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Old August 20, 2016, 12:18 PM   #1
Ocraknife
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Bulk brass cleaning options

My nephew works in recycling and among other things he gets many, many thousands of pieces of brass. What would be a good option for cleaning the brass? I was thinking a small cement mixer with rotating drum (not one with the agitator). What are your thoughts?
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Old August 20, 2016, 12:51 PM   #2
jwrowland77
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Most the time, when brass makes it to the recycling place, the brass is no good anymore. Primer pockets loose, incipient case head separation, etc.


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Old August 20, 2016, 01:30 PM   #3
T. O'Heir
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Many, many thousands that would need to be individually visually inspected and sorted before you did anything else.
Like jwrowland77 says, it can be bad or just unusable for a host of reasons. Not being brass or being Berdan primed as well as what he says.
Don't think you'll find a cement mixer that doesn't have an agitator anyway. Idea is sound though. Plastic garbage can on a suitable electric motor would do. But don't bother if you don't first look at each case.
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Old August 20, 2016, 02:08 PM   #4
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What are you going to do with the brass? Sell it or use it yourself? If I was going to sell it all I'd do is sort it, throw out any junk and maybe rinse it off.

If I was going to use it personally I would do much more than that either... Hot soapy water and wipe down any cases that have soot and call it good for cleaning. I'd do a more thorough inspection before shooting it than I would selling it. I'd assume any buyer would be inspecting the brass also.
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Old August 20, 2016, 02:08 PM   #5
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Here is something from a few years back....


http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=535251
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Old August 20, 2016, 05:57 PM   #6
JeepHammer
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My mixer is a little larger.
I use water, steel pins.
I've replaced the mixing blades in the drum with PVC tubing to stir things up a bit.
My drum leaked, so I sprayed it with urithane 'Bed Liner' for pickup trucks, and stuck down some heavy 'Plastic' to keep the biggest part of the drum from chipping.
Same plastic on a roll that's used for flexible cutting boards on counter top.

Mine dumps into a 'Laundry Tub', 1/4" screen stops brass, just below heavy 'Window' screen stops pins, water down the drain.
Screen over the drain, just in case...

A company named 'Cap Plug' makes large plastic covers for the mouth & an eBay 'Hose Clamp' (worm screw band) keeps the cap on,
Some holes drilled in the cap lets the drum drain when I'm changing water/cleaner,
A cap with no holes keep dust from escaping when I'm using dry media for polishing.

Runs MUCH quieter than vibratory cleaner, when I change motor/gear reduction box I may speed it up a little...
Again, eBay is full of motors and gear reduction boxes when needed...
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Old August 20, 2016, 06:25 PM   #7
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Agitator vanes in a mixer drum ain't gonna hurt much if anything. The brass will be clean and tarnish free, just not a high gloss shine. I'd use a dry media and tumble. I agree, each and every case would have to be inspected, whatever tumbling/cleaning method chosen...
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Old August 20, 2016, 07:01 PM   #8
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Big, rusty, blades banged my brass up, so I got rid of them.
Your results may differ...
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Old August 20, 2016, 07:45 PM   #9
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The larger operations I have seen generally involve 55 gallon drums with removable tops rotated using small pneumatic tires about like those found on old wheelbarrows. Cleaning solutions vary but are usually a light detergent with stainless steel pins. These are operations processing tens of thousands of pieces of brass per batch. Guessing a small Harbor Freight cement mixer would work for smaller batches.

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Old August 20, 2016, 08:20 PM   #10
JeepHammer
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Mixer is limited to about 5,000 .223 brass, plus pins.
Any more than that and they don't circulate well.
Size of the drum will determine how many you can clean at one time, mixers come in all sizes...
Mine was free, I've seen them from under $100 to well over $350,
Still cheaper than one of the 'High Volume' tumblers made specifically for cleaning brass.
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Old August 20, 2016, 10:58 PM   #11
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If what he is getting is akin to the stuff my local metal recycler gets, it's rather probable that most of what he gets is legitimate once fired brass. Probably a ton of the stuff here comes from the police ranges. Even our public range here gets thousands of pounds of abandoned pistol brass annually.

Before he even thinks about cleaning, i'd be suggesting that he sort out any brass that is discolored or badly tarnished. The new brass is still going to look new.
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Old August 21, 2016, 09:42 AM   #12
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^^^^
The number of folks who reload is very small compared to the shooting public.
The odds are all that brass is ok, but you never know without looking.
Very tedious.
But this is a good time for it, with the dearth of good tv shows until the fall season begins.
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Old August 21, 2016, 10:21 AM   #13
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the last time i visited our scrap yard at the very top of that beautiful. shiny barrel of brass was a handful of 500 sw. yes. i took one and have a specimen now

probably once fired
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Old August 21, 2016, 10:42 AM   #14
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The only issue I have in setting up bulk tumbling would be the amount and cost of the ss pins.
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Old August 21, 2016, 08:22 PM   #15
jmorris
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I built 3 of these for a local business.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZOYjmAnO0

Each drum will tumble 15 gallons of brass per load but you also need an overhead crane to load/unload them.
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Old August 21, 2016, 08:53 PM   #16
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Jmorris:
Quote:
I built 3 of these for a local business.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZOYjmAnO0

Each drum will tumble 15 gallons of brass per load but you also need an overhead crane to load/unload them.
Yours were among the really nice home brew versions I remember.

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Old August 22, 2016, 11:32 AM   #17
Ocraknife
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Quote:
I built 3 of these for a local business.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZOYjmAnO0

Each drum will tumble 15 gallons of brass per load but you also need an overhead crane to load/unload them.
That looks awesome! Do you still sell them?
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Old August 22, 2016, 11:38 AM   #18
Ocraknife
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Quote:
If what he is getting is akin to the stuff my local metal recycler gets, it's rather probable that most of what he gets is legitimate once fired brass. Probably a ton of the stuff here comes from the police ranges. Even our public range here gets thousands of pounds of abandoned pistol brass annually.

Before he even thinks about cleaning, i'd be suggesting that he sort out any brass that is discolored or badly tarnished. The new brass is still going to look new.
He gets it from the local indoor ranges and almost all if it would be once fired there. They hand sort every piece now and remove even nickel plated brass.

I don't know what their plans are but my thought would be if they could de-prime and clean the brass they might get a little more money for it.

They collect the bullets after they've been shot as well. It seems to me, once they separate the jackets, they'd have a near perfect alloy for bullet casting. Maybe they could sell that lead as purpose built and get a little more for it than selling it on the scrap market.
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