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Homemade wet tumbler for stainless steel media

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by jmorris, Dec 2, 2011.

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  1. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    The results using stainless steel media always impressed me; however, being accustom to the large batches my big Dillon tumbler can turn out the idea of only being able to 2 lbs of brass (only 230 rounds of 9mm) at a time just wouldn’t be worth it.

    The Thumler’s tumbler despite costing almost $200 is only good for 15 lbs . Once you add 8 lbs (a gallon) of water and 5 lbs of SS media that only leaves 2 lbs of brass. You can also get a 40 lb tumbler as well but at almost $700...well if I wanted to burn money I would just buy new brass.

    I started out ebaying parts, a 1/3hp 40 rpm gear motor ran $30, 1” pillow block bearings (1500lb load rating) for $8 and a Lovejoy coupling for another $10. I then made a frame out of ¾” to mount the motor and bearing box. Cut a disk out of 3/8” steel and mounted a 100 lb (12.2 gallon) bucket used to hold chlorine onto the disk using 10-32 bolts. I slid another bucket into the first one and cut slots into the outer bucket so the inner bucket would inner lock with it. I then cut 4 ribs 1 5/8” tall out of ½” thick plastic and bolted them in to the inner bucket, using 10-32 counter sink bolts, every 90 degrees to agitate the brass and media.

    The media is pretty expensive at $25 for five pounds so I only bought 10 pounds for initial testing, so if it didn’t work I wouldn’t be out of too much money. So I started out with only a gallon Ziploc bag of .223 and a few hand full’s of 458socom for the trial run.

    The mix was 2 gallons of water, 2 table spoons of Dawn dish washing soap, ½ teaspoon of Lemishine detergent. Even at over twice the capacity of the Thumler’s B model there is still a lot of room for more.

    I ran the mix for 1 hour and separated the media/brass using my Dillon separator, rinsed the brass with clean water and dumped it onto a screen I built for drying dip lubed bullets. It was kind of cool today so I set a heated fan up to help dry them out. In about 15 min they were all dry.

    It’s not much to look at but once I get a few more bags of media I figure it will tumble around 4500-5000 9mm cases at a time and I will have under $180 invested including the 20 lbs of media.



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  2. Deavis

    Deavis Member

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    almost as cool as your brass separator
     
  3. LBEE

    LBEE Member

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    Awesome Job, however, is this machine full of Brass make a lot of Noise when running?
     
  4. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    Looks like it worked good with the volume you are looking at. A few more paddles may make it quieter if need be and turn over the brass more too.

    Good Work....
     
  5. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    It was a much faster build than my brass sorter and it makes less noise too. It sounds a lot like carrying a cooler with more water than ice in it around. I cut 6 vanes but only installed 4, it still gets them shiny inside and out in an hour.

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  6. amlevin

    amlevin Member

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    I too want to be able to do large batches. Here is the direction I plan on going.

    A small cement mixer like this:

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    To keep the inside of the drum from wearing out and to cut noise I'm going to coat it with bed liner material. A gallon of the stuff from the local Auto Parts house or maybe even a first class job by the local "Rhino Bed Liner" shop.

    All that needs to be fabricated is a cover for the opening but a modified 5-gal pail lid should work.
     
  7. dnmccoy

    dnmccoy Member

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    dosnt a cement mixer seem a tad expensive copmpared to just buying a 80$ motor and another 25-40$ in parts to make a homemade one?
     
  8. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    I have a cement mixer down at the farm, that is old enough it was made in America, I had thought about using. The bed liner is a good idea or you would first have paint and later on down the road rust mixed in with your brass. I had also thought of putting a bucket inside (as I did above) but I wasn't sure if the duty cycle would be high enough. They don't design them to run for hours on end as it only takes a minute to mix the cement. In the end it was the size that made me come up with a different machine. The one I have is so big I would have had to move the refrigerator out of the shop and that just wouldn't work.
     
  9. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Chineese cement mixers are under $200. Worth every penny I'm sure, pretty flimsy compaired to my old Sears mixer.
     
  10. amlevin

    amlevin Member

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    The "chinese mixers" are surprising in their durability. Especially if only "mixing" lighter product than concrete.

    I've been amazed at how well they do work for the price. I used to sell compressors against the Chinese products. Aside from just plain looking cheap they were better performers than expected.

