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Old October 6, 2013, 10:04 PM   #1
Louca
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My Stainless Tumbling Testimony

For those who don't want to read to the end, I will summarize by saying wet tumbling with stainless media has been a total fantastic success for me. What started out as disbelief in the examples shown in photos I saw turned out to be actually true for me, too. I would share photos, but there have already been so many posted that look identical to my results. I figured the redundancy would be boring. All I can say is WOW, and I totally recommend it for great results.

See ScottRiqui's post (here: http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=520125) where he shows the same excitement I felt when I saw the first results of my tumbling experience. I wanted to tumble anything and everything I could find. I tumbled the grungiest stuff I could find and it looked new when I was done.

If you are interested in my whole story, read on.

I have been a reloader since I began shooting centerfire cartridges almost 30 years ago. As soon as I started reloading, I had to have some way of cleaning cases, primarily .45 ACP.

At first, I cleaned cases individually by hand, wiping them with mineral spirits (or sometimes far nastier stuff). I did not have much money, and most of what I could spend went toward purchasing powder, primers, and bullets. I wanted something to clean the brass but could only afford to build something from parts. So I built a rotary tumbler using a plastic jar, a motor, and rubber rollers. And it worked! I lined the inside walls and lid with foam rubber to allow tumbling (instead of sliding) and to reduce noise.

Over the years, my tumbler has processed thousands of pieces of brass using walnut and corn cob media, often taking many hours (sometimes 6 or more) to clean up to 100 cases. But it never got them really super clean, and it never ever cleaned the primer pockets. And although I used brass cleaners and polishers in the media, it never got the cases shiny. It made them clean and got me by, but I always wanted to make my brass look really nice. My carbide pistol sizing die saved me the hassle of the lubing step, the least thing I could do for it was give it clean cases.

I now have a Thumlers Tumbler Model B using stainless steel pins and the usual elixir of Dawn dishwashing detergent and Lemi-shine. I tumble anywhere from 50 to 250 cases at a time with only a small amount of stainless steel pins (about half a pound). I tumble for 2 hours MAX; sometimes less than that is sufficient. And I could do a lot more than 250 cases at a time. I anticipate my shooting volume to increase in the near future, so that is nice to know.

I realize my choice of tumbler is not inexpensive. But I wanted something that would be rugged, reliable, and relatively fast. I didn't want to worry about belts breaking, or pulleys needing adjustment right out of the box.

My big question now is regarding stainless steel pins: how many do I need to use, and when or how often should I use them. I will make a separate post on that. Anyway, what a great experience this has been. I highly recommend it for fantastic results.

Lou

Last edited by Louca; October 7, 2013 at 03:39 PM. Reason: measured actual quantity of pins I used
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Old October 7, 2013, 07:47 AM   #2
dahermit
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Just like choosing a gun for carry, it is always a matter of compromises. If I wanted the very best results (clean primer pockets, bright clean inside of cases). I would choose to use stainless steel media and equipment...especially if I was a used-brass case seller. However, if I just wanted an easy fast job on my own cases, I would not want to go through the bother and expense associated with wet media.
In short, stainless steel pins = the best. Walnut/corn cob = good enough.
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Old October 7, 2013, 08:42 AM   #3
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I've thought about trying the stainless steel pins, but am concerned about the time and effort required to dry the cases afterward. How can the cases be dried conveniently, and without leaving water residue stains on the brass? Is it better to use de-ionized water, as in the case of steam irons? Can I use my Dillon "tumbler" for the cleaning?
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Old October 7, 2013, 09:10 AM   #4
serf 'rett
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Drying brass

My simple method for drying brass. A colander is used to separate the pins from the brass. A few shakes of the colander gets rid of excess water. Brass is dumped on an old towel; where I roll it around, gather the corners and give it a few good shakes and then unfold the towel an roll a little more.

I then put the cases in factory plastic holders which have been saved or savaged; case mouth down, headstamp up. The trays are set aside in a spare bedroom. In our climate controled home, the cases will be dry in 8-12 hours.

