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Old September 24, 2011, 08:03 AM   #1
micksis86
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Hornady sonic cleaner questions

I'm looking at one of these hornady sonic cleaners and i've got a few questions. I'm currently using a hornady tumbler and to say i'm a shiney brass freak is probably an understatement. Anyway i've got a few questions for those that have and experience with them.

How quickly does it clean the cases nice and shiney it takes my tumbler about 6-8 hrs depending on how new the media is for ultra shiney brass is the sonic cleaner faster than this?

Is it quiet? Or at least quieter than a tumbler (which to be honest wouldn't be hard)

Would i be able to use it to clean my handguns (assuming they fit?)

What is your overall experience/opinion of sonic case cleaning?

Thanks for any help or experience that you can offer
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Old September 24, 2011, 08:40 AM   #2
m&p45acp10+1
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I am not sure about the Hornady model of sonic cleaners. I have the Harbor Freight model. The El Cheapo $30 model. That holds a pint, and runs in 3 minute cycles. Most brass will be clean in 3 or 4 cycles. Super shiney I am not sure I just run mine till they are clean. Takes about 15 minutes to do 100 or so cases. Then they have to dry.

Note I still use the heck out of my tumbler for doing the first cleaning on range pick up brass that is super dirty. So if you get the sonic cleaner just know if you pick up brass at the range your tubler will still see some use.
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Old September 24, 2011, 09:42 AM   #3
deepcore
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I have the large(r) Harbor Freight Model. Looks just like the Lyman cleaner. Probably is the same thing they look so much a alike...but at half the price.

Quote:
Is it quiet? Or at least quieter than a tumbler (which to be honest wouldn't be hard)
I'd say they're about the same. But definitely in different registers. The tumbler has a deep rumble while the sonic cleaner has a high pitch buzz.

Quote:
Would i be able to use it to clean my handguns (assuming they fit?)
I have but the liquid solution is different. Hornady makes one for cases and one for gun parts. Interchangeable? Never tried.

Quote:
What is your overall experience/opinion of sonic case cleaning?
Best tool (or toy) I have to clean INSIDE my cases and for cleaning primer pockets of my rifle ammo. I still use my tumbler a lot for: Removing lube, pistol ammo (dont care about how clean my pistol ammo gets), etc. So for me sonic cleaning is an adjunct not a replacment for my tumblers.

My cases get REALLY clean with sonic cleaning. Now, the sonic cleaners I have tried have had only one transducer right in the middle units' tubs. Cleaning action decreases towards the edges of tubs. Nature of the beast. Happens at my work too. I found on the "internets" someone who recommended using a repurposed beaker (I use a repurposed salsa jar) filling it with the cleaning solution, filling sonic cleaner with water, and playing with how high off of the transducer to suspend the jar to get the best cleaning action. I drilled a hole in the top of my jar and used an eye-bolt and nut, used string tied above my cleaner to lower and raise the jar. You can hear the cases vibrate in the jar and I set the height in the water for the loudest vibration I can get. Even see the cases swirl in a circle inside the jar.

For me, this works better that just filling the cleaner with water, solution, and cases, takes forever. Since I need to use more cycles this way and my cleaner automatically shuts off if I use too many cycles close together. So I have to wait for cool down and that takes even longer. With the jar system I find I can get the cases in the jar clean in 1-2 eight min cycles. I can about 20-25 308 cases in my jar.

After 100 cases the next morning you can see how much crud I removed by the layer of dirt that settled to the bottom of my jar.
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Old September 24, 2011, 12:36 PM   #4
Don H
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Ultrasonic cleaners...clean, they don't polish. There's a difference. If you want mirror-shiny, you're probably going to have to use a 2-stage process; clean and then polish.

Here's a review of the Hornady sonic cleaner from shortly after it was introduced: http://www.realguns.com/articles/202.htm
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Old September 24, 2011, 12:59 PM   #5
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I like how sonic cleaners get the inside of the brass and the primer pockets clean. My tumbler did well on the out side but I still ha to clean out the primer pockets.
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Old September 24, 2011, 01:26 PM   #6
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I agree with Don H. I have the Lyman cleaner and it cleans brass very good but it does not polish. I like polished brass so after I remove the cleaned brass from the Ultra I let them dry then put them in the tumbler (usually overnight, it's in my garage so I turn it on and let it run) afterwards they are clean and polished and very purty.
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Old September 25, 2011, 01:52 AM   #7
micksis86
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Thanks for the info guys. Don H you have a point there which had I thought about it j would jar realized. I think I'd polish some of my brass but generally super clean would be fine by
Me especially for my handgun ammo is probably polish my rifle ammo still.
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Old October 2, 2011, 07:43 AM   #8
cryogenic419
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I have the Hornady magnum ultrasonic cleaner and love it.

