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Thread: Thoughts on a bottom pour vs. ladle pour melting pot

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Thoughts on a bottom pour vs. ladle pour melting pot

    Hi all, I am new here and am thinking about taking my reloading to the next level and casting my own boolits. I have been looking at a Lee 4-20 melting pot but I am reconsidering just going with a ladle pour. My casting will be for .357, .44mag, .454casull and 500 linebaugh. I might be loading as much as a 1000 rounds a year but that is about it, so not a high volume operation. I would just like to get the thoughts of you veteran casters to help with my decision. Thank you, Darrin.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    GOPHER SLAYER's Avatar
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    I have two bottom pour and two that require ladles. I haven't used the latter two in years. If you keep the bottom free of crude and keep the drain clear, the bottom pour are easier to use, and faster.
    A GUN THAT'S COCKED AND UNLOADED AIN'T GOOD FOR NUTHIN'........... ROOSTER COGBURN

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    A lot of it is personal preference. I ladle pour. I have bottom poured, but I find I enjoy ladle pouring, while bottom pouring is just work. I don't like having to fiddle with a bottom pour pot to get it to work right. A ladle pot is nearly idiot proof.

    If you get the lee 20 pound bottom pour pot, you'll have the size that you could also use a ladle to try. If it suits you more you can remove the bottom pour guts and plug the hole.

  4. #4
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bazoo View Post
    A ladle pot is nearly idiot proof.
    I can make a pretty formidable idiot..

    Thank you both for your input, I appreciate it.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I get my best boolits with 1 - 2 - 3 cavity moulds and ladle pouring with the side spout ladle and pressure casting method and a 20 # open top pot .

    4 - 5 - 6 cavity moulds are geared to high production , not necessarily perfection , and benefit from a 20# bottom pour pot and a hot plate .

    If you are going to start out with a 6 cavity mould , go bottom pour w/ hot plate .

    If on the other hand money is an object and you are going to start with Lee 2 cavity moulds , get a Lyman ladle (it has the spout) and Lee 20# magnum melter open pot .
    I started with several 1 - 2 cavity moulds...that was all I could afford and over the years learned I cast better boolits with them and a ladle...slower but better boolits .

    Reguardless of what method you use do get a pot that holds 20# ...smaller pots just slow down your production...you run out of hot metal and spend so much time refilling the pot and waiting for everything to get heated up again.
    It's like trying to learn how to swim with a concrete building block tied around your neck...
    Trust me...go big on the pot...I wish I had 40 years ago .
    Gary
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Targa View Post
    I can make a pretty formidable idiot...
    Hey, I resemble that remark.

    I started with a cast iron sauce pan, a Coleman stove, and an RCBS ladle. I still use the RCBS ladle; it is a bit bigger than the Lyman, plus it has a fin on the bottom for clearing a hole through the dross when filling.

    The Lee 4-20 is a very good pot to start with. It has enough capacity for most uses, it is easy to ladle from and doesn't drip too badly.

    The best thing about the electric pots is they are insulated so you don't get a lot of radiated heat from them when casting boolits. Second best is you don't run out of fuel just as everything is going right.

    Robert

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy dpoe001's Avatar
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    i started casting with a stainless pot i got from the local thrift store,and my turkey fryer to melt it.I have a Lee 20 bottom pour i use a lot but i still ladle pour a couple times a year just to keep in practice(to keep me from getting bored some chilly weekends).

  8. #8
    Boolit Master kmw1954's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Targa View Post
    I can make a pretty formidable idiot..

    Thank you both for your input, I appreciate it.
    I applied for the Village Idiot position once but was beat out by my brother.

    Those 44 and 50cal bullets can burn up a lot of lead in a hurry so I would suggest a pot that is going to hold at least 20#.. I cast a lot of smaller 2 cavity molds and the Lee ProIV keeps up pretty well. With this the pot full of alloy a 200gr 45acp mold will cast a half a pot full and drop about 100 bullets. And that is with me dropping the sprues back into the pot each drop.

