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Thread: An "Old Dog" and a "New Pot" - "Where's my ladle?"

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    An "Old Dog" and a "New Pot" - "Where's my ladle?"

    I'll admit it - I'm "old". I've been casting for 50 + years with a propane hot plate, a couple of 10# cast-iron pots and a bottom pour Ideal dipper. My wife and I recently moved from our house of 40 years in to a condo so it was "down size" time. I set up my work area, reloading bench, etc. in one side of the garage. About the same time, I had the chance to buy a new Lee Pro 4 - 20 bottom pour electric pot that was still in the un-opened box from a lady who had recently lost her husband. He had never used it and she just wanted it "gone" so I gave her a fair price. After reading so much about you folks and your "bottom pours", I figured it was worth a try . . . and who knows . . . maybe an old dog could learn something new.

    Now I'm not a "high tech" caster. I use our lead for my muzzleloading/BP purposes and "range lead" for everything else I reload. I don't mix alloys, etc. but I have all the respect in the world for those that do and who really get "in to it" - we each have our "own thing".

    So . . . last night, I unboxed the Lee pot. Read what instructions there were (and wasn't impressed with the Lee instructions) and then started on the "easy assembly". Well, there isn't much other than screwing the wood knob on to the valve arm assembly. Mmmmm.

    I have worked with machinery all my life, taught high schoo shop a few years, owned and operated a cabinet millwork shop and was brought up on a farm so I like to think I'm pretty well familiar with mechanical things. First problem - the wood knob. The hole was bored way undersize. No biggie - I drilled it bigger and threaded it on.

    I then re-read the instructions - even watched a few videos showing operation, etc. I played and adjusted the "mold guide" and did some "dry runs" with some of my molds to practice lining up the sprue hole with the spout. Two things caught my attention. First, the mold guide is pretty much worthless as it comes in my humble opinion, but that's just my opinion. Second, working the valve assemble with the wood knob, I noticed immediately that it ws not "smooth". Now I know all about "tolerances" and those things, but when I raised the knob, there was a definite "catch" when I pushed it up. Almost like the bracket was catching on a shoulder on the guide screws at the top and bottom of the pot assembly. Hmmmm. I looked it all over, couldn't see where it was "catching" but knew it could be a problem with a pot of hot lead if it stuck in the open position. I played with the adjustment screw, still not much improvement. I never did find where it was "catching". Well, we'll see if the pressure of molten lead on the valve rod helps with that . . . .

    So today, I got around early and got it all set up. I decided to cast some muzzleloading/BP projectiles so I stoked the pot up with pure lead, made sure the valve was closed and plugged it in. I tuned the controls up and after a cup of coffee, it was all melted and ready to go. I fluxed the lead, preheated my first mold and got ready to join the "world of the bottom pours"!

    At this point, I'll mention that I have no issues with the way the pot heated up, the controls or the time it took. As I used it during the day, I found the controls to be easily adjusted depending on how hot/cool I wanted the lead and it worked without a flaw. I mention this as I don't want to have the reader think I am complaining about everything as they read on . . . . .

    Well, I adjusted the mold guide the best I could. I was worried about the "catch" on the valve assembly so I used a light touch with raising the knob. Down came the lead into the mold - my sprue was lined up where I wanted it and then the problems began. The valve assembly "stuck". By the time I was able to get it "un-stuck", I not only had filled my mold but had pretty much encased it and had a nice bit of lead allover. Good thing I put a cookie sheet underneath!

    O.K. Well it's new and I'm new to a bottom pour . . . so let's try again. I got my mold cleaned up, dropped a nice boolit form it and went at it again. A couple of "good pours" and then the valve assembly "stuck" again. Grrrrr . . . this isn't fun. I played with the adjustment screw and this time, very carefully lifted on the knob so it did "bottom out" at the top. A couple of good pours and then once again, stuck in the open position.

    I played and worked with it for quite a while. I had some good pours and then wham, the valve assemble would stick in the open position. This wasn't due to a dirty valve opening - it was due to something hanging up on the valve assembly and I still couldn't see what the problem is. In looking at it, to me, it appears to have a lot of "shake" in it as if the guide holes, etc. are way oversize and sloppy. Nothing is bent, nothing broken, it just catches on something when the knob is raised all the way - and nothing in the instruction manual covers this problem.

    I got so frustrated that I got my old ladle out and began to ladle pour - which worked just fine. But then, what's that sound? Drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . . . Hmmmm . . . oh, yea, the famous "Lee drip". O.K. easy fix. I read the part about using a screw driver to turn the valve spindle to stop it. There we go . . . that did it. Now I'll ladle pour a few more. Drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . . Well, at least I was producing some neat "lead art" below the pour spout.

    Now for the summary . . . . .

    I know a lot of folks love these Lee bottom pour pots . . . and I respect that. Maybe if you start with one, that is the best way. I really did approach this with an "open mind" and the hopes that it would turn out well and I'd be a "bottom pour convert". But after a day of frustration with this pot . . . tomorrow I'm going to heat it up, drain what lead is left in it and let it cool down. When that's done, the valve assembly is coming off and I'm plugging it and converting it to a "ladle pour". It's just not for me.

    I'm not "bad mouthing" Lee products. I use a lot of them . . . molds, dies, reloading items, etc. . . and they work just fine and I'm totally happy with them. In fact, I'm happy with the way this pot melts, the temperature adjustment, the ease of just plugging it in and I don't have to get the 20# propane cylinder out, the hot plate out, etc. For ladle pouring . . . for me . . . it works just fine. I'm just totally frustrated with the bottom pour aspect, a leaky sput form the get go and the pour operation of the valve assembly. I think Lee could stand to do some major improvement on those things IMHO.

