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Old April 5, 2013, 12:44 PM   #1
Cesure
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Tumbling brass not really successful

I had my first experience tumbling brass and it wasn't pretty. I'd like to know what specifically I did wrong. I used a small cheap rock tumbler that has a volume of about 2 cups. Please don't tell that's what I did wrong. I'll scale up when my friend visits with a tumbler he's giving to me.

I tumbled sixteen old Norma .357 Magnum cases overnight in ground walnut shells. It's cat litter, but it's 100% walnut shells. I think I initially put too much media in, because after two hours there was little effect, so I reduced the amount of media to about 3/4 cup. When I pulled the cases the next morning, the media was fairly well pulverized. The primer pockets were clean. The exteriors were not shiny, but were fairly clean. The interiors were not at all clean. I thought I got all the media out by shaking each case, but some of the cases must have had media packed in pretty tight. I decided to soak the cases in straight vinegar and dish soap to get them cleaner. This made the exteriors much cleaner and almost shiny. The interiors still didn't look any cleaner and in the ones where the media was still packed in, a glob of wet media gelled.

So obviously, I need to get the media out better after tumbling. But I guess I thought the tumbling and the soaking should have cleaned the interiors better. How do I get them cleaner without having to hand scrub the inside of every case with a small bottle brush? Did I have too much media initially or two little afterwards?
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:06 PM   #2
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"Walnut-Based" is not the same thing as walnut-in-fact
http://bluebuffalo.com/healthy-home/...lti-cat-litter
(That's one of the reason it pulverized and clumped literally overnight)

Go to PetCo and get some KayTee walnut bird litter, or Zilla lizard (walnut) litter. I run
that stuff 24/7 for weeks sometimes w/o problem.
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:45 PM   #3
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Also, note that the media doesn't have as far to fall inside the case as the case can fall against it outside the cases, so this kind of media seldom cleans the insides of cases well. The small tumbler also doesn't let the brass fall as far as a larger one does, but it's not zero effect, as you found out.

Search the forum for posts on wet tumbling in stainless media if you want something that cleans anything, though you will need a larger tumbler for that.
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
Go to PetCo and get some KayTee walnut bird litter, or Zilla lizard (walnut) litter. I run that stuff 24/7 for weeks sometimes w/o problem.
And that will clean the interiors overnight?
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:47 PM   #5
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Even at its best, walnut imparts a slight haze finish to the brass; I believe that's caused by very fine surface scratches. It's common practice to add a small amount of Nu Finish automotive polish to the tumbling media, and that helps; but to get a mirror-bright finish, corn cob (with Nu Finish added) is the answer.

I use a vibratory 'tumbler', and run the cases about 2 hours in walnut, followed by a similar time in corn cob.

If you use corn cob, it's available from Grainger's; specify "Grade 2040", which is a particle size small enough that it won't clog primer holes.

Don't load the tumbler too full. If the cases don't tumble, they won't get clean. the tumbler should make quite a bit of noise when the cases are tumbling vigorously.
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
so this kind of media seldom cleans the insides of cases well.
So there's nothing other than stainless pins that does?
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:52 PM   #7
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I like to add a few squirts of "Simple Green" to my corn cob media to get a really shiny finish in my vibratory case tumbler!
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:56 PM   #8
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Ultrasonic cleaning with a 5% citric acid solution does up to a point. The main problem with carbon is that what's inside the case got there under heat and pressure, so it kind of stamped into the sides. Furthermore, carbon hardens with time, making it more difficult to remove.
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Old April 5, 2013, 01:58 PM   #9
Cesure
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Quote:
Even at its best, walnut imparts a slight haze finish to the brass; I believe that's caused by very fine surface scratches. It's common practice to add a small amount of Nu Finish automotive polish to the tumbling media, and that helps; but to get a mirror-bright finish, corn cob (with Nu Finish added) is the answer.
I guess I'm not really worried about a mirror bright finish. I've never been called a perfectionist. I just want to make sure the burned powder residue and oxides inside isn't too thick and that I can see any problems with the case exterior before reloading.
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:01 PM   #10
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Re: Tumbling brass not really successful

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unclenick View Post
Ultrasonic cleaning with a 5% citric acid solution does up to a point. The main problem with carbon is that what's inside the case got there under heat and pressure, so it kind of stamped into the sides. Furthermore, carbon hardens with time, making it more difficult to remove.
I ultrasonic clean then tumble overnight. Pretty cases every time.
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:03 PM   #11
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I use crushed walnut shells (the Zilla lizard litter from the pet store) in a vibratory tumbler. I stopped using liquid polish additives after an episode where clumps of wet media settled into some cases (some folks put the polish into the media and run it a while with no brass to disperse the clumps). Now I add a little powdered jeweler's rouge to my media.

I tumble for a couple of hours. The exterior of the cases is cleaned but it does not look brand new. That's good enough for me; I don't bother re-tumbling in corncob. It does not shine the inside of the cases. This does not concern me.

If I ever have a situation where my brass gets mud inside, I soak the cases in water (maybe a little dish soap) to dissolve the worst of it.

A friend brought over his Thumlers tumbler with the stainless steel pins. I tumbled some fired pistol brass. Now that brass was really clean, inside an out. It looked like factory virgin brass.

I let the wet tumbled brass air dry for a while and then reloaded it. There was enough moisture trapped in the old primers or primer pockets that it fouled the primers as I reloaded. I had a failure rate of about 20%.

