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Old March 19, 2011, 07:25 PM   #1
Mauser Rat
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Cast bullets sticking in a well smoked mold

I have been reloading for years and gradually moved from jacketed to cast loads. I JUST started casting my own and started with some 45 ACP tumble lube in a Lee mold which went very well. The next time I tried using a 200 gr .44 "regular lube" (non-tumble) mold and I had trouble after casting roughly 100 perfect .44's; the bullets started sticking in the two cavity, well smoked mold. What am I doing wrong?

P.S. Using 50/50 mix of Linotype and pure lead to get something like 2%-6%-92% mix.

Last edited by Mauser Rat; March 19, 2011 at 07:37 PM. Reason: add alloy info
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Old March 19, 2011, 10:02 PM   #2
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What type of mold? Aluminum, steel, brass?

First, I don't smoke ANY of my molds. It reduces the diameter a bit, and a well made mold that's free from burrs will release boolits without smoking or using mold release.

Inspect your mold halves after it cools, look for a burr on the edges where it mates with the other half. CAREFULLY remove any burrs. They can hold onto a boolit with a death grip.
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Old March 19, 2011, 10:20 PM   #3
Mauser Rat
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Sorry Snuffy, I should have stated the material. The .44 is a Lee aluminum two holer (429-200-RF) . I smoked the mold after reading the reviews at the Midway site where I bought the mold. Since I am new to casting I just assumed that since they all raved about how deeply they smoked the molds that it was necessary!

I'll check for the burrs but I had no problem with sticking at all for the first 100 or so castings. Then they started sticking one out of each casting then BOTH started sticking each time. I figured it was time to stop casting and get some advice.

It just occurred to me that maybe the problem was more to do with something in the melting pot that was building up with time? I was fluxing when I noticed any buildup on the surface of the melt.

Last edited by Mauser Rat; March 19, 2011 at 10:29 PM. Reason: speculation
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Old March 19, 2011, 11:33 PM   #4
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What do you do when they stick? (the right answer: rap on the hinge nut with a wooden hammer handle or equivalent sturdy stick) Do not hit the aluminum mold blocks.
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Old March 20, 2011, 12:18 AM   #5
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Hello, Mauser Rat. zxcvbob is right about where to hit the mould. Those aluminum blocks are pretty delicate. The fact you cast 100 with no problem, then started sticking could be either something sticking in cavity..or more likely, a small burr thrown up at cavity edge. You will have to use a magnifier to inspect cavity edges very closely. I am not a big fan of AL moulds for this and other reasons. If you have any small 3 sided hard Arkansas stones, you can VERY lightly..I am talking only about the weight of stone itself here..go over mould face, using lots of light oil. If there is a burr..this will probably force it down into cavity. Using a rubber pencil erasure gently rub from bottom of cavity up and out towards edge..the rubber is very slightly abrasive, & should remove anything. The other route is drilling a cast bullet on centerr with say a No. 10 tap drill...#21, & tap hole for 10-32thread. Thread a No. 10 screw in & only turn by hand. using the bullet as a lap. With AL., I would start with something fine like toothpaste..at any rate, I wouldn't use anything coarser than JB compound..don't overdo this!..you just want to clean up edges of cavity. Best of luck!
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Old March 20, 2011, 10:38 AM   #6
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Mauser Rat,
What you are experiencing is normal. Take a look at your molds, the Lee tumble molds have sides that are corrugated while the conventional molds have sharp corners at the grooves. It's no wonder the conventional molds are more reluctant to give up their bounty. You'll soon develop a rhythm: Pivot the sprue plate with your dowel, open the mold and then rap on the pivot bolt.
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Old March 20, 2011, 12:39 PM   #7
Clifford L. Hughes
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Clifford L. Hughes

In my younger years I have cast thousands of bullets for the .357, .41, .44 mag and the .45 ACP. I used wheel weights most of the time. My question is how are you smoking your moulds? If you are using a candle you're not only smoking your moulds, you're coating them with wax. Lubricant of any kind kills the mold's functing. In my day, miners carbide lamps were available. Today you might need to use wooden matches. By the way with my Lyman and my RCBS moulds I have never needed to smoke them.

Semper Fi.

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USMC Rewtired
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Old March 20, 2011, 12:54 PM   #8
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I rarely smoke moulds but when I do I find that a bic lighter works fine.
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Old March 20, 2011, 01:44 PM   #9
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Alm. molds

For yrs I used Lee`s 2 holers & still do at times !!

I found that smoking the mold was just a band aid for other minor machining problems , but there still a deal for under $20.00 bucks & even $39.00 for a 6 banger !!!

Here`s what I would do with your mold , first clean it throughly with Mean Green it will not hurt the mold .

Second lube litely the V & pins & cast a bit to see if the problem still exsists.
If it does let it cool completely , when cool take a bullet & drill a hole the size ya need for a small bolt or screw to go into deep enuff to hold securely.

Get ya some powdered COMET cleaner make a paste & coat the bullet enuff with the paste then place it into the mold & spin it with a cordless drill.