Takes longer for me to type this than it takes to do the above steps.
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Old October 7, 2013, 09:14 AM   #5
velillen
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I dump all my brass on a towel, do a fast dry of the outside, then put them in a food dehydrator. I seperate by caliber in each tray. Run the dehydrater at 170 degrees for about 10 minutes. Brass will be dry and hot...hot enough to not want to hold on to for long
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Old October 7, 2013, 09:47 AM   #6
schmellba99
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Quote:
I've thought about trying the stainless steel pins, but am concerned about the time and effort required to dry the cases afterward. How can the cases be dried conveniently, and without leaving water residue stains on the brass? Is it better to use de-ionized water, as in the case of steam irons? Can I use my Dillon "tumbler" for the cleaning?
I drain as much water as I can in the collander by shaking it out. Dump the brass on a towel, wrap it up and dry what you can with the towel. Then lay the brass out with a fan blowing on it. It's dry as a bone inside of 2 hours.

Total time invested to get brass that is almost as clean as new brass is about 4 hours. In that same time frame with a vibratory tumbler, I would get mediocre clean (and definitely not clean primer pockets) at best.
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Old October 7, 2013, 10:54 AM   #7
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Similar process for me too. Towel off the brass and then I dump all the brass in a pile into a toaster oven that's dedicated to that use only. 150 degrees for 30 minutes, 10 minutes cooling and then priming. I picked up the toaster oven at a second hand shop for 20 bucks.
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Old October 7, 2013, 11:39 AM   #8
WSM MAGNUM
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Quote:
My big question now is regarding stainless steel pins: how many do I need to use,

Experiments has shown that using 2 pounds more of SS media than the brass. For example if you are tumbling 20 pounds of brass, then using 22 pounds of media will give the best results.
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Last edited by WSM MAGNUM; October 7, 2013 at 12:32 PM.
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Old October 7, 2013, 11:40 AM   #9
dahermit
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Quote:
I then put the cases in factory plastic holders which have been saved or savaged; case mouth down, headstamp up. The trays are set aside in a spare bedroom. In our climate controled home, the cases will be dry in 8-12 hours.

Takes longer for me to type this than it takes to do the above steps.
Bull roar! Either you are the world's slowest typer or you are only processing 25-50 cases at most. Handling each case ("...put the cases in factory plastic holders which have been saved or savaged; case mouth down, headstamp up..."), individualy is the biggest drawback, combined with having to wait for the cases to dry, of the wet/pin method.
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Old October 7, 2013, 12:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Handling each case ("...put the cases in factory plastic holders which have been saved or savaged; case mouth down, headstamp up..."), individualy is the biggest drawback, combined with having to wait for the cases to dry, of the wet/pin method.
Every method has positives and negatives. I'd argue that waiting for the cases to dry is no more of a negative than having to ensure you don't have media stuck in the primer pocket when you vibratory tumble, or having to inspect primer pockets and do additional cleaning when vibratory tumbling just does a poor job cleaning some of them.

Additionally, handling each and every case and placing them head down in a tray is a waste of time and not necessary. Using that method to compare is not exactly the most genuine of things one can do when comparing the attributes and negatives of each type of case cleaning method.
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Old October 7, 2013, 02:09 PM   #11
serf 'rett
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Quote:
Bull roar!
Now that’s funny! I assume dahermit is hinting I'm shoveling a big load of male cow excrement?

Quote:
Either you are the world's slowest typer..
I confess to being a very slow, four finger typist on the computer but things really slow down when I comment using one fat finger on the iphone. Lots of redos and retypes.

Quote:
...or you are only processing 25-50 cases at most.
My small three pound Thumler capacity is approximately 80 cases of 45Auto or 100 pieces of 40S&W or 150 pieces of 9mm. Significantly less a full size 15 pound tumbler, but more than your guess of 25 to 50 cases.