When the time comes to clean brass I fill the unit with water and solution and run it so that both temperature (I like to run 135, seems anything hotter and the water evaporates too quickly) is good and the water/solution mix gets all the bubbles out. I read somewhere that this allows better ultrasonic cleaning action. While this is happening I go through and deprime all the used primers and fill the basket with dirty brass about 3/4 of the way up. I have a plastic container that I can place the basket in where I just soak everything for 10-15 mins. Seems to get rid of alot of the surface dirt/dust prior to going into the ultrasonic, which helps the longevity of the solution and helps minimize the sludge at the bottom of the cleaner. Don't have anything scientific to back this up but I am positive the more sludge that is laying on the bottom of the cleaner, the less effective the machine is able to clean. All that dirt, carbon and other debris on the bottom is absorbing the sonic waves before it can get to the brass.

OK so now I move the basket into the ultrasonic and run it for 10 minutes. Come back, stir up the brass so that brass gets different "cleaning" positions in the basket and run it for another 10 minutes. Come back again, stir again and another 10 minutes. At the end of that cycle check random pieces of brass to ensure that they are clean and to my liking. If not I give a stir and 10 more minutes which so far has been all thats needed. At the end of all this cleaning the brass looks as clean as new brass, inside the case and primer pocket is immaculate. From there I take the cases into a plastic storage container and rinse them throughly under the hottest tap water I have. Brass goes back into the basket and I shake it side to side to try to knock off excess water. From there its off to the tumbler with some lizard litter and Flitz tumbler polish. I run it for an hour or so, depending on the size of the load I am trying to polish. Throw it in the media strainer and I'm ready to load. Any pieces of media that might be stuck in flash holes is taken care of when I run into a sizing die.

So you asked is it faster than a tumbler. I would say yes it is. Would also like to add that it is a bit more thorough than a tumber but also requires a a little more work on your end but the results are totally worth it.

Is it quieter than a tumbler? Truthfully my tumbler isn't all that loud but I can feel it vibrating for probably 10-15 feet away. The ultrasonic doesn't vibrate things like the tumbler but does have a weird higher pitch noise that is kind of annoying. The good part is you walk around a corner and you can't really hear it and the ultrasonic doesn't need to run all day long like a tumbler.

Can you clean handguns? I guess it all depends on the size of the gun. I have cleaned my AR bolt and carrier and a pistol I have had since 1998 that has seen alot of rounds and everything worked out ok. The pistol was a bit tricky as I had to do the slide and frame seperately as there wasn't enough room.

Overall thoughts? I like my brass really clean and this does the trick. Seems to cut down the overall time it takes to achieve great results but will require more work out of you. I have noticed on my larger calibers like .45acp and 500 SW resizing now requires me to use a little bit of lube with carbide dies. I use Imperial sizing wax and have to do 1 case every 10 rounds or so. Kind of a pain but the overall results are worth the little extra work to me. I read somewhere, not sure if it was the instructions with the machine or somewhere else that you are supposed to use distilled water with ultrasonics. I tried tapwater but the results did not seem as good.
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Old October 3, 2011, 02:39 AM   #9
micksis86
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That's some really good info cryogenic I appreciate the time you put into it thanks. All questions answered
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Old October 4, 2011, 11:04 AM   #10
ammorelds
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it seems i use mine in a different order than everybody....i use the sonic cleaner first to clean the cases sense is does it so much faster than the tumbler than they go into the tumbler with corn cob media and polish for an hour or so to make them shiny....the sonic cleaner does not replace the tumbler as like wise (in my opion) the tumbler does not replace the sonic cleaner.....takes about 2 hours from start to finish (depending how dirty to start with)
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Old October 5, 2011, 12:10 AM   #11
DarthNul
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I use the 2.5 liter Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaner that is exactly like the Lyman.

It is much quieter than my vibratory tumbler.

It is faster than walnut in a tumbler, and more thorough, but it is also more "hands on". It gets the primer pockets clean. I'll run 4 to 6 cycles of 8 minutes each.

It does not polish the brass.

I use tap water. Some folks use distilled water but it doesn't get things any cleaner. It's just supposed to prevent water spots on the dried brass. If you rinse the brass after cleaning (and you REALLY should) it's irrelevant. Maybe if you did your final rinse in distilled water but I've never seen spots on any of my clean brass. If you polish after cleaning that'll take the spots off anyway.

I use either the Hornady brass cleaning solution or 1 oz of CLR and a drop of detergent to 30 oz of water. The CLR seems to be a little quicker and it's also cheaper to use. Both solutions look, smell and feel the same. There are other home brew solution recipes on the Internets. Some of them can dissolve the zinc out of the brass so be careful and examine the brass closely for pinkish coloration.

I would not put a handgun in it. I would put gun parts in it but only with the solution for gun parts. Don't use the brass cleaning stuff for gun parts.

