LEE bullet molds are a good value. Made of aluminum and coming complete with handles (at least the one and two hole molds do), they cost less than a third of similar molds from Lyman or RCBS. I have eight of them at this point and every one produces decent bullets for me.
While being a good value, and working well, there is certainly room to argue their quality is not up par with Lyman, etc. That said, there is no cheaper way to get into cast bullet making than the LEE tools. They offer bottom pour pots, molds, sizing sets, and just about everything else one might require to begin casting.
From personal experience and studying under the experts at Castboolit.com, I have learned that LEE molds, while cheap, do not really come ready to use. Oh, sure, they’ll throw bullets as soon as you get them clean and hot, but to really work nicely they take a bit of work.
Lets take a look at where they can be ‘improved’ before use……….
Chief among their flaws are burrs and rough edges left over from the manufacturing process. This is as much a feature of their aluminum construction as it is the machining.
Aluminum just tends to have burrs after cutting. It seems to be the nature of the beast.
Now, just take a look at this mold…. a six hole 9mm round nose LEE:
I chose this mold because it’s brand new and clearly shows the room we have for improvement. While it actually looks very pretty just as it comes new from the factory, a closer look reveals some issues that can cause sticking bullets and casting flaws.
See what happens when we look closer:
A well lit magnifying viewer like this is a Godsend to hand loaders and bullet casters.
When details in thousandths of an inch matter, old eyes sure do appreciate a little help!
A light like this can be found in most office stores and also at Harbor Freight tools.
Using the magnifier, we can now see some real details, like these:
These burrs need to be touched up, very gently, with small rat tail files.
A serious tinkerer should have a set of these.
Working under the lighted magnifier, just touch the raised burrs with the file till
they are reduced to the surface. Only the slightest gentle touch is required.
Many casters will also run a small sharp file on each air sipe along the edge of the
bullet hole in the mold. This serves to let the mold fill out quickly and fully while
pouring the lead.
Once the mold is dressed, it should be thoroughly cleaned. Many casters choose to use mild dish detergent and warm water to gently remove any trace of oil from the mold.
I prefer to use Q-tips and alcohol, just cleaning the mold surfaces while leaving an oil film on the steel parts of the mold.
The mold completely clean, it must be treated before it can be used to cast bullets.
There are several ‘mold release agents’ available, and these are simply sprayed on as the directions specify. While I have heard great things about these agents, I tend to be a little more traditional (and cheap).
I smoke my molds with wooden kitchen matches. This leaves a film of carbon on the mold, which encourages the freshly cast bullets to drop free of the mold without effort.
Here’s what that looks like:
It may look ugly, but the way the bullet falls out without fuss more than makes up
with it’s own special beauty.
That’s it…. and it’s really not hard. Doing these simple steps, and lubing the mold
handles as the directions state, will go a long way to trouble free casting sessions.