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How to wash tumbler media

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by GLOOB, Nov 20, 2012.

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  1. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    I know. Tumbler media is cheap. But I'm cheaper.

    I'm still pretty much using the same 2 jugs of tumbler media I have been since I started reloading, countless thousands of rounds later. I've lost some, here and there, to entropy, so I'm down to a jug+. But I still have more than 2 full tumbler's worth, and that's enough for my process.

    I've also tried adding some washable cloth/leather strips to the media to catch the dust, but this has become a bit too much of a chore to keep up. My latest method is easier.

    I put on some rubber gloves. Then I take my used media and put it in a plastic bag. Add a couple cups of water, just enough to get it all thoroughly wet, and mash the bag a bit. Then I squeeze out the excess water, add another cup or so, and repeat. I could use a lot more water, but then I'd have more "contaminated" water to process.

    Then I put the media out in a baking dish in the sun. A day or so later, it's dry, and it appears to be cleaner than media that has been used only two or three times. And it seems to work just as good. No, it's not good as new, but if you needed it to be that good you'd have to throw out your media after each batch of brass, now wouldn't you? I put this relatively clean and dry media in my "on deck" jug, and I have my replacement tumbler-full ready to go.

    I add a little Nufinish. And I tumble my brass wet, freshly drained from a prewash (I put the brass in my media separator, then lower the whole thing into a bucket, swish around, then lift and shake). My last tumbler full of brass, I ran for only one hour, and it was sparkly.

    Just to be on the anal side, I take the dirty (and it's really dirty!) water and strain it through a coffee filter. After they're dry, I put the coffee filters in an empty powder jug along with my spent primers and lead dross. By the looks of it, the layer of dust that covers the filter looks like it's mostly spent polish and actual corn cob dust. I'm not really sure how much lead is in this filter or in the filtrate. Anyways, I let the rest of the water slowly collect/evaporate and keep using the same container to catch the next batch of dirty water.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  2. Centurian22

    Centurian22 Member

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    Wow, being cheap and partially OCD myself I must give credit where credit is due. I think this is far further than I would ever go, but if the process works for you congrats. Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    One of the big kicks about reloading for me is the sustainability. I like to know I can reload potentially tens of thousands of rounds without necessarily having a storage shed full of media. :)

    I might be a little OCD about the lead, but my AC vents air in from my back patio, about 20 feet from my tumbler. I much rather have any lead residue at the bottom of a jar of water than potentially being kicked around with the rest of the dust that is constantly building up out there. I make sure to turn off my AC before I blow out the dust with my air compressor. When I dump my tumbler into my media separator and I can see a cloud of dust and the bowl is colored black, I'm not too happy. Time for a cleaning.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  4. thump_rrr

    thump_rrr Member

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    Wet tumbling with Stainless Steel media is far simpler and cleaner.
    You wont wear out the stainless pins in 100 years.
    If startup cost seems too high make your own tumbler out of a piece of PVC tube.
    There are many threads on this out there already.
     
  5. JT-AR-MG42

    JT-AR-MG42 Member

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    Note to self.
    Politely decline that cup of coffee at Gloob's house!:)

    Thanks for the washing tip on the media. I'm going to start saving my old, used media and try out your process next summer.

    JT
     
  6. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Man for the cost of $35.00 for a 40 lb bag of media at my door, I just toss it, with all the lead compounds that are in the dirty media and all the hassle connected with cleaning it, it sure isn't cost effective to me to clean it, and I'm about as cheap as they come. I like the word frugal better tho.
     
  7. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

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    I don't tumble. Could you put the medium in like a nylon stocking type bag and then immerse/do a dance on it?
    I like to reuse stuff too.
     
  8. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    There's a limit on what can or even should be reused.
    Do you refilter and reuse your engine oil?
    It can be done.
     
  9. ku4hx

    ku4hx Member

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    Every so often I'd mine the berm at my gun club to save a little over buying commercial bullet alloy. It was cheaper to mine than buy but after a time, and recovery from the now more oft sore back, I just buy the alloy and be done with it.

    It all sounds a mite silly if you write it down: obtain the alloy, mix it in a fish fryer to get the desired proportions, pour a bunch of little lead alloy muffins, later melt the alloy in a furnace, carefully cast a few thousand, lube them, size them, re-lube them, store them lovingly, load when needed, then fire those cherished little pellets away like they were free and backed by some endless supply. All that work just to be able to fling those tiny missiles out the end of a barrel in 100th the time it took to make them.

    Now days I try and limit my psychoses so I think I'll just ditch my dirty media. Which reminds me, I think I saw walnut reptile bedding on sale somewhere.
     
