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Old 02-09-2024, 03:38 PM
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Default Getting back into reloading and casting

Now that I am semi retired I find that I have a little more free time (that is when I can get away from the honey do list) and plan to get back into reloading and casting. I recently acquired an old RCBS Pro Melt 1 furnace from a buddy and just finished refurbishing it. Could not find a spray paint that closely matched RCBS green powder coat so ended up using Krylon Teal. It's more blueish than the original but at least it looks clean. It was banged up and rusted pretty badly and I just don't like working with equipment like that.

The pot had about 2" of hardened lead inside so I wanted to clean it out. Luckily after heating it up I was able to pour one ingot but then she clogged up. The directions say not to let the lead level go below 1" so my first question is, how do you normally empty the pot completely of molten lead?

I ended up spooning out the remainder and dumped it on a pine board that I had. It seemed very gritty and I even found a wheel weight clip in the mix. I'm guessing that the prior owner was melting uncleaned wheel weights and merely shut it off after the last session.

I pulled the plunger rod while it was still molten but it would not pour. After spooning out everything that remained I can see that the drop tube is still full of hardened lead and perhaps dirt. I will probably try melting it out with a propane torch and then reassemble.

Question 2, the temperature dial when set pointing at 0 degrees rotates counter clockwise past 850 and stops short of 650. Is this normal? I would have thought that it would rotate clockwise from 0 to 650 and then to 850. Still worked but just curious.

Question 3 is, how do you determine the hardness of the material that you are casting. I have some old Lyman ingots as well as a couple of bars of what I believe is printers lead. As a former contractor, I also have some lead roof flashing and plumbing pipe and traps made from lead. IIRC one of my buddies used to add tin for hardness but it was over 40 years ago so the recollection is not clear. If I dig I may even have some old Lyman reloading catalogs and maybe even one on casting.

In looking over this section of the forum I read a thread on powder coating bullets. Is that new? I assume that is done to cut down on lead fowling in the guns but don't recall that being done back when I was reloading with Fred and Barney.

So any help or suggestions that you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I know some will say go read the books but I would rather hear from real live folks that have been there and done that. I've never been much of a reader and learn mostly by watching and doing.
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Old 02-09-2024, 04:24 PM
Ivan the Butcher Ivan the Butcher is offline
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Welcome back to the wonderful world of reloading & casting.

When doing a deep clean on you casting furnace: Start with adding a good deal of flux to the existing pool. Use heavy gloves, oven mitts or thick towel and pour out the suspect alloy into your ingot mold.

RCBS bought the design from an Ohio loader and inventor. The original design had a larger orfice and never clogged! But RCBS knows better.

I use a bottom pour furnace for common handgun bullets but the inconsistencies won't matter in 9mm, 30, & 45 handguns. For rifles that use soft lead (45-70, 43 Spanish & Reformado and 50 Carbine) I use a ladle type furnace and a Lyman pour through ladle. When casting for a 38-55 High Wall I have I made 300+ castings and sized with SPG lube Then to see if it truly made a difference, I weighed every one of them on a digital scale. Only one bullet was outside the ONE GRAIN window. It was a 330 grain bullet so that whole window was 1/3%. While I had them on the scale I divided them by 3/10 grain groups and load within a 3/10 grain variable, I think that is .1%! That gun with my developed hand loads grouped a 20-shot/100-yard group in the same hole that could be covered by a nickel. That was with a Globe & tang sights and off a rest.

Many will tell you that molds need to be single cavity to get consistency, but just about any mold since WWII will be very consistent! (Just about very big company retooled for WWII and shortly thereafter the was a flood of good machines on the surplus market!) Lee make aluminum molds, and I have other molds from that material. IF the cavities are not identical in their castings it isn't the material it is a bad mold! Send it back!

I keep different furnaces for different alloys. I also mark each ingot with the alloy to avoid confusion. I used to use a marker but that became unreadable. I went to stamping the alloy name in! L-lead, WW- Wheel Weights, T-Linotype, 20/1 for lead tin mix. These don't change color or fade until melted!

