Finally...first attempt

TomSp8

Member
Since I posted previously and everyone was so helpfulness, wanted to share my beginning. Well, finally gathered the budget basics to give this a try. Picked up a 10lb pot, a bunch of cast ingots, ingot mold, and a ladel, all for $40. Oh yea, there was also a Lyman bullet mold and a set of .44 special dies as a bonus! So I set up my Coleman camp stove and proceeded to melt 4 ingots. Added a splash of borax to flux and clean, stole a round soup spoon from the kitchen.... No thermometer yet, so just winging it there. Placed the mold over the pot for about 5 or 10 mins to heat it up. Proceeded to start casting. Then applied powder coat and baked them. The mold is a Lee TL314-90. I have several questions that I hope I can get answers to, and will follow up with those, but here are my initial results and look forward to any comments good or bad!20220521_114800.jpg20220521_114855.jpg20220521_115022.jpg
 

TomSp8

Member
As a follow up, a few questions.....the mold is a Lee 314-90. They dropped a bit smaller than that by about .002 or .003, but the weight is on the money. I realize I'm working with an unknown alloy, so had no expectations of what to expect, other than getting my feet wet, so to speak. Am I right to think that different alloys will create slightly different diameters? Or can the diameter be affected by temperatures and/or method of ladeling? Also, nearly every bullet has a weird mark on the nose as seen here: 20220521_120054.jpg
 

Rick

Moderator
Staff member
The wrinkle on the nose is a result of a cold mold. Not necessarily low pot temp but definitely a cold mold. Yes, different alloys can give different as cast temps but usually measured in tenths, not thousandths.

When your casting keep casting, all the time your spending admiring your new creations the mold is cooling off and aluminum sheds heat quickly.
 

TomSp8

Member
Ahhhhh.....I was definitely taking time to admire each cast....another question I had was how long to wait before cutting the sprue? I was counting to about 10 but thinking that is too long and adding to the mold cooling down as you stated.
 

Rick

Moderator
Staff member
Ahhhhh.....I was definitely taking time to admire each cast....another question I had was how long to wait before cutting the sprue? I was counting to about 10 but thinking that is too long and adding to the mold cooling down as you stated.

I know, of course you were. :) How did I know? Because that's what every single new caster does. It's a mistake of course but one made by most all new casters. The secret to well cast bullets is proper mold temperature. Goldie Locks mold temp. Not too hot, not too cold. It's a learning curve and will take a bit of time. Many try to make up for a cold mold by raising the pot temp which is an even worse mistake.

I have never made any kind of count to cut the sprue. Another learning curve, watch the sprue puddle and when you see a flash over the sprue is freezing. The sprue can be opened with a gloved thumb, if you need to whack it to open you waited too long. If you smear lead you were too quick.
 

Snakeoil

Well-Known Member
I have never made any kind of count to cut the sprue. Another learning curve, watch the sprue puddle and when you see a flash over the sprue is freezing. The sprue can be opened with a gloved thumb, if you need to whack it to open you waited too long. If you smear lead you were too quick.
Good advise. But, if you have 4 or 5 cavity molds, chances are the first couple of sprues are rock hard by the time the last sprue frosts over. A mallet or similar will be required unless you have ape hands.

I suspect you will soon grow weary of standing over a hot propane stove and will upgrade to an electric furnace. If you think casting is something you will continue to do, go buy yourself a hotplate. You set it for a medium heat and put your mold on it while you are waiting for the lead to come up to temp. First bullet out of the mold will be perfect. I also set the mold on the hotplate when I replenish the pot and wait for it to come back up to temp. Mold will be ready when the pot is.

I think I missed your initial post. If this has already been mentioned, please excuse. Cast iron ladles and anything with a flux deposit left over from the last casting session will probably have absorbed moisture from the air. DON'T DUNK EITHER INTO THE MOLTEN LEAD! If there is moisture present, it will flash to steam under the surface of the lead and create a small explosion that can spew molten lead everywhere. When you start a session, dip things in slowly. Any moisture will make itself known with a popping sound. GO SLOW until you can submerge the entire item. Now you are safe.