  10. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Interesting, Gloob. Do you use standard vibratory tumblers? And you use wet/damp media? Is it walnut? Or is it basically a soggy corn muffin? :D

    EDIT: I reread the post... the BRASS is wet when you dump it in the tumbler... but the media isn't. right?
     
  11. Kingcreek

    Kingcreek Member

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    I "refresh" my media with a few strips of cloth doused with mineral spirits. Run them in the media for awhile and discard the strips and leave the tumbler open overnight. Cleans and refreshes the media without the mess of washing it.
     
  12. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    It works a lot faster & better when it is new with fresh edges.

    You probably are using more electricity tumbling longer then you would have too if you just bought a bag of Lizard Litter at the pet store & started over.

    rc
     
  13. Etkini

    Etkini Member

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    My media is fairly cheap.. I found some walnut lizard bedding at my local PetCo for $13/10qt. That'll last me close to a year - and I can stand to throw out $1-2 worth of media.
     
  14. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    1KPerDay:
    Yeah, the brass is wet. Also I forgot to mention that I also squirt a little mineral spirits in the tumbler each time. Along with a dash of Nufinish. I also live in dry, hot AZ. So this sopping wet brass method might not work where you live. But dampening the media just a little should make the cleaning process faster.

    RC:
    IMO new media is overrated. Between the Nufinish and the mineral spiritsa
    and the damp brass, the media only needs to be cleaned of dust. Not sharp. In fact the last tumbler full of brand new Lyman media I used , I was excited. It had been sooo long since I used new media. And I was distinctly disappointed in the appearance of the brass after 2-3 hrs and decided to let it run overnight. It appears to me that the little tricks I have picked up (from the forum, largely) make so much difference in speed that the newness of the media is pretty low down on the list.

    When you polish metal by hand, do you not rub the polish with a soft cloth that has no edges? In fact, the softer and more conforming the edges, the faster the job should go. The name of the game is surface area of contact.

    One hour seems fast enough for me.

    KingCreek: I will have to try that wIth old rags that are ready for the trash.

    CertainDeaf: sounds good. Maybe I'll try that too. The only problem is all the touching of the dirty water, but I suppose nitrite gloves should do the job.

    JT-AR, I hope u were kidding. I actually use old 2 quart plastic beverage bottles to hold the filter and funnel the water. It's the same setup I use to clean and reuse solvents. I probably first did this with the media water just to see how much dust came out. But I had enough empty bottles on hand to make a couple of extra filtering vessels, and since I started casting I have been putting my dross in a dedicated bottle already... so why not? Takes a minute to put the filters in to catch the 2-3 cups of dirty water I squeeze out of a tumbler full of used media. A few hours later, the water has drained through and there's a nice, satisfying layer of crud on the filter. Basically it's like if you work in a garage, you have those collection thingys with the funnel top where you dump the used oil. Same design, with a coffee filter in it instead of the mesh grid.

    That's a bad analogy. Unless you're breaking the law, all engine oil is recycled and reused! If my car engine wasn't at stake, and I had to replace my engine oil as often as my media, and I knew how to do it, then maybe I would try to recondition it, myself. As it is, my oil changes are so infrequent, I don't even do them, myself, anymore. Cuz without the right equipment, it's a dirty job. And without an equipped garage, it's a long job of carrying all the cardboard to lay down on, ramps, wrenches, collection tub, etc to your car and back. Cleaning media like this requires a pair of rubber gloves, a plastic bag, a bucket of water, a large glass tray, a nice comfortable chair, and about 5 minutes of time. All of that stuff is already on my back patio next to my tumbler. And those tools are there to stay; they're much more essential than 50 lb bags of media. Whenever I'm painting/cleaning/reconditioning things, I use all that stuff anyway.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  15. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Member

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    AGWAY is my friend....

    I'm liking Walnut a lot better these days anyways...

    and this is one reloading expense that I don't have to keep "on the books" as my wife will happily pick it up for me, knowing that she's saving $$

    To each his own.
     
  16. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    Yep. I hear that.

    If I had someone to regularly pick up my media for me, it might make a difference (but honestly, this is so easy). As it is, I'd recycle my kitty litter if it was possible to remove the smell. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  17. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    DrillSpot delivers it to you freight free, right to your door, whats the difference. All this for 80 cents a lb.

    Not here in the free state of Indiana. In my 53 years of driving I still change my oil, 20 min. from start to finish. Not time consuming at all and I know its done right.

    I do remember back in the 1940's my dad letting oil settle out for reuse, but this was prior to detergent oil.
     
