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Thread: If you could start all over again

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Mar 2020
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    If you could start all over again

    So, I ended up with ~25 lbs of magnum shot that is a bit oxidized and I don't want to run it through my shotshell press. Being the eminently reasonable person that I am, I took this as a sign that I should learn how to cast boolits.

    Having learned from my prior mistakes in reloading, I figured I would ask before buying; What would you do if you could start all over again? What would your first casting setup look like?

    I am looking at the Lyman Big Dipper Kit but a lot of people seem to find ladle casting difficult. Money is indeed object but I am fine paying a bit more if it means less frustration. My thinking is to start casting for 38 special and then work my way up to rifle boolits (30-06 and such).

  2. #2
    Boolit Bub
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    If I were able to start from scratch, I would have bought used wherever I could. I would have purchased a bottom-pour pot rather than ladle-pouring. I would have purchased more 6-cavity molds and fewer 2-cavity molds. So, I would use a bottom-pour pot with 6-cavity molds, and a cheap press just for sizing bullets.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I don't know that I'd change anything. My first good furnace was/is a Lyman Mag-20 from....1980(?), or thereabouts. It has the bottom pour feature...which I rarely use...and is still open enough to ladle, which I do 99% of the time. If anyone finds ladle casting difficult, they simply need to learn how. It isn't that difficult and I don't know that bottom pouring is as accurate....and, how close in weight, accuracy, you want your bullets depends on what you're shooting. At least it does for me.

    I think a lot depends on what you're looking to do. For your 38, or any other handgun, if you're looking to shoot a lot the 6 cavity molds make a lot of sense. I don't shoot much handgun anymore and I only have one, 6 cavity mold. I want my rifle bullets as precise as I can cast them. Consequently most of my rifle molds are single cavity although I do have a few double cavity...that don't see a lot of use.

    Casting is such a....satisfying and...versatile I guess is the word I'm looking for.....hobby/adjunct to handloading. Once you get the hang of it you can do just about whatever you want. The learning curve really isn't that long. And, you can be as frugal or extravagant as you want or your wallet allows.
    Last edited by sharps4590; 03-26-2020 at 11:08 AM.
    "In general, the art of government is to take as much money as possible from one class of citizens and give it to another class of citizens" Voltaire'

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  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master



    M-Tecs's Avatar
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    Sell or trade your shot and start with a quality known alloy. Smaller sized shot is a real pain to smelt. The lead oxide and or graphite coating holds it shape even with a molten core.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point."

    – Amber Veal

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    welcome to the board

    I don't subscribe to any one colour, but I would recommend a bottom pour pot with a ladle on the side for special projects. Its easier to size down than up. A 5 lb pot and a ladle is a good way to learn, but you can dip out of a bottom pour too if you want. And get a good thermometer. If I could start over, I would start wayyyy sooner than I did.
    Good Judgment comes from Experience, Experience comes from Bad Judgment !

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

    Rcmaveric's Avatar
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    Lol, I would have kept it simple. Instead of reading so much and turning it into a science and chemistry experiment I would have copied what worked and not recreate others failed experiments because I thought I was better and smarter than the guy 100 years ago.

    Na, I who am I kidding. I wouldn't change a thing other than not being greedy mining the local range berm. Got greasy and got caught and told to stop.

    Use what what you can afford the way that makes you happy. You won't be sad or disappointed no matter what tools you get. There are tools that streamline and help like a PID but aren't neccessary. A thermometer isnt even a necessary.

    Just a pot
    Lead
    A mold
    Old candles for flux
    Some lube (paper, powder coated, grease)
    A way to grease them (I pan lube for a year before I bought a used lubrisizer on .270 Wincheste and 9mm)
    And some load data

    It's as simple or complicated as you make it.



    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
    "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
    ~Theodore Roosevelt~

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    Nope, I wouldn't change anything, I have been happy with my BIG RED lineup so far.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I started with the Lee 10 pound bottom pour pot, and added from there. If I were doing it again, I would have started with the Lee 4-20 with the larger capacity for a more consistent melt temperature. Only the 10 pound pots were available at that time though. If you want to ladle cast, the 20 has enough room to allow that. The 4" height will give you to option of larger molds, like sinkers and such. Starting out, you may not find the lube sizer within your budget so you may have no use for the lube sticks that come with the kit. Powder coating or tumble lubes are just fine until you get more involved. Once you are comfortable with the two cavity molds, and decide to try the 6 cavity molds the bottom pour pot is the better option. For long and heavy bullets the ladle is perhaps better if it will pour fast enough to quickly fill the mold. A dedicated ingot mold is nice, but certainly not necessary. The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, 4th edition is highly recommended for the data for the bullets as well as the usual questions new casters have. Other reading on the internet like the LASC web site are also very useful.

