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Thread: HP'ing Your Own Mold without a Full Machine Shop

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Rangefinder's Avatar
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    Talking HP'ing Your Own Mold without a Full Machine Shop

    Over the past year or so, I've been refining a process of Hollow-Pointing my own molds. Being a family man with kids, my shooting budget is relatively small to the point of non-existent most of the time. All this means is that I don't have much int he way of specialized equipment dedicated to this type of thing. What I DO have is a stubborn streak a mile long and a general trend toward creative-thinking and problem-solving on the fly. So after successfully converting several 2-cavity molds into molds with one useful cavity and one that doesn't even drop something that will pass as a fishing weight, I've managed to come up with a pretty reliable method for HP'ing my own molds.

    I've done most of my mold modifications on Lee molds for 2 reasons: First, because so many have said that you can't HP a Lee mold, particularly a Lee 2-Cavity mold. Yes, you can, but it runs the risk of shortening the life of the mold a bit. Second, because if I'm going to screw up a mold, I want to screw up something that will only cost me $20 to replace--not $60 or more.

    So, on to what you'll need:

    --The mold you have chosen to possibly destroy (I look at it this way so if I get it wrong, I'm not disappointed and if I get it right I can be rightfully proud of myself).
    --A drill press. (mine is a small bench-top I used for wood working originally--nothing special.)
    --A vice for said drill press and clamps to lock it into place once aligned.
    --A brass/bronze bushing with an outside diameter as close to the mold's lube groove diameter as possible.
    --aluminum tape is helpful (beagling tape for those of us here that do it).
    --A couple metal files
    --A sharp drill bit that fits the inside diameter of the bushing.
    --An aluminum spacer that fits the I/D of the bushing if the hole needs to be considerably smaller that the bushing I/D. The chosen drill bit then needs to match the I/D of the spacer.
    --A nail, bolt, hinge pin, or any other piece of metal round-stock slightly larger in diameter than the bit you intend to drill your HP cavity with.
    --Wet/Dry sand paper in several grits--I use 220, then 600, and polish with 1500.
    --lapping compound
    --Probably a few more things that I'll remember in the writing of this and then mention as an "Oh--yah, and this will be useful" type or thing.

    The mold: for the purposes of giving a few visuals, I'm using a Lee 6-banger SWC for my .40 S&W that I most recently decided to try not to screw up. 6-cav Lee molds are far easier to work with than the 2-cav because they don't have alignment pins to monkey with. However, the 2-cav molds can be done by simply tapping the alignment pin out a little so the hole for the HP pin will clear it. Do this carefully with a dowel or something that will not gouge the mold when it slips off the pin, which I promise it will several times. It should look something like this on a 2-cav:

    For my .40 I first measured the lube groove diameter and came up with .392 as dropped. It just so happens that a 1/4" bronze bushing has an O/D of .385--so a couple layers of aluminum tape brought it right up to a snug fit, as shown.


    This is the really important part to the whole process, and I can't stress it enough. Most HP attempts go really bad because the centering is off. Once that happens, there really is no easy way to fix it. The bushing not only aligns the hole to be drilled with the center, but helps ensure the hole is drilled parallel with the bullet cavity. It has to fit snug with the mold completely closed. From here, check the fit of the drill bit and spacers if desiring a hole smaller than the bushing I/D. In reality, I went with a smaller hole, so I DID use a spacer. The problem is that when I went back to take photos for this write-up, I couldn't find the spacer used so I can't supply you with the dimensions. For photo purposes, assume that you should have a snug but movable fit on the inside of the bushing, the spacer if used, and the bit chosen with NO slop---I repeat-- NO SLOP.

    Next is the semi-easy part. Lock everything into the drill press with the vice, c-clamps, etc. Check, double-check, and then re-check all your alignment and leveling. Once everything is good, drip a little cutting oil into the cavity and SLOWLY drill your hole. You MUST make sure before you ever turn the drill press on that everything is locked into position. If anything moves one iota, your going to be off-center or off angle, or both. That scraps the entire rest of the project.



    Alright, lets assume you got the hole drilled correctly. It should look something like the photo above showing the mold open and the bushing in place--with a hole right through the bottom of the mold. Take any measurements you'd like to verify you did it right or eyeball it and nod your head. It's time for the next step---the pin.

    The pin fabrication is pretty easy. It needs to be a touch larger in diameter than the hole you drilled in order to finish it down to the correct diameter, and long enough to reach into the bullet cavity while having enough sticking out the bottom to attach a handle of sorts. Other than that, use whatever is handy. For several, including photo purposes for this, I used a large nail.

    Now the creative part---turning your drill press into a vertical lathe. Chuck your chosen pin stock into the press and have at it with files, carbide cutters, whatever you have on hand to rough out the point and take down the diameter ALMOST to the hole size.



    Once I start liking what I see shape-wise, I use a piece of hacksaw blade to finish cutting off the nail head, and start polishing the pin down to correct dimensions with the wet sanding/polishing paper. Note--in the photos, it looks like everything is still. It is in fact all done with the press running. I figure this would be obvious to the common-sense individual, but figured it should probably be mentioned anyway.


    When it's all polished out and has the desired shape while being just a couple thousandths OVER the diameter of the hole you drilled in the mold, grab the mold again. Lock it into the press vice upside-down. Line it up with the new pin that should still be chucked into the press. Apply a little dab of lapping compound or metal polish to the pin and "lap" it into the mold. When you're done with this, you should have a pin that fits snug, fits straight, and doesn't allow flash, but can still be turned inside of and removed from the mold when it'd completely closed tight.

