- December 1, 2016 at 3:26 pm #31717GoodsteelKeymaster
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I started pulling the handle on my dad’s 450 lube sizer when I was a mere lad of 14 years old. The only lube I knew was RCBS green because that’s what dad used. When that was used up, I started biking to the local sporting goods stores looking for lube and finally found some at Kings outdoor supply. It was RCBS green and that kept me shooting for quite some time because I bought all they had.
Unfortunately, something that bothered me more and more as time went on was the fact that the rifle bullets were getting sized off center in a tipped manner. Always towards the rear of the press (as you face the press and look down on the die, the smeared portion of the bullet was always at 10:30 to 1:30). It was so bad, that the top lube grooves of the 311466 were almost wiped through on one side. This continued and I just assumed that between my father and myself, the old 450 had sized so many bullets we had worn the poor thing slap out as the ram was very loose in the cast iron ring that guided it. However, I couldn’t afford a new press, so I just kept going with it till I discovered the internet and found out about Lee push through dies. I immediately switched to the push through dies, and began making my own for every size I could possibly want, but lubing was a PITA and continued to be the price I paid for using the more logical PT dies. Over the past 6 years, I’ve lubed with almost every method known to man, and a few I came up with on my own, but I always missed the simplicity of just stroking the 450 down and up to produce a perfectly lubed bullet.
Finally, this year I bought the new property and I’m back to shooting as much as I did when I was a young sprout. The volume of bullets that needed lube, coupled with the constraints on my time got me looking at solving this issue once and for all. I decided to buy the new 4500 Lyman lube-sizer with the heater rod. The jubilation and enjoyment with which I unpacked the new press cannot be understated. Here I am having cast bullets for over 20 years, and I knew not the pleasure of opening the box on a new lube sizer!
First thing I did was give it a good cleaning (which was a good idea because there was cast iron dust and shavings trapped inside the bowls of the new press).
Then I filled it up with lube and let the sizing begin. I was very pleased to see the bullets coming out concentric and straight right off the bat, and I was ever so happy. My troubles were over!!!
All was well for a short time, until I switched bullets and I could not deny that the old problems were back! It was irrefutable. The brand new Lyman with less than 300 bullets through it was already “worn out”? I don’t think so.
I switched back to the bullets I was sizing before, and the problem went away. Especially if I took care to manipulate the handle to try to force the ram straight down (simply pulling back on the handle puts the ram in a bind and it tries to push the nose of the bullet rearward which is where the smearing comes from).
There were only two differences between the two bullets. One was larger and longer and the other was smaller and shorter. All this time I had misdiagnosed the issue as being that the ram tips, so the longer bullets get messed up, but that was only partially true.
The longer bullet makes the ram stop sooner which puts the handle more aligned with the ram which means you have more leverage to tip that ram as it strokes.
a larger bullet that is being sized more than .001 creates more resistance making this worse.
A harder bullet makes it even worse.
So, if you’re trying to size long hard rifle bullets .003 smaller, you’re going to rape and pillage the Lyman lube sizer and the bullets will look like bananas.
In contrast, if you’re sizing short, soft, pistol bullets that are already pretty much the right size, then you will have match grade bullets that are square and round and straight.
(For the record, the 311466 mold that I had trouble with as a young man drops bullets at .311-.312 and I was sizing them after water dropping to .308 in the Lyman 450. Perfect scenario for a jacked up bullet. Long bearing surface, hard bullet, gas check, and sizing .004 or more. No wonder!)
I decided to call Larry Gibson and describe my woes and he reiterated everything that I had witnessed and explained that the Lyman press was designed to size pistol bullets, and rifle bullets. Not the other way around. He explained that in order to use it effectively, you have to make certain concessions for the machine to get it to work correctly. He told me not to attempt to size match bullets any more than .001 and all would be well. This made all kinds of good sense to me.
Since I already have a pretty good compliment of push through dies, I developed a process for long, hard, GCed, rifle bullets that works like a treat every time no matter what.
First, I cast the bullets and water drop them and I let them sit for 24 hours before checking them or sizing them. (This ensures they are hard as a politicians heart and INCREASES the pressure required to size them, but once sized, they have more ability to go through the 4500 without getting bent).
So then I check them. If the checks snap on easily, then very well, but if they are a tight squeeze, then I use the GC seating feature on the Lyman press to seat the checks only.
Then I lube them with a light coat of Imperial sizing wax by getting the wax worked into my hands “Mr. Miyagi” style and gently message them like the greedy miser running his hands through his gold coins, and rubbing them between my palms to work the lubricant all over them but very sparingly. Basically, I want that residue in the lube grooves as well as everywhere else to aid in the lube releasing at the muzzle.
Then I ram them through the push through die taking care to center them as much as possible. I size them less than .001 larger than the die in the 4500. In other words, I want just enough wall pressure to obturate the die in the 4500 and prevent lube ribbons.