You can avoid that by decapping the cases before wet tumbling, and also by drying the cases more throroughly.
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:03 PM   #12
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Just curious why you want/need the inside of the case clean.
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:09 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cesure
I just want to make sure the burned powder residue and oxides inside isn't too thick
I've never heard of a build-up in a case great enough to cause a pressure issue or to prevent you from probing for a thinning pressure ring. The only mechanical reasons I know of for removing carbon from case are the theory put forth by a knowledgeable board member that the hard carbon promotes bore wear when it comes loose and fires down the bore, and that carbon inside the case neck can make for uneven bullet pull resulting in irregular ignition (a quick twist of a bore brush inside the neck fixes that).
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:12 PM   #14
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I do not know how your how dirty your cases were when you started, for the worst of cases, that would be cases that require from 3 to 4 days of tumbling to get results, I submerge the cases in vinegar for a maximum of 15 minutes for the life of the case. After soaking in vinegar I rinse the cases at least twice, hot water is a good thing.

For the small rock tumbler, I have tumbled small metal parts and rocks for days.

Other methods, I make case spinners, when loading a short run of cases as in 20 I use the spinner, it requires less time. The spun cases at the rang makes it look like I am showing off, again, for the worst of cases and when I only have a few cases to tumble I spin first, then if necessary I can tumble.

After cleaning in vinegar it should not be necessary to use vinegar again, I know, some add salt, then citric acid etc., etc.. I don’t, in the beginning I left the cases in the vinegar for 2 days, by that time I believe too much of the case was in suspension of the liquid. The cases had turned pink/orange.

I also have used vinegar to clean old tools, again, time is the factor, 6 to 8 hours will result in good results for most ferrous metal hand tools.

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Old April 5, 2013, 02:13 PM   #15
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Cesure you should read this thread http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=520125
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
Just curious why you want/need the inside of the case clean.
Some of these cases were fired long ago and have a white/green deposit in them that looks like the stuff that forms on car battery posts. I'm thinking they may be oxides from humidity. It probably isn't weakening the case wall, but I don't want it to mess with the powder burn.
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:25 PM   #17
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That's verdi gris. Pop down to Wally World and the canning department has citric acid. It's also sold in Kosher foods areas as Sour Salt. It will eliminate verdis gris and other oxides quickly and doesn't activate the brass. Vinegar should work on the problem, too. The only thing I don't care for about it is that if you don't dry and polish afterward, the case gradually discolors and becomes harder to pick out in the grass. At a least, all mine did when I tried the old NRA formula (vinegar and salt) years ago. The citric acid treated and rinsed cases get slightly darker yellow over time, but that's about it.
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:30 PM   #18
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“Just curious why you want/need the inside of the case clean”



Case neck cleaning: I am the fan of case neck cleaning, I have the RCBS case prep center, I use the center rear position for for neck brushes, the tougher the brush, the better.

I helped a friend with forming cases he needed for rifles he built, it was almost war, I did not know if the die was going to keep the cases, I did not know if the sizer ball/plug was going to keep the case and or destroy the primer punch/sizer plug assemble. Anyhow, he insisted on Imperial Wax, to make Imperial look good I convinced him we needed to brush the necks.

I did inform him I had the ‘GOOD STUFF’ not a problem but he uses Imperial, and Imperial is all he will ever use.

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Old April 5, 2013, 02:30 PM   #19
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Just FYI...

Harbor Freight has 5lb Vibratory Tumblers for $59. Cheap, easy & no mess!

...bug
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Old April 5, 2013, 02:33 PM   #20
Cesure
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Quote:
Cesure you should read this thread http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=520125
I already read that thread. My cases don't look as bad as some of those, but the insides are nasty enough to make me think it could be a problem and, like I said, I'm not a fanatic about things being pristine. I haven't reloaded for long, but I've already reloaded some .32 cases 4-5 times without so much as cleaning the primer pockets. I figure as long as the new primers are seating well and the flash hole is open, that end is covered. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but this small batch of Norma .357 cases has some history and I want them to shoot well.
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Old April 5, 2013, 03:32 PM   #21
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I use a rotary tumbler with walnut shells. It's industrial and will hold 3 2lb coffee cans at the same time. I run cases about an hour before I de-cap and about 2 hrs after. People ask what I'm shooting, look at the brass and say factory, without my prompting. I'm satisfied.
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Old April 5, 2013, 03:37 PM   #22
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I considered adding rouge or diamond to the walnut, but I don't think it will have as much impact as simply changing the screen size of the walnut. I recently obtained a can of the fine walnut, and will give that a try soon.

Last edited by Strafer Gott; April 5, 2013 at 03:41 PM. Reason: Supplemental
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Old April 5, 2013, 05:26 PM   #23
Cesure
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Quote:
I run cases about an hour before I de-cap and about 2 hrs after.
What is the benefit of tumbling before decapping?
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Old April 5, 2013, 05:46 PM   #24
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....Not getting media stuck in the flash-hole/primer pocket and then having to clean them out in a(nother) separate step.
It also cleans/polishes the inside neck before sizing -- making the neck expander spindle much happier.
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Old April 5, 2013, 06:07 PM   #25
Cesure
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....Not getting media stuck in the flash-hole/primer pocket and then having to clean them out in a(nother) separate step.
It also cleans/polishes the inside neck before sizing -- making the neck expander spindle much happier.
That's very confusing. He tumbles after decapping, so the first part of your reason doesn't make sense and then I'm hearing that the inside of the case doesn't really get cleaned by tumbling (which seems to be the case) so the second reason doesn't make sense either.

I've only been reloading straightwalled cases for revolvers. Neck/mouth expansion for me doesn't happen until just before the powder goes in. I have noticed verdigris passing from one case to another via the expander since I've been reloading these .357s. I'll probably be shooting these within the next week, so I didn't let it bother me.
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