    I started with a 1.5qt SS sauce pan, a hot plate and a Lyman ladle. Biggest downside was the amount of time it took to fill and melt the alloy and get up to casting temp. Once to temp it would stay pretty steady because of the amount of molten alloy there was. So as mentioned whether to ladle pour or pour directly from the pot is certainly a personal preference.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy
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    I started with a Coleman camp stove and an eight inch cast iron Dutch oven, I used a large kitchen ladle with a 3/32Ē hole drilled in the bottom to cast. I then bought a lee bottom pour. For me buying the bottom pour pot was a big mistake. I now exclusively use a small 2 once kitchen ladle with a 3/32Ē hole in the bottom, I have adjusted the valve on my pot so that it is now plugged.

    I have been a welder for over twenty years. For part of that time I worked in production blacksmith shops. Iím a tradesman that has been shaping molten and near molten metal for most of my adult life. For me the ladle is so much more hands on. I have a 6 cavity mold that needs a little tap to fill out the base of the fourth and fifth cavity. I canít do that little tap if Iím cramped up underneath a bottom pour pot.

    For me ladle all the way. I wish I had never bought the Drip-O-Matic.

    Just to be clear I like everything else about my Lee pot. Iíve got a bunch of Lee products and on the whole Iím very happy with most of them. I would buy another Lee pot minus the bottom pour feature.

    JM

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master
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    First - WELCOME !

    I agree with gwpercle, regardless of what type you settle on, don't go below 20 lbs of capacity on the pot. 20 lbs. may sound like a lot but lead is heavy and it really isn't a lot.

    As for bottom pout verses ladle, it's is largely preference but I will say that bottom pour clearly has an advantage in terms of production volume.

    I don't think bottom pout pots are complex devices but there's no denying that a ladle is about as simple as it gets.

    I've used both methods and while I maintain ladle equipment, I no longer use use a ladle. So I guess that means I would lean slightly towards recommending a bottom pour pot.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I have never been able to pour a boolit with a ladle. I have 10 and 20 # lee bottom pour pots. Both work fine with not too much fussing. Bought a ladle at a gun show some years ago and was never able to get lead to pour out. May need to heat the ladle up more. Bottom pour works so good why bother.

  12. #12
    Boolit Mold
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    Man, great information to take in from everyone of you, I do appreciate it and will think on it. You all do have me convinced on the 20 # pot which ever way I go with this.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master GhostHawk's Avatar
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    I'm a ladle pourer since back in the late 70's.

    I did finally move up to a Lee magnum melter and I love mine.
    Lyman side spout ladle.

    Started with mostly 2 cavity Lee molds, slowly converting the stable over to 6 cavity.

    A hotplate is a handy accessory for pre-warming molds.

    A little Lee Alox and a small ball of 0000 steel wool does a great job of keeping sprues from sticking to sprue plates and pour holes.
    It will harden as the mold warms up, almost like enamel paint. Lead just does not like to stick to it.

  14. #14
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    Started with a Lyman ladle, 10 # RCBS pot and a plumbers furnace which I didn't own so needed to get my own heat source. Bought the Lee 10# bottom pour and never looked back. The ladle guys aren't about to change and neither am I. You have to have some experience to do things right with a bottom pour which you can learn by doing. I'm pretty sure you'd have to do the same thing ladle pouring too and my method is mold in left hand, sprue cutting tool in the right and never need to put either tool down. Tipping the pour lever doesn't require shuffling things up and down as I believe you'd have to do ladle pouring. Can't quite see how you'd not have to lay the ladle or hammer down to pick up the other one. Either method can be learned. Smaller cavity moulds either work as well one way as another. If I had a H&G 8 or 10 cavity then I'd want a BIG ladle and use the trough for the intended purpose but with only owning 2 cavity molds I'd probably quit casting if I had to use a ladle. To each his own, and my wife tells me I'm stubborn.
    Mike

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  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have enough trouble pouring ingots with a ladle.... hats off to you ladle folks.

  16. #16
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    Both for me since 1968. 95% is bottom pour with the ladle for BPCR competition bullets.
    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."

