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EVALUATION OF THE RCBS EASY MELT
CASTING FURNACE WITH PID
By Wayne McLerran
To determine how well the warming plate works, the mould was placed on the
plate while the pot was coming up to casting temperature.  By monitoring the
mould with the digital meter and thermocouple probe as displayed in the above
photo, the mould was at 145.4 degrees when the alloy reached the PV casting
temperature.  It’s certainly better than starting to cast with a cold mould but it
never reached the temperature I prefer to start with as noted earlier.  To determine
how hot the mould would get up to, it was left on the plate for an additional 2
hours.  235 degrees was the maximum which depends to some extent on the alloy
and ambient room temperature.  BTW, positioning the mould and handle vertical
worked a lot better to ensure it was in full contact with the plate.  I’ll have to use
this technique when using the small hot plate in the future rather than “shimming”
the horizontal handle to ensure the mould lies flat on the plate as pictured in the
earlier photo.

During two sessions a total of 270 bullets were cast with each sprue being
returned to the pot, during which the PV never deviated from the SV by more than
1 degree.  But due to the lag between SV and PV the 1 degree is not meaningful
or significant since, while casting, the alloy temperature was also monitored with
the digital meter and thermocouple probe.  The alloy temperature actually ranged
+ 3 degree to - 4 degrees of the SV setting.  With my RCBS Pro-Melt pot and
separate higher precision PID the range was slightly better but not by much, but
the PV closely matched the actual alloy temperature.  After casting, each bullet
was weighed in the order cast.  The weight variation of both sessions was within
+/- 0.5grs which is the same results I typically obtain with the Pro-Melt pot and
separate PID controller.

Warnings to heed when using the Easy Melt:
•        Do not touch the front panel (rounded) portion of the furnace when in use.  
The unit came with a stick-on warning label on the front which I pulled off.  I can
“speak” from experience, having accidently brushed the back of my hand against
the front, it’s extremely hot since there’s little or no insulation, except possibly a
thin air gap, between the pot and the front panel.  The same warning applies to the
finger tab on the pot cover / mould warming plate.  I’ll guarantee you’ll only grab
it once with bare fingers to rotate it out of the way for casting.
•        The following is not listed as a warning in the user manual but it should be.  
Be sure to follow the instructions concerning turning off the unit.  Leave it plug in
(power on) until the PV display reads 160 degrees or less.  Unplugging the unit
disables the ventilation fan allowing the residual heat from the pot to heat up and
possibly damage the plastic ventilation fan or the plastic housings containing the
electronics in the rear of the unit.  During discussions with an RCBS
representative it’s clear this is the reason the unit does not have an on/off switch.  
BTW, it takes a long time, well over 2 hrs for a pot filled with 20 lbs of alloy to
cool down from 760 to 160 degrees.

Final comments:
Based on this evaluation and considering the limitations discussed, I recommend
the RCBS Easy Melt for those looking for a digital-controlled furnace for ladle
dipping.  The controller was not as sensitive and did not track the alloy
temperature near as close as my more expensive PID, but it did the job (outcome
was the same), and the furnace costs about half what I paid for the separate PID
alone.  Therefore, unless you’re prepared to purchase a Lee Precision Magnum
Melter and build a separate PID, all of which could be bought for around $100.00,
considering MidwayUSA’s regular price of $129.99 plus shipping, the RCBS
Easy Melt is a good deal.  Hopefully it will function reliably for many years.  
Due to the smaller footprint and larger diameter pot, I plan on using it for my
main furnace with the RCBS Pro-Melt and separate PID as a backup or with a
different alloy mix.

Wishing you great shooting,
Wayne
Posted 6/10/18

Assuming you’ve read the article listed on this website titled,
Casting with a PID
Controller, it’s now apparent the information is already outdated to some extent
since the article discussed using a separate PID controller to regulate the furnace
temperature.  If you’re not familiar with PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative)
controllers, check out my article or go online and research the subject.  You’ll
find plenty of information on PIDs.

Since writing the article, two companies, RCBS and Lyman have recently
introduced new casting furnaces with easy to program digital temperature
controllers built in.  Although the product descriptions of the Lyman Mag 25,
RCBS ProMelt 2 and RCBS Easy Melt do not use the term PID, it’s clear the
controller systems are PIDs.  All are advertised to hold 25 lbs of alloy.  The
RCBS ProMelt 2 and Lyman Mag 25 are bottom pour designs but can also be
used for ladle dipping.  It seems the casting equipment suppliers are finally
starting to wake up to the use of digital technology.  No doubt there will be more
offerings to come.  I bet Lee Precision won't be left in the dust for long and
Waage, considered by many to be the one that other “dipping pots” are measured
against, may have to upgrade their furnace to stay competitive.

Shooters and especially those that cast their own bullets tend to be very
conservative about adapting to new technology.  A couple of typical comments
might be: Why spend $130 for a furnace when the Lee Precision Magnum Melter
is less than $62?  Or why would anyone want to spend good money for a Chinese
made “disposable” digital pot when the old designs continue to work reliably for
years and years?  Although reliability is certainly a consideration, minimizing the
weight variations of cast bullets is the main reason for using a PID temperature
controlled furnace.  But I’m getting off the subject a bit.  Let’s discuss the Easy
Melt Furnace pictured below.
MidwayUSA’s regular price for the RCBS Easy Melt is $129.99 plus shipping,
but I was fortunate to order the unit while RCBS was offering a $25 rebate and
also while MidwayUSA had discounted the price to $109.99 for a limited time.  
Following are my observations after unpacking the unit and checking it out
closely.  Keep in mind that I’ve been ladle dipping out of a RCBS Pro-Melt pot
for many years and added a separate and rather expensive PID controller almost
3 years ago.  I also have an electronics background and I’m somewhat familiar
with PIDs.

