45-45-10 Simplified

  • Last Post 01 July 2018
Eutectic posted this 22 June 2018

Lee Liquid Alox (LLA) is wonderful stuff, a real time saver. For correct size as-cast bullets, it is lube and load. If you need sizing, Lees push through sizer is fast and inexpensive. As it comes from Lee, LLA is too concentrated, it is hard to get a thin, even coat. Charles Harris recommends diluting LLA 50/50 with mineral spirits. I find this works great, but the coating is still sticky, messing up seating dies, cartridge boxes and pistol magazines. It also picks up dirt on the exposed part of the bullet. This problem was cured by the addition of Johnsons Paste Wax (JPW). The result, 45-45-10, is 45% LLA 45% JPW concentrate, 10% mineral spirits. 45-45-10 is very popular, it is so popular it is available commercially. 
Johnsons Paste Wax contains carnauba wax plus other ingredients. Polishing wax formulas use carnauba wax, usually with other waxes and sometimes with polishing agents like fine pumice. The balance is petroleum solvent, which evaporates leaving the wax mixture. The polishing agents are the white powder which is rubbed off, polishing the wax film.
Carnauba is one of the hardest of the natural waxes, with unique characteristics no other natural or petroleum wax can match.  Because of its uniqueness, carnauba has many uses, in addition to polish it is used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, candle making and many others. It is commonly available in craft stores, woodworking shops and on the internet. It is also inexpensive, 8 ounces of pure flake carnauba is currently about 10 dollars.  

To make 45-45-10, JPW is heated to boil off the solvents and concentrate the wax. The concentrate is mixed with LLA and mineral spirits.  This is cautious work, overheating can ruin the wax, and there is significant risk of fire. It is also uncertain, it is difficult to define the correct concentration. It is the carnauba wax in JPW which hardens the LLA, giving the desired non-sticky film. Why not add pure carnauba wax to LLA? It turns out this is easier, less expensive and it works the same.

LLA plus carnauba wax
In a 1 quart glass Mason jar, add 4 ounces of deodorized mineral spirits, and 220 grains carnauba wax flakes. If you do not have a scale this is about 2 level tablespoons of flake carnauba. Put the cap on the Mason jar, and heat it in boiling water. DO NOT use direct heat, DO NOT use a microwave!  Swirl and heat until all the carnauba dissolves. Open the jar, add a 4 ounce bottle of LLA and swirl to mix. Allow the mixture to cool.

You can double this recipe, a quart Mason jar will hold a double recipe. 

The result is a soft paste at room temperature, when warm to touch (~100 F) it is a thick liquid. Put the bullets in a plastic container, add the LLA plus carnauba. One level teaspoon will coat 100 38 caliber bullets, it does not take much. You want a thin film, using more will not work better. Tumble to coat the bullets and pour them onto wax paper to dry. Drying time may be overnight or take several days, depending on the temperature. The resulting film is tough, adheres well, and is not sticky.
Target and standard velocity pistol loads delivered accuracy equal to LLA, 45-45-10 and the best standard lubricants.

For experimenters.
More carnauba will give a harder film, however if the coating is too hard, it will not flow when seating.  This can increase the case diameter excessively. Sizing these cartridges after seating (LEE factory crimp die) allowed chambering, but the resulting ammunition was not accurate.  Lubricant with too much carnauba is brittle and will flake off.
Increasing the mineral spirits will give a thinner product which may work at better at lower temperature. If the lube is too thin it tends to run off the bullets, giving an uneven coating concentrated on the bottom. I use the soft paste without warming and find it gives an even coating.
Many formulas for polish add a softer wax to counter the brittleness of pure carnauba. Beeswax, added at 5% to 10% of the weight of the carnauba, softens the film. JPW has something like this, as the concentrated, dried JPW is not as hard as pure carnauba. I tried adding 10% beeswax to the lube, this did not change the properties and offered no advantage. LLA is a soft waxy mixture, therefore adding more soft wax did not help. 
Steve Hurst

This is all you need.

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Bohica793 posted this 22 June 2018

And where might one acquire Carnuba Wax flakes?

