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Switching To Wet Media

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Cosmoline, Jul 5, 2011.

  1. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Senior Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    Los Anchorage
    I've used a vibratory tumbler for years with the standard dry media, but I've always found cleanup messy. Plus bits of media are always getting in primer pockets, and the cases never really seem to get clean. After reloading even "clean" cases my fingers would have lead and powder smears on them.

    So I made the leap and got a Thumbler Tumbler plus some sidewinder concentrate cleaner. I'm in the middle of cleaning a backlog of about 1,000 rounds of .38 and .357 plus a few hundred assorted rifle rounds. Here are my observations so far:

    --Even without a stainless media in the mix, the wet solution is getting them much cleaner than dry media ever did.

    --Primer pockets are coming out cleaner and in much less need of scraping.

    --The wetness adds to cleanup time. Instead of being able to go from the tumbler to the press I have to rinse the cases extensively then oven-dry and leave at least overnight for the rest of the water to evaporate. In humid areas this could end up taking even longer. In my case this does not matter since I do this cleaning in big batches then sort and prime. Actual final loading waits for some future time. I get them all ready so all I need to do is pull out the bag and put the primed rounds in the block for powder and bullet.

    --The tumbler is quieter than a vibratory, but has more moving parts. I hear good things about the thumbler but I'm not sure how many years this will last. The axles turn on hard plastic channels riding on the edge of a steel support. I suspect over time that steel will wear the plastic down, but we shall see. I put a drop of all purpose oil there to help avoid friction.

    --The whole setup is much easier to store. The thumbler is small and fits inside a plastic bucket which also acts as the drainer. Instead of a special media sifter I got a $1 colander at a garage sale.

    So far, so good!

    Any pointers appreciated.
  2. Shmackey

    Shmackey Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Various thoughts:

    The Thumler will last forever.

    You don't really need to scrape primer pockets.

    Even with a Thumler on my bench, I haven't switched to wet because it seems like more work, not less--and I'm very happy with how my brass comes out when I use corn and polish.

    The Thumler really is wonderfully quiet.
  3. Canuck-IL

    Canuck-IL Senior Member

    Feb 15, 2005
    I use 3/4 gal of H2O to get more brass within the 15# limit - works fine.

    Real Lemon concentrate (or the store brand X) works as well or better than Lemishine and the other commercial products and is easier to find/cheaper.

    I still use a rotary separator placed inside a large plastic bin - keeps all the pins in one place for magnet pick-up ... I do use a pair of dollar store colanders for a final, back'n'forth rinse when I'm sure the pins are out.

    An hour on the back patio atop a black plastic garbage bag takes care of the drying, at least at this time of year. Setting the colander atop of the AC exhaust is also pretty effective.

    It definitely takes a little more time to separate the media and dry the cases but the lack of indoor dust and the way the dies/press stay absolutely clean is worth it to me ... that and the end of cleaning rifle primer pockets.
  4. HK SD9 Tactical

    HK SD9 Tactical Member

    Jan 10, 2009
    I am using a Harbor Freight dual drum rock polisher. I use the SS media and like the way my brass comes out nice and clean with no dust from walnut or corn cob media. Because it is done in a sealed container in a wet environment, I don't worry about lead dust either. It does take some time for the brass to dry, but here in Florida at this time of year, a couple of hours exposed to the heat of summer and its dry or laid out on a towel and its dry overnight.

    As far a rinsing the brass, I dump it all in a colander over a colander that has a old T shirt in it. The top colander catches the brass allowing the pins to fall through and the under colander catches all the pins. I cleaned about 3000 cases in a couple of days doing this. I was thinking about getting a seive to catch the pins but they are alot more money than the dollar store colanders and old t-shirts.

    The HF rock tumbler drums are made of heavy rubber and they will last forever. I got the dual drum for $56.00 with the 20% coupon. It's on sale right now, it was $89.99. Should of did this a long time ago.

    I will still use my vibratory cleaner as needed though so I keep saving the old dryer fabric softner sheets to collect the dust. Its not 100% but it helps alot.
  5. Canuck-IL

    Canuck-IL Senior Member

    Feb 15, 2005
    Yeah, I also keep a vibratory around ... haven't figured out how to wet tumble the lube off of loaded rounds ... yet ;)
  6. amlevin

    amlevin Member

    Jan 15, 2007
    NW Washington
    I use my old Sidewinder with Stainless Steel Media. As for the extra hassle, I just dump the solution, pins, and brass in my media separator. A few turns of the handle and the pins are in the bottom of the separator. A quick rinse in HOT, HOT water, then spread out to dry on a towel is all that's necessary. I do let my brass sit overnite although when I'm going to anneal, the drying process is really quick.

    I don't see this as all that much work when considering how much cleaner every part of the brass is. I start a batch after breakfast, take it out just after lunch, rinse/dry, and it's ready to load the next day if I choose. I have enough brass in "rotation" that I really don't have to load anything coming out of the tumbler for several days so it has plenty of time to dry.

    I hate the dust that the vibrator/tumbler leaves around it so it has been idle for some time now. Am keeping it around just in case I decide that I need a jewelry quality shine on a batch of brass.
  7. GLOOB

    GLOOB Senior Member

    Sep 16, 2007
    I agree that brass never comes out completely clean with a vibratory tumbler. It will always makes your fingers black when you handle a lot of brass. But it helps tremendously to wet the media down with something, whether it's polish, mineral spirits, alcohol, or water. Or some combination of the above.

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