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Old November 26, 2013, 02:08 AM   #1
gargodude
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Lee collet neck sizer die: To polish or not to polish.....

After reading many positive posts about the Lee collet neck sizer dies, I decided to try one. Midway had them on sale for $18 so I went for it. Lee has been known for having the cheapest reloading equipment on the market so I know they have to cater to their market. High quality comes with a price. The thing that attracted me to the collet neck sizer is the fact that you don't need to lube the case like you do with other neck sizer dies. I got the die and immediately took it apart since I have read that many people believed that the surface finish on the mating tapered surfaces of the die is too rough to make the die operate smoothly enough to get a "feel" for proper operation. They also mentioned that they had to polish the mating surfaces to get theirs to operate properly. I have been a machinist for well over 30 years so I know what a collet system should look like. The finish on mine looks like crap (100-125 RMS, for those of you who know what that means). I think it should be more like 16-32 RMS. I called the Lee tech support guy who said the following: "The die parts are made in computerized mills. The finish that is on the nose of the collet is the way they are finished and designed to allow the die to operate properly. Give it a try." I guess I should have expected that answer from a P.R. person. Making parts on computerized equipment is no reason to have a crappy finish unless you want it that way or you have lousy quality control. Can anybody give me one good reason to use this die with the crappy finish? I was going to put the parts in the lathe and smooth things up, but I figured I'd see if anybody can give me a reason why I shouldn't. I know I will have to use a small amount of grease on the tapered surfaces regardless of what I do.
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Old November 26, 2013, 05:24 AM   #2
Mike / Tx
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One possible thing to consider is that some finishes as your probably aware will in fact actually work smoother when they are a touch rough. Not like deep tooling marks, but as you mention the RMS being somewhat higher.

With these dies, the two things I could think that polishing might hamper is the release of the brass or reducing the actual sizing while in operation.

The thing was $18, it isn't like your chucking up a Forster BR sizer and going to work on it with a bastard file
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Old November 26, 2013, 06:27 AM   #3
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Now that you have it apart, clean it up real good. Make sure you get all the metal savings and crap out of the collet fingers. Apply a thin coat of gun oil to the mating surfaces and reassemble, done.

Done till you test it out for adequate neck tension. Lee sets these up for about .001 neck tension, IMO this is not enough. I chuck the mandrel in a drill and polish it down to my desired size for increased (adequate) neck tension.

I have several Lee Collet dies and the only part I have ever had to polish is the mandrel. That was for size, not for finish. YMMV

Last edited by steve4102; November 27, 2013 at 07:51 AM.
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Old November 26, 2013, 07:55 AM   #4
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Quote:
I got the die and immediately took it apart...
Feeling the need to "fix something that was not broken"?
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Old November 26, 2013, 10:57 AM   #5
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I polished all mine with fine emery paper and steel wool. It's not hard to do and the benefits are huge. Great die and cheap. Worth a couple minutes of my time to make it better.
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Old November 26, 2013, 12:31 PM   #6
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I just wanted to see inside. I like to see how things work. Not fix what isn't broken. You also have to take it apart to lubricate the inside as per Lee's recommendation.
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Old November 26, 2013, 12:48 PM   #7
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I've used these dies for several years, I hate to use lube on cases. The only problems I've had were the mandrel is too big, worked it down with samd paper and the collet will stick and pull the neck off the hull. They still beat lubing the brass. I wish RCBS or Redding would make this type die as their stuff usually works better than Lee's.
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Old November 26, 2013, 01:24 PM   #8
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Pete2:
The reason I think the tapers should be polished is so they don't stick as you described. I think that some of these come out really nice, right out of the box and some do not. Did you do anything to yours?
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Old November 26, 2013, 02:18 PM   #9
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"Can anybody give me one good reason to use this die with the crappy finish? I was going to put the parts in the lathe and smooth things up, but I figured I'd see if anybody can give me a reason why I shouldn't."