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GP Idaho posted this 22 June 2018

Thanks Steve, that does sound a little easier to make. I don't tumble lube a lot but 45-45-10 is by far a better lube than strait LLA in my opinion. I made up a batch when I first read the formula a few years ago and I believe that if I ever need more (a little bit does go a long way) I will order it up from White Label.  I came out looking like I was making tar baby's. Gp

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 22 June 2018

thanks steve , good stuff ..

it has also occurred to me that this 45-45-10 would also make a terrific coating for long-term storage ...... and maybe with more mineral spirits it could even be sprayed ...

i currently use Fluid Film spray from NAPA  as my ace-in-the-hole protection .... ... but if i could spray ( ?  25-25-50 ? ) it might be even better and a bunch cheaper .



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Maven posted this 22 June 2018

Here's one possible source:  https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=carnauba+wax&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=241917146607&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=10421469648151246184&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9004747&hvtargid=kwd-98702792&ref=pd_sl_9l99lpzo11_e

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Eutectic posted this 23 June 2018


Lee Liquid Alox is a commercial heavy rust preventative compound repackaged. Diluting it with mineral spirits until you can spray it will work very nicely, I have used it on some of my seldom used tools. the disadvantage is it is sticky, you have to wash it off with mineral spirits or wipe with a spirits soaked rag. The tough film with the added carnauba makes it slow to dissolve. It probably would be a good rust preventative, but this has not been proven. LLA is great in the salt spray test on steel, just dilute it to suit your use.


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BigMan54 posted this 24 June 2018

So many formula's for FIREARMS lubes & cleaners call for "ODORLESS" mineral spirits. It's damned all frustrating to be in CA where we can't buy "ODORLESS" mineral spirits. Can't buy them online either, can't be brought into CA.

So what happens when/if you use "regular" mineral spirits ?

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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Eutectic posted this 24 June 2018

?? what has CA got against odorless mineral spirits?? Don't answer that the idiots in Sacramento are against everything.

Odorless MS has the smelly (and more toxic) aromatic compounds removed. This makes it safer to use indoors. It is functionally identical, and it will evaporate completely.  I know of no reason it should not work the same. 


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OU812 posted this 25 June 2018

Why do they call it odorless? Klean Strp brand Oderless Mineral Sprits has a loud mineral spirits odor. 

Have you ever noticed that all alox lubes such as 50/50, 70/30,45/45/10 will dry out (solvent evaporate) and turn harder over time. Changing so grouping changes. Maybe aging alox base lubes before use works best. Six months ago I made some 70/30 (alox/beeswax) lube that was very soft then.....now it is very hard after solvents evaporated. Alox may work, but will change consistency over time.



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onondaga posted this 25 June 2018

Have you noticed in the product instructions that the viscosity of Lee LLA should be like hershey's syrup and that if it gets thicker from evaporation it doesn't tumble correctly and Lee recommends adding mineral spirits harmlessly to regain the correct viscosity for tumble lube is clearly in the instructions already. Changing viscosity over time should be expected with tumble lubes made with rotten dinosaurs and solvents and the instructions cover it for the product very well.

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jimkim posted this 26 June 2018

I was playing around "pan lubing" bullets a few years back. I decided to mix a little LLA with some stuff I had mixed up. I wanted to see if it would soften it, and make it a bit stickier. It made it too soft. So I dumped everything into the wrong container. I ruined my jug of LLA, BUT I made a liquid lube that would dry as a solid wax lube. I was never able to duplicate the mistake, but that's ok, thanks to Roy K and a Lyman 450, my pan lubing days are in the past.

I do wish, I could duplicate it though. I'd like to share it. It was basically Darr's lube with a little molybdenum disulfide added, mixed in unknown amounts with LLA.

I want to share a link to this thread on my FB page, if I can have permission.

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Eutectic posted this 27 June 2018

Yes, even sitting in the plastic bottle the solvent in LLA will slowly evaporate. You should add mineral spirits to bring it up to 4 ounces. Then you can dilute it with another 4 ounces mineral spirits to get a thin syrup consistency.

The choice of 220 grains of carnauba was the minimum amount of carnauba to get a non-sticky coating. This coating is still relatively soft which is what I wanted. 300 grains gives a harder film and 350 is much harder with a longer dry time. I have not tested the harder coatings for accuracy. 


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shjoe posted this 01 July 2018

the small amount of carnuba that I add to my bullet lube recipe comes from the red, waxy covering that a popular cheese product comes in. best, john

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