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Old May 27, 2005, 05:20 PM   #1
BigSlick
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Thumlers Tumbler - rotary tumbler suggestions and results

Hi guys,

I just picked up a Thumlers Tumbler Model B from Cabelas.

I have read a few posts about using citric acid (very light concentration) with water and dishwashing liquid. It seems the results are quicker than tumbling and cheaper since you don't have to use so much media/additive etc..

I have read online about black powder guys (that reload) using ceramic media for case cleaning with pretty good results.

Any of you ever use a Thumlers ? Have you tried the citric acid (lemon juice) and/or the ceramic media ?

Worth the effort or a PITA ?

Any ideas on a strainer setup or the best way to get the water out without having to dump it out of every case by hand, one at a time ?

How do you guys recommend drying brass ? I have read leaving them in the sun on a towel works, but I am looking for an indoor solution if one exists (garage would work). I have read about drying in the oven too. This seems doable, but I have read temps from 120-200F.

At what temp should I be concerned with the effect of the heat on the brass. How long does the drying process take on average for 400 or so 45 ACP brass.

Any other ideas on how to dry brass without spreading lead residue all over the place ?

By all means, please give me your ideas, tips, tricks, traps or just tell me I'm an idiot and I should stick to the Lyman and the walnut.

Thanks in advance for the help

BigSlick
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Old May 27, 2005, 07:56 PM   #2
Unclenick
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Lots of questions, and I have few answers, but here's some of it:

The vibratory tumblers with dry media clean about twice as fast as the rotary tumbler, according to what I've read, but put it on before you go to bed and rinse it out in the morning and then, so what? I've used the old NRA dishwashing liquid and vinegar formula, simply shaking the brass in it inside a gallon jug. This was before my first Lyman Turbo Tumbler. Lots of brass discoloration, but the loose residue junk came out. My recollection is it consisted of a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and a half a cup of vinegar in a gallon of water, but someone else may remember otherwise.

Lead residue, primarily from lead compounds in primers, will wind up in any case cleaning media you use, wet or dry. It will tend to concentrate more in the dry materials because they are re-used. I don't know if you get enough lead in one pass of liquid cleaner to have any environmental regulations apply to disposing of it? I doubt it, but if you have a septic system and a well, you might want to think twice about it. Check your local regulations.

As for not spreading lead residue around, just rinse well before drying. Make your last rinse with a little distilled water to collect any tap water mineral residue.

The instructions that came with my .308 and .223 case neck annealing fixtures (Evans Manufacturing LC, (319) 236-3877) say the necks need to get to 700-750°F to fully anneal, and that the case heads must be kept below 400°F to avoid any degree of annealing. However, allow me to warn you that oxidation discoloring will occur easily in the oven. Besides, once you've done a distilled water rinse, you can tumble the wet brass with a terry cloth rag for half an hour to get the loose water out. Then just put them out on a cookie sheet and forget about them for a couple of days while you do something else. It won't matter where you have them then.

If you are in a hurry, boil the cases in distilled water and pull them out with tongs one-at-a-time and give them a sharp shake. The shake will clear the excess water and the retained heat will dry the case fast. Again, some discoloration may occur.

I've seen citric acid used in cleaning solution recommendations before. The old NRA formula had vinegar, as I mentioned earlier. I have no clue whether citric acid poses any threat to the strength of your brass or not? You can buy it in powder form from wine making supply houses.

My own thought would be to buy the Iosso case cleaning solution (http://www.iosso.com/metal.htm). This is a rapid cleaning acidic dip that is safe for brass. Try throwing a tablespoon or two into your cleaning mix as a slower acting use-once solution. If you are adding detergent, make it a pH neutral one, so it doesn't neutralize the acid. You could try baby shampoo or dishwashing liquid.

Rounded ceramic chips of various sizes and grades are used in Vibradyne machines, and other commercial polishing equipment. Big chips may cause dents in a tumbler. The little guys would be safe in your tumbler and could be mixed with the liquid cleaning solution to help clean brass particles off the ceramic surfaces. Otherwise they will clog and stop working.

Liquid in a tumbler takes more primer residue out of primer pockets than dry media does. It doesn't clog flash holes as dry media will. I don't know of anybody who has found primer residue affecting accuracy in any measurable way. Perhaps someone in the bench rest community can see the difference? I ignore it, so I can't say this is a particularly important advantage, other than there are people whove broken de-capping pins on media stuck in flash holes before, and there is no advantage to joining that club, either.

Nick
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Old May 30, 2005, 11:09 AM   #3
Smokey Joe
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Chem. cleaner = No-no!

Bigslick--FWIW, years ago I used a brass cleaning solution that contained phosphoric acid. Made the brass wonderfully clean, slightly frosted (kind of a matte finish look) inside and out.

In other words I was cleaning the brass by etching it. What I was doing to its internal structure I had no idea; didn't think of it at the time. Did reload those cases successfully several times after the cleaning. Did NOT use the acid treatment routinely to clean the cases after each firing. But I'm sure I was affecting the brass.

Also there is the problem of acid disposal. Whenever I've had to dispose of a nasty acid I've washed it down the drain with a LOT of water, so as to do the pipes minimal damage. The environmental damage I can't comment on. Felt bad about doing it.

Now, considering vinegar or other food acids, firstly, the environmental damage on disposal is mimimal. Secondly, there will be some slight removal of brass (in the form of copper acetate maybe?) that will in a slight way affect the brass.

However (there's always a however) you WILL in some small way be chemically affecting the brass. There will be some slight environmental consequences. And I don't think you'll get nice shiny brass if that is your aim.

If you want shiny brass you want to remove the oxides and dirt, but smoothe the brass surface, not remove brass. This will require an abrasive, not a chemical cleaner.

Bottom line: If your aim is clean brass, soap or detergent is as rough as you should go. If you want clean shiny brass, add an inert abrasive.
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Old May 31, 2005, 06:41 PM   #4
Unclenick
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It's correct that the food acids themselves offer little environmental consequence. Even hydrochloric and sulphuric acids in modest quantities won't do any permenant damage once they've been neutralized by carbonates in the soil or heavily diluted in water. It's usually acids containing heavy metals, like chromic acid, that make for dangerous polution. But that's the problem with case cleaner, too. The acid is presumably reacting with lead primer residue and creating water soluble lead compounds that are toxic. There was a theory some years back that the Roman empire fell because the lead goblets treasured by wealthy Romans had just enough lead etched out of them by the tannic acid in wine that it eventually sterilized the imbibers.

Nick
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Old June 1, 2005, 07:31 AM   #5
Smokey Joe
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Lead poisoning

Unclenick--Agreed, lead isn't good for your system. It gets in the brain, too, and does unhealthy things there as well.

The Romans used lead pipes for their water mains, and into their houses. Why not--It's an easy metal to work with! The Latin for lead is "plumbum;" from that comes the word, "plumber," that is, one who works with lead. Thank goodness, plumbers no longer use lead pipes, nor lead-based solder to fasten copper pipes, but we still have the word.

Anyhow, I understand that the Romans' water supply leached lead out of the pipes and they all drank leaded water, not just the nobility and the rich. And what it did to their brains made stupid military decisions easier to come by, and as they say, the rest is history.

Which is why, boys and girls, you should always cast lead bullets outdoors, or in a WELL ventilated workshop. Lead vapor is just as easily absorbed by the body as lead in solution. And we don't want to go the way of the Romans.
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