I can't. I do equate qualty with performance/effect, not purty finishes and I love the effect of Lee's dies, especially the neck collet. Used correctly they work quite well if we do nothing at all but I don't mind cleaning up anything about them that bothers me; at the price they charge I sure don't feel cheated doing that. But, from the tone of your question, perhaps it would be better if you toss the cheezy thing and get a Redding bushing neck die; the finish quality is much higher even tho it won't work quite as well.
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Old November 26, 2013, 03:13 PM   #10
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I love the way Lee Collet dies work but I hate their Quality Control.

I consider the QC problems to be the extra price paid for the low dollar figure.

All Collet dies I use are "finished" by me. The surfaces are sanded and polished smooth and the burrs in the collet slots are removed. I polish them to a mirror finish and use grease on the contact surfaces. On one, I actually had to clamp the collet closed slightly and run a drill into it because the hole in the collet was too small to let a case fit.

It IS annoying but they work so well when I'm done that I gladly put up with it. If I could buy a comparable product at twice the price, I would, but I can't buy one at 5x the price so I gladly "finish" making the die for them.
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Old November 26, 2013, 03:59 PM   #11
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Thanks Brian. You would think that with all their great ideas, they would have a market for a "Premium Line" for more money, but with higher quality and less plastic, while still maintaining their regular stuff.
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Old November 26, 2013, 04:05 PM   #12
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"Less plastic"??!
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Old November 26, 2013, 04:13 PM   #13
Brian Pfleuger
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I assume the "plastic" is a general reference, not specific to the collet die.


Quote:
You would think that with all their great ideas, they would have a market for a "Premium Line" for more money, but with higher quality
It's funny because it almost makes me wish the other companies would do the opposite... minimally finished products that require "user intervention" but cost half as much.
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Old November 26, 2013, 05:19 PM   #14
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Less plastic? Some examples: 1)Their Perfect powder measure. Seems like a great concept. It has great reviews, but if they could bring themselves to make an all-metal version for 3X as much, I think it would sell as good or better than the competition. 2) Their Auto Prime. One complaint I've read over and over is that the plastic covers don't stay on and break. It might cost an extra $5 to make one with a stamped metal cover that would eliminate this complaint.
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Old November 26, 2013, 07:44 PM   #15
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The Perfect powder measure design incorporates the self lubing and low wear qualities of the type plastic the body and rotor are cast of. As a machinist, which metal would you replace it with and would you suggest to be cast and machined or machined from solid stock?? And, as a machinist, would you think your design could be marketed at no more than 3x the current price?

I keep the covers on my AutoPrimes quite secure with a rubber band. I would not give up my clear view of how many primers are left in the tray and where they are for the strength of a stamped sheet metal cover.

Last edited by wncchester; November 26, 2013 at 07:50 PM.
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Old November 26, 2013, 08:50 PM   #16
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Quote:
I assume the "plastic" is a general reference, not specific to the collet die.
Yeah, he caught me with not offering a frame of reference...I got locked into thinking only in terms of the collet die. That aside, I am no fan of plastic in guns or gun accouterments. As a matter of fact, I have a plastic Colt 1911 mainspring housing that came with my Colt XSE Commander thatI would be willing to give away free (for the postage only), having replaced it with a steel one upon discovering it was plastic, not steel.
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Old November 26, 2013, 10:18 PM   #17
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To find what was driving .223 trimming, I did a test of populations of 223 brass, different dies, and different guns, and tracked it through until trimming was needed.
This morphed into also measuring runout with a concentricity gauge.
That produced some unexpected results:
Of my many .223 dies, the ugliest and cheapest was the best, Lee Collet neck die
Of my many .223 dies, the prettiest and most expensive, the Redding FL "S" die was the worst.
I started polishing the Lee Collet neck dies.
It makes them look a little better and feel much smother at the press handle, but the concentricity is the same.
So I changed my ways and by 2008 when the 260 Rem Lee Collet neck dies arrived, I took a pic before and after polishing them.
See the pic.
Since then I have changed my ways again. I may prep brass with a Forster FL die with the neck custom honed out at the factory.
I may seat a bullet with a Forster sliding sleeve seater die with modified seating stem mouth.
But I am not worried about trimming. I mostly use bottle necked brass only once. Or with once fired brass from St Marks, I may reload once. I still buy and polish the Lee Collet neck die for each new cartridge, but I don't use them much.
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Old November 26, 2013, 10:51 PM   #18
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I've used Lee collet dies for years, in several calibers, and have been completely happy with them out of the box. I especially like not having to lube cases used in these dies.

