View Full Version : What I've Learned in The First Year of Casting

05-14-2010, 05:38 PM
I'm a little late with this since it's been over a year now.
I owe the members here for the knowledge I've picked from the site, and to a few who sold or gave me items to get started. I haven't been able to contribute much to the site in repayment for what I've learned, but maybe this will help someone starting out. Sometimes it's good to learn from another who hasn't been at it long because they remember what was important to them when starting out.

Just a few things I was thinking about the other day:

- A good furnace makes things easier.
I started with a little Lee ladle pot, but about the time I'd get going good, the level was low enough that it was hard to get a ladle full. More lead had to be added, then it had to melt, while moulds cooled, etc. It wasn't long before I came across a used RCBS Pro-Melt for a good price and got it.
If I had to name one piece of equipment that had the biggest impact, that was it. Now I just filled it up and didn't have to worry about it for a while. A new caster has enough going on, and if you can get one thing cleared out of the way, it helps you do the rest better and easier.
If you are starting out and on the fence about spending more on a bigger and/or better furnace, do it.

- Each mould has it's own personality. They each cast differently and need different techniques to get the most out of.
One of the first moulds I had was the Lee Soupcan. I would later learn it was one of the easiest casting moulds I would own. Being new, one of the first questions I had was probably typical: "How many bullets can I cast in X amount of time?". What I didn't know was that soupcan was spoiling me. It would let me cast at any temperature, just about as fast as I could go, so I was envisioning how many bullets I'd be cranking out per hour in all calibers.
It didn't work that way.
Most won't let me go that fast, but that's only one difference. Some make their best bullets with the alloy at a fairly low temp, and some need it as hot as it will go. Some work well pouring while holding them below the pour spout, but a few need to be against the spout and pressure filled. This one may work fine with hardly any warming, the next may need to warm on the furnace, and another might need the hotplate. I tried to find a connection, like aluminum moulds do this, and iron moulds in small calibers do that, but they all have their own needs.
Like guns, they do what they do and like what they like. You don't know what that is until you use them a little while. Try everything before saying it won't cast well.

-And speaking of the hotplate, that was another good purchase.
Besides being able to warm several moulds at once, it gets them out of the way of adding lead, fluxing, stirring, etc like if you put them on top of the furnace. Perhaps best of all, it beats knocking a mould down into the melted alloy. I didn't get burned but could have, and it took about 20 minutes to get the lead peeled off it.
I got mine at Walgreens for $4, maybe $5 at the most. It's good help at a cheap price.

-It takes a little more time than I expected. I planned on it taking plenty, and had plenty of time to spend, but probably still underestimated a little. Don't forget that it takes a little bit for things to heat up, but can take longer to cool down so you can put it away (if you don't plan on leabing your gear out). The time spent lube-sizing is not something I thought too much about. I thought that once the bullets were cast, it was mostly over. It is, but that last step takes some time and I didn't really think about that.
Once I got the Star, that changed. I'd use it for everything if I didn't have all the dies for the Lyman and Saeco lube-sizers I also have.

-You might use more electrical power than you thought. If I'm using the furnace, hotplate, and fan (in summer, to cool me), that's getting to be some power. I use the hotplate on another line and get the moulds I need when I'm ready for them.

That's the high points.
That's not that much info, but it's things I didn't know when I started.

gray wolf
05-14-2010, 06:09 PM
That was very well done.
It's nice to know that you care enough to put the effort into your hobby, and are willing to share what you have learned. I am sure it will help someone. Hey even us old guys need to reflect back once in a while.
I think it's great that we have a place like this to all get together and

share what we know,
what we don't know,
and are willing to learn what we need to know

Every time I think I have a good handle on what casting bullets is all about the casting Queen comes along and bites me on the tail.
But when you are part of the family help is always close at hand.
Stay safe and enjoy the hobby, also keep sharing.


05-14-2010, 07:15 PM
BarryinIN that was a good read.I'm pretty new to all this.I started reloading for the first
time a little over a month ago.Been casting about two weeks & now I'm into paper jackets.

Wow I jumped in with both feet Hu?But with all the reading & study I have done in such
a short time your post pointed out some great stuff.Thanks for sharing it with us.


05-14-2010, 07:35 PM
With your statement you have demonstrated that
you are smarter than Eric Holder.
You are willing to read to learn what you have to know!