    I'd like to be able to just run a huge batch of brass, all at once, and only have to do so once per month or so. With one of these I could run all my .223 and 9mm brass at one time and just sort the clean brass after it's dry.
     
  11. Kend

    Kend Member

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    Where do you get the stainless media for $25??
     
  12. LBEE

    LBEE Member

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    Stainless Media for $25

    Call Kathy Reitz at 800-336-6017 for the stainless Media for reloading, she has sold a bunch of it & Knows the correct Size .041x265
     
  13. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    I ordered it from here.

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    They ship two bags in one flat rate box.
     
  14. nojoke

    nojoke Member

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    Has anyone every tried SS media in a vibratory cleaner?

    Does it have to be wet?
     
  15. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    I'd think it would destroy the brass if used dry.

    I also think the weight would kill a vibratory polisher in short order.
     
  16. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    In a vibratory tumbler all of the pins go right to the bottom. If you don't have any water the soap and lemishine by themselves are not going to do anything.
     
  17. StaTiK

    StaTiK Member

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    I've heard that some of the "cheaper" mixers use a heavy duty plastic drum rather than steel. Plastic sounds ideal for this application.

    A quick search found <this>, but not a price. Just an idea.

    -StaTiK-
     
  18. orionengnr

    orionengnr Member

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    Great post.

    Anyone who says American Ingenuity is dead...hasn't spent much time on THR.

    My initial thought was that I don't process enough brass to justify the expediture, but I appreciate the thought that went into this.

    Upon further review, I spend way too much time separating my range brass by caliber, and then tumble batches by caliber.

    Being able to toss everything into one bucket and have it all come out perfectly clean inside and out has a certain value. Still not sure I understand the bucket-within-the-bucket...and the pics don't help. What am I missing?

    I need to look into this further. Mostly, I need to find space to set it up :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2011
  19. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    I built a brass sorting machine (the one Deavis referd to) to sort brass before tumbling so I don't have a problem with cases nesting inside one another. It's a bit more complicated and takes up even more space.


    The bucket in a bucket part is so you don't have to handle the entire machine to fill and empty. Just slide the driven bucket into the drive bucket. If you look at the 4th photo above and the one below you can see where I notched the drive bucket to enguage the driven bucket's handle gussets to work as "drive keys". It would work using only one bucket but would be a real pain to have to stand the whole thing up to fill and even worse to have to picke it all up to empty.

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  20. rondog

    rondog Member

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    This is a wonderful idea!!! I also want to go stainless, but the small Thumlers is the stopping issue. Can you put up some more photos please? Wide overall shots, different angles, motor details, rollers, etc. I'm especially interested in the size and angle of the whole thing. I'd like to build the same, but maybe smaller. I can't tell how big your whole rig is.
     
  21. Deavis

    Deavis Member

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    I can tell you from experience that the cemebt mixer is only okay. In the end, I found that I could tumble brass faster and have a better finish by using ordinary vibratory cleaners. 5 Dillon tumblers can turn out shinier brass in less time than a cement mixer.
     
  22. Otto

    Otto Member

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    For convenience, you might consider a Gamma Seal lid for your bucket. They're air tight and work with almost all 5-7 gal buckets.

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  23. jrhines

    jrhines Member

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    Hard to keep ahead of the mob...

    his was my solution a few years back...
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=306163&highlight=priceless
    (Scroll down to post #25)


    The SS media is new to me, haf'ta look into that. Am I correct in assuming that one can wash the media and reuse many times?? What is the life span (observed? expected?). $50 for walnut shells will not last an entire multi-gun season.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2011
  24. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Ron, I'll upload some more photos tonight.

    Otto, I looked for other lids but I couldn't find anything different for the 12.2 gallon bucket I used. Silicone lube on the O-ring helps quite a bit.

    Jr, everything I have read makes me believe it will last forever when used with brass; however, only time will tell. They haven't lost any diameter that I can measure (mics only go to .0001) but they are shiny now so some amount had to be removed.
     
  25. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Here you go rondog, no rollers just one bearing block. The frame runs the entire length so it won't tip when loaded and it's not sitting on the motors fan cover when I lean it upright for storage. I also included a photo of the motor ID plate but any 40 +- rpm motor with enough torque would work and if you had to buy one new it wouldn't be worth it as it's over $600 new.

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