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  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I started with a set of 10 lb bottom pour lees for casting. This was mostly for pistol bullets, jigs and fishing sinkers. They worked fine drips and leaks were annoying. Bullets were in the 130 grn to 255 grn. 38-45 caliber. mostly 2 cavity moulds. When I started into rifle bullets 180 grn to 550 grn, 30-45 cal. I had a harder time getting really good bullets with these longer bullets. Again 2 cavity moulds usually. There were bigger weight variations and poorer visible consistency. I put together a plain pot and ladle cast quality picked up considerably. I use both lyman an rcbs ladles with good results The rowel I have is on the big side. I believe part of this is the faster fill with the ladle and some techniques that really arnt possible with a bottom pour.

    I have modified my ladles by opening up the spouts to .200 size. This gives a much faster fill. I added a stop in the shaft so they can stay in the pot hooked over the edge. My moulds have been vented also.

    Now to give an idea heres how I cast. I run 2 moulds in tandem. to set a cadence. I heat the lead to 725* - 750* flux and stir. I also ore heat the first 2 moulds. I give the lead 10-15 mins to "normalize" after fluxing. When I start casting I set the next 2 moulds on the warming tray. I start casting I fill the first mould I dont pour for a sprue but fill the ladle resting it over the pot letting the excess flow back into the pot. I set this on the tray and gill the second the same way. then cut the sprue on the first and drop the bullets. after the first 8-10 pours the bullets go back in the pot.

    I usually run between 500 and 600 bullets in a session in a weight range of 360-550 grns and each bullet in a size will be in a .5 grn range of each other. Visually they look very good with sharp corners and bases. My rifle moulds are steel and brass material sprue plates have been vented and spouts in the ladles opened up.

    Ideally you want to fill the mould before it starts to harden. The over pour allows the base to stay hot longer allowing the mould to pull all the material it needs when cooling and More time for gases to work out. It also keeps the moulds closer to temp and the sprue plate hotter.

    The ladle set up isnt expensive to put together, And is handy for cleaning metals and alloying. Try both and see what works for you

  18. #18
    Boolit Mold
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    Outstanding information, thank you. I certainly appreciate the tips and tricks to get a head of the game a bit.

  19. #19
    Vendor Sponsor Bantou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duckiller View Post
    I have never been able to pour a boolit with a ladle. I have 10 and 20 # lee bottom pour pots. Both work fine with not too much fussing. Bought a ladle at a gun show some years ago and was never able to get lead to pour out. May need to heat the ladle up more. Bottom pour works so good why bother.
    I let my ladle float on top of the melt for a bit to burn out any condensation it might have acquired (I cast in my non-climate controlled shed) and then dip it down in the melt. The lead will harden around it and keep it down at the bottom. After a couple of minutes, the ladle floats back to the top and is hot enough to allow the lead to flow nicely.


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  20. #20
    Vendor Sponsor Bantou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike W1 View Post
    Started with a Lyman ladle, 10 # RCBS pot and a plumbers furnace which I didn't own so needed to get my own heat source. Bought the Lee 10# bottom pour and never looked back. The ladle guys aren't about to change and neither am I. You have to have some experience to do things right with a bottom pour which you can learn by doing. I'm pretty sure you'd have to do the same thing ladle pouring too and my method is mold in left hand, sprue cutting tool in the right and never need to put either tool down. Tipping the pour lever doesn't require shuffling things up and down as I believe you'd have to do ladle pouring. Can't quite see how you'd not have to lay the ladle or hammer down to pick up the other one. Either method can be learned. Smaller cavity moulds either work as well one way as another. If I had a H&G 8 or 10 cavity then I'd want a BIG ladle and use the trough for the intended purpose but with only owning 2 cavity molds I'd probably quit casting if I had to use a ladle. To each his own, and my wife tells me I'm stubborn.
    You do need to change tools ladle pouring. I pour, set the ladle back in the pot, and then pick the wood stake I use hit the sprue plate. As long as I put everything back in the same spot each time, I can easily accomplish all of that while the sprue is hardening. I havenít ever used a bottom pour pot and I donít know that I will unless I start using more than dual cavity molds. The rhythm of ladle casting is soothing to me.


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