I've never had to polish or modify them in any way. Not being a machinist, I guess any perceived rough internal finish has never bothered me, nor has it ever bothered my results with these dies.

My favorite use for the collet die is with 7.62X54R brass (using a custom .310 mandrel that I ordered from Lee for less than $10) in a 7.5x55 die. It works GREAT in my Mosin rifle, and brass seems to last forever.

In my opinion, this is one of the best products Lee has ever produced, especially considering it's price point.

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Old November 27, 2013, 12:41 AM   #19
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Gargodude, sorry you're not happy with your die. I like mine. I took it apart and cleaned it when new, that's all. Well, not all. I did put a smear of white lithium grease on the collet tips as a precaution against sticking. It has worked like a champ from day one. Have you used yours yet?

Also, curious if you have tried Lee's plastic products and don't like them or are you just repeating what you read?
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Old November 27, 2013, 01:27 AM   #20
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I haven't actually sized a case neck with it yet. I did feel "cogging" when simply engaging the tapered part together and pushing down on them slightly. That was enough for me to want them to be smoother in operation. I know better than to fully press it down without a case in it. I do know it will function "adequately" as is, but I don't mind putting less than 15 minutes into it to make it function even smoother. That's just the way I'm wired. Thanks to Clark for the pictures. Mine look the same as yours unpolished and will soon look like yours as polished. For those of you die-hard Lee fans, I didn't mean to ruffle your feathers, I was only looking for someone having a similar experience with the collet neck sizers and now I have enough info to proceed as I see fit. I still think Lee makes a good product here for the money. I sure wouldn't be able to make what I got for less than $20 any cheaper, but I know I can improve it for almost nothing. I never meant for this to be an analysis of their entire product line, even though the discussion has veered off course to that end. I also did not intend to insult any of you who have liked their products and use them to your satisfaction. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
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Old November 27, 2013, 02:36 AM   #21
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Lee collet neck sizer die: To polish or not to polish.....

You can get different size mandrels from. They are cheap. I bought some for 22-250. I have not polished any and they seem to be fine. Though I moves away from neck sizing since I could only get a couple of loads before I had to fl size anyway. Just seemed counter productive. I like the dies and the results.
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Old November 27, 2013, 04:58 AM   #22
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Gargodude,

No worries on this end bud, its the little things in life that sometimes make the biggest differences among us all. I understand your thought process being brought up by a more or less perfectionist. Pop's thought process was build/do it right the first time and be done with it.

I have loading tools of many colors, and use them within their abilities. Some would never consider using a few of them for what I do and that is fine it works for me. Likewise I cannot justify using some of the tools others rave about either when what I have already works just fine.

Also, right back at ya with the Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
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Old November 27, 2013, 09:07 AM   #23
Brian Pfleuger
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Lee collet neck sizer die: To polish or not to polish.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1stmar View Post
You can get different size mandrels from. They are cheap. I bought some for 22-250. I have not polished any and they seem to be fine. Though I moves away from neck sizing since I could only get a couple of loads before I had to fl size anyway. Just seemed counter productive. I like the dies and the results.
Lee collet dies and Redding body are the greatest combination since peanut butter and jelly.
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Old November 27, 2013, 10:56 AM   #24
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"I sure wouldn't be able to make what I got for less than $20 any cheaper, but I know I can improve it for almost nothing. I never meant for this to be an analysis of their entire product line, even though the discussion has veered off course to that end. I also did not intend to insult any of you who have liked their products and use them to your satisfaction. Happy Thanksgiving to you all."

I'm not a great fan or critic of any 'brand', tools are inanimate objects and I can't get very emotional about any of them so no personal insult was taken. What gets tiresome are the oft repeated complaints that something that is low in cost and still preforms excellant (IF the user actually knows what he's doing, which is frequently not the case) doesn't also have the costly superb finish and heft of Redding's tools - that is NOT a fair complaint and it's the unfairness of the complaint that chaffs.
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