Keep learnin' and keep shootin':Fire:

05-14-2010, 07:58 PM
I don't think you are late at all. In fact it is good to get the prespective of a new caster after he has had time to evaluate what he has learned. It is sometime hard for us vetran casters, (as a teaching perspective) sometimes because we have been casting so long some things we do without even thinking about it. It is also difficult when we can't see the actual operation.

05-14-2010, 08:28 PM
Thanks guys.
I've reloaded for 30 years, but casting was new. After teaching some new reloaders in the past 18 months while learning casting from scratch myself, I got a look at both sides of it.
Most of the time it's good to learn from someone with lots of experience, but I saw that the newer guy is apt to remember some details that the experienced one has often known forever and takes as a given.

I know there is nothing new in what I posted, but I don't remember seeing them in "how to" threads. Of course, I learned a lot more than that, but those are the things that popped into my head the other day as the "highlights".

05-15-2010, 08:55 AM
How very true. Things we do and take for granted might be a huge mystery to a new caster.
I have taught many friends to cast and even watching them try to tip the ladle and mold up, then form a sprue can cause rolled eyes and giggles.
It is amazing how a simple process still needs to be taught. There is a stiffness from fear with a new caster and their arms and wrists seem to lock up.
To relax is the hardest thing to teach. :cbpour:
I have a friend that has cast forever but when I go in his garage there is more lead on the floor then in the pot. :bigsmyl2:
His molds and the top of the pot and bench have so much lead on them I could make 100 boolits! In all these years he rarely makes a single perfect boolit. :holysheep
One never realizes how something so simple can have a profound mental block on others.
Your post was just great!

05-15-2010, 09:17 AM
i couldn't agree more about a quality furnace. it makes a huge difference.

05-15-2010, 09:30 AM
Fly; With your statement you have demonstrated that you are smarter than Eric Holder.
You are willing to read to learn what you have to know! Hickory


A rock is smarter than Eric Holder!


05-15-2010, 09:50 AM

A rock is smarter than Eric Holder!


Who is Eric? I must be living under a rock! I never heard of him, should I have!

I agree as being a newbie, I have learned alot here, and there are some things you just gotta figure out, but any day so far I have had casting sure beats going to work!

05-15-2010, 09:51 AM
Excellent. Your post will make it that much easier for a new caster, especially what you said about each mould having its own personality.

Edited to add: Shawn, Eric Holder is the United States Attorney General (think Janet Reno) When asked, at a congressional hearing, if he had read Arizona's new immigration law -- which he and the president so eagerly denigrated and called mis-guided -- his answer was no.

05-18-2010, 09:17 PM
I thought of another when I was in the garage loading just now.

-Sizing dies size them to whatever they size them to. Measure your sized bullets, no matter what the die says. What I often ended up doing was buying sizing dies on the large side, then if they were too big I could get a Lee push-through die and run them through it afterwards. The push-throughs are a little cheaper than another H&I type die, which may or may not size to what it says either. I know the Lee push-throughs can be off also, but besides being a cheaper risk, the handful I have are right on.

05-18-2010, 09:39 PM
Barry, I think you'll find that the vast majority of differences in sized diameter is from the alloy and not the sizing die. Of course there are minor variations in the dies, nobody could afford them if there weren't but most of the variation is in the alloy itself.

I have a very large batch of alloy (about 700 pounds) that is all blended and very similair. As an example, my .356", .357", .358" dies all size my alloy right at .0004" smaller than marked die diameter. It's not the dies, it's the alloy. A different alloy could well size much smaller than does my alloy or right at marked die diameter.

The die makers across all the Mfg's do a remarkable job making accurate dies with a given alloy. Change the alloy even slightly and you'll have to check to see what it sizes your boolits too.


05-19-2010, 12:00 AM
I had read that, can see how that would be, and fully believe it.

I do think the dies are variable too, because along the way I picked up a few multiples of the same size die (same size markings anyway) and they sometimes size bullets to different diameters. I found it with Lyman and Star dies, but don't have any multiples of Saeco or RCBS to check.

Of course, the wild card is that most of these dies were bought used. Two that are supposedly the same could have been made ten years apart, which could explain it. Naturally they could have been opened up by someone, but since the problem runs the other direction (erring too small), I don't think that's it in these cases. I did wonder about whether they varied over the years since I have no way of knowing when some of these dies were made.