Get a good pair of full coverage safety glasses. I like the kind you see in factories for visitors that fit over regular glasses. They have side shield for added protection. I suggest leather gloves as well. You don't need welder's gloves. Just something to protect your hands. Everything will be HOT!

Happy Casting
 

Ian

Notorious member
My first mould was a Lee 2 cavity, and I had exactly the same problems for exactly the same reasons Rick describes. Chronically wrinkled noses, sometimes frosty but still rounded driving bands, and also sprue bumps on the back from cutting a cold sprue. My first couple of sessions didn't produce a single shootable bullet.

Ladle casting is a slow process for a beginner and makes it difficult to build enough heat in the mould for a good fill. The wrinkles are caused by the alloy freezing in mid-splash as soon as it hits the mould and not having time enough in the liquid state to flow out. Concentrate on speeding things up by minimizing the time that the mould is empty of hot alloy. Cut the sprue as soon as it "flashes over" from shiny liquid to a matte sheen. With an adequately warm mould and sprue plate this will be something like 2-4 seconds after stopping the pour which means basically right after you set the ladle back in the pot and bring that hand back to the mould.
 

Walks

Well-Known Member
I cast from 2-3 molds at a time. Just depends on how many cavities are involved. I learned to cast using a iron pot on a Coleman stove, just as you are. Have been using a bottom pour pot for almost 50yrs. I still dipper cast Black Powder balls and projectiles. Since you are using a 2 burner stove, you might want to put an old circular saw blade on that 2nd burner and preheat your molds on that.

Those bullets are a Great first effort.
If your bullets are dropping small, powder coating will increase the diameter.
Largest diameter cast bullets come from a very hard alloy such as Linotype.
Smallest diameter cast bullets are from pure lead. Alloy's of varying hardness will be somewhere in between.

You might want to pick up a copy of Lyman's Cast bullet Handbook. It has nothing on Powder Coating, but as far as casting goes. It is the bible.
 

Winelover

North Central Arkansas
But, if you have 4 or 5 cavity molds, chances are the first couple of sprues are rock hard by the time the last sprue frosts over. A mallet or similar will be required unless you have ape hands.
I have not found that to be the case. I regularly cast with 4-5 cavity molds and have no issues cutting sprue with a canvas gloved hand. Don't have ape hands. I'm approaching 71, have Dupuytren's contracture, both hands. I judge the optimum mold temperature, when I can open mold with a canvas glove hand. No thermometers used in the last 45 years of casting.
 

Snakeoil

Well-Known Member
I have not found that to be the case. I regularly cast with 4-5 cavity molds and have no issues cutting sprue with a canvas gloved hand. Don't have ape hands. I'm approaching 71, have Dupuytren's contracture, both hands. I judge the optimum mold temperature, when I can open mold with a canvas glove hand. No thermometers used in the last 45 years of casting.
Well, you are a better man than I, Charlie Brown. I can open my 4 cavity NOE mold with a gloved hand, but it is no fun and it kills the arthritis in my thumbs. I made a device that bolts to the bench that makes it a snap. I posted photos of it here sometime back.

Sorry to hear about the DC. A guy I played music with in my formative years, and who could make a guitar talk came down with it. He had the surgery, but it still ended his guitar playing. Now he plays a camera.
 

Winelover

North Central Arkansas
They don't do surgery for DC, anymore. They inject a chemical into the afflicted fingers, two days before the orthopedic surgeon forcibly straightens them out. There is a risk of tearing the skin, involved. You wear a splint, for 24/7 for two weeks. After two weeks , splint only at night, when sleeping. PITA and it returns in a couple of years. I had it done once and in need of the procedure again. :headbang:
 

Dusty Bannister

Active Member
You may want to have more alloy in the pot. When you dip, you are not getting a full ladle of clean alloy unless you can get the complete ladle under the surface. You will also have a little more even melt temperature because you are not stopping to add ingots and lose so much heat from the melt. That will help maintaining the casting temperature and tempo so you will have more consistent quality. Good first session.
 

