cheap reloader - needs Tumbling advice....


July 12, 2007, 09:13 AM
I'm the cheapest of the cheap reloaders and refuse to spend a dime where I don't have to.

That's why I've got a rock polisher on my reloading bench that I'm using to tumble my 45acp, 9mm and .223 brass. Granted, it doesn't have the volume of a big tumbler, but it was free.

So, last night I added a handful of wet sand, about 20 45acp cases (deprimed), a splash of white vinegar and a splash of water. I then tumbled this watery mess for about 15 minutes and the brass was clean but not shiny.

I then dried it all off and added a few handfuls of kitty litter and about 30 still-primed 45acp cases. It cleaned the brass, but again not shiny.

I've heard of adding car wax to your tumbler to shine up brass. I'm a little concerned how any chemical will react to smokeless powder or if it will weaken the case in some way.

What household items can I use to cheaply tumble my brass and make it look new again?

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July 12, 2007, 10:05 AM
I use white rice with a very small amount of brasso. I also use an electric ice cream maker I bought for $3 at a thrift store. You paid WAY too much for your "tumbler".

July 12, 2007, 10:14 AM
After I deprime and clean out the primer area, I use a old stocking and put them in the dishwasher. seems to be ok and look shinny to. I let them dry over nite or put them in the oven on low heat(no primers in them).Works for me till I can buy a decent tumbler.

July 12, 2007, 10:25 AM
Sometimes cheap is more expensive in the long run. What does a Frankfort Arsenal tumbler cost, about $40? You can clean a whole lot more than 20 at a time, you can use cheap media, it will do the job faster than any rock polisher, and it will continue to work for years. I can't begin to imagine how much of a mess a bunch of wet sand is. I dump my media into a cheap separator, and then back into the tumbler for the next batch.

July 12, 2007, 11:25 AM
White rice is a darned good idea! Wish I would've thought of that.

Does brasso hurt the powder or primer at all? What about this 'liquid car polish' that I've seen mentioned here a few times?

July 12, 2007, 11:31 AM
I use a rock tumbler type of thing too for wet cleaning. Try using lemon juice instead of the vinegar. I use a couple drops of dishwashing liquid and 1-2 teaspoons of the juice for an hour or so, no sand or any other abrasive. Works very well for me.

July 12, 2007, 11:34 AM
Tuesday at our local steel target match.
I was helping A older shooter police up his .45 ACP brass.
I noticed that he does not tumble his brass, I don't either.
We don't have problems.
If its A rainy day match and the clay mud on the brass is bad, I toss it in the kitchen sink with some dish soap.

July 12, 2007, 11:36 AM
Does brasso hurt the powder or primer at all?

Don't use Brasso or any other product containing ammonia. Ammonia weakens brass, and you don't want to weaken anything designed to contain thousands of psi.


Texas Moon
July 12, 2007, 11:40 AM
Call the local Sandblasting Supply place.
Sometimes they can get 50lb bags of crushed walnut hull real cheap.

July 12, 2007, 11:48 AM
Crushed walnut (reptile section) from pet store and Nu Finish car wax (probably any car wax for that matter). Then again, just tumble and forget about shiny.

I use the polish, but after sitting for a while, my rounds look tarnished eventually anyway.

July 12, 2007, 12:02 PM
unfortunately, I want shiny! Ain't I spoiled.
Actually, it just feels better to make new-looking ammo...that's why I want to shine it up.... but, if it hurts the case to use brass polish then I suppose it's probably a good idea to just do what I've been doing and cleaning them up and leaving it at that.

July 12, 2007, 12:30 PM
If you are that cheap why even tumble?
Does it make the brass last longer?
Do I need to clean my brass?

I am a new reloader (Less than 1000 rounds), I just recently received a tumbler (thumbler - for free). I was told it is not necessary, but I wanted to have cleaner rounds to handle and also I like shiny brass.

Why else should I tumble will the dirty shells wear my dies or magazines?
I have some walnut media, how many times can I use it before it is used up?

July 12, 2007, 12:44 PM
Good gawsh you take frugal to new heights! :neener:

First get rid of that sand! This discussion took place here a few months back. Somebody asked if sand would be a good alternative to the real stuff,(corn cob or crushed walnut). My concern is; how can you be certain that you get every last chunk of sand OUT of those cases? You certainly DON'T want any sand in your chamber, or being dragged down the barrel by a bullet.

I'm all for saving money on things that we use for reloading. That's why I use a lot of surplus powders, and cast my own bullets. But there's some things that just work better than any substitute.

Brasso contains ammonia. Ammonia is what rifle shooters use to "eat" copper that is fouling their barrels. Cartridge brass is copper and zinc. The ammonia eats,(dissolves) the copper in the brass, weakening it. Now some say that the ammonia evaporates off, leaving only the abrasive, therefore it won't hurt their cases. It only takes one case letting go to ruin your life and a fine gun!

Polish made for brass tumbling, is specifically made soft enough to polish JUST BRASS! It won't do a thing to chambers, or barrels if some remains in or on the case. Midway has a brass polish made for cartridge cases, so does dillon, Lyman and others. For a long time I used Flitz in my midway,(FA), tumbler. It shined cases like a mirror! But it's expensive, the midway stuff is cheaper.

July 12, 2007, 01:14 PM
I bought a bag (think it was around 5#) of corn cob pet bedding at the local grocery store fairly cheap. Could have found it much cheaper per pound at the local pet store, but in much larger quantity. So I spent fewer $$ for a lesser quantity. However, I've only used enough of it for two tumbler loads - the first load gets the dirty brass, then the second load gets the cleaned brass along with brass polish from Midway. Still using the same two batches of media and have only had to add a small amount of polish to the second batch after thousands of rounds through the tumbler. I doubt I'll use all the pet bedding I currently have in the next ten years.