Quote:
Handling each case
When you closely read my original post, you will note that I made no claim to handle each case; oh no precious, the facts far from it. I have a high sided box which holds plastic trays. The brass is dumped into the box and the box is shaken for a 5 – 10 seconds. Well over 95 percent of the brass will drop case head down into the trays. The few which enter the trays with the case heads up are easily flipped. When everything in the tray is casehead down, the tray is removed from the box and then the cases are flipped into a separate plastic tray to orient the case head up. This allows for a quick inspection to see if there are any stainless steel pins stuck in the primer hole (rare). I’m far too lazy to handle each and every case at this point of the game.

Caressing each case is done during sorting by headstamp.

In the small tumbler, I run a 3:2 ratio of pins to brass by weight; 24 ounces of pins to 16 ounces of brass.
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Old October 7, 2013, 02:18 PM   #12
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I was pretty curious from reading about all the glowing testimonials about SS pins for brass cleaning, but not enough to pay the $$$ for the pins. So, having been owned by a large sailboat for several years I had a lot of stainless steel hardware stashed (some large containers of ss wood screws, machine screws, washers, nuts, pins etc.). So I tried these. I used a few drops of Dawn, some of Ma's Lemoshine, and water and the hardware. All brass came out very clean and shiny and better than new (except the primer pockets 'cause the hardware isn't small enough to enter the pockets). All well and good except they soon tarnished from handling and the process seemed more labor intensive (tumbling, rinsing, drying) than just tossing a bunch of brass in my wobbler and coming back later to find clean shiny brass.

But I don't need bright shiny brass. I reloaded many years before I bought a tumbler, so for me it's just cosmetic (I can inspect all my brass just fine and my dies don't wear out). There is one distinct advantage for using brighr, virgin looking brass and that's it is much easier to find the brass amoung the grass and dirt at my shootin' spot!

FWIW, I'm proud to say I handle each and every case, multiple times during my inspecting and reloading. I understand those that want new looking brass, it just don't do all that much for me. Jes my .02 worth...
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Old October 7, 2013, 04:24 PM   #13
Louca
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Quote:
This allows for a quick inspection to see if there are any stainless steel pins stuck in the primer hole (rare).
So far, I have never seen a SS pin in the primer pocket. But I HAVE seen pins stuck inside the case, lodged between one edge of the primer flash hole and the bowl shaped bottom of the case. Those can only be detected by looking inside the case which I do as I am about to towel dry the cases. I suppose it might depend on the dimensions of the SS pins.

Lou
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Old October 7, 2013, 04:31 PM   #14
serf 'rett
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I should have stated the flash hole instead of primer hole. Different animal from the primer pocket.

I sometimes will have two pins stuck in the flash hole. Pluck them out with a pair of needle nose pliers.
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Old October 7, 2013, 05:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
When you closely read my original post, you will note that I made no claim to handle each case; oh no precious, the facts far from it. I have a high sided box which holds plastic trays. The brass is dumped into the box and the box is shaken for a 5 – 10 seconds. Well over 95 percent of the brass will drop case head down into the trays. The few which enter the trays with the case heads up are easily flipped. When everything in the tray is casehead down, the tray is removed from the box and then the cases are flipped into a separate plastic tray to orient the case head up. This allows for a quick inspection to see if there are any stainless steel pins stuck in the primer hole (rare). I’m far too lazy to handle each and every case at this point of the game.
I stand corrected honey pot. I had visions of you typing two-fingered and placing each case by hand. I did not know you had discovered a faster way.
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Old October 7, 2013, 09:24 PM   #16
NWPilgrim
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My Stainless Tumbling Testimony

Another recent fan of stainless pin media!

Finally gave it a whirl after 25 yrs reloading. Fantastic. And since I don't have to poke every flashhole to remove corn cob, it is much faster.

