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Thread: Lee powder dippers...really dumb question

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Arrow Lee powder dippers...really dumb question

    For years, I used my Lee dippers to measure rifle charges. I'd pick a dipper that charged a bit less than my intended weight, then trickle to zero on my scale.

    Handgun? Seldom used them, because I couldn't figure out how.
    This is what I did: My powder holder is/was a teacup, probably 3/4 full, replenished when the level got low. Anything else I could find was too shallow to allow full immersion of the dipper. I would slide the dipper into the powder at a 45 degree angle, or just sink it into the powder, then pull it out, wipe the extra off with a business card, then weigh a random charge, just to check. I don't even approach maximum with my loads. Belt and suspenders? Maybe...but am I doing it properly?

    You read here and there about fellows that just dip and card off the extra, and never touch a scale. I'm afraid I don't have that super power, so is there something else or different I could be doing?

    Thanx!
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  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    I've only used the dippers for black powder substitutes. I do not weigh that powder because I found out that equal amounts from the dipper DO NOT necessarily weigh the same.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master OS OK's Avatar
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    I use them pretty much as you do...'dip and trickle' and I find them handy when working up loads for a new profile.
    I insert the dipper into this spray paint can lid butt first and come up straight out of the powder to over fill the dipper.


    A friend, Harry at 'Backyard Inventors' gave me a little tip that works well...he suggested gluing the little wooden stick across the lid to wipe the dipper under to level it off.

    Thanks Harry

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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I use them as you described, but only for working up a new load. Close with the dipper and trickle to exact. Once I have the load then the Lee auto drum is set to throw the charges. It always is within 0.1 grains and is checked visually. My 20 or so hunting loads for the year are all weighed to the exact 0.1 grains.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Sounds like your doing it right. Consistency is the key find a way you can repeat exactly every time and work it. when I use dippers I weight and trickle up to dead zero also. I make my own dippers as needed. Its not hard to do. I use an aluminum tray one of my meds come in. Its 2" X3" X1 1/2" deep. Experiment with them and find what works for you. With some rifle powders a very light tap before screeding off helps settle the charge, just use the business card and give a light tap on the handle close to the cup.

    To build confidence and consistency throw charges and weight them. chart progress. After a few hundred charges youll see they get closer in weight and more consistent. A dipper in the right hands can be very accurate

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    I use them as you've described-- balance scale (RCBS 505) is zeroed on desired charge weight. Dip, dump into pan, and trickle until the balance arm is on zero. I agree with your finding that generally the advertised capacity of the dipper does not match the charge table and is almost always less with the powder for which it is advised to be used. I'd ask Mr. Lee about it, but he's no longer with us. I think it was a built in fudge for safety and a hedge against liability. As for handgun cartridges, again I usually weigh each charge for those of which I shoot fewer, but for the ones of which I used a lot, like .38 Spec. and .45 ACP I used a bench mounted Lee Perfect Powder Measure which I have found to be very accurate. But, you know, whether a scoop or a bench powder measure, it is all measurement by volume. If one is a true fan of the dipper method they can make their own dippers from scrap cartridge cases, starting with a long one and gradually filing it down until it throws exactly the desired charge for any particular given cartridge and powder. You can solder a wire handle onto the new case to make it handy.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master 44magLeo's Avatar
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    I think the Lee dippers weigh a bit light so if you dip by plunging the dipper into the powder open end first and leave it plied up the weights will be ok.
    I have made my own dippers from cases. I have one that dips 8.5 grs of Unique. I can dip it to within .1 grs quite easily.
    I use that when assembling my mid range 44 Mag loads. The Lyman 429421 wd coww lubed with LLA, no sizing, over the 8.5 grs Unique from the dipper is much quicker than setting up the measure.
    For the full bore loads I use the measure set and checked often on the scale.
    I seldom do the tickle deal. Once I get the measure set and operate it consistently it throws with .1 grs. Close enough for my loading.
    If you want to get good with a dipper Just dip and weigh charges. Don't actually load just dip and weigh. Try a few different ways of dipping. Practice till it feels natural. With a consistent method you may surprise yourself at how good you can dip.
    If I want to get more precise my scales are sensitive enough to read a single granule of a stick powder like IMR 4831, 4350 and 4064.
    It just takes a bit of practice with what ever method you use to get consistent results.
    Leo
    Last edited by 44magLeo; 12-15-2019 at 06:58 PM.

  8. #8
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    Double check what your dippers dip , using the technique you use , with a scale . The "chart" isn't always exactly right and the method / technique you use to dip can result in a heavier / lighter charge weight .

    I have used dippers for years and find they can be extremely consistent , you are looking at the "dip" and if something looks amiss , simply dump the powder back in the cup and re-dip .
    I also like the fact I can watch the powder go into the case and see the dipper is empty...
    kind of a simple process with not a lot to malfunction...and you don't have to reset your measure.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Man
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    Sounds like the right technique. I have an auto drum, but its for another caliber. But I use a homemade dipper from a 22lr case and a piece of copper wire for 380. I checked the first 100 or so on the scale, and my technique was scary accurate. Ran the next 20 without weighing the charge, went out and chronod them, looked good. Still using that same homeade dipper.