    One problem with the ladle method is when you find a lower level of melt and have difficulty filling the ladle. With either casting method, there are some issues that will require some extra thinking and of course one can re-purpose some household items rather than buy specific reloading items. The casting furnaces are inexpensive enough that you probably should consider a new purchase so if you have problems, you can seek help from the maker. Usually it is just a matter of minor adjustments and learning what to do.

    Mentors are very beneficial, so if you have not already included your general location in your profile consider doing that now. Welcome to the forum. This is a hobby that can last a life time, and with care, the tools will be appreciated by the following generation as well. Dusty

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I won't add any to all the good advice already given, but I have taken some pretty rough looking reclaimed shot, and tumbled it with some Lundmark floor wax, and it coated over the oxidation and slicked it up so it went through the loader real well.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I think it’s all been said thus far. Lee 4-20 and the six-cav molds are a real bargain. For .38 the TL358-158 SWC IS nice, or 358-158 RF, or 358-148 WC. All shoot great.

    Lee catches some flack, but I have found their stuff to be generally good, sometimes really cool and I have a ton of their stuff, Along with Lyman, RCBS, NOE etc. Also, as mentioned, be safe, #1, 2 and 3. glasses, boots and gloves minimum when casting, good ventilation, situational awareness. Know the weak spots of your set-up, I can think of few things less fun than a lap (or face!) full of molten metal.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Boolseye; 03-29-2020 at 02:32 PM.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


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    If still have the pot I started with 45 years ago but immaterial...that was 45 years ago.

    I would do it differently IF I was starting now. I would get a Lee 20lb bottom pour. Add a PID and thermometer. Forget the lead shot and get some decent alloy. Oxidized shot works in shot shells.

    Start with .38. Simplest and easiest caliber to cast for. If you cannot get good accurate .38 bullets...give up and sell everything.

    I would buy a good quality 4 cavity mold from MiHec, Accurate or NOE. Get a mold that will cast .358-.359 with your alloy. That will eliminate sizing. Use BLL for a lube...simple, cheap, effective and no cooking needed.

    Get PPE...glasses or face shield, leather gloves, wear boots and cotton or wool clothes if you do not want to use a leather apron. Have a fire extinguisher handy and a bucket of water (you will get burned...dunk in water ASAP)
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    I started with the Lyman kit and a few Lee 2-cavity molds. Would do that again.

    You do NOT need fancy molds or hollow points to make your guns go bang. Current production Lee molds are an absolute miracle considering their quality versus price. And when you do finally get the urge for a fancy custom mold, we live in the 'good old days' of availability. Also, if you use conventional lubes, don't overthink them. Alox works. Anything halfway soft works for typical handgun stuff. Or just powder coat using a whipped cream container and $1 worth of airsoft BBs and a USED toaster oven from craigslist.

    Casting can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    I started with this romance of using a cast iron pot on the stove or a propane burner. I read about that in old books and magazine articles. Don't take that route, it's frustrating and tiresome.

    Lee 20 pound magnum melter,
    Lyman ladle
    Lyman 4th manual
    Lyman 450 sizer
    White label lube
    Round cake pan for sprues
    Folded towel for bullets to drop
    1 3/4" x 12"dowel for mould knocking
    Table spoon with added wooden handle
    Candle wax for flux

    Personally I wouldn't ever go back from a 20 pound pot. A ten pound pot empties too fast. I prefer ladle casting. It's a whole lot less frustrating than a bottom pour pot in my experience. If I had to have that option I'd get the lee 20 pound bottom pour because it's also large enough for ladle casting if you choose to try it.


    For smelting, I use wood in a rocket stove sort of configuration. In a cut propane tank. Starting out you can use various things. But this was easy and free for me. A Propane burner would do well too, as would an old cast iron Dutch oven or pot.

