I'm Underwhelmed; ultrasonic vs. tumbling

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by berettaprofessor, Jul 4, 2016.

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  1. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Having read so much about the wonders of ultrasonic brass cleaners, I bought a Hornady LNL Sonic 2L and gave it my first try today. Brass was previously tumbled lightly, so I removed the primers and ran a load of 9mm with the Hornady One Shot Ultrasonic Solution and another of 45 ACP with Lemishine, as recommended here on THR. 20 minutes on both cycles. Yeah, they're a little brighter and cleaner, but the insides and pockets are still not entirely clean...better, but hardly worth the extra time of depriming separate from resizing, and drying the brass.

    So, am I doing something wrong, or was I just expecting too much? Gullible for even caring to have shinier brass? I should add that I'm not necessarily OCD about how perfect the rounds shine anyway.
     
  2. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    I bought the RCBS Ultra Sonic Cleaner and my results were the same as yours, underwhelming for cleaning brass. I'll stick to my three vibratory tumblers for that task.

    It did loosen some gunk from some neglected molds when I used the metal cleaning solution, though, so I guess it has it's uses.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  3. Jmoreno88

    Jmoreno88 Member

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    i believe the sonic cleaner is pretty underwhelming. Are you sure you didnt mean to use a wet tumblr with lemishine? That's what i use and its by far the cleanest

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  4. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    I find wet cleaning brass far too messy for the volumes I do. I have three vibratory tumblers and they're running most of the time. Tumbling has worked for me for the past 52+ years, and I've found nothing that works better for me. A small volume reloader/shooter may find wet methods work for them, though.

    Fred
     
  5. berettashotgun

    berettashotgun Member

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    I used beakers filled with 50/50 water vinegar and a touch of powdered auto dish washing soap as an emulsifier to keep the mess down. Worked excellent.
    Hold a piece of heavy aluminum foil in the tub while running to find the strong locations - the foil will have holes in it, place the beakers ( stuffed full of brass and solution ) in front of the "strong" locations.
     
  6. Jmoreno88

    Jmoreno88 Member

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    I agree, if youre doing 1,000+ brass cases constantly then wet tumbling definitely isn't worth it, but doing under 1k at a time isn't bad

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  7. goldpelican

    goldpelican Member

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    An ultrasonic is a cleaner, not a polisher. Lemishine and Dawn with hot water are the trick.

    I deprime, then US clean before resizing etc. I use a vibratory tumbler to polish the cases and remove lubricant after resizing. That gets them clean and shiny.

    I don't want the black crap that ends up in the bottom of the US cleaner going into my dry media and spread around in the air to be breathed in.
     
  8. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    When I first got into reloading back around 1980, I cleaned cases with an ultrasonic cleaner primarily because I already had one on hand.

    Cases came out clean, but not shiny. Today's magic elixirs may brighten the cases better than the cleaner I was using back in the day.

    I dry tumble small batches of cases then once in a while, I will wet tumble all the cases I have stored up for one cartridge and get them sparkling clean.

    For me, wet tumbling is a bit labor intensive to separate the pins from the cases. THis is partly due to the quantity of cases cleaned per tumbler load.

    I obtained a small rock tumbler recently to try wet tumbling small batches and see if I can process the cases a little more efficiently., or maybe a bit less labor intensive might be a better term.

    I have plenty of cases on hand and generally process the cases getting them ready for loading shortly after shooting. Small batches go quickly, as a rule, and I always have a supply of cases on hand ready to load.
     
  9. armarsh

    armarsh Member

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    I have a large US cleaner 300W ~1.5 gallon with built in heater. 30 Minutes at 150 Deg F with Citranox will clean about three quarts of brass spotless inside and out. The hot brass dries quickly. I can US clean brass as quickly as I can make it. In other words it is not a bottleneck for me when processing large batches with a LNL and case feeder.

    You can make your own cleaner with lemishine and dish soap but Citranox is cheap too. A gallon lasts me a couple years and is $45 https://www.alconox.com/resources/StandardDocuments/TB/techbull_citranox.pdf Each gallon will clean 96 quarts of brass the way I use it.

    I have no experience with pins. My system works and I have a US cleaner to use for other items. For example dug up bottles come clean in minutes - inside and out. The only advantage I think pins have is it looks to me that the pins get cases shiny where US will only get the cases clean.
     
  10. rjbmjb
    • Contributing Member

    rjbmjb Contributing Member

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    I was also underwhelmed by the ultrasonic cleaner. I bought one because dry tumbling takes a long time and I don't like the noise. I know a lot of reloaders don't care if their brass is shiny, but I like loading ammo that looks as good as commercial rounds, and US doesn't polish the brass.

