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Thread: looking for advise witth Lee mold

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy 468's Avatar
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    looking for advise witth Lee mold

    Bought the Lee 452 230RN and 401 175TC 6 hole molds and am having limited success...probably an 80% reject rate.

    I've been casting, casually, for 20+ years, with 2 hole steel molds. My knowledge and experience is far from most on this site, but I've always been able to produce really good boolits without much attention to mold temp, alloy, melt temp, etc. I do not have a melt thermometer. I do not have a hot plate. Never needed it.

    Obviously, there is a different procedure involved using these Al molds. The first drop or two are shiny, but with cooling lines. Then they start to frost up with cooling lines. then the cooling lines go away, but the boolit looks like a glittery Christmas ornament. I back off the heat and eventually get a few keepers, but nothing really that great.

    Not looking to win any awards, just want a greater success percentage. ... and just looking to fire some lead down the range out of my handguns, nor win any competitions.

    All input welcome.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    The difference I found with Alum. molds was they cool off real fast.
    You can dip the mold into the Lead pot to heat them up faster or keep them hot
    if your rate is slower than they like.
    Everyone can learn from their mistakes.
    However; it's less painful, and cheaper to learn from the mistakes of others.

    Never ask an old person, "how are you doing"?
    They eagerly look forward to telling you,,,,,,,, and ya really don't want to know.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master fredj338's Avatar
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    It is a get what you pay for thing. The alum is not the best quality. The molds seem to take awhile to break in. Make sure the cavs are clean, vent lines are open, warm it up on top of the pot while the alloy comes to temp. I start casting 2-3 cavs at a time to make the mold even temp then start pouring all 6. Yes a hotplate helps. Sometimes I have to alternate cavs to get proper fill-out but most of the time I can get good results in the first few pours. Frosty bullets, if it bothers you, consider alternating with another mold once it is that hot.
    EVERY GOOD SHOOTER NEEDS TO BE A HANDLOADER.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    I use Lee molds, use a PID (temp. controller for melter) and a hotplate to keep the mold temperature from cooling down while refilling the melter or before starting.
    The mold temp is key to give good results. If the mold gets too hot, then the bullets will be very frosty. Too cold and you will see a lot of wrinkles in your casts.

    Keeping your casting cadence fairly consistent will give better results also. I suspect you know this stuff already though.
    A hotplate doesn't cost that much at Walmart ($10-20) if I recall correctly.
    You can build a PID for around $50 or buy one for around $100.

    In my view, using those "tools" will give you better results and give you more satisfaction and less frustration.

    Here is a link to a thread about the cost of a PID:
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...expensive-PIDs
    Last edited by Rizzo; 03-14-2019 at 01:46 PM.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have good bullets come out of my lee two cavity molds. The 6 hole mold I bet takes a lot more time to warm up. My frosted bullets shoot just fine .

  6. #6
    Boolit Master


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    As has been suggested, try preheating your mold on a hotplate. I've got a cheap Wally World unit and to get more even heating, I place a piece of 1/4" aluminum tool plate on the burner then set my mold on the plate and monitor the mold's temp with a "laser" (infrared) thermometer from Harbor Freight.

    Bill
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  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy 468's Avatar
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    Sounding like mold temp is the consensus...

    Off to wally world!

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy 468's Avatar
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    Thought: Why are Al molds less expensive than steel molds? Al is a MUCM more expensive metal. Must be the machining cost since its softer...?

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have the Lee 452-230 RN in a 2 hole. First 2 pours were kind of frosty. I dialed the temperature down a bit and everything after that came out great. I have noticed that the temperature needed for lead WW or range scrap is not the same as needed for something like Lyman #2.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Casting with the Lee 6 holers is really not difficult but a few things must be correct. As mentioned the aluminum blocks heat fast and cool fast. Just this week I cast 500+ Lee TL429-240s and 800+ TL358-158s using Lee's 6 cavity moulds. I had very few rejections.....perhaps 10 of each.....

    Some suggestions;

    Deburr the edges of the mould and sprue plate with a fine stone or jeweler's file. I then check to make sure the blocks close completely when held by the handles. Remove any burs if they don't. Make sure the mould is clean. I degrease the new mould with brake cleaner and a light touch with a propane torch to evaporate any "moisture".....you will see the "moisture" come out and evaporate and that's all that's necessary. When the mould cools I swab out each cavity with a couple dry Q-tips. I then use a graphite mould prep on the alignment pins, the sprue plate (top and bottom) and on the top of the mould blocks (don't get any in the cavities).

    Casting location temp; if your casting location area is cold (less than 60 degrees) that alone can cause problems.

    Alloy; as is said; "garbage in....garbage out" if you don't have a good alloy the bullets will be wrinkled, not filled out or undersize. You don't mention what alloy you are using? The sparkly frosting you mention can be from, besides over heating, an alloy with very high antimony content and little tin content.

    Alloy temp; with a ladle or with a furnace you'll get better results by keeping the casting temp of the alloy consistent. You want it hot enough so the alloy gets into the mould quickly and fills the cavity before it cools enough to begin solidifying. It does not take much cooling for that to happen. I prefer to cast with the alloy at 710 - 725 degrees for most alloys. The cost of a good thermometer (which I prefer) or a PID is not much compared to the time and frustration you've already encountered.