    Muffin tins for ingots
    Stainless kitchen ladle
    Large Stainless spoon
    Stainless skimmer
    Sawdust and wax for flux
    Old pot or metal bucket for clips

    You can, and I have, smelted wheel weights in my casting pot. With a ladle pot it doesn't cause issues like it does with a bottom pour. This can be an option if money's tight and your just getting started.

    For moulds, I've used lee and RCBS and Lyman and accurate. They all work. Lyman has been hit or miss on quality but a good one is worth the trouble. RCBS is my favorite but accurate is very nice. I mostly use lee but they seem to be ornery, I deal with it.

    It took me a long time to figure out using 2cycle oil to lube a mould wasn't for me. I had so many issues with contamination. No matter how hard I tried I never could get the dab will do you amount right. I use a carpenters pencil; graphite, and it's amazing. It also helps a bunch with lead smears between sprue cutter and mould blocks.
    Last edited by Bazoo; 03-26-2020 at 05:18 PM.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Depending on how bad it is, you could likely trade that shot for 35-40 pounds of good bullet alloy. Lead shotgun shot is stupid expensive now, and has been since about 2012.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master



    M-Tecs's Avatar
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    For someone just starting I recommend different than most. Most people recommend the lowest cost options for starting. I recommend starting with a high quality mold and a certified alloy like Lyman #2 https://www.rotometals.com/lyman-2-b...in-5-antimony/

    This is more important if you are teaching yourself. That allows you to set a benchmark for quality and effort. Struggling with a problem mold and a problem alloy is a hard way to start.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point."

    – Amber Veal

  16. #16
    Boolit Master


    Finster101's Avatar
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    Don't mess around with a 10 pound pot. The 20 pounders aren't much more in price and once you get a six cavity mold running well you'd be surprised how fast you can empty one.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    For someone just starting I recommend different than most. Most people recommend the lowest cost options for starting. I recommend starting with a high quality mold and a certified alloy like Lyman #2 https://www.rotometals.com/lyman-2-b...in-5-antimony/

    This is more important if you are teaching yourself. That allows you to set a benchmark for quality and effort. Struggling with a problem mold and a problem alloy is a hard way to start.
    Thats excellent advice. Having good alloy, you learn to make bullets so much easier than with scrimping on a mystery alloy.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master


    Walks's Avatar
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    I echo the start with Top Quality Stuff.

    I was much more Fortunate then most here. I literally learned at My Father's Knee. I started casting round ball from a one cavity Lyman mold. Dipper cast from a small cast iron pot over a Coleman stove.
    I was eight years old.

    I Do Not recommend to anyone to start that way.

    Quality Molds, Quality Pot and Quality Alloy. This makes for Top Quality Bullet.

    Buy a Good mold. A 2cav each of RCBS, Lyman and maybe a aluminum one later on when you master the iron/steel mold.

    I prefer a good bottom pour pot.
    Start with a 20lb Lee.

    White Label Lube is a Vendor Sponsor here. Their lubes are top notch. And lots of help too.

    Remember whichever way you go, you can always sell off what you no longer use.

    Good Luck, don't forget the safety equipment mentioned above.
    I HATE auto-correct


    Happiness is a Warm GUN & more ammo to shoot in it.

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

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master

    gwpercle's Avatar
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    Do get a 20 pound pot , anything smaller is a hindrance to production.
    Nothing wrong with a 2-3-4 cavity mould and Lyman ladle for pressure casting...I get my best results this way.

    NOE aluminum moulds are worth the money but if money is an object Lee double cavity are worth the $25.00 they cost ...just do a little hand finishing to remove the rough edges and be gentle with it .
    6 cavity moulds are best served with a bottom pour pot...although I couldn't make them work for me , after 40+ years with a ladle I couldn't get the hang of a bottom pour...I could make lots of not so perfect boolits...but if I'm going to cast , I want perfection .

    I do not regret buying a Lyman 450 Lube/sizer and using Lithi-Bee (lithium -beeswax) bullet lubricant. I've never had a leaded barrel in handgun ammo .
    Gary
    Certified Cajun
    Proud Member of The Basket of Deplorables

  20. #20
    Boolit Mold
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    Thank you all. I will definitely start with the 20 lbs Lee pot, quality moulds and good quality alloy. Lyman #2 almost $20 for 5 lbs at Rotometals though... ouch... It is immensely helpful to hear your experiences and opinions though.

    I see a lot of recommendations for Lyman 450. Would Lee APP + Alox do the job? I suppose the latter wont seat gas checks though?

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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