Thoughts on Casting Equipment
Ladle vs. Bottom Pour   A bottom pour pot will work OK for average sized bullets.
As the bullet gets bigger the ladle gains the upper hand because it can be operated at a lower temperature
and the ladle orifice can easily be drilled out to provide more flow (I use an RCBS ladle with the orifice drilled
out to 5/32").   I do not recommend the Lee bottom pour pots for big bore bullets.   The Lee's spout tends
to freeze up below 650°.   The Lee's orifice is too small and just doesn't have enough flow for big bore bullets.
The Lee's design does not leave much room for a ladle.   At least the other brands of bottom pour
pots have room for a ladle.   I haven't tried the Magma pot but its adjustable orifice sounds like a
darned good idea.   If you are just starting out I'd suggest the Lee 20 pound ladle pouring pot, available
for about $45.
Coleman stoves and hot plates   I've cast many a bullet on a coleman stove.   It's not that great
but can get the job done.   If you have the chance to pick up a used hot plate at a 2nd hand store or
yard sale you won't regret it.   I bought an 1100 watt hot plate for $2 and it works just fine.   I did have
to tweak the thermostat (bend the contact arm with needlenose pliars) to get the temperature up.   Add a 99 cent
stainless steel pot, also from the 2nd hand store, and I've got one fine casting machine.
Pot temperature for WW   The bigger the bullet, the lower the temp.   For 720 gr 50 cal bullets,
I go as low as possible, around 575°.   For 400 - 500 grain bullets, about 650°.   About 750° - 800°
for smaller bullets.   Back when I was using a Lee bottom pour I got in the habit of casting hot, 800 - 1000°,
because the higher temps seemed to improve fill, but since switching to a ladle it just doesn't seem necessary.
Pot temperature for pure lead   Crank it up until the wrinkles go away.   Pure lead thrives on heat.
Ladles   I have only tried two ladles, the RCBS and the Lee.   The RCBS is a good unit though it benefits
from having the orifice drilled out to 5/32" for casting big bore bullets.   The Lee is a kiddy toy.
Flux   I am currently using olive oil, dispensed with one of those pump bottles that liquid hand soap come
in.   It smokes a little but not as bad as some other fluxes.   Being a tightwad, I have not
tried any of the storebought fluxes.
Lubri-sizer   I use an RCBS lubrisizer (the Lyman and RCBS units are pretty much alike and use the
same top punches and sizing dies).   The design isn't that great -- it tends to be hard to adjust, it
leaks lube, and care must be taken to avoid damaging the bullet as it enters the die.   I have honed the
entrance on all of my dies to break the sharp edges and to create a taper.   If I had
to do it over again I would probably buy a Star lubrisizer, because it is faster and sizes nose first.
Push-thru sizer   I made my own push-thru sizer and it works great for sizing rifle bullets because
it does not distort the nose as the RCBS unit is prone to do.   I size the rifle bullets in a push-thru and
then run them thru the lubri-sizer, in an oversize die, just to apply lube.   Haven't tried the Lee push thrus but
they seem like a good value.
Lubes   For handgun and low-velocity rifle
loads I have no complaints about alox/beeswax or Thompson's Blue Angel.   Felix lube has worked well
for me in handguns.   I have yet to have good luck with Blue.   Ox-Yoke Wonderlube stick has worked
surprisingly well in hi-velocity rifle loads.   I'll be doing more experiments with Felix lube and
with Taurex.  I'm sold on Wonderlube for blackpowder.
Hardness tester   I use a home made tester.   I tried a friend's LBT tester and had a hard time
getting consistent results.   If I were going to buy a tester I think I would try Gussy's unit.