    This was not a max charge. Just a practice load.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    I use the dippers way more that I use my bench mounted measure now days.I find it a lot quicker to charge a tray with them than to fiddle with the measure,and drop and weigh several charges just to dump them back in the measure,and then when you are satisified you still will need to trickle powder in your pan,and dump a few charges that weigh heavy.My method for the dippers is to pour my powder in small food storage container,and use a dipper that is close,but a hair small.I put one scoop in my pan,and put the pan on the scale,and usually using the same dipper just tap a few more peices into it till I get my weight.I then dump my charge and place the empty pan back on the scales at least once on every row to make sure they still read zero.I find this method best for me,but it won’t be favored by all.

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master RogerDat's Avatar
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    The Lee Loader kit which is complete includes a Lee dipper that can provide suitable loads for the loader caliber. They describe exactly the technique you use as being appropriate for them. In the instructions I think is where I read it or in one of the early Reloading Handbooks by Richard Lee.

    By pulling the scoop down into the powder backwards you avoid packing powder with would cause an inconsistent charge even if not an overcharge. Striking the top with a business card is also described. I like that idea of gluing a stick across the container to strike the load off level.

    Scoop is a volume measure, your other powder measures are filling a volume with powder. Difference is only scoop isn't adjustable and doesn't have its own powder reservoir. People make scoops from small bullet cases ground down to a size specific to their favorite load of a specific powder. People buy the individual scoops and do something similar. I seem to recall one person used wax to take up extra space in a scoop then used a drill bit or similar tool to remove wax down to an exact load.

    Little more fussy than a bench top but if one is consistent I don't find them to be less accurate, have used them for shotgun or 38 special and checks with a scale of every few rounds showed as accurate as powder measure when I did my part with care.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    I've used the lee dippers without verifying them against a scale if the charge was at the starting level. Normally I work a load up with scale and measure, and if I'm lucky my dippers will hit close to what I like. Once I verify it I don't check again until I change lot numbers of powder.

    I strike the dippers with the edge of the powder funnel. And use a 1/2 cup aluminum measuring cup for a powder container. If I want to take some powder with me for say a lee loader, I have a small kraft mayo jar that holds right at 3/4 cup of powder. I put a labor on it with what powder.

    I rarely weigh charges except to check my measure. I set my measure or check it if it's already set, then I check the last throw for a block of 50, along with visual inspection for powder level in the cases.

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy sparkyv's Avatar
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    That paint cup with the stick wiper is an elegant solution to this little problem OS OK. Nice!

  14. #14
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    That's a great idea, OS OK. I've got some bamboo squewers I'll make one out of
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  15. #15
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    The method the OP is using is what is recommended by Lee. I tried this when I first started reloading with a Lee Loader, before I got a scale. But that was about 40 years ago and I like to experiment. Sorta "I wonder if...". I got pretty good with the dippers and I found I could vary the charge by a bit over one full grain with different methods (dip & strike as per instructions, dip mouth forward & strike, run through powder mouth forward, once and forward twice. All gave different charges). With using dippers, whether stock Lee, modified Lee or home made, consistency of method is key. When I was on a roll, after quite a bit of practice, I could hold less than .2-.3 grain with W231...

    I also modified some of the dippers; to make a charge lighter I could add a drop of epoxy in the cavity and to make the charge heavier I could enlarge the cavity either by slightly reaming or drilling a bit deeper.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master OS OK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkyv View Post
    That paint cup with the stick wiper is an elegant solution to this little problem OS OK. Nice!
    Quote Originally Posted by jonp View Post
    That's a great idea, OS OK. I've got some bamboo squewers I'll make one out of
    Thanks boys . . . but . . . I can't claim it. Backyard Inventor gave it to me...he's the one with a brain!
    Last edited by OS OK; 12-18-2019 at 01:07 PM.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by OS OK View Post
    Thanks boys . . . but . . . I can't claim it. Backyard Inventor gave it to me...he's the one with a brain!
    LOL, nice to see I'm not the only one that says "Why didn't I think of that"?
    I am become death. The destroyer of worlds

    We all do our duty when there is not cost to it, honor comes easier then. Sooner or later there comes a day in every man's life when it is not so easy, a day when he must choose and live with it for the rest of his days.

    The further society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it
    George Orwell

    "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery."
    - Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787

  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master

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    You're using them the same way that I did. I even used a coffee cup as a container. I don't use them much since I bought a ChargeMaster. I also have a small box of homemade dippers that I bought from a member on another forum that are made from cartridge cases. Mostly just for the "cool" factor. Many of them were made from obsolete cases, even some large caliber rimfire pistol cases.

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by lightman View Post
    You're using them the same way that I did. I even used a coffee cup as a container. I don't use them much since I bought a ChargeMaster. I also have a small box of homemade dippers that I bought from a member on another forum that are made from cartridge cases. Mostly just for the "cool" factor. Many of them were made from obsolete cases, even some large caliber rimfire pistol cases.
    Quite a few from what I've seen do that, lightman. I've always used Lee Dippers and have had good results. How's your cartridge collection doing?
    I am become death. The destroyer of worlds

    We all do our duty when there is not cost to it, honor comes easier then. Sooner or later there comes a day in every man's life when it is not so easy, a day when he must choose and live with it for the rest of his days.

    The further society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it
    George Orwell

    "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery."
    - Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787

  20. #20
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonp View Post
    Quite a few from what I've seen do that, lightman. I've always used Lee Dippers and have had good results. How's your cartridge collection doing?
    Its slowed down some. I cut an overhead kitchen cabinet down that was saved from a recent kitchen remodel that I hope to get mounted after hunting season closes. My out grew my other display.

    Thanks for asking.

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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
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