Initial observations:
•        The Easy Melt arrived in a very well padded RCBS box.
•        The unit is 11” long x 6” wide x 7.25” tall including the 3/4” metal feet
and finger tab on the cover plate.  It’s listed as holding up to 25 lbs of alloy.  The
pot is 4-3/4” deep, 4-3/8” in diameter and is made of a magnetic type of stainless
steel.  Yes, some types of stainless steels are magnetic.  Empty, without the
removable power cord, the furnace weighs 5 lbs 13.2 oz and comes with a 2-year
limited warranty.
•        It appears to be well designed and constructed.  There is nothing on the
unit or in the user manual that indicates where it’s made.  But since the model
C10B temperature controller and SSR-25DA solid state relay are both
manufactured by tQidec in China, it was my initial assumption that the entire unit
is sourced from China, which should not come as a surprise and was later
verified by a RCBS representative.  Based on the mfg. date / serial number it
seems my unit was manufactured in Jan, 2018 and is serial number 10.
•        The housing is pop-riveted together; hence it’s not assembled to allow for
easy access to the internal parts.
•        The rounded front panel around the pot is matt-finished aluminum.  The
rear steel housing that holds the PID electronics appears to be finished with the
durable crinkle-finished green powder-coating RCBS uses on their older line of
pots.
•        The flat-black painted steel pot cover / mould warming plate easily rotates
out of the way for full access to the pot.  I assume the paint or coating is rated
for high temperature.
•        Although there’s no on/off switch (see the warnings noted below), simple
power-down instructions are in the user manual, which definitely should be
followed.
•        By peering through the ventilation holes next to the pot it’s obvious the pot
is insulated from the electronics by heavy aluminum foil and with a metal baffle
plate that separates the pot from the control electronics.
•        The housing surrounding the control electronics has lots of ventilation
holes on the sides, back and bottom, and a small shielded fan is mounted on one
side to draw in cool air and expel warm air out the vent holes around the
electronics and around the back of the pot.  The fan and power cord socket are
located on one side and the PID control panel is located on the opposite side.
•        Based on the control panel and by peering at the internal electronics
through the various ventilation holes and between the fan blades with a flashlight,
the PID design is obvious, consisting of a temperature controller and solid state
relay (SSR).  As can be seen in the photo, the SSR, which handles the current
required for the heating coil and tends to get hot, is pop-riveted to the metal back
plate surrounded by plenty of ventilation holes.  The combination of airflow and
heat sinking of the rear plate should be sufficient to keep the SSR cool.  In
addition to the controller and SSR, there is a plastic module strapped to the
bottom of the controller with a cable tie.  Since the two input wires are routed
from the power plug and the two output wires are connected to the 12v DC fan,
the module obviously contains an 115v AC to 12v DC converter to provide
power to the PID.
•        The parts illustration in the user manual only lists the melting pot, baffle
plate and outside housing components.  None of the electronic components
including the ventilation fan are pictured or listed. The RCBS representative I
spoke with indicated that no replacement parts are available.  Therefore, if the
unit fails to function after the 2-year warranty expires, by drilling out the back
panel pop rivets it should be an easy fix to replace the temperature controller,
SSR or both.  These are cheaply available from many sources including Amazon.
com and eBay.  The heating coil surrounding the pot may be another matter if it
burns out.

Operating observations:
Note - For the following discussion and as labeled on the front panel of the
controller: SV is the Set Value or desired pot temperature, PV is the Present
Value or measured pot temperature.

I set up the unit on my casting table, tossed in a few lbs of alloy and, following
the instructions in the user manual, easily programmed the controller for a set
value (SV) of 760 degrees, my preferred casting temperature for 16:1 alloy .40
cal bullets.  After the initial alloy was melted, additional ingots were added for a
total of 26 lbs.  As can be seen in the photo, the pot could have held an
additional pound or two.

As the alloy was melting the alloy temperature was tracked with a relatively new
RCBS analog thermometer and a digital meter with a thermocouple probe
inserted into the alloy.  The actual alloy temperature did not closely track (was
many degrees less than) the PV until the PV approached the SV.  The “lag”
between the alloy temperature and the PV was approximately 60 degrees.  Once
the PV was reached and held to a constant value by the controller, the alloy
temperature increased to within approximately 3 degrees of the PV, which is
within limit considering the inherent accuracy of the thermometer and the control
precision of the PID.

For the same reason noted above, when a cold ladle was introduced into the full
pot of 760 degree alloy, the PV only dropped 3 degrees.  But I know for a fact,
by measuring the alloy temperature with the thermocouple-based digital meter
and also when casting with the much more expensive and separate PID with my
other pot, the actual temperature drop is about 25 degrees with 22 lbs of alloy.  I’
m convinced the difference is either due to the algorithm (specialized firmware)
programmed into the controller and/or the placement of the thermocouple which
is attached inside the pot housing but on the outside of the pot.  Therefore, for the
above noted reasons, it would be a mistake to assume the PV was the actual
alloy temperature prior to the alloy temperature and the PV “catching up” to the
SV.  Once the PV and SV agreed, just to be sure, I waited a few minutes to start
casting.
BTW, you may be wondering about the two clips on the back end of the furnace
in the photo.  While dipping with the ladle I place the mould mallet, pictured in
the next photo, on top of the furnace in easy reach.  The clips were added to keep
the round mallet from rolling off.
In the above photo I’m getting ready to cast.  The pot is up to temperature and
the Buffalo Arms single-cavity cast iron mould, which is heating up on a small
hot plate, is almost ready.  The mould temperature is being monitored by a
digital meter with a thermocouple probe inserted into the mould cavity.  I start
casting when the mould is between 440 and 450 degrees which eliminates rejects
due to less than optimal mould temperatures.