    Casting technique. On the Lee 6 cavity when casting hold the mould by the handles only, not sprue lever. When pushed completely shut the sprue handle can easily pivot the block apart just a bit. Close the sprue plate and back the handle off just a tudge so it isn't pivoting the blocks apart. If using a bottom pour furnace I like to use a mould guide to keep the mould about 1/2 to 3/4" from the spout. I push the mould completely under the furnace and fill each hole pulling the mould out. Adjust the spout so a sprue is formed w/o excessive over flow of alloy. When the alloy boils out of the hole forming a sprue I move to the next....each cavity is filled separately.

    With all the cavities filled I remove the mould and set it on an old machine gun asbestos mitt. I hold the handles closed until the sprue initially hardens then will release the handles. While giving the alloy a few seconds more to harden I put the previous sprue into the pot. Then pick up the mould, cut the sprue and open the blocks and let the bullets fall out. If they don't I tap on the handle nut with a plastic mallet. The blocks are closed, the sprue plate closed then pivoted out just a tudge and the mould is then filled again. All that sets up a casting tempo so the mould does not get too hot and the bullets don't frost.

    Here are the 44s I cast a few days ago.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Lee TL 44s.jpg 
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    Sounds a lot more complicated than it really is.
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    Keep the heat up.... I cast right at frosty. If you don't they loose heat and the rejects skyrocket.
    It's totally different from steel moulds..they hold the heat and sometimes get too hot.

    There is nothing wrong with frosty boolits , they shoot just fine and when using an aluminum mould especially a big 6 cavity one, a guide as to when the temperature is right.
    I never used a PID, thermometer or hot plate so I use the frosty look as my gauge for the correct heat.
    Gary
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  12. #12
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    Like poker sometimes it is best to cut your losses and walk away. I have had excellent success with NOE and Accurate molds in 4 & 5 hole styles. It isn't the material, to me, it seems harder to get the Lees to the same lock up every time. Part of the problem is if you have already learned what your minimum cull is and won't fudge on it.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    This one got me, Like Larry Gibson said, if you are casting below 60 deg, this will give you problems. We moved up to Tennessee from Florida about a year ago and the winters here are close to freezing at night, steel molds work like a dream but brass and al are waiting for summer or at least spring.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    You can just sit a steel plate on a burner on the kitchen stove to try in place of a hot plate .
    It sounds like you are running your mold a little fast causing it to over heat casting larger boolits fast .
    But more importantly what exactly is wrong with the 80 percent that you are culling out - Frosty , undersized ?

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy 468's Avatar
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    The 80% rejects are usually due to cooling lines....and some that look like Christmas ornaments they're so frosty.

    Reading more above, it seems like I'm going too fast. ... and need a hot plate to get the mold up to initial temp.

    Re alloy, It's a mix of all wheel weights. I also add some tin if the molds aren't filling out. But I honestly don't watch it that closely. That may be part of the issue. As is my nature, if I figure out what I'm doing wrong, I will fess up.

    Thanks to all...and Stay tuned.

  16. #16
    Boolit Buddy 468's Avatar
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    This is just flippin’ weird. I just finished up a brief casting session with that same mold. Probably rejected about 5%. I just slowed down, sat the mold on a damp rag for a few seconds every 4th or 5th drop...

    All the s well.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 468 View Post
    Thought: Why are Al molds less expensive than steel molds? Al is a MUCM more expensive metal. Must be the machining cost since its softer...?
    Pretty much.
    All things considered- The per pound price of the metal is barely toll road change.

    Alum. wants to gall, and clog your cutting tools, but once ya figure that part out, the cutting tools will
    last almost forever compared to cutting iron or steel.
    Everyone can learn from their mistakes.
    However; it's less painful, and cheaper to learn from the mistakes of others.

    Never ask an old person, "how are you doing"?
    They eagerly look forward to telling you,,,,,,,, and ya really don't want to know.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master


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    I cast for 30yrs before I tried my first Lee 2cav mold. I learned to slow down and put the bottom edge ofthe mold in the quench bucket every few casts to cool them off.

    I already knew about thermometers and hot plates.

    But when I started casting with a Lee 6cav mold it was a new experience. A 311-93-RN was an true Learning experience.

    Hotter alloy, cast faster and use 3 6cav molds of smaller caliber, such as a 356-125-RN & 358-158-RF.

    That's what works for me. Any Aluminum 4/5 Cav mold will works this way.
    Happiness is a Warm GUN & more ammo to shoot in it.

    My Experience and My Opinion, are just that, Mine.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    It will probably get better after you use it a few times casting , but you might want to go over some of the post above about a little extra mold preparation .

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Ambient temperature is a part, but I found wind to be more of a problem.
    I have cast outdoors in 20f temps with no problem, but there was no breeze at all.
    Same setup on a 50f-60f day with some wind and I could not keep any sort of consistency. So I quit.
    I have since moved my casting into the garage out of the weather.

    Now the temps affect me more than the molds.

    And watch out for condensation on metal tools in cold damp weather, I have had some sizzling/popping from ladles/spoons that have cooled down when place back in the melt.
    Gets your attention quick.

    Just run the mold/melt hotter in colder temps. Just colder temps makes casting different but not impossible.

    Also I am only casting for short range handgun so my quality acceptance level is probably much lower than larrys.

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