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Old July 14, 2012, 05:23 AM   #1
Ike666
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Adventures in Stainless Steel Tumbling

I just tumbled two batches of Lake City milsurp brass in my Thumler's. Both batches were from the same batch of LC brass (05 headstamps). I use two Tbsps of Dawn and 1/4 tsp of Lemi Shine in the tub along with the water.

I tumbled both batches for about 48 hours (busy doing other stuff and the tumbler sits out in the garage).

When they came out, one batch was a bright golden hue and the other had a definite reddish cast to it. I'm just wondering why the subtle difference.

On a completely different note of things you get fascinated with whilst doing mundane tasks; after I had rinsed and cleaned the brass and was pouring off the water to dump the pins back into the tumbler I noticed that with every pour some of the pins would float. It was an interesting lesson in surface tension. As I was pouring and the water would come up from below, three or four pins would "float" up off of the batch. The first time I thought it was a little piece of plastic. When I realized what was happening, I spent another ten minutes of my life recreating a middle school science project. The most I could catch with the surface tension at a time was seven. Just cool to watch.
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Old July 14, 2012, 08:02 AM   #2
ScottRiqui
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That *is* interesting; I would have thought that the surfactants in the dishwashing soap would knock the surface tension of the water down to almost nothing.

No idea about the reddish tinge on one batch, though.
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Old July 14, 2012, 08:09 AM   #3
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I really want to get a wet tumbler but all I've seen the barrels are so small. I'd like one with about a 2-3 gallon drum.
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Old July 14, 2012, 11:07 AM   #4
Ike666
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The drum size does require some prior planning. Essentially it has a 15# capacity. The first 5#s are the steel pins (a little less now for me - they float away ), 8#s for the water, leaves just 2#s for the content. I usually fill the pan on my triple beam to a shy less than 1 kilo. I don't actually bother to count but with the .308s I'm estimating 80 to 82 cases per run. The LCs run about a 172 to 173 grain average and that works out to about 81.4 (82) per run.

All in all, I really like the results. Clean and shiny inside and out. Primer pockets are cleaned as well. But I only use it for heavily stained brass. These cases came from a lot of M80 Ball from 2005. I bought it in bulk from Cheaper-than-Dirt and it was pretty heavily stained. I didn't bother to pull the 147 grainers, instead decided to shoot them up. This will be the first prep for these cases.

Scott, I dump the detergent water off first. It comes out black as ink. I then flush the contents with running water for about 5 minutes, pour most of that off, and then pour it a strainer. I then run fresh water over the cases as I pluck them out and rinse, case mouth down, to flush any residual pins out. The pin floaters occur in the fresh water when I'm pouring it off before dumping the pins back in the tumbler for storage. So, you're probably right about the detergent knocking down the surface tension some, but it is long gone by the time I observed the floaters.

On the red tinge, I'm guessing that at the stage I stopped it there was some copper leeching out. The golden batch ran a little longer IIRC, about 18 hours. But I really don't know.
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Old July 14, 2012, 11:38 AM   #5
serf 'rett
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Sheech, just 2 pounds of brass at a time?

I use a little "3 pound" Thumler Model A-R1, but I tumble 1 pound of pistol brass at a time - generally about 1-1/2 hours to super shine. Longer than 2 hours is a waste of power and time. And I'm often rolling dug-out-of-the-mud-range-pickup.

Never had floating sst pins in the rinse water.

Cartridge brass is generally in the range of 70% copper and 30% zinc. An acidic solution (Lemishine reduces the pH) will dissolve the zinc if left in contact with the brass for too long. When the zinc is removed, the reddish colored copper remains. Viola, red cartridge cases!
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Old July 14, 2012, 11:43 AM   #6
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I'm finding that 2 and a half hours is long enough to get the shine and get the cases clean inside and out. Primer pockets come out clean also. I use 1 Tbs of dawn and 1/4 tsp of lemishine. Plenty of suds and still get shiny clean.
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Old July 14, 2012, 01:34 PM   #7
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I've tried several combinations with steel pins.

I tried some 'Dawn Direct Foam'. Just a drop and I didn't think I would ever get the bubbles to stop when rinsing.

I used some regular 'Dawn Pure', with and with out a bottle cap of white vinegar. Worked suitably but the batch with the drop of vinegar was a nice patina.

My preferred mix is to fill the rubber tubs (I have a double tube unit) to half to 2/3 with what ever brass, add steel pins to show after a little shake, water to almost full and finally a couple of spritzes from a spray bottle of 'Simply Green'. Cap and let it role. The sizing lub and all vanishes and the brass ends up very clean an shinny, inside and out.

I dump both rubber tubs into a smooth steel bowl and rinse the black water away. I also find it easier to dump and shake the steel pins off in the clean water. From time to time I have found 2 or 3 pins will be stuck in the same flash hole of a case or two. They slip out with ease.
I turn on the kitchen over to 250 to 300 degrees, depending upon how many cases and the size of the cases. Spread an old towel out on a cookie sheet and put the brass on it. Then with the oven up to temp, slip the brass into the oven and turn it off. When the oven is cooled, the brass is dry.

It works for me.

Enjoy,

OSOK
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Old July 14, 2012, 03:15 PM   #8
Ike666
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I figured it was the copper in the brass. I sized and trimmed them, and tumbled them in a vibratory with green corncob to get the lube off. The exterior red tinge is all gone, but it can still be seen in the primer pockets and inside the cases.

