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By Wayne McLerran
So that’s my complete procedure.  If you haven’t tried pan lubing, don’
t be intimidated by all the details provided.  Once you get the “hang of
it” the process is relatively straight forward, simple, and is by far the
easiest and fastest way I’ve found to lube bullets.  Another benefit,
when shooting in hot conditions the lube will be firmer and stands up
better than extruding the same lube by passing the bullets through a
“lubrisizer”.  For those of you that already pan lube, hopefully
I’ve provided some hints to further reduce the somewhat tedious

Wishing you great shooting,
Posted 7/12/18

Although it’s not a complicated process, no doubt there are as many
variations on pan-lubing black powder cartridge (BPCR) bullets as
there are reloaders utilizing versions of the technique.  After a few
years of cutting bullets out of the lube cake using a homemade
“cookie cutter” made from a modified cartridge case and with a
dowel rod, then progressing to a commercial unit that’s no
available, both are pictured below, I eventually wised up and switched
to “thumb punching” the bullets out.  It’s much faster and achieves
the desired result.  To do so efficiently, I’ve settled on a process that
works very well for me.
By the way, all my lube is stored in a freezer in the original 1lb tubs
and in a quart Mason jar.  Freezer storage may not be necessary but
it’s my way of minimizing any negatives due to aging.  The Mason jar
has a handle (the type used to drink out of) and holds sufficient lube
to process 180 bullets, which is enough for three silhouette matches
and the number that I cast and normally lube at one time.  With the
handle, it’s convenient for pouring the hot lube into the lubing pan or
bowl.  Following are the details and photos of my lubing process.

The safe way to heat lube is using a water bath, i.e. place the
container of lube in a pan of water and heat until the lube is fully
melted.  The water-bath method prevents the lube from getting
hotter than 212 degrees.  Although recommended against doing so by
the “experts”, to reduce the heating time, I place the frozen lube-
filled Mason jar in a microwave for a few minutes until it’s completely
melted, which is easy to determine since the container is clear.  I’ve
used this method for several years and haven’t noted any signs of lube
degradation.  Just be sure not to overheat and scorch the lube.

While the lube is heating, the container that will hold the bullets and
lube is prepared.  I’ve found the perfect container (Pyrex # 7210 7”
x5”x1.5” rectangular glass bowls), which hold 60 bullets and provides
just enough space for pouring in the lube.  Therefore, “bowl lubing”
would be a more accurate description of my process.
The bowl is first lined with aluminum foil, which allows for easy
removal of the hardened lube cake.  A Styrofoam bullet organizer,
discussed in further detail below, is used to align and gently push the
foil down into the bowl while lifting the edges of the foil so it does not
catch and tear on the corners of the bowl.  The foil is then folded
down around the edges of the bowl.  Using the organizer to gently
push the foil down and form it to the bottom of the bowl helps to
minimize wrinkles which will prevent the bullets from sitting flat.  
Wrinkles in the foil will also allow additional lube to creep under the
bullet bases.

The bullet organizer is made by modifying 50-hole Styrofoam trays
from ammo/bullet boxes – the ones available from MidwayUSA and
possibly from other suppliers.  The trays I use will work with .40
caliber and .45 caliber bullets.  Assuming the existing holes are slightly
larger than the bullets to be lubed, use some sort of punch or very
sharp thin tool to extend the holes completely through the bottom of
the tray and attach (glue on) two punched-out rows cut from another
tray.  The result is an organizer that fits perfectly in the Pyrex bowl
and can accommodate up to 70 bullets, but one row is not filled to
allow space for pouring in the lube.  By the way, some types of
common glues will dissolve Styrofoam, so water-based white or
woodworking glues were used to add the additional two rows to the

I made up two of the organizers from three trays and have used them
for lubing several thousand bullets to date.  They’ve held up very well
but are starting to look a little ragged.  Of course, if you’re
comfortable working with wood and have a drill press, a similar wood
organizer could be made.  Since the organizer is also helpful in forming
the aluminum foil to fit the bowl, slightly round off the bottom corners
and edges to prevent tearing the foil.

Prior to using the organizer, mark an arrow on one side with a felt-tip
pen and place the organizer in the bowl so that the arrow is always
orientated the same way.  The reason will become obvious when it’s
used to aid in punching out the lubed bullets – more on this later.  
With the organizer in the lined bowl, place the bullets, bases down, in
the holes.  Gently remove the organizer so as not to disturb the
bullets.  Needle-nose pliers are ideal to grab and lift the organizer.
Next, and I consider this a key step, after gently removing the
organizer and prior to adding the hot lube, the bullets are warmed up
by passing a hot-air gun or hand-held hair dryer over them for several
seconds.  I’ve found the lube adheres better to warm bullets and will
not have a tendency to roll out of the grooves when punched out of
the cooled cake.  When the hot-air gun or hair dryer is moved back in
forth directly over the bullets they will not move due to their
aerodynamic design, unless the bases are not flat due to being cast in
a mould with a loose sprue plate.

Slowly fill the bowl with lube until the level is slightly above the top
groove.  Allow the filled bowl to cool for several minutes (30
minutes is good) and the lube to harden slightly before moving it to a
refrigerator or freezer for additional cooling.  If the bowl is moved too
soon there’s a good chance one or more bullets will tip over and you’ll
have a real mess on your hands due to the “falling domino effect”
knocking over a bunch of the bullets.  To speed up the process, direct
a fan at the cooling lube cake.
Now comes the 2nd use for the bullet organize.  Place the organizer
over a kitchen towel or one or more sheets of paper towels which will
cushion the bullet bases when being punched out of the lube cake and
can also be used to remove any lube that has crept under the bases.  
The organizer should be positioned in the same orientation as when it
was first used to arrange the bullets in the bowl, hence the reason for
originally “marking” the organizer with a felt-tip pen and always
orientating it the same way.  Once the lube and bullets are cooled
sufficiently, a trial and error process, lift the lube cake out of the
bowl with the aluminum foil or turn the bowl over and catch the cake,
then peel off the aluminum foil.  Position the lube cake, bullet bases
down, on top of the organizer.  At this point it’s a good idea to flip
over the lube cake and organizer together to ensure the bullet bases
are aligned with the holes in the organizer.

With the lube cake accurately positioned over the organizer, using
thumb pressure, push the bullets down out of the lube cake into the
organizer.  To cushion my thumb, which tends to get sore pushing on
the nose of a bunch of bullets, a folded section of paper towel is
placed over each bullet nose as its being forced down.  Other options
include using a small piece of leather, or cut the thumb off an old
leather glove, slip it on and use it.  If the lube cake is at the correct
temperature, the bullets should “snap” out of the cake into the
organizer as the lube grooves shear off the lube.  If the lube cake is
too cold and the bullets will not budge, warm up the lube cake with
the hot-air gun or hair dryer, or let it sit at room temperature for a
few minutes.  Just keep in mind the bullets will transfer heat much
faster than the lube, so check for the correct temperature by pushing
out a bullet rather than sticking something or pushing a finger into the
lube to check for softness.  If the bullets are easy to push out and don’
t snap out of the cake, than the lube cake may be too warm.  Through
trial and error you’ll figure out what works for you.  If done correctly
the bullets should “punch out” with minimal thumb pressure and with
completely filled lube grooves.

I find that using the organizer works much better than using a folded
up towel or foam cushion under the lube cake when punching out
bullets.  The organizer helps to hold the bullets in alignment as they’re
pushed out of the cake and helps to eliminate problems due to the
lube cake breaking apart.