The commet is a mild abrasive so cleaning & reapplying a couple of times should be all it`ll take , it`ll do a deep cleaning & remove burrs . If done enuff it actually enlarge the mold & take the sharp corners off so check often!!
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Old March 20, 2011, 05:54 PM   #10
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Sometimes we do things just 'because'. Smoking moulds is one of those pointless traditions that accomplish nothing. I use Lee moulds even though I much prefer the cast iron of Lyman's. Cost is my only motivation for using Lee's. That said....they work just fine. However, I have to admit, 99% of my casting has been round balls with pure lead. I have cast bullets for the Ruger Old Army and did find I had problems with them releasing. I switched to the hollow point version only to get more reliable releases. The center pin that gives the hollow point pulls them out of the mould halves.
I can only venture that your lead may not be hot enough. I cure most of my problems by just turning up the heat. Hold the mould closed for several seconds after pouring. That allows the lead to cool and shrink a tiny bit which should help with release. Good luck.
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Old March 20, 2011, 09:43 PM   #11
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Thanks for all of the information guys. It was a lucky day when I found this forum. It's rare to be able to access so much experience in one place. And you even come at a good price!

I cast another 100 last night with some Rotometal H-ball just to check if anything had changed or it was something in the pot. Bullets stuck from the start. No difference. If anything, I had a few drop by themselves after about 80 or so casts.

I melt the Lee Pro 4 pot at max temp which Lee says is maybe 900 deg F. When everything has melted and I get the right "feel/viscosity" when stirring the pot I reduce the temp to between 650 and 700 on the dial so I get no frosting or wrinkled stuff coming out of the mold. I cheaped out at the cost of all the new equipment and did not buy a thermometer which might be the next purchase. I flux periodically with Frankford solid flux.

I smoked the molds with wooden matches having heard of the problem with candle wax. Had read not to touch the molds themselves so no contact with any of the aluminum. And I tried hitting the bolt with no real luck.

I usually wait maybe 5+ seconds till the sprue puddle solidifies and then knock on the sprue plate to shear the base of the casting. I wait a second or two more while I put the sprue waste back in the pot and then open the mold.

I have resorted to using a pair of needle nose pliers to free the bullets. Very careful to put one arm of the pliers on the generous meplat of these RNFP loads and one on the free half of the base and carefully rotate the casting away from the mold at a right angle to the face of the mold. No visible scarring of the bullet even under a magnifying glass.

I will try cleaning the mold as suggested to get all the smoking off. I have access to a stereo microscope that I can examine the faces of the mold with looking for those burrs. Thanks for the info on using a cast bullet and tapping a handle in it to use it to "open" the mold a little. I have some Japanese wet stones for sharpening shop tools that I can flatten very smooth and maybe work the faces of the molds if I need to.

Thanks again for all of the info and let me know if I can return the favor in any way. I'll let you know how it works out.
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Old March 20, 2011, 09:52 PM   #12
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If you flatten the faces of the molds with a stone, you will screw them up by removing the vent lines that allow the air to escape. Just check for rough edges to the bullet cavities at the parting line. That's where they'll be.
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Old March 20, 2011, 10:21 PM   #13
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Thanks zxcvbob. I'll stick with the cavities and look for the burrs.

What bothers me about the burrs is - why did I get those first 100 with no sticking at all and what changed? What I am looking for is: is it something that I did that started them sticking?

Anyway.....off to the stereo microscope and see what happens.
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Old March 20, 2011, 10:37 PM   #14
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Were those first 100 bullets nice and pretty, or were they wrinkled? If the mold was still contaminated with oil, as they always are when you first get them, the oil might have acted as a release agent.

Or maybe you are using a different alloy now that doesn't shrink as much.

(or maybe the bullet mold is just messin' with you)
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Old March 20, 2011, 10:57 PM   #15
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zxcvbob,

The first thing I did when I got the mold was clean it with denatured alcohol and then mineral spirits to get all of the machining oil off the surface.

After a few misses while the mold heated up, the first 100 were were so good I got that little shiver down the spine that you get when you make something real pretty. Shiny with clean, sharp edges and as good or better than all of those store bought rounds that I had been shooting for years.
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Old March 21, 2011, 06:30 AM   #16
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Dear Mr. Tool?????

Quote:
The other route is drilling a cast bullet on center with say a No. 10 tap drill...#21, & tap hole for 10-32thread. Thread a No. 10 screw in & only turn by hand. using the bullet as a lap.
and GP100Man

Quote:
take a bullet & drill a hole the size ya need for a small bolt or screw to go into deep enuff to hold securely.
and everyone else that offered insight into this mess I'm making:

I took the stupid mold apart and looked at it under that fancy microscope and sheeesh! the tooling on this sucker is not pretty! It reminds me of how bad a "new" chisel straight out of the package from the manufacturer looked when I looked at it under the same microscope - TERRIBLE TOOLING. Scared me so much I went out and bought the Japanese Waterstones and fixed all of my "sharp" things in the shop!