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Old 02-09-2024, 04:58 PM
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I can speak to the powder coating question.

As far as I know itís no more effective at reducing leading than traditional lubes assuming proper bullet fit. The main benefit I see is that powder coating requires relatively few things to accomplish: a cheap $20 toaster oven and the powder itself. Unless you do the tumble lube, the other method requires more expensive equipment.

Other benefits: itís very durable and can handle pressures the same if not more than traditional lubes. It also makes for a clean handling projectile when reloading.

Iíve only ever done powder coat though so my insight isnít well rounded or fully informed. Hopefully some others will speak up who have tried all the methods and can give more pointers.
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Old 02-09-2024, 06:07 PM
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Quote:
When doing a deep clean on you casting furnace: Start with adding a good deal of flux to the existing pool
Thanks for the fast replies. What do you use for flux? I seem to remember using Crisco and then tossing in a book match head to create a flame. I also recall then skimming off the crummy residue and tossing it.

Is there a way to test the hardness?

Also the reservoir has a coating of a brownish gunk that looks like dirt. Once cooled is it OK to steel or bronze wool that off and vac out the debris without hurting the furnace? Should I coat it with anything before the next melt session like the Crisco so it won't crud over again?
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Old 02-09-2024, 06:41 PM
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Welcome back. I've tried pan lubing and powder coating. Powder coating is quicker, WAY less messy, and the bullets load nicely without getting lube sticking to everything. I much prefer it. I don't have a lubrisizer, so I can't comment on how that compares to powder coating. Others will possibly chime in on that.

For flux, anything with carbon in it will work. I use sawdust or candle wax, whatever is nearby. The brown crud is just baked on dirt. If you're using wheel weights and reclaimed bullets, etc. there's always going to be some dirt. Most of it floats to the top and is skimmed off with the dross. No harm in brushing it off. I've never heard of coating your pot with anything, and don't see the point.
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Old 02-09-2024, 07:19 PM
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Saeco once had a hardness tester for checking bullet hardness. I say "once had" because I donb't know if it's still available or not. Someelse had one as well though I don't recall who.

I just looked at the Redding website and they are lasting the tester;

SAECO Lead Hardness Tester - Redding Reloading Equipment: reloading equipment for rifles, handguns, pistols, revolvers and SAECO bullet casting equipment
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Old 02-10-2024, 08:04 AM
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You have a lot going on.

You really shouldn't use "raw" materials (lead) in your rcbs pot. Clean your lead/alloys in another larger pot by melting it down and then fluxing it with any carbon. Carbon ='s charcoal/sawdust/small pieces of wood/waxes/etc. Then either ladle it into the rcbs pot or turn it into ingots to be used at a later date. While I'm cleaning my alloys I make it into ingots in large batches. Large batches means more consistency. I typically only use 2 different alloys, range s**** (hill picking berm lead & #2 alloy).


When cleaning old bullets picked up of the berms (range s****) it typically takes #150 of range s**** to make #100 of clean alloy ingots that are 8/9bhn.


I converted an old propane tank into a cleaning pot/alloy making pot for making clean ingots. It will easily hold #150 of lead. I use a propane turkey frier stand as a heat source.


I'd clean your rcbs pot out by making clean ingots and then putting them in your rcbs pot. Turn it on and let the ingots melt. Flux it a couple times and then pour ingots until it's empty. Then clean the sides/bottom & using a hot wire clean the pour hole.

After the pots clean keep it clean by using cleaned alloys/clean ingots.
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Old 02-10-2024, 08:54 AM
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Waaaaaaayyyyyyy too many people get caught up in alloys & a bullets bhn. I've used 2 different alloy for the last 40 years.

Range s**** that's 8/9 bhn:
I make +/- #100 batches at a time. Any bullet I find in the berms goes into the pot. Been doing this since the 80's. The alloy has always came out 8bhn to 9bhn.