  18. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    Well, I hope you take your used oil to the nearest auto parts store or service station. It actually does get recycled.

    Again, different strokes for different folks. I used to change my oil and brake pads. And if I had a garage, I probably still would. It IS time consuming when you don't have a garage. Probably takes me a sweaty, dirty hour to change my oil when Jiffy Lube can do it in 10-15 minutes, and I've never managed to do it without spilling some oil on the ground and having to go at it with some detergent.

    Having no garage, I finally stopped doing it and gave my ramps to a neighbor. I also don't drive a lot, so I only need an oil change once a year. :) Now replacing bent forks on a motorcycle, yeah. Bought a stand just to do it and still saved $500 dollars. :) And I still change my own oil on the motorcycle. Don't have to use ramps/jack stands and squirm around on the ground, in the dark, to do it. (Not to mention motorcycle mechanics charge more for the same thing and take forever!)

    So how much do you spend a year on media, and how much do you shoot? Seems like my brand new media is filthy after only 4-5 full loads. If I can have dust-free media anytime I want for 5 minutes of relatively clean busy work, I likey. Clean bench, clean patio, clean tumbler, clean media. All goes hand in hand and gets the most use out of one pair of gloves. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  19. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    Yeah right. Can you explain how it's recycled. In most places it's dumped into heavy duty drums and buried in the landfill with everything else.
     
  20. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    Um, same way you get the oil in the first place. Like barrels of crude, they go through the refining process to fractionate out the various distillates. Where do you think they get gasoline, various grades of oil, kerosene, diesel, mineral spirits, lighter fluid, etc to begin with? It doesn't come out of the ground that way.

    Edit: Even if our current demand for gasoline creates an overabundance of engine oil grade petro products, thereby making it financially burdensome to recycle used motor oil, is it still not better off sealed in a 55 gallon drum in a designated landfill rather than poured into the ground in various random locations? There are both the environmental concerns and also the possibility of salvaging said oil in the future if demand is ever high enough.
     
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  21. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Yes I do. Auto Zone is where I used to take it till I learned the repair shop that does the work I can not handle gets it from them for free for use in the oil heater in the winter. I now just give it directly to the auto shop. They burn it for heat, its not recycled.

    Spend on Media? Still using the bag I got over a year ago.

    How much do I shoot? Yearly, 20 30 thousand rounds not counting .22 rimfire.

    All my cases get tumbled before reloading. I never tumble to remove lube, don't like that grease in my media.
     
  22. floydster

    floydster Member

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    If I ever get to the point of thinking about washing the Media, I'll hang it up:)
     
  23. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    And how much have you gone through, and how much did the bag cost?

    I am still using primers I bought over a year ago, but that don't make 'em free. :) Heck, you might be able to save enough money to pay for one of your DIY oil changes! :)
    Same difference. Reused, repurposed, w/e. The oil is fundamentally changed after it's used long enough, but it's still a slurry of mixed hydrocarbons and impurities, just like the stuff that comes out of the ground.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  24. dragon813gt

    dragon813gt Member

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    Most used motor oil is burned in waste oil heaters around where I live. The companies that don't burn it sell it to a waste oil company which then sells it to the companies that burn it if their supply doesn't keep up with demand. A one million plus btu boiler goes through a lot of oil. Which is why we have to clean it monthly.

    As far as cleaning media. I will just buy new. My round count depends on how dirty the brass is. I rotate the media and have an old batch for initial cleaning of dirty pick ups. And then a relatively clean batch for everything else. I might have gone through ten pounds this year with tens of thousands of cases cleaned. Just not worth it to clean it at $1 per pound at Harbor Freight. I'm also anal about the media and know I didn't need to throw most if it away.


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  25. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    +1, here. I want my media to perform well, and my cases shiny, polished, and relatively dust-free. And I don't want to run my tumbler overnight. The convenience of having highly performing media and clean, shiny, polished cases, without having to rebuy/inventory/store media is kinda nice. I don't know if you got the memo, but my recycled media with Nufinish and mineral spirits works better and faster than unaltered, brand new Lyman polish treated media, anyway. So why buy new media along with the fresh batch of corn cob dust that comes with it?

    I've read threads where a newb is wondering why his tumbler isn't getting the brass clean and shiny like he expected. Solution is add Nufinish and mineral spirits. Problem solved. It's not the sharpness of new media that cleans and polishes brass. It's the sharpness of the polishing particles in the Nufinish and the solvent properties of mineral spirits that turbo cleans and polishes brass! The only reason you have to throw away your used media is because it gets bogged down with dirt, powder residue, and the waxes/oils (or polymers) in the polish and case lube. These are quite simple to wash away.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
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