I also throw about 4 small pieces of paper towel in with the media to collect the dirt. They only last one load in the first batch before getting filthy, but several loads in the second batch. Helps keep the media cleaner. Some people use dryer sheets, but the brand we use snags too much of the media on the edges of the sheets.

Rice is softer than corn cob, so you'll probably need to replace it more often. To my way of thinking, that makes the rice more expensive in the long run.

July 12, 2007, 02:13 PM
good advice all! I'm thinking I should probably just get the $50 tumbler....

as a note, Rice in my parts is about 38 cents per pound. A 5 lb bag of rice is $1.88

July 12, 2007, 03:20 PM
unfortunately, I want shiny!

Me too.

Try Franklin Arsenal ( brass polish from Midway. It lasts a long time and it, along with corncob media, will make your brass very shiny. I tumble my brass all day while I am at work or all night while I sleep. I've been running my Lyman tumbler for years like that. Throw in a couple of cut up static cling sheets (used ones) from the laundry and they will pick up a lot of the dirt and extend the life of your media.

.308 garand
July 12, 2007, 04:05 PM
I have use a rock tumbler as well. I fill it with enough water to cover the brass , add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and a couple of drops of liquid dishwashing soap. I set this up to tumble over night. In the morning before work I rinse the brass, wipe with towel and place in front of a fan so the inside of the case will dry. By the time I get home I am ready to start resizing and triming. My brass is shinnier than factory new brass. Hope this helps.


The Bushmaster
July 12, 2007, 04:51 PM
Oh for pete sake...!!! Buy a damned vibrater tumbler...Cheap is good, but non-productive in this case...

July 12, 2007, 06:19 PM
Non-productive? Been using this method for years and I have the cleanest, shiniest brass at the range. Works faster than a vib too. Not to mention quieter.

July 13, 2007, 09:12 AM
all good advice! thanks for all the great suggestions!
I tried the white rice last turned not so white after a few minutes. ;) so it had to be working, but it didn't really leave them shiny.

I'm going to try out the water/lemon/soap suggestion tonight! very exciting.

July 13, 2007, 10:03 AM
I've heard many people say brasso is no good for brass, I wonder how much they are using. I use about 1/2 cap full to about 3 lbs of rice. Been doing it this way for many years. I have some 223 brass that I've pretty much lost count of how many times it's been loaded, and some of that has been loaded to some interesting levels. Never saw a single problem.
I am getting lazy tho'. Last few times I've loaded for the 223 and the 308 I haven't bothered to polish at all. Pistols don't seem to mind.

July 13, 2007, 10:48 AM
I've heard many people say brasso is no good for brass,

If you do a search on brasso you will find this discussed many times. Though some people still doubt it and refuse to use anything with ammonia in it, it has been shown (at least to alot of people's satisfaction) that the very small amount of ammonia for the relatively short period of time the brass is exposed to it will do no harm to your brass.

While it's true that ammonia will negatively affect brass, it takes a much higher concentration for a prolonged period of time for the brass to be affected.

Brasso plus a little mineral spirits added to corn cob medium seems to work very well for me, with no ill affects so far.

July 13, 2007, 08:26 PM
I got my tumbler at Harbor Freight on sale for $29 about a 1 1/2 years ago. I get corn cob and walnut shell litter at petsmart. I mix about 80% corncob--20% walnut shell and tumble for 2 hours.Works great for me

July 13, 2007, 08:53 PM
You frugal guys use "alternatives" in the bathroom too, or have you finally stepped up to just one square in the bathroom too? :evil: Get the cleaner already. Clean and shiny cases reload easier, and feed/extract easier. :banghead:

July 13, 2007, 08:55 PM
What is this "bathroom" you speak of?

July 15, 2007, 04:58 PM
Brasso contains Ammonia!!!

Ammonia will break down brass making it weaker. I saw a site advocating using brasso on bmg rounds and they said it had an immeterial effect on brass so I decided to test it myself.

They were wrong, and even with with 50 cal brass, the effects were a significent decrease in the strength of the necks.

I've been shooting bmg for years, and shinny brass in no way improves accuracy. Clean brass on the otherhand does. Tarnish marks on brass are just that, tarnish. Use your fingernails to determine if the brass is clean.

When I first started reloading my brass I wanted it to look new and shinny. I tumble my brass before priming and after all the milling processes to make match loads.. that means two sets of media.. one with polishing compund and one without. Easier just to tumble and use something like 'Goo-Gone' (petrolium based) and then wipe it off.

Polishing compounds also require another step: you have to clean that crap off before sizing. IMO, not worth the effort.

Flame as you will. I know there are two camps on this. Use polishing compund made from Dillons made for bullet brass, but NEVER anything that contains ammonia like brasso.

If you want to test this yourself, buy some brass from your local hardware store, cut into 1/2 inch strips and tumble it in your brasso mix. Clamp to a vice and see how many 90 degree bends it will take to break compared to the virgin strips... I guarantee you, you'll be with me after this test.

July 15, 2007, 06:35 PM
I've been testing brasso for about 20 years now. I've loaded some things that I won't share and made me sweat alittle when I dropped the hammer. I'll stay with the pro brasso camp.

July 15, 2007, 10:14 PM
The "Thumler Tumbler" is a great case cleaner. You got yours for the right price!

Great customer service if you ever need parts. They are well built and should last a lifetime or two.

Walnut or corncob is "frugal" media. Check out the pet bedding department at Central Tractor. A little car polish and you have the bling.


July 16, 2007, 07:35 PM
Here's some cheap walnut media that works great. It's small enough grit that it doesn't get stuck in the flash hole too.

I picked some up a few weeks ago and it is working fine for me with some nu-finish car polish.

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