Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

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Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby Hoot » Sat May 08, 2010 11:41 am

Until Lee decides to make a 450 Bushmaster Factory Crimp Die, we are stuck with modifying their .45-70 FCD die to work with the 450b. Doing so is not difficult if you, or someone you are on good terms with, have a metal-working lathe. Take heart. I will attempt to explain to you how to do a quality job with a drill press, some other common tools and a little ingenuity. "But Hoot, I don't have a drill press either," you cry. Odds are even better that you are on good terms with someone who does, than the lathe. Truth be told. If you have a helper with a steady hand and good communication skills, you can probably pull this off with a hand drill, but you'll be relying more on good fortune than with the drill press.

Before I begin, I must apologize for some of the photos. I took all of them without checking them on a screen bigger than the little one on the back of the camera, did the mod and only then realized a few were less than stellar. Luckily, there are only a few of those kinds in the fray.

Off we go...

Image

Sorry, couldn't resist starting with a little humor :D

OK, we'll start off with what you'll need:

1. A Lee .45-70 Factory Crimp Die
2. An empty .300 Win Mag case. Any brand

Image

yeah, it's blurry...

3. A drill press, but you already knew that. Or, a hand drill, steady assistant and good fortune.
4. A decent rotary tool like a Dremel Moto-Tool.
5. Thin (1/32") cutoff disks and mandrel. The thicker ones work but have a harder go of it.

Image

6. A buffing wheel, or buffing fobs for your Dremel and some buffing compound.
7. A piece of 3M Scotchbrite pad, or some wet-or-dry silicon carbide paper.
8. A tapered grinding stone ~45 degrees, with a shank that fits your drill press or hand drill. Tip: They can be dressed when the get dirty, scored, or to adjust the angle with a grinding wheel.

Image

9. Some decent electrical tape like 3M Scotch 33+.
10. A vise, drift hammer and sturdy, solid, flat surface.
11. A good assortment of sockets
12. Some 3/8" flat washers. I prefer stainless steel.

Preparation

Remove the nitrile o-ring and set nut from the FCD. Put the set nut back on, upside down.
Lay out a line of the electrical tape about a foot long, straight on a clean surface.
Mark the tape with a ruler at 1/2" width and cut it with a razor blade, x-acto or sharp utility knife.

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Secure the die in a padded vise or stand on a padded firm surface with the knurled end up.
Using the hammer, gently tap the .300 Win Mag case into the die until firmly seated. Leave enough sticking out to chuck into your drill.

Image

Take a length of the 1/2" tape and aligning one edge with the end of the threaded portion of the die, lay several turns on to create a 1/2" cutting guide.

Image

Chuck the .300 win mag in the drill as far as it will go. Set the drill at the slowest speed possible. It's only turning the die to get even cutting all around. Here is where the cordless Dremel shines. Because it has a flat base, you can stand it up on end on top of the drill shelf. Set the shelf height so the Dremel cut-off wheel is close to where you want to cut the die and adjust the drill quill the last little bit to get it lined up just right. Now, for those of you who's Dremel doesn't have a flat base, you can still do this, but it's not as easy. In the case of the flat base Dremel, spin it up as fast as it'll go and slowly ease it into the slowly spinning die. It's imperative to let the wheel do the work, maintaining a light pressure against the die. You will slowly, cleanly cut through it.

Image

The wheel wears as you go. That's OK. It took a total of 2 to do each part. The other reason to go slow is that you don't cut past the die shank and into the collet piece, not that it matters in terms of functionality. Just a matter of pride. If you're going slowly, once you separate the shank, it'll drop away in time for you to stop cutting any further.

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Now, tape off the collet piece just like you did the shank. Spin everything up again and repeat the process.

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It'll drop away just like the piece of threaded shank did.

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The two 1/2" cut off pieces will look like this

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Now getting back for a moment to you not having a flat bottomed Dremel. I also have a corded rotary tool with the cord coming out the bottom. I have used it to cut off projects in the past using the same method as the die. It requires a cool hand, a keen eye and patience. Basically lower the drill shelf so that with you holding the Dremel in both hands like a baseball bat, you can rest those hands on the shelf and the cut-off wheel lines up with the tape mark. You got to concentrate on keeping the Dremel perpendicular to the shelf and slowly slide it into the spinning die. It's not as hard as you think to get right. If you lack confidence, chuck a scrap piece of pipe or rod into the drill and practice on it. Again, let the wheel do the work. Steadiness and alignment are far more important than sheer power. The more places you can rest your body, elbows and hands against while you work, the easier it'll be to keep things straight.