TomSp8

Member
Great advise, guys! Will definitely try the sawblade thing over the other burner for heating up the mold. Being aluminum I was worried about it being too hot. It seems I was definitely waiting too long to cut the sprue and dump before the next pour. I plan on a Lee 20 lb bottom pour, but ran across this deal with everything to at least start and couldn't wait....
 

Jeff H

NW Ohio
Very nice!

Doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to get good results, and having that background will work as "plan-B" if someday in the future technology leaves you high and dry on a new, fancy setup.
 

Missionary

Well-Known Member
Well done on your 1st go around ! My first casting was done on a Coleman gas 1 burner... used it for years backpacking then near 5 years casting until a yard sale turned up a 2 burner gas for $5.
Still use the 2 burner for melting lead to make ingots.
Down here way south I used a small kitchen table 2 burner propane for everything.
 

fiver

Well-Known Member
i have that same little pot and ladle...

anyway Rick nailed it.
heat in the mold is your focus.
your bullets will weigh more.
 

TomSp8

Member
Second round this morning, following the advise given. Much much better. I think another big lesson learned is the method of pouring. Yesterday I was focused on pouring the lead into the tiny sprue holes neatly....I found this morning that fast pouring over the sprue itself gave much better bullets. That should also help maintain mold temperature with all the extra lead on it I think. I was a bit messy though....practice.....I ended up with about 50% keepers, mostly those at the end of the session. And the keepers all measured right at .3135/.314 as they should. Thank you everyone. 20220522_081636.jpg20220522_081733.jpg
 
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Rick

Moderator
Staff member
A definite improvement. Yes, pouring a generous sprue puddle goes a long way to maintaining heat. Sprue plate heat is also important, The plate doesn't have the mass the blocks do plus it spends time sticking out in the air and can cool quickly. It's all a learning curve, getting a consistent rythm for consistent temps. Your doing great for a new caster, now it's practice practice practice.
 

Bret4207

Northern NY Dangerous extremist...???
Welcome to the world of "maybe this will help"! This is an art as much as a science. I started off with a steel pot on my kitchen stove and ho'made lade. Worked great once I figured out the mould has to be hot and clean! I still prefer to ladle cast, can't get the hang of a bottom pour. Anyway. every mould has it's likes and dislikes to one degree or another. I have some that need a 2" drop from the ladle, others that want ladle to sprue contact. Some want an off center pour into the hole, others don't care. All demand being hot enough, not too hot, but hot enough.

You can stick with the coleman for years if you want, no need to spend lots of $$$ to make good castings. And as others said, don't worry about what they look like so much as worrying about keeping the mould hot and happy! You can always remelt the ugly step sisters!
 

Ian

Notorious member
Yep, once you get the hang of that one and switch to, say, a 4C brass or a big bullet in a 1C iron mould, you'll have to learn how to cast all over again. Basically though it's all about managing the heat of the mould and sprue plate as everyone else has mentioned. HOW you manage that heat is a matter of timing, pour technique, sprue puddle size (or empty the ladle after filling the cavities by flooding the sprue plate and letting the extra run off back into the pot like Rick said). Rick uses the term "pouring heat" often as a way to visualize what the mould needs. The metal runs 700-800F typically and the moulds run 380-420F as a general rule to make good bullets, when you see glossy parts or rounded edges/wrinkles on your bullets (ternary alloy like wheelweights that contains antimony along with lead and small amounts of tin) will have the ability to "frost" when hot), you need more heat in that area so figure out how to get it there with your casting techniques.

This is one of those things you just have to learn by doing after you understand the basic principles and learn how to visualize what you're trying to do.

This thread may help: https://www.artfulbullet.com/index.php?threads/tale-of-three-bullets.5190/