I've tumbled for shorter periods and the brass came out clean, inside and out, but it was a dull brass. I tumble longer just because I like a bright, shiny, and slippery case. Usually I just do it for overnight but I was otherwise distracted this past week.

Keep an eye for those floating pins!
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Old July 14, 2012, 03:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
I'm finding that 2 and a half hours is long enough to get the shine and get the cases clean inside and out. Primer pockets come out clean also. I use 1 Tbs of dawn and 1/4 tsp of lemishine. Plenty of suds and still get shiny clean.
I'm the same as Vance. And I've never had any pins float in the water.
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Old July 16, 2012, 07:13 AM   #10
F. Guffey
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If I had one pin float and another sink I would weigh the two pins and compare.

Color? In the big inning, before the Internet, cases were cleaned, back to color, after the process was completed the cases were ready for use and or storage, storage as in pickled.

The cases, when finished turned black by the process, a military receipt handed down to reloaders involved a 2.5% H2SO3 mixture, back then there was a time factor, the maximum time factor was 2 1/2 minutes, the process was completed by rinsing the cases in boiling water twice for at least 5 minutes each time.

For the worst of cases? I use vinegar once for a maximum of 15 minutes for the life of the case, I can use less time if I choose to ‘stir’ while cleaning.

Back to the ‘big inning’ vinegar is 5% +/-, I left cases in the vinegar 30 minutes, when I removed the cases after 30 minutes in the vinegar I found the cases had turned pink and or orange. I collect old tools, when cleaning old tools I use vinegar, time is not as much as a factor, I have left old tools submerged for 4 hours before checking progress, I had old friends that did not have the have time to wait, their time was more valuable to them than my time was to me.

Back to vinegar for the worst of cases, I have reduced tumbling from 3 days to 2 hours, after tumbling the cases should never be allowed to become covered with oxidation and patina, throw the cases in a tumbler, knock off the dull, recover the shine etc.. Stainless steel pins, soap and lime shine, over and over and over etc.. I would tumble with pins and water to determine if the pins were cleaning the cases, then, I would tumble/clean with lime shine and water (no soap, no pins), then, I would clean with soap and pins ( no lime shine).

I would want to know if the pins are knocking off damage being done to the cases by the acid content in the solution, and it goes back to the ‘time is a factor’ because time is a factor when I use vinegar, in the big inning time was a factor with 2 1/2 H2SO3, back then they made it clear, remove the acid!

Again, I helped a reloader/builder/resource person with his home made stainless steel 25 gallon wet/dry tumbler complete with chain drive, variable speed rheostat, wheels with handles. Not to mention, he has tumblers that have the appearance of bushel baskets, an array of colors, then he ordered the Hornady Stainless steel pin cleaner, and there it sits, after he determined the capacity he lost interest. Then there is the rinse cycle and drying time. I suggested when going for ‘bling’ use a spinner.

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Old July 16, 2012, 08:32 AM   #11
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The pins are semi-magnetic and I clean up any strays with a hand magnet.

The total weight with the tumbler filled is about 15 pounds so I have done very well using more brass and less water and it works just fine.

I've never found any advantage to tumbling more than 2 hours if the solution mix is correct for the water being used.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:53 PM   #12
F. Guffey
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“The pins are semi-magnetic....” That would make the pins sort of stainless “ To be magnetic or effected by a magnetite atoms must be able to align or be aligned, and if the pins are magnetic keep metal shavings and cuttings away from the pins and if they are magnetic there is no way to clean them and no claim can be made declaring them smooth for polishing.

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Old July 16, 2012, 03:21 PM   #13
ScottRiqui
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"Magnetic" doesn't have to mean that the material generates its own magnetic flux. You can also describe a material as "magnetic" if it can be magnetized or if it is attracted to a magnetic field.

In the case of stainless steel, some grades are weakly attracted to magnetic fields, so technically they would be called "paramagnetic", but simply calling them "magnetic" isn't technically incorrect either.
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Old July 16, 2012, 04:03 PM   #14
UtopiaTexasG19
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F. Guffey, Whether you do or do not agree with my wording I still use a magnet to clean up any stray stainless pins rather than spend the time to pick them up one at a time with my fingernails. I assume you still consider them stainless since they have stayed wet for over 2 years and remain rust free? I do not dry them out between use.

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Old July 16, 2012, 04:21 PM   #15
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Some grades of 'stainless' steel will rust to some degree. The only reason to use stainless pins vs. any other simular weight metal for tumbling cartridge cases is its resistance to rust. But, big deal; slight rusting of the pins is meaningless because the same tumbling that cleans cases will remove rust from the pins.
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Old July 17, 2012, 08:46 PM   #16
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Quote:
In the case of stainless steel, some grades are weakly attracted to magnetic fields, so technically they would be called "paramagnetic", but simply calling them "magnetic" isn't technically incorrect either.
There are 3 general classifications of "stainless steels", Austenetic, Ferretic, and Martinsetic (and more than 30 specific alloys of those three as per SAE, Society of Automotive Engineers). Martinsetic stainlesses (heat treatable), are attracted to a magnet. Austenetic stainlesses are not. I cannot remember if Ferretic stainlesses are or not (but would guess they are). In short, "Stainless Steel" is not a single alloy of steel, it is many with different properties including being attracted to a magnet or not.
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Old July 17, 2012, 11:28 PM   #17
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UtopiaTexasG19
.. I still use a magnet to clean up any stray stainless pins rather than spend the time to pick them up one at a time with my fingernails.
I can't herd stainless steel media without buckets, trays, and a magnet.
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