So, now you've got the two main cuts done. Take that piece of Scotchbrite pad and with the drill spinning, press firmly up against the freshly cut collet bottom, checking until the inside and outside edges are burr free and not sharp enough to cut you.

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The collet will be nice and smooth. I'll address how I smoothed the threaded shank in a moment.

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Depending upon your ultimate goal, you could quit right there. Your die will place a good crimp just below the mouth of the case and the width that Lee originally intended it to be.

Image

If you want the crimp lower, with the option to raise it using spacer washers, when you tape off the collet, instead of using 1/2" cut tape, use the full width of the tape ~3/4".

Some folks like a narrower crimp. If you want your crimp to be narrower, regardless of where it is located, there are a few more steps to perform.

First, you're going to have to separate the collet from the threaded shank. You need to select a couple of your sockets. One that is just narrow enough to slide into the knurled end of the threaded shank. The closer the tolerance, the better. The other socket should be large enough in diameter so as to allow the threaded end of the shank to slip into it.

Image

Before continuing, reach in the knurled end with an oiler and put some oil on the collet fingers to lubricate them when you go to pop it out. Put the set nut back on the die upside down, just enough turns to expose one or two threads at the end. That allows the threaded shank to center inside the socket, while the nut restricts its insertion depth. Mated up, they will look like this.

Image

Now some folks have had success pounding the collet out with a hammer. I was concerned with marring the finger ends, so I chose to use a vise and press it out. Open your vise just far enough to allow you to slip in the die and two sockets. Make sure to keep everything aligned and tighten the vise enough to hold them in place.

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Place a rag beneath the die to catch it, should it fall once the collet pops free. Slowly tighten the vise and you will both hear and see the pop. Remove the die and sockets from the vise and set aside the larger socket. With the smaller one still in the knurled end and holding the die in your hand, tap on the smaller socket with a hammer and drive out the collet the rest of the way. It won't take much since friction is all that is holding it in.

Image

Take that piece of Scotchbrite pad or wet-or-dry sandpaper with block and place it in you palm. Holding the threaded shank in your other hand, press the cut edge of the shank firmly against the Scotchbrite pad or paper and rotate it back and forth until any burrs are removed and the edges are not sharp enough to cut you.

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Set threaded shank aside. Now if you want to have a narrower crimp ridge, continue. Otherwise you can skip the next few steps. The original collet fingers look like this. Notice the factory isn't too fussy about the finish, but consider the price.

Image

Chuck the tapered stone in the drill. With the speed still slow, you're going to be feeding the finger end of the collet up around the stone to grind off some of the crimp ridge at an ~45 degree angle. Feel this out without the drill running first, to get a feel for what you're going to do with attention to keeping the collet as straight as possible. Now, turn on the drill and give it a short burst of grinding like this:

Image

After the short burst, look at the effect it had to get an idea of how long this is going to take. Like the cut-off wheel earlier, go slow and let the stone do the job. Depending upon the porosity of the stone, you can put oil on it to carry away the displaced grit and metal. Clean off the residue from the stone and collet each time you stop to inspect your progress. When you achieve the ridge width you like, stop grinding and clean off any remaining residue and oil if used, with some solvent.

If you don't have a buffing wheel, you can use your Dremel, some buffing fobs and polishing compound to smooth off the inside and outside of the fingers. It will however take a lot more time to accomplish the desired finish as opposed to a buffing wheel.

Image

If you have a buffing wheel, I assume you know how to use it effectively. Load it up and lightly polish the outside of the finger ends. The less rough they are, the less pressure it'll take in the reloading press to make them constrict on the case. They don't have to be a mirror finish. We're just doing this since we have the collet already out. No different then some people who polish the inside of their dies. It's also give you a feel for how buffing the collet in the next step will go.

Image

Now, using the edges of the buffing wheel, you're going to angle the collet so they buff the inside where you ground away the ridge at an ~45 degree angle. Again, no need to get a perfect mirror finish. You don't want to over-polish and reduce the height of the ridge too much.

Image

Once you have it buffed, it should look like this.

Image

Now, regardless of whether you went with the original width or narrower crimp ridge, you're done. Clean both halves thoroughly. With a q-tip, reach inside the threaded shank and apply a light amount of quality grease in the channel where the collet fingers lock and press the collet back into the shank until it pops back into place.

Let's try it out.

