I've received a number of PMs asking about how I tumble lube from folks new to the addiction. Figured I'd take the camera with me to the shop during the next tumble-lube run, so here's how I do it. . . for what it's worth.
The formula or mix that I've settled on is a 45/45/10 mixture of Johnson's Paste Wax (JPW), Lee Liquid Alox (LLA) and odorless mineral spirits (MS). All three ingredients are readily available and inexpensive.
For even less what it's worth, this method has served me very well. I've yet to get leading with any micro-band boolits I tumble-lube and load appropriately, and I've pushed some of the boolits to velocities coming close to 1500fps in the magnum calibers. Little to no smoke at the range when firing, no tackiness on the boolits, no buildup in the seater die, no leading, and an easy to clean barrel.
So here we go.
Mixing the 45/45/10
Here are the ingredients I use: Johnson's Paste Wax, Lee Liquid Alox (LLA) and any brand of odorless mineral spirits. I mix the concoction on a hot plate/griddle in a cheap pot I found at the Dollar Store.
I melt the JPW, then "cook off" the solvents for approximately 15 - 20 minutes until I get a very viscal, thin liquid. I would not advise cooking the JPW over an open flame.
Add the proper amount of LLA and stir/blend into the liquified JPW. Again, I use a 45% JPW/45% LLA/10% MS (mineral spirits) ratio, but I make small amounts and pour into existing (empty) LLA bottles. When tumble-lubing, a little lube goes a long way.
For the record and per many repeated questions, I measure by volume AFTER the JPW is cooked. Be very careful not to add MORE than 10% mineral spirits or your viscosity will be too thin. Ten percent is the max and works well for cold weather/cold-weather climates and conditions.
Most novices' mistake is in using too much--especially the straight mule snot LLA. Result is tacky boolits, gummed up seating die, smoke at the firing line. . . and a bad attitude towards tumble-lubing.
As soon as the LLA is mixed in, I turn the heat completely off the hot plate/griddle and continue to lightly stir the mix, letting it cool naturally as the griddle itself cools. This gives me time to get my funnels and empty LLA bottles ready.
As soon as the concoction has cooled enough that it won't warp or melt the LLA bottle, I add the 10% odorless mineral spirits into the mix and stir well.
I like using the empty LLA bottles. I have a lot of them from the Lee sizing kits I've bought over time, and they last really well. A cheap funnel, again from the Dollar Store, helps keep the initial mess down.
Once the concoction is poured in, I usually leave the spout up and open until the concoction cools to room temperature. Once cooled, it goes on the shelf--ready to use.
Tumble-Lubing the boolits
The boolits I'm showing down below come from my Lee TL158SWC in a .358 diameter. This is my numero uno boolit, and it's also the boolit that helped me really refine how I (tumble) lube. I've pushed this boolit well into the (.357) magnum velocity ranges with no leading whatsoever, and regularly load it to +P velocities for .38 Special.
Alloy is basic Lyman #2 with a pinch extra of tin added to the pot. That extra tin seems to give me perfect fillout with the micro bands, which helps with the lube process. Might just be in my head, but it works for me so I'm sticking to it.
I use a regular Cool Whip (or "La Creme") tub. I don't eat much of the stuff, but my neighbor's kids love it, so I get their occasional empty tubs. For the lubed boolits, I use wax paper I buy on sale, and cookie sheets from the Dollar Store.
I use a heat gun I got at Harbor Freight to heat up the LLA bottle, but a blow dryer will work just as well. So will a microwave or a boiling pot of water or even setting it out in the direct sunlight on a hot Texas day. I heat the lube enough so that when I shake the bottle and it is mixed up well, the bottle still feels just barely warm.
I also prefer to heat the boolits a little bit as well. Warm enough that they are warm to the touch. This is so the warm lube doesn't "freeze" when it comes into contact with cold alloy. For the second lubing (after the sizing), temperature of the boolits doesn't matter.
I never do a big batch of boolits at any one lubing. I think this is also where some folks get into trouble. As you can see in the picture above, I cover the bottom of the Cool Whip tub with some overlapping of boolits--but not very much.
This allows me to apply--everytime--my consistent "pattern" of lube on the boolits. This, I think, is extremely important for consistency of results.
If I have a lot of boolits to lube, I'll do one "tub" at a time, pour them onto the wax paper cookie sheet, and then put more in the tub, lube 'em and lay 'em and repeat the process. I much prefer that as opposed to trying to fill up the tub halfway (or more) and then get the lube applied evenly.
It's hard to get a good picture of how the lube looks when it is applied on the boolits in the Cool Whip tub. So I took a shop paper towel and put it in the bottom of the tub, then squirted my "pattern." This shows approximately how much and how large the "pattern" is I use to apply the lube.
When you've heated up the lube as described above, you only need to barely squeeze the bottle to get the lube to come out. I usually make a "Z" type pattern, close up the bottle and then begin swirling the boolits.
You can see on a few of the boolits the lube that was applied. Next step is to now swirl the boolits in the tub. I swirl clockwise, counter clockwise and then will gentle "tumble" them four or five times then swirl again until all boolits have a nice, thin, even coating of lube.
When you've finished swirling and tumbling your lubed boolits, you almost have to look to see it (the lube). If you can see it with ease, then you used too much.
I pour directly onto the wax paper covered cookie sheet, place them under the ceiling fan in my shop and let them dry. When dry, there is no tackiness or stickiness.
I size every single boolit I cast. Always and without fail. The Lee sizing kits are inexpensive and incredibly simple, easy and fast to use. This is another area where I can absolutely control the consistency (size of the boolit), so why not do it?
After I've sized the boolits, I dump them back in the Cool Whip tub, reheat the bottle of LLA/JPW/MS concoction and repeat the lubing process. After the boolits have dried, I either load them or store them.
Good luck and enjoy.