For drying I just dump a batch into a lined baking pan and put in 150F oven for about 1 hr.
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Old October 8, 2013, 04:38 PM   #17
dahermit
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Quote:
Finally gave it a whirl after 25 yrs reloading. Fantastic. And since I don't have to poke every flashhole to remove corn cob, it is much faster.
I have only used walnut media for years. The only time I ever had any media clog the flash holes is when I have put some case polish or liquid car wax into the media and neglected to run the tumbler until the stuff was well mixed-in. In other words, my fault. In all, I have found using walnut media to produce an adequate, trouble-free shine to my cases. Further, I do not see how the flash holes could become clogged with corn Cobb unless the primers were extracted first...but even then, the decapping pin should push the corn Cobb media out of the flash hole in the hand loading process.
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Old October 8, 2013, 11:45 PM   #18
grisbald
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I've been wet tumbling my pistol ammo since the beginning of the summer and it is amazing how clean and shiny the brass looks. But I didn't have much money to spend, so I bought a gem tumbler from Harbor Freight for $40 that does the job just fine.
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Old October 8, 2013, 11:51 PM   #19
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Drying wet processed brass

I place the wet brass near one end of a large bath towel, fold the towel over the brass, and then lift the left and right sides alternately. This causes the brass to tumble on the towel, leaving a localized area of wet towel. Then unfold the towel and move the brass to the dry area. I leave them overnight. During the summer, they can be placed out in the sun and are dry within an hour.

One additional thing about wet tumbling--the cases may be TOO clean. Since there is absolutely no residue on the surface, cases may bind, even in a carbide die. Also have noted problems with the expander plug in the belling die becoming galled with brass adhering to the steel. I have found that after wet cleaning I tumble in corncob with a generous addition of Nu-Finish car wax. This coats the brass and reduces galling. This is more efficient on the outside surface than the inside, but at least 2 hours in the corncob seems to help. This corncob does not get contaminated with lead dust or any dirt, and lasts a long time. I do, however, add more Nu-Finish about every third load.
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Old October 9, 2013, 07:11 PM   #20
NWPilgrim
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Further, I do not see how the flash holes could become clogged with corn Cobb unless the primers were extracted first...but even then, the decapping pin should push the corn Cobb media out of the flash hole in the hand loading process.
Yes, when I was dry tumbling I preferred to decap cases before tumbling so all the spent primer dust did not get mixed into the corn cob media. It stays much cleaner that way, but then I would have to use a paperclip to poke through each flashhole to ensure it was clear. Most would be fine, but I found it faster to do that rapidly rather than pick up each case and inspecting the interior or the flashhole closely. My hands move faster than my eyes can focus, I guess.

In most cases the decapping pin on the sizing die after tumbling would take care of it, if it was just one piece in the flashhole. But occasionally it will be a few grains jammed together, and pressing the decapping mandrel and pin from the inside would just jam the pieces of media even tighter into the bottom of the case. I found it more reliable to poke it from outside at the case head.
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Old October 9, 2013, 08:41 PM   #21
Mavrick79
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I just let my cases air dry after making sure the outside of them is nice and dry by rolling them around a dry towel, no fans, no oven, just air. I have enough cases so that I don't need to get them dry right away.

BTW, I think I'm the exception when it comes to getting pins stuck in the flash holes. Every batch I get some and if there's some Winchester brass in the batch I get a lot. Just ordered some .047 pins and will see how that goes.
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Old October 10, 2013, 09:12 AM   #22
schmellba99
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Once I got my tumbler up and running, I tumbled 2 batches per day of brass for about 25 straight days. That got most of my brass done anyway.

The only time I had an issue with pins getting stuck was on .30 Carbine, and it wasn't in the flash hole - it was in the actual case itself. The ID of the case, if the pins were in the exact right position, was such that the pins would wedge themselves perpendicular to the case wall on occasion. Needle nose pliers removed them in short order, but that was it.

I use the Bullseye .047" dia pins http://www.bullseye-reloading.com/Pe...ing-Media.html with no issues on flash holes, regardless of the head stamp on the brass.
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