What am I missing re: tumble cleaning cases?


April 30, 2007, 10:50 AM
I just recently got into reloading and am still learning the ropes. I started with a loaner RCBS single stage press and components from a friend and am now using my own Lee turret press and equipment.

Everything's fine except my ability to use a tumbler, or as I suspect, I have rotten selection of cleaning media perhaps. My friend loaned me a vibrotumbler with untreated corncob media, into which he'd put some brass cleaner. I tumbled about 1000 cases of old brass clean with his, no problems, just put the stuff in and let it go. The cases came out not only clean but almost new shiny.

So I get my own tumbler (a Lyman 600) over the internet. It came with a bag of treated corncob media (was greenish looking rather than the yellow color of my friend's media). Didn't work too well - the cases got cleaner but were very dull, not shiny in the slightest.

I replaced the treated media with walnut (or walnut shell whichever it is) media and tried that. The cases get cleaner but are still not shiny - they have a very very fine coat of reddish powder on them that I have to wipe off by hand if I want them to get sort of shiny. I tried adding a couple tbsp of the case cleaner to the media per the instructions, but it didn't help - still have this coating on the cases.

Is it supposed to be this hard? My tumbler works fine - as an experiment I emptied out my tumbler and put in media from my friend's tumbler, and it cleaned and shined the cases up just fine. But, I can't find any untreated corncob media around here, it's either treated corncob or the walnut shell stuff. Has anyone here ever had these annoyances with your tumbler?

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50 Shooter
April 30, 2007, 11:07 AM
Walnut is for cleaning really dirty cases, if you want them shiny you need to use corncob. When you put the cases in the media just add enough cases so that they flow through the media at a good pace. Don't add to much polish, you only need about a capful or two. If you add to much it will stay on the brass and you'll end up wiping it off. Either that or you'll have to change the media out.

Brass Hawg
April 30, 2007, 11:16 AM
The walnut is for tougher to clean cases and will leave a dull finish on the brass. The corn cob media will clean your standard non-tarnished cases and will leave more of a shiny finish to the brass.

Lots of places to get the corn cob (treated or un-treated) over the net such as Grafs, Midway, etc. I've never checked but have heard that Walmart sells it by the 10# bags in their pet dept. People use it for hamster beds or something. May be worth a try.

I always add some Dillon polish to my media and mix the media 25% walnut and 75% corn cob. Always comes out nice and shiny.

April 30, 2007, 11:18 AM
Great, I didn't know that about corncob vs walnut. I will see perhaps if I can get some untreated.

Has anyone ever had trouble getting shiny cases with treated (greenish looking) media?

April 30, 2007, 12:05 PM
The green tinted media is Lyman Turbo Polish. It will remove stains and tarnish from your brass quicker than most polishes, with the possible exception of Flitz. It won't shine it to a high luster, though. For that, you need 1/8" grind corn cob, and some type of brass polish, as sold by Berry's, Midway, Dillon, etc. If you want the brass to really shine, then polish it for about half an hour in untreated corn cob after you've run it through the media with polish added. You can also do this with the Turbo Polish cleaned cases, but let it run about an hour to get the shine you desire.

I get my media at the local lumber yard in 40 pound bags. The price is up to $15.25 for the 40#. Just make sure you get the 1/8" size and not the 1/4" size. The 1/4" size will work for large, straight cases, but won't work at all for smaller, bottleneck cases. You'll spend hours digging it out if you try to use it.

When you locate the untreated corn cob at Pet Smart, Wal-Mart or a feed store, put some of the media and polish into the tumbler and let it run for about 20 minutes before you add the brass. If you don't, the polish will cake inside the cases and again you'll be spending time to get it out.

Once you figure it out, it's easy.

Hope this helps.


Vitamin G
April 30, 2007, 12:26 PM
I used lyman treated corncob and had the same matte-flavor finish on my 45 cases. even for up to 8 hrs of polishing. I made the switch to petstore walnut + nu-finish, and they're pretty bright. If i went to corncob + nufinish, i'd probably blind myself.

April 30, 2007, 12:26 PM

If you want shinny brass regardless of what media you use you will need to add media polish or Nu Finish car wax. I am a big advocate of Nu Finish I have been using it for quite a while and my brass comes out looking like new after only two hours of tumbling. I pretreat my media (50/50 corn Cob and walnut) after every use, that way the wax is dry and all the solvents have evaporated. Here is what I am doing:

Remove brass and pieces of dryer sheet
Add a cap full of Nu Finish car wax and run tumbler for about 10 min to throughly mix in the wax.
Take a used dryer sheet and cut it into eight pieces and distribute them in the media.
Put away the tumbler until the next time

If I need to tumble more brass in the same day I only change the dryer sheet; I don't add more Nu Finish.

I hit these primmer pockets first with a the RCPS wire brush but the media did the rest on these .223 cases after their second tumble to remove the lube:

April 30, 2007, 12:32 PM
I like Franklin Arsenal (http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=198878) polish. Berry's (http://www.berrysmfg.com/86.php) polish is said to be good as well.

April 30, 2007, 03:07 PM
I kinda like the way that Nu-Finish smells....

as noted, don't use the coarse pet store media on anything smaller than .30 cal. Picking it out is no fun.

April 30, 2007, 06:32 PM
I tumble in walnut for 2 hours with Nu Finish car polish. I hear corn cob takes longer. Idano how long do you tumble for? I am thinking about trying the 50/50 mix. This is what walnut and Nu Finish look like.


April 30, 2007, 07:07 PM
Amen to not using the Wal*Mart pet media on less .30 caliber. I use the 10 lb bags of Corncob media from Wal*Mart and it works great... for larger diameter pistol brass like .45 ACP, that is. Due to the size of the media, I often have a difficult issues with the media becoming stubbornly jammed inside smaller calibers like 9mm and .38/.357 brass. Usually what happens is after the brass has been adequately separated from the media, I have to gently tap each case against the side of my desk to dislodge the remaining particles from inside the case. Very time consuming and very annoying.

More recently I decided I'd try my hand at reloading some .223 and foolishly used this same media to tumble about 50 rounds of .223. BIG mistake! The media managed to wiggle it's way down inside the neck of the .223 brass and won't come out. Now I have about .50 very shiny.223 brass cases that are packed about 3/4 of the way full of media that simply will not come out, so do be careful when using this stuff. If it's a really small caliber that you're dealing with, you might want to resort to a finer sized media.

Just something to think about.

May 1, 2007, 12:01 AM
My brass cam out really shiny with walnut media and nu finish. the only problem I had is handling it so much the brass tarnished by the tim I got around to use it at the range does any one else have this problem

50 Shooter
May 1, 2007, 12:25 AM
It's the oil in your skin, wash your hands before placing them in a ziplock bag. Leaving them out in the open air will also cause them to tarnish some also, that's why I always put them in ziplock bags.

May 1, 2007, 01:36 AM

I have my tumbler on a 2 hour timer so pistol and rifle brass I only neck resize that do not require lubing get 2 hours of tumbling. However, rifle brass I full length like the .223 get tumbled for 4 hours; 2 hour before resizing and then 2 hours afterwords to remove the lube.

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