At this point, I must mention a minor issue I and I'm sure others who have done this mod have discovered. The original caliber this die was intended for resulted in its dimensions being proper to fit the press with length left for the set nut and friction o-ring. Since we are shortening everything to accommodate the 450b, we deviate from those optimum dimensions. When the die is adjusted for total finger closure at the ram's upstroke, the die rides fairly low and you're just about out of thread for the set nut to work with.

Image

Now, if you elect to shorten the collet even more to move the crimp further down the case, you have to screw the die farther into the press for it to meet up with the ram and fully actuate the fingers. At that point, you don't have much shank thread left for the aluminum set nut to bite on and if you try to crank that nut tight, it will strip.

Image

The set nut is manufactured to capture the friction o-ring and as such, the threads on that side don't begin right away compared to the other side.

Image

By turning the nut upside down relative to its original intent, you gain another turn or two, but it's still inviting problems if you try to crank it too tight. One solution would be to replace it with a steel nut from some other die, or just hand-tighten it. In use, it doesn't want to move all that much, so you can experiment with the amount of force needed to keep it from moving.

Image

Here, you can see the resultant lower, thinner crimp.

Image

To move the crimp up the case, you simply place the spacer washers you made around the case base before cycling the ram.

Image

As long as you're not playing "Beat the clock" with your reloading process, it isn't too burdensome to add and remove the spacers each round. You can improve on the speed by making a single spacer for the crimp location you use frequently by cutting a short piece of pipe or tubing of the proper ID, or by drilling out a disk cut from some rod stock.

Making enough spacer washers is our last step. Supporting a washer from below, clamp it in your drilling vise. Using a step-bit drill, open it up just enough to clear the diameter of the cartridge. Flip it over and chase off the burr with the bit. Here's my setup, but your options on this are entirely up to your own ingenuity.

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They'll end up looking like this. Even if they're not perfectly centered, they still work.

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If you got this far, I hope this "How-To" is some help. You should end up with a professional looking product that works as well as it looks.

Image

A special Thanks to thebrassnuckles for sending an un-modded FCD to document and write this thread.

Humbly submitted

Hoot
Last edited by Hoot on Sat May 08, 2010 4:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby gunnut » Sat May 08, 2010 1:29 pm

Excellent job!!
I give it an A+!!
A "+" for showing the extra step to narrow the crimp and move it back from the case mouth.
This is exactly what I paid a smith to do.
Last edited by gunnut on Sat May 08, 2010 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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STAB: The Sequel

Postby Hoot » Sat May 08, 2010 4:46 pm

Lee FCD Mod Part 2

While pondering another FCD Mod, it occurred to me that my original process violated Hoot's Conservation Of Reusable Stuff Law. In the original article, I taped off the extra collet and body lengths, cut them off and discarded them. Actually, I never discard metal stock, but they got tossed into a parts drawer. Later in the process, I detailed how to modify washers to use as shims to make the crimp depth adjustable. When I wrote the article, I was using a Lee Classic Cast press. When folks tried to use the same shim washers on a Rock Chucker, they encountered issues with the shims getting stuck up into the relieved area beneath where the dies screw in, which the Lee press did not have. In attempting to make shims of a smaller outside diameter, it occurred t me that the collet

Without further ado:

Image

in the FCD that I cut off the excess collet was the perfect ID for the job and no where as wide as the problematic flat washers were. Using the "range pickup"
piece of 300 Win Mag brass from the first article which I also did not throw away, as an arbor, I cut the piece of liberated collet into shim rings of different thicknesses that could be used alone or stacked to set different depths.

For those of you who modded your own Lee FCD or who are considering doing so, here's the process I used when modding yet another die. Add it to the steps in the first article as applicable.

In this process, we will start with a new, un-modded FCD. If you already did yours and like me the packrat, saved the piece of collet, you can interpret the process to make your own shim rings from it if you want.

With the FCD mounted (per the first article) in a drill press, instead of marking the entire piece for cutting off with tape, measure and mark each segment with a sharpie and cut it off as part of the process of shortening the entire collet. Measure and put a sharpie dot at the appropriate distance, then spinning it slowly in the drill press, lay the sharpie to it to make an aiming line for the cutoff disk.

These images are in motion, but froze by the flash. I apologize for their quality. Without the flash, the room's light is a bit warm and sparing. With the flash, they look, well, you'll see...

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With the first segment marked, follow the process in the first article and cut off segment 1.

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Repeat for cuts 2 and 3. I used .05", .1" and .175" as my thicknesses. There may be better choices.