    I finally switched to wet tumbling. The brass comes out clean and shiny. It does take longer when you add in the drying time, but it is not as noisy and dusty as dry tumbling. I haven't tried using an oven or cloths dryer to speed the drying process- I just let the brass air dry in front of a small electric fan.
     
  11. 475

    475 Member

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    I think you simply expected what the hype suggests. I almost fell into the trap myself but recently read a ton of reviews before deciding which brass cleaning method to go with. No doubt the general hype of supposed expectations with US cleaners is BS.

    Shiny or not is obviously subjective. I want the shiny/mirror finish with ultimate cleanness (inside and out including primer pockets) and therefore wet tumble in a rotary tumbler with the stainless steel pins, Lemi Shine, Dawn and water, and love it. But like ReloaderFred and Jmoreno88 brought up, I also don't load so many cases at a time that it becomes counter productive to easily wet tumble. Though I know of people wet tumbling with a cement mixer who do 1000s of cases at a time. So I guess depending on circumstances it can work.
     
  12. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Well, thanks for the info. I'll try the Dawn addition to the lemishine and heat the brass (the instructions said not to). I understand wet tumbling/stainless steel would help, but that's a mess I don't want to get into. I don't really care how shiny they are, but I want them clean.
     
  13. FiveInADime

    FiveInADime Member

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    Don't heat the brass, just use hot water. I put a pot of water on the stove and bring it almost to a boil and then I mix in the dawn and lemishine right before pouring it in the US cleaner.

    I go for about 30 minutes with mine.

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  14. amlevin

    amlevin Member

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    I'm a pretty "High Volume" reloader and I love the wet process using SS Pins.

    Bought a Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler. Holds 700 or so .223 cases, 300-400 .308, and more 9mm than I care to count.

    I deprime my brass with a FA Hand Depriming tool and then tumble the load for 1-1/2 to 3 hours, depending on how dirty it is.

    When finished and rinsed the rifle brass gets annealed which takes care of any drying issues. The pistol brass just gets shaken well in the media separator when removing pins and left to air dry. Have many thousands previously cleaned that are ready for loading.

    My experience with brass cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner has been less than rewarding. I now just use mine for cleaning AR-15 BCG parts. Does great on them. On brass, not so much.

    The SS Pin method gives me brass that's just about "package new". No crud ANYWHERE, inside, outside, and in primer pockets. The "shine" is good enough for me as well. The pins burnish rather than polish so they don't have the same level of gloss but they look good and most importantly, shoot well.
     
  15. Damon555

    Damon555 Member

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    My brother has an US cleaner that he used for a while then got tired of all the extra messing around with the brass and went back to a regular tumbler. He uses his US for extremely dirty brass on occasion but that's not all that often.

    As for me.....Dumping a bunch of brass into my vibratory tumbler and letting them run all night is so easy I don't see any reason to do it differently. The brass is plenty clean for reloading and still looks very nice (which doesn't really matter to me).....I couldn't care less how clean the inside of the case or primer the primer pocket is.....none of that really matters.

    But as I always say.....Reloading is a gadget intensive hobby. The folks that make reloading equipment will build any little fiddly toy that they think they can make money off of......and we all fall for it somewhere along the line. But as the years have gone by I've found myself using fewer and fewer specialized tools.....the basics are all that are really needed.
     
  16. spitballer

    spitballer Member

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    I used to think the fewer cases the better, but about a month ago I was pressed for time and I dumped a whole box of cases in the ultrasonic cleaner and it started screeching for the first time in years. I can always tell when my cleaner is in top form because the cases will set up a good screech. It also seems to help if I give the basket a good shake beforehand, to get the cases to settle down and rest against each other. This is for a cheapie Lyman 700, I don't know about the more expensive ones. FWIW I've never been able to skip cleaning primer pockets beforehand or swabbing inside around the flash hole afterward.
     
  17. carbine85

    carbine85 Member

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    People put way too much into brass cleaning. Soak your brass in Simple Green for 20-30 minutes and it's ready to be resized.
    I use the Ultra Sonic for cleaning parts
     
  18. Hondo 60
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    Hondo 60 Member

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    When I first heard of wet tumbling & ultrasonic cleaning I was confused by the 2.
    I thought they were the same.

    But I've since learned that wet tumbling with stainless steel pins is a VERY effective way to get shiny brass.
    Sometimes it even comes out looking like new.
     
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