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Tip #9: Center the Load
Place the load (powder pan, bullet, calibration weight, etc,) at the center of the weighing platform. An off center load may cause binding of the load cell resulting in error. Some powder scales have a cup shaped platform that automatically centers the powder pan. But if you are weighing a bullet, loaded cartridge or some other odd-shaped object, try to center it as best as possible.
Tip #10: Cleanliness
Keep your scale clean. Dust and stray powder grains getting into the load cell can bind the mechanism. If your scale comes with a cover, keep it closed when you are not using the scale. The weighing platform can be removed on some scales so you can easily clean underneath. A soft artist’s paintbrush or a gentle puff of air is about all that should be needed to clean it.
Whatever you do, don’t flip your scale over and shake it to dislodge dust and powder grains. Shaking could permanently damage the load cell! I keep a can of compressed air at my reloading bench. It is handy for blowing powder grains off the powder scale, as well as off the press, and doesn’t blow with enough force to damage anything. Don’t forget to clean your powder pan.
Over time, a film of powder residue can build up on the powder pan. This can cause powder grains to stick to the pan, and not be transferred to the cartridge case. This is often misinterpreted as static cling and most frequently treated by rubbing the pan with an anti-static clothes drier sheet. Repeated use of drier sheets may also leave residue buildup. Residue buildup happens with both metal and plastic powder pans.
The cure is simple. Just wash the powder pan with a drop of liquid dish soap, rinse thoroughly and let dry. Do not use abrasive soaps or scouring pads. The resulting scratches can cause powder grains to cling.
Tip #11: Powder Pans
The powder pan you use can make a difference too. If the all the powder doesn’t make it into the cartridge, then all your efforts to this point are in vain. My favorite powder pans are the metal pans that commonly come with balance beam type scales (e.g. Dillon Eliminator: Redding No.2 and RS-1; RCBS® Models 502, 505 and 1010; LEE Safety Scale™; Lyman® Pro 500 and Pro 1000; etc.).
Metal powder pans have a few advantages over plastic pans. 1. They don’t hold a static charge 2. They tend to need cleaning less frequently (see Tip #10) 3. Powder grains tend to slide off quite easily 4. They are usually a shiny gold or bare aluminum color, so you can easily see that all powder grains have been transferred to the cartridge case. The gold or silver color also makes inspecting powder grain structure easy. Plastic pans are usually black, and inspecting dull gray particles against a black background is difficult.
If you ever lose your metal powder pan, they can be difficult to find and expensive. And it is highly recommended that you find the same pan that originally came with your balance beam scale. The hanger support is designed to fit the pan exactly, and a pan from another scale probably won’t fit correctly. Your best bet is to call the manufacturer and get the pan that originally came with your scale.
If that isn’t possible, try to get the pan and hanger from another scale. Most electronic powder scales come with plastic powder pans (Lyman is one exception). Most plastic pans that I’ve used leave much to be desired. Fortunately there are alternatives. If you have an old balance beam scale packed away, just use the metal pan. If you don’t happen to have a metal powder pan, the best plastic powder pans I’ve found are:
- Lyman® Powder Pal™
- RCBS® Scale Pan/Funnel
Both are made of anti-static plastic and have a unique feature of combining a scale pan with a powder funnel. I think that the RCBS product has a slight advantage because it also has a conventional pour spout. But either one will serve you well.
The best part is that they cost around $7 (versus $16-$20 for a metal pan). One caveat … they are not recommended for use on a balance beam scale. Not sure just why that is, but it is most likely because the scale “zero” adjustment may not have enough range to adjust for the difference in weight between the metal and plastic pans. The plastic powder pan is also unlikely to fit the hanger.
If your scale has a cover that is to be closed during weighing, make sure that any pan you choose fits under the cover with plenty of clearance! The Lyman® and RCBS® pans have a much taller profile and may not fit. Likewise, if you have an electronic scale that has an integrated (or connects to) an auto-trickling mechanism, you must make certain that any replacement pan doesn’t interfere with the trickling.