Don't fill the thing up to the top with brass. You want the top of the brass to be about 3/4" below the top of the solution.
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Old October 8, 2011, 09:01 AM   #12
cryogenic419
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The whole tap water vs distilled...guess it would depend on the water where you live. I'm 3 miles or so from the water treatment plant so my tap water smells like a chlorinated pool, tastes about the same, shower doors get major calcium deposits after a week or so. On a positive note, I haven't had to use bleach on my whites in YEARS haha.

All that stuff in the water has got to have some effect on a sonic cleaners ability to do its thing but as to how much of a difference it makes...I'm just going off my gut feeling and sticking with distilled.

Hornady has 2 solutions, one for brass, one for gun parts. Make sure you use the right one for the application.
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Old October 8, 2011, 02:05 PM   #13
DarthNul
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Quote:
The whole tap water vs distilled...
I see this as two issues:
1) Does distilled water make the cases any cleaner?
2) Does distilled water help with spots?

#1 is about your cleaning solution and #2 is about your final rinse. Using distilled water in your cleaning solution won't help with spots and using it in the final rinse won't counteract hard water in the cleaning solution.

My water here in MN is pretty good so I don't bother using distilled in the solution. I drain the brass pretty well and then dump it into an old towel and shake it around a bit. By the time I'm laying the brass out to air dry, the outsides of the cases are already dry, so there's no spotting there. The only part of the cases that are noticeably wet are the flash holes.
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Old October 8, 2011, 05:28 PM   #14
m&p45acp10+1
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Personaly I do not care about spots, or having my brass super duper shiney. As long as it is clean. I use the sonic cleaner due to a few reasons.

1 Yes it is much quiter.
2 It is much cleaner to use in the house. (Live in an apartment so no shed, or garage.)
3 I have major allergies, and the dust makes me clogged up, and sneezy for a day or two.

Note I do still use my vibratory tumbler on super dirty range brass. I run an extesion cord outside and run the brass for a bit till all of the crudd comes off.
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Old June 23, 2012, 02:33 AM   #15
tdawe
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Wow! What a learning curve that still is curving!

[SIZE="4"]I have recently purchased a "Hornady Super Sonic Cleaner" (Sounds like a cartoon, huh?) Anyway I have learned that you MUST use distilled water when cleaning. It's about .80 cents a gallon in Michigan. If you don't and go with regular water you will get "Blotches" on your brass. Something your Doctor can't cure. You may rinse in hot tap water. I then set them on an old bath towel in the sun to dry. I have learned that most commercial brass cleaners are made from strengthened Citric Acid. Most likely dehydrated Citric Acid. Although it does have another chemical, but I am not sure yet what that is yet.
Now, the Sonic Cleaner has done its' job, however if you want your brass to look "Factory" new, I suggest a one hour tumble in corn cob media with appropriate liquid polish additive.
I am still trying to find out the number of cases per caliber I can clean at once. For right now, I dump cases in the basket until just below the water line. I then fill with cleaning agent (2 ounces with a standard liquid measuring cup. Then bring it to the water line with distilled water. There all sorts of commentary in internet land for time and temperature. Personally, no matter what the cartridge size I use 145 f, 10 minutes. let sit and stir casings around a bit, then repeat 10 minutes @ 145. BEWARE!
The Citric Acid bath will cause skin irritation! I learned the hard way. Treat it as if it were caustic (which it is) and use plastic gloves. My wife works at an ER and sometimes those gloves do expire. She brings them home for me. I would prefer now to use dish washing gloves. They protect better than surgical gloves against the 145-150 degree hot water. I just have to find some that will fit a size 8 hand. I am 6'5" and hard to fit for any type of clothing/accessories.
I hope all this helps some. Don't depend on Hornady for any instructions! You will not get them. I emailed the company and have not heard back from them.
Good Luck!
Terry

Last edited by tdawe; June 23, 2012 at 02:38 AM.
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Old June 23, 2012, 12:27 PM   #16
DarthNul
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Tdawe, I use tap water exclusively for cleaning and rinsing and I don't get any splotches.

The citric acid solution is good but kind of expensive unless you buy in bulk and I haven't found a good source for that, nor do I want to buy five to ten years worth of cleaner at a time.

I found a good alternative using CLR ("Calcium Lime Rust" cleaner in the silver bottle), diluted 50:1 with hot water, then add a few drops of laundry detergent per batch. A lot of people use Dawn dish washing soap but I find the laundry stuff foams up less. 4 cycles of 8 minutes does the job. It does a little better on the primer pockets compared to the Hornady solution, which usually needed 5 cycles.

Using too high of concentration of CLR or leaving the brass in too long can result in pink areas on your brass. The same thing can happen with citric acid but it takes longer.
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