Back to the Lee mold: there were ragged gouges etc that were obviously factory tooling mistakes too numerous to count. I'm a pretty laid back guy most of the time but.....well.....even I have limits! I'd be ready to pay for those fancy expensive molds except.... the Lee molds work great for all of the lousy tooling in that microscopic world.

Anyway Ideal Tool and GP100Man, I took your advice and drilled and tapped one of the cast bullets and made a nice little lapping tool. I was tempted to get out the 600 grit lapping powder but I refrained and just used the bullet lap and rotated it in both sides of each cavity until I got bored and things looked a little better under the microscope. Cleaned them out with a couple of nylon brushes and back to the bench.

Cast a bunch more pretty little down range projectiles and watched them drop out of the mold every time I opened it.

Can't thank all of you enough. It's tough when you are a newbie and start having problems that you don't know if thats just the way it works or whether it can be fixed. Sooooo....thanks again and please do let me know if there is ever anything I can do in return.
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Old March 21, 2011, 11:11 AM   #17
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The method I used to make a "lap" is to pour a bullet, let it set and swing the sprue plate but don't drop the bullet out. I then take a self tapping screw, hex head (either self drilling or just self tapping will work) and center it on the base in my cordless drill (I use hex head screws and a 1/4" nut driver w/magnet) Drive the screw about half way down the bullet, you'll have to hold the mold tight to keep the bullet from spinning. There's your "lap". Takes longer to write about it than do it. I use a Comet or toothpaste first and check. If the mold needs more, I then use 600 grit compound. I've done three molds like this, two aluminum and one steel. Works for me...
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Old March 21, 2011, 12:00 PM   #18
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I've got 4 Lee molds. Haven't had any problems with them yet.

I smoke the molds as the Lee manual suggests. I use a candle. The soot does not seem to last very long though.

I just read recently (can't remember where) that the purpose of the soot is not to lubricate the mold or act as a release agent. Instead, what I read said that the soot acts as an insulator to prevent the lead from cooling too rapidly on the mold walls, permitting better fill-out.

For what it's worth,

Steve
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Old March 22, 2011, 02:18 PM   #19
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mikld,

Good idea. I do a lot of drill & tap so it didn't take me too much longer than you but I use the self drillers a lot in sheet metal work and will try that next time.

maillemaker,

I wondered what the "smoke" was for and what you say makes sense but I wonder if that is necessary given all of the people that don't smoke at all? Having said that, I just got a .357 RN mold from Lee and smoked it just because Richard Lee said to!

I took some pictures of the tooling through that stereo microscope thing and if they are clear enough I will post some of them. The worst of it seems to be that the manufacturing procedure seems to leave some serious "divots" or tear out in the lube channels and the base of the bullet. There was also some evidence that the cutting tool had been rotated too quickly and left "wave or high water marks" where the aluminum might have started melting? Some of you seem to be machinist types and might know why this happened?
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Old March 22, 2011, 02:33 PM   #20
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Quote:
The worst of it seems to be that the manufacturing procedure seems to leave some serious "divots" or tear out in the lube channels and the base of the bullet. There was also some evidence that the cutting tool had been rotated too quickly and left "wave or high water marks" where the aluminum might have started melting? Some of you seem to be machinist types and might know why this happened?
MR, lee molds are cut using a lathe or mill cutter, not the traditional cherry cutter. The molds are spun against a boring bar holding a cutter, then controlled by a CNC program. At least that's what I have been led to believe.

I don't believe they do anything to them once they're cut, like polishing or de-burring. I just got a new lee mold, a 358158-RF. After washing in boiling, soapy water, I began casting with it. Pre-heating on my hot plate produced the first 2 boolits as keepers. Not only that but they fell from the mold with no banging, just "PLOP"!

I take a chance each time I buy a lee mold that something won't be quite right. Most of the time it's something that is easily fixed, only once did I need to return a mold to get it right. This time I got a good one right off the bat!
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Old March 22, 2011, 03:58 PM   #21
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Yeah, I just got a Lee mold for making minie balls. The sprue hole was off-center from the mold opening.

I just used my drill-press to open up the sprue hole.

Steve
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Old March 23, 2011, 04:48 PM   #22
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Don't know if anyone will be interested in these and I apologize ahead of time if they bog down your browser (or am I the only one on a SLOW connection? ) but these are out of that stereo microscope. They are of a brand new Lee .358 RN Tumble Lube mold. And believe me, I am not putting Lee molds down. I can't figure out how they can pay someone to chuck these up and sell them for $17 and have them turn out such pretty little things!!

Knife turning good 025.jpg

High water marks good 021.JPG

Surface Roughness Good 018.JPG

Good. They post as links so they won't slow anybody down who doesn't want to see them. I should have said that these were taken after cleaning the surface with acetone, then warm soapy water and then blowing them off with the compressor to get rid of any particulate.

It's hard to see depth in the pictures but all of the visible surface irregularities showed either raised surfaces or gouging. If I ever break down and buy an iron or steel mold I'll try to take the same kind of pics before using them if anyone is interested.

Last edited by Mauser Rat; March 23, 2011 at 04:55 PM. Reason: add cleaning info
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