I use this alloy for rifle and revolver loads up to 35,000psi. It is a excellent (soft) alloy for hollow based and hollow pointed bullets.

A hollow based lyman 429422 (keith swc) that I cast with that 8/9bhn alloy. Then I used a forester hp tool to put a hp in it. I used a hot load of 2400 (18.000psi+) in a 44spl case and shot it out of a snub-nosed 44spl.


Playing around @ the 50yd line using 2 different cast 158gr hp's in the 357mag cases. 2 different loads in the 25,000psi/30,000psi range.


The targets look like chicken scratch but I was simply looking for a blammo ammo plinking load using mixed range brass and a load that used under 7.0gr of powder. That 6.0gr load is in the 1200fps range.

Playing around with a beater 629 and 35,000psi+ loads with mixed brass on the 50yd line. The load was 11.5gr of unique and a 250gr hp.


25,000psi 9mm loads using a 125gr cast hp.


Worry about the bullets you cast, not some formula that's supposed to tell the "correct" alloy for a loads pressure.

I do use a harder alloy for "hot" rifle bullets. Rifle bullets have different forces applied to them compared to revolver/pistol bullets. Namely rotational torque on the long bodied rifle bullets. For the high pressured rifle bullets I use a 14/15bhn alloy.

1 of the simplest was to test an alloys hardness is to use pencils. Take a piece of sand paper and make a 45* chisel point on them and scratch the lead/alloy. If it gouges the lead/alloy it will tell give you a pretty good idea of the bhn of what your testing.
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Old 02-10-2024, 09:52 AM
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Once cooled is it OK to steel or bronze wool that off and vac out the debris without hurting the furnace?
Don't vacuum the furnace unless you want to ruin your vacuum cleaner and spread toxic dust around.
From what you said, I would fill the pot about 1/3 full, then heat it up, then flux and skim the melt. Use a big spoon to s****e the sides of the pot. Do this while adding flux and with molten lead in the pot. Skim the dross with your spoon. That should suffice for cleaning the pot.
At that point, unplug the unit. If it won't pour out the bottom, I would carefully dip out what I could then dump the pot upside down into a receptacle of some sort. This would be a hairy operation and it would only be necessary if the pot wouldn't empty through the bottom pour.
If you must clean the emptied/cooled pot make a big q-tip out of steel wool and a broom stick. Just remember - all this brushing is spreading highly toxic lead dust around. There is a danger in overdoing the polishing/cleanliness thing.

Last edited by max503; 02-10-2024 at 10:20 AM.
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Old 02-10-2024, 10:02 AM
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Sometimes the bottom spout gets clogged and it can be opened up with a piece of bent wire stuck up through the bottom. Just be careful of hot lead coming out on your fingers.
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Old 02-10-2024, 11:00 AM
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RCBS pot definitely has a way to small hole. Bought mine about 10 years ago and found a piece of hard wire that I use to unclog opening. I used to use fresh cut pine tree limbs as they are loaded with sap that works very well and spruce or cedar works as well. Smelting in another large pot is the only way to go as one can flux the raw lead and use an ingot mold as posted above. Stamping the ingots or labeling container ingots are stored in is best. Just remember to do all smelting or casting outdoors or in garage with door open and large fan blowing To The Side to circulate air.
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Old 02-10-2024, 12:03 PM
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Lead Tester-LDTSTR

I believe this is the best hardness tester out there. I have used it since the mid 90's. You don't need one often but having a lot of flashing and other lead that is dead soft, you will need a repeatable alloy.
I find that powder coating allows you to shoot a softer alloy than you could with conventional lubes.
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Old 02-10-2024, 12:38 PM
Ivan the Butcher Ivan the Butcher is offline
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I scanned the replies really quick and didn't see a reply about Flux. Crisco may work, I never thought of it even though we use it as bullet lube in Cap & Ball revolvers. What I always used is a small amount of whatever bullet lube you are using. I usually have a number of rejected cast/sized bullets and throw a couple in the Furnace. For a major cleaning, Think of a green pea and use one or two globs that size and stir. IT WILL SMOKE LIKE CRAZY.