By doing this, I have effectively removed all the pressure from the 4500 ,and all it has to do is guide the bullet straight and apply the bullet lube.
Once all this is done, I run them through the 4500 press and the bullets come out straight and accurate, square, and round. Pretty much doesn’t get any better or cleaner and the bullets are matchgrade.
Concerning changing lubes, I have found a fairly fast process for doing this as well.
I remove the compression ring and rod guide from the press along with the handle and all the parts attached to it, and place it upside down on it’s side in a correlware ceramic salad dish about 8-10 inches in diameter with about 2-2.5 inch wall.
Then I put a few of my sand bags next to the bowl on the bench, and crush my heat gun into the sand bags and turn it on, aiming it so the heat wafts around the lube column and as it rises, it heats the die cavity. I go about my other business cleaning up the station where the press is mounted, or adding lead to the pot, or sweeping the floor etc etc etc while I keep an eye on it. Soon enough, the lube plug slides out of the column, and soon after that the lube in the die cavity runs out. Once it stops dripping, I’m ready to add the new lube.
I put on gloves and wipe the press down, then clamp it back onto the bench.
I install the die I want, and tighten the retaining nut, then reassemble the rest of the press. Then I grab a tube or a block of lube, and cram it in there. There’s enough residual heat left in the lubesizer that the lube will melt and flow where it needs to go.
The pressure nut is installed and screwed down below the rim of the lube column, and the pressure rod guide is placed back on top.
At this point, the lube is liquid, and it will take some hours for the heat to bleed off the press to where the lube will act right, so I just walk away and use the press the next day.
This keeps the sizer running young and keeps it clean.
All the lube that runs out of the sizer is used for pot flux.
When the dies are changed out, hold them gently with a pair of cahnnel-lock pliers and use the heat gun to melt the lube out of the die. I hover over a soft cotton rag when I do this so that the plug rod falls gently onto it. Once that happens, I lay the die down next to it on the rag, turn off the heat gun, and spray the two parts with Eds Red gun cleaner, fold the rag over then and roll them back and forth briskly inside the rag. They should still be hot at this point, so I pick up the die body with the pliers and blow it out with my air line which cools it, and evacuates most of the fibers from the rag, lube residue etc, etc.
I carefully wipe the plug rod and clean it, then insert it back into the die, give the both of them another spritz with Eds Red, and slip them back into the tube they came in. Just like new, and ready for the next time.
Just a few quick tips for using the press that I picked up in the old days and recently:
When I stroke the ram to push the bullet into the die, I push back as I pull down to keep the ram as straight as possible. There’s only a 3/4″ tall cast iron journal that points that ram, and it’s easy to wear it out, so I try to help it stay straight as much as possible.
I have never cross threaded the die nut, because I take care that the press is hot when I’m installing it. This lets me feel the threads much better especially with stiff lubes. I just play a torch over it for a few seconds till I see the lube in the threads on the press melt, then gently screw it in and only use the wrench to tighten it.
Any additional force on the handle will increase the likelihood of bent bullets, so I make sure that the bolts are all loose and the handle moves freely through it’s stroke.
Using a dab of stiff lube to secure the nose punch sans retaining screw, will allow it to float a little bit and keep things lined up that much better, so I pitched the retaining screw.
One thing that I will do in the near future when the compression ring has reached it’s full stroke, is to take a pop cycle stick or something and mark it so I can tell how close I’m getting to bottoming out the compression ring. Once, several years ago, I was using a pretty stiff lube in the 450, I had bottomed out, and didn’t realize it, and I ended up snapping off the end of the drive screw under the press. Oops. I wish I had an accurate way to tell when everything was at full depth, kind of like marking the ram rod on your muzzle loader so you know where to stop.
- December 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm #32091JRRParticipant
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A couple of things to consider. Make sure the die retention nut easily screws into the press threads. The top of the nut is easily broken off, creating a pita event removing the threaded portion from the press. At the same time, a bit of slippery lube on the die “O” rings helps screwing the nut easily.
The cross bolts are grade 4 or harder metal. This is great to keep them from bending or wearing, but can snap off after some years of use. You want the linkage to work easily with low friction but with minimal side movement. I usually apply a bit of triflow to the pivots.
Tim is right about trying to size more the .002″. The effort becomes difficult and will bend the bullet into a banana. Also, it puts a lot of stress on the elbow at the end of the lever. I ended up on my butt when the elbow broke into two pieces! This happened after 17 years of heavy use. Lyman sent me a new part and new bolts at no charge!
- December 16, 2016 at 2:54 am #32110uber7mmParticipant
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I have the 450. I’ve never cross threaded the die nut completely, however, I’ve started out wrong and had enough sense not to force the issue. My resolution is to remove top punch and use the ram as a centering device on the nut. I use an opened end 7/8″ wrench and start the threads. Works for me. I hope this helps.
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