Image

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At this point there is no more collet showing and it's time to cut off the threaded body as per the first article, with one exception. 1/2" of body removal is not necessary as the collet only presses about 1/8" up into the body to achieve complete collet finger closure. So I chose a compromise length of 3/8" to allow a few more rings to be cut as well. From here on, I'll use decimals not fractions.

Image

Now for fine tuning your stab crimp to hit at a special point that coincides with a cannelure or driving band groove, the more combinations of thickness of shim rings, the better. So we're going to cut one at .025" and lastly .2".

(flash didn't go off)
Image

and

Image

Dress up the resulting rings up by sliding them under pressure across a piece of 400 Wet-or-Dry and voilla!

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By using these per the first article to change the distance in which the case goes inside the die when the collet fingers engage, you can move your crimp anywhere you choose.

Here are a few stacked crimps that demonstrate the flexibility of the system. The image angle was chosen to highlight the crimps.

Image

Of course, you can hit anywhere within that region by combining shim rings.

So, to summarize this follow-up article. You produce less waste. The rings provide a better fit with the RCBS Rock Chucker and who knows what other presses. It's easier to have shim rings of differing thicknesses as opposed to simply stacking shim washers of the same thickness.

Enjoy and add any questions to the end of the thread.

Hoot
Last edited by Hoot on Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:32 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby wildcatter » Sat May 08, 2010 8:29 pm

YEAH!! YEAH!! YEAH!!

What a great job guys. I see the Hoot and BrassKnuckles are collaborators, but I thought the Mudder was in there too. Give us the skinny on who, what, where, and when.

You guys did a bang up job, sure enough, and I'm proud of you!!!

I might only add that a slight taper crimp, after all is done with the Side Crimp, will clean things up.

Again, BRAVO!!!
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby MudBug » Sat May 08, 2010 10:14 pm

Fantastic, thank you very much for putting this together. I'm gonna sticky this up top.
Eric

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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby thebrassnuckles » Sun May 09, 2010 12:36 am

Awesome!

He said my name!

That was an excellent "how to" by the way
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby BarracudaBob » Sun May 09, 2010 2:07 am

Double crimp with & with out the washer is kick ass!
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby desertrider » Sat Jul 17, 2010 11:29 am

Great illustrated write up.
I'm planning to use a Lee FCD in 45 Winchester Mag or perhaps 45ACP
Advantages include:
1. 45 Win Mag uses a taper crimp. 45-70 I believe is a roll crimp--not best for autoloaders.
2. The 45 Win Mag FCD is set up higher in the press die station since it is a shorter cartridge than the 450 BM.
3. Therefore there's no need to modify the die.
4. In my experience (none with the 450BM yet), cartridges for autoloaders respond well to a solid taper crimp.

I've used this technique in the past for crimping 10mm in a 40 S&W FCD.

I'll post results after I get enough brass to run some tests.
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby 2zero6 » Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:25 pm

desertrider wrote:Great illustrated write up.
I'm planning to use a Lee FCD in 45 Winchester Mag or perhaps 45ACP
Advantages include:
1. 45 Win Mag uses a taper crimp. 45-70 I believe is a roll crimp--not best for autoloaders.
2. The 45 Win Mag FCD is set up higher in the press die station since it is a shorter cartridge than the 450 BM.
3. Therefore there's no need to modify the die.
4. In my experience (none with the 450BM yet), cartridges for autoloaders respond well to a solid taper crimp.

I've used this technique in the past for crimping 10mm in a 40 S&W FCD.

I'll post results after I get enough brass to run some tests.

Looking forward to the results, welcome aboard. :D
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Re: Lee FCD Mod Step-By-Step w/images

Postby wildcatter » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:55 am

desertrider wrote:Great illustrated write up.
I'm planning to use a Lee FCD in 45 Winchester Mag or perhaps 45ACP
Advantages include:
1. 45 Win Mag uses a taper crimp. 45-70 I believe is a roll crimp--not best for autoloaders.
2. The 45 Win Mag FCD is set up higher in the press die station since it is a shorter cartridge than the 450 BM.
3. Therefore there's no need to modify the die.
4. In my experience (none with the 450BM yet), cartridges for autoloaders respond well to a solid taper crimp.

I've used this technique in the past for crimping 10mm in a 40 S&W FCD.

I'll post results after I get enough brass to run some tests.


Indeed, welcome to "Mudders Raiders". The only Gun Board on the web, were respect and dignity are the Norm.

Might want to check that 45win-mag fcd. I believe it to be a taper crimp die and therefore, not really conducive, to make it preform the LeGendre Side Crimp..t
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