I cast for years in the basement with a range hood over my bench to avoid the lead dust and fumes, now I cast in the garage with through ventilation.

Alloys, lubes and coatings are a personal choice and there are a zillion ways to skin that skunk, but you do have to follow some very simple guidelines. First: DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR! Second: EXPIERMENT! and see what you want/need. I like SPG Lube for Black Powder loads on soft lead and alloy bullets. If you aren't shooting the Holy Black Powder, don't worry about it. But it will work fine for smokeless loads too. Different alloys are somewhat important to accuracy as is bullet hardness.

My F-I-L is a 2-time National Champion in Police Combat from in the 60's & 70's He swears Lyman #2 is too hard! But his opinion is based on 100's of thousands of 38 wadcutter rounds at around 675 fps. If you are shooting 38 WC, you would be well off to heed his advice. But for Black Powder Silhouette You will want even softer allows. You gun will have a lot to say about what you really need! So have fun.

THE book on the subject is Lyman's Cast Bullet Handbook. It has loads for all of Lyman's current molds and biased info on alloys and lubes.

The internet is your best friend and your worst enemy. Lots of good info @ castboolets.com

Anyone here is just a personal message away, and most of us won't intentionally steer you wrong.

Ivan
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Old 02-10-2024, 02:11 PM
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It's been a while, but I recall using paraffin for fluxing.
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Old 02-10-2024, 07:19 PM
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WOW, what a wealth of information. I knew that posting here was the way to go. With the pot empty I tried using one of my soldering irons to try to melt out the plug of hard lead in the bottom spout. Made a small dot of melted lead but came no where near to liquefying the plug. Tomorrow I will try a torch or add some of my clean ingots to see if I can melt it out.

Again my concern is that the instructions warn not to let the hot lead level drop below an inch and I am guessing for fear of burning out the electronics that heat the lead. If that is true then one would always have to leave hardened lead in the bottom. I guess as long as it is clean lead without range dirt or sand then it is OK.

Again, many thanks to all who have replied!!!

I will definitely take the advice not to cook any "dirty" lead in this unit and only use clean ingots.
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Old 02-11-2024, 10:49 AM
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Just don't run it (power it) with the lead level below minimum. Unplug it while the lead is molten then empty it.
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Old 02-11-2024, 09:19 PM
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Fill the lead pot 2/3 full or fuller with lead ingots, Bring it up to melt temps. If the spout is still full, warm it with a long lp lighter used for bbq's or hold a finish nail in needle nose pliers and open it up. Using gloves should be obvious but I will say it anyway.
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Old 02-11-2024, 10:27 PM
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... and plan to get back into reloading and casting.
Welcome back to reloading.

I suggest reading all the Manuals again.
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Old 02-11-2024, 10:28 PM
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I have one of the early RCBS Melting Pots I guess because I never seemed to get my sprueís just right and a guy that had several RCBS Furnaceís and sold bullets said to install a screw from the bottom side of the pour spout and drill it out to a certain size for the orifice and that would solve the problem. I never did it and about that time I quit casting my own bullets anyway. I still have the RCBS Furnace.
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Old 02-12-2024, 10:33 AM
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Welcome back to reloading.

I suggest reading all the Manuals again.
Yes. Or get one good one and read it well. The old Lyman Cast Bullet Manual makes for some good reading.
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Old 02-12-2024, 12:35 PM
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I quit casting about 20 years ago. At the time I tried to use pure lino if I could get it. It makes very good hard bullets that are suitable for magnum velocities. Best groups I ever shot were in a 44 mag. with lino bullets. I used a Lyman lubrisizer and synthetic or Alox lube. I haven't shot much in the last few years but I was buying cast and plated bullets. Mag. loads were eithe left over lino or jacketed loads. Good luck, have fun.
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