    I like the electric pot aspect and like it well enough, that I'll probably buy one of the Lee 20 pound Magnum Melters for ladle pouring . . . then I can have this pot for pure lead and the new pot for "range lead" I thought I had done my "home work" and would be happy with this Lee bottom pour . .. . and maybe it's just this particular one that has issues . . . I don't know. I know a lot of folks like 'em and that's a good thing. I know others who have moved on to other brands and swear by those. In the end, maybe I am "old" and should have done the bottom pour pot years ago, but at this point, I cast for fun and enjoyment . . . and the frustration of this particular bottom pour pot isn't worth it . . . I'll keep my ladle.

    This experience did teach me one thing though. As a kid, over fifty years ago, I started out casting over a wood fire . . then moved on to a "gas plumber's pot" . . . then to a propane hot plate. If a young person wants to get started in casting, I would recommend that they start with a ladle and THEN move on to a bottom pour . . especially if they are learning to cast the "hard way" like many of us did years ago . . . you learned as you went. Or, have that person who wants to get started work with someone who has mastered a bottom pour pot who can teach them the "ins and outs" of one. Success early on is important to keeping up the enthusiasm and teaching the enjoyment of casting that will last for years. Getting frustrated from the "get go" will only discourage someone starting out.

    Again . . I'm not bad mouthing Lee. Like a lot of things in life . . you try things and either like 'em or you don't. The next person might have nothing but good luck with a Lee bottom pour . . . and that's great. For me though, I'll hang on to my bottom pour ladle but at least "graduate" up to an electric pot which I do find that I like! Just my 2 cents worth which isn't worth a club nickel.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master OS OK's Avatar
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    I guess you missed his note in the bottom of the box...

    "Send back to Lee...'Sticky Valve'."
    a m e r i c a n p r a v d a

    Be a Patriot . . . expose their lies!

    “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” G. Orwell

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
    Mike W1's Avatar
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    I've never actually laid eyes on a Lee 4-20 except in pictures. Didn't care too much for the looks of the dispensing system so have stuck to my Lee 10 lb pot. They needed a bit of tweaking too and now handle my needs quite well. Don't know how you'd find the post but someone on here modified his 4-20 with a link-up he copied off the RCBS. Apparently it worked out well for him. I think it was one of the fellows from Austrailia (apologies for incorrect spelling).

    Anyhow bottom pour is a different game than the ladle pour. Still learning after 40+ years but personally don't care to ever pick up a ladle again. My problems shooting aren't the bullets it's OLD AGE!
    Mike

    Benefactor Member NRA
    Life Member Iowa Firearms Coalition
    US Army Vet

    There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation.
    One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”
    John Adams 1826

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Yep, I suppose I could since a "Lee product is a Lee product". However,, I'm not the original purchaser and have no receipt,e etc. either. I've used a lot of Lee stuff over the years but a year or so ago, I bought a Lee mold to try out the boolit design/weight. When it arrived, the pins weren't installed properly and the cavities were obviously "mis cut". i.e. they were offset by about .003". It should have never left the factory. I contacted Lee and whoever answered in CS had obviously had a bad night the night before. I explained the problem and he proceeded to tell me that it was my fault, I didn't know what I was talking about, yadda, yadda, yadda. I, of course, could send it badk on my dime and they would determine if it was faulty or not. For a twenty dollar mold, I didn't waste my time - still have it on the shelf to remind me to go the extra mile with a good NOE or similar and that's the route I've followed.

    One thing i didn't mention is that i have a number of molds with base pins android handles on them - 585-213s, etc. Large single cavities. They are a tight fit under this pot - another reason to ladle for me.

    Again, I[m not knocking Lee pots - they just didn't work out for me and that's fine. I'll still use this one but continue to use my ladle. At my age and my circumstances, I'm not really about the "quantity" I can put out - just the "quality" of what I do cast and use. The pot itself melts just fine and like i said, I'll probably add one of the Magnum 20 pound pots and use one for pure lead and one for range lead. For what they are, they are fine for those that like 'em. This one melts just fine, I like the ability to reach over and adjsut the temperature for what I'm casting and it's nice to have the 20 # capacity. Bottom pour just isn't my cup of tea . . . . for others, I'm sure it works just fine and that's great.

  5. #5
    Sounds like my Lee pot. I finally took the bottom pour brackets off and put a 7/16 bolt and 2 flat washers in the hole. Used it last night and no leaks, lots more room for my RCBS ladle with the brackets out of the way. Pressure cast directly into the sprue holes and the bullets fill out great. No more rounded bands and the bases fill out great! Waiting for one of the 2 new RCBS pots but called them about parts for a lubamatic and they said it won't be ready till around Thanksgiving.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Jack Stanley's Avatar
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    When I got the Pro-melt , I welded the spout shut on the Lee ten pound pot . It's worked real well keeping lead ready to pour into the Pro-melt or ladle which ever is needed . I don't use it much anymore but it's been useful for the past thirty or so years .

    Jack
    Buy it cheap and stack it deep , you may need it !

    Black Rifles Matter

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

    gwpercle's Avatar
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    After 45 or so years with a dipper I was lured by reports of the superiority of the bottom pour pot, bought one and was just amazed at how many poor boolits I could make in an hour....the trouble is I want perfectly cast , sharp edges and well filled out boolits. I tried and tried and tried to get that sucker to work, all to no avail. Got a new larger pot and ladle and went back to ladle casting perfect boolits again. I gave the bottom pour to another member who wanted it. Good riddance to it as far as I'm concerned ...Ladle casting works for me.
    Gary
    Certified Cajun
    Proud Member of The Basket of Deplorables

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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