design, it can very well make the difference of being a rewarding hobby or an exercise in frustration. I started casting when I was young and broke, as a result there are quite a few items I've purchased twice.
Kcih,

Did you get the Starr macjine with any of the options, ie bullet feeder, heater etc?
 

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Hi, jpsw44:
Empty your furnace into your ingot mould. If you leave a 1/4" or so in the bottom it speeds up the next melt. A lid speeds up melting too. On the other hand leaving the pot full can lead to 2 bad situations. As you heat up the cold pot, the expanding metal can force up the valve rod and dump 20 lb. of hot lead on your bench and floor. If you use a eutectic mix like linotype, the bottom of the pot gets completely fluid while the top is still solid and soldered to the sides. Eventually the top gives and you get a volcano of hot lead. Wheelweight metal gets soft and mushy as it reaches the melting point and isn't much of a problem.

The Star looks big with all the doodads hung on it. Here's a couple of pictures of the basic unit.
http://users2.ev1.net/~eastus1/Casting/Tom's%20Bullet%20Casting%20Room.html

I don't worry about cold ingots cooling off the mix. My back needs a break by the time I have to add ingots to the pot. So I dump in the sprues and ingots, have a stretch and coffee break while it heats up, flux, and get back to casting.

Bye
Jack
 
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