    Last but not least is attaching a handle to the new pin and setting depth. This is open to your own discretion. As you can see, I've used wooden drawer pulls more than once. They work good. Little metal tension clips are successful for depth setting. But my latest notion that I haven't even tried yet is to set the handle long, mark my depth with a sharpy marker, chuck the pin back into the drill press, and cut a slot for a C-clip. This is the direction I would recommend, but I would suggest experimenting with your depth a little to see what you like best.


    Boil and scrub your mold, same for the new pin, and take it for a test-drive.
    As shown in another thread, here's the results of the mold I'd used to do the write-up here.

    If there are any questions or there needs to be further clarification on anything, please let me know and I'll add what I can as I can.
    Happy Casting!

    Rangefinder
    Guns have only two real enemies; Rust and Politicians...

    "Praying might get you to heaven, but trespassing will expedite the journey..."

    Where might I be found when I'm not here? Try looking here:http://www.facebook.com/NSWE.Pagosa and here: www.rescueropes.org

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Nice write up.
    I have a 358-158RF that I can't wait to try this on.
    ..

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    Good writeup. I attempted to HP a mould last year but it didn't work out. I was trying to make permanent pins so I wouldn't have to remove them but the boolit wouldn't come out. I also aquired a Lee HP mould cheap that someone ground the pin off of. What I don't know but I was thinking of returning it to HP statis.
    Aim small, miss small!

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    That is brilliant, Rangefinder.
    WHEN IN DOUBT, USE MORE CLOUT!

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Great write-up should be made a sticky.
    NRA Life Member

  6. #6
    Boolit Master plmitch's Avatar
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    Great write up Rangefinder! I'd be willing to give this a try with an old Lee mold that was given to me recently. If I do try it, I'll probably have a few questions for you.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master


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    Rangefinder: Very good report and well explained. Good for lots of pictures for those like me that might be more visual. Thanks. This is going to get the creative juices going in a lot of us,

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Nice job. Was asking my machinist bud recently why such could not be done and he declined to try. Think I will do it myself with your great write up and pics. That bushing is a stroke of genius. I have used similiar "bushings" before to center drill broken off bolts so an "easy out" could be used. Works good on axle flange bolts.

  9. #9
    Great job, there's a lot you can do with patience and a couple tools. Nice write up and sharing.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I see a winter project luming on the horizon!! thanks GREAT INFO. i can turn my old Lee molds i dont use into something new and exciting!!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


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    Awesome Rangefinder. Definitely should be a sticky.
    "Is all this REALLY necessary?"

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Rangefinder's Avatar
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    Thanks guys, I appreciate the feed-back. What I really love about this place is--well, US. We, as a group, take this crazy obsession to levels that most can't even begin to understand with hours and hours of trying to explain even simple concepts (according to us). But here, we're right at home. I'm fully expecting and looking forward to others adding to and improving on the techniques I've come to so far. Can't wait to see where this goes with all of you!
    Guns have only two real enemies; Rust and Politicians...

    "Praying might get you to heaven, but trespassing will expedite the journey..."

    Where might I be found when I'm not here? Try looking here:http://www.facebook.com/NSWE.Pagosa and here: www.rescueropes.org

  13. #13
    Boolit Master Salmon-boy's Avatar
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    Ever since you posted about writing this up, I've been waiting to read it! Isn't it amazing what you can do with a bit of know-how and a drill press?

    Great job Rangefinder!
    "Unnh, Negative. I am a meat popsicle."

    Chuck

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Great post Rangefinder. I need more projects . I completly agree with you about how great this site is. Most people think that I'm nutz. Here, not even close to an extreme case.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Rangefinder's Avatar
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    Most people think that I'm nutz. Here, not even close to an extreme case.
    The phrase I hear most is "I'm sure glad we're friends... We ARE friends, right?" LOL
    Guns have only two real enemies; Rust and Politicians...

    "Praying might get you to heaven, but trespassing will expedite the journey..."

    Where might I be found when I'm not here? Try looking here:http://www.facebook.com/NSWE.Pagosa and here: www.rescueropes.org

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Really great post, I made it into a pdf file and printed it out, it makes a nice booklet, the photos are great. when I need a drill bit to be spot on in a peice of alu., I use a brad point drill bit, they work well in alu.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rangefinder View Post
    The phrase I hear most is "I'm sure glad we're friends... We ARE friends, right?" LOL
    But if you devoted this much thought to a bunch of whiny steroid addled millionaires, who don't care one whit about you, while getting blackout drunk, but don't own any safety glasses, or how to use a screwdriver, you're one of the guys?

    Personally, I'd rather know, or know of guys like Ya'll, who know how to use a screwdriver more that one way.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master




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    Brilliant write up! I too am a father of 3 (3, 5, and 8) with a stay at home Mom/Teacher that homeschools my kids. disposable income is an issue as well here at the house. Nice to see others are working the old brain figuring stuff out on the cheap. I take frugality as a compliment.
    You can miss fast & you can miss a lot, but only hits count.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Excellent, rangefinder. I will be spending some serious time with this post over the winter.
    looks like a sticky waiting to happen!!

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Thank you Rangfinder! will be trying that soon. I built four AK47's from the cheap kits that were around years ago, with a cheap HF drill press and some hand tools. Amazing what you can do if you think you can.
    Frank G.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check