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Wet tumbling on the cheap? Yes! It can be done!

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by PapaGeno21, Mar 29, 2012.

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  1. PapaGeno21

    PapaGeno21 Member

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    So I have been reading over and over about the Wet SS cleaning method. I always said I would never get involved because I hate the idea of decapping. Why get into another time consuming event when you can just dump your brass into a vibratory tumbler with corn cob, mineral spirits, nu-finish, and some dryer sheets for 4 hours and get amazing results. Well, I have been receiving brass from some of my customers who know I am into this hobby, and they have been giving me brass that has sat around for years, or was range pickups, etc. Basically, my tumbler could NOT get the cases to clean up the way I liked. I cannot load brass that is not almost new looking (just a pet peeve of mine), so I decided to dive into this side of brass prep.

    The problem with me is I don't have the cash right now to go buy a Thumblers Tumbler, and building one like Bigdawgs is even more expensive. So, I was looking around at harbor freights website, and saw this. It was on sale for 50 bucks, and I had a 20% off coupon so after tax I was out the door for 43 bucks. I figured screw it. They even have a smaller 1 drum model. I took it home and started looking it over. I took some normal brass that I knew was going to be put into the scrap bin, and used some water, dawn dish soap, and a 9mm case of LemiShine and let it rip for an hour. They came out almost new. These were dirty but nothing crazy, maybe normal dirtiness from once fired type brass before I dumped them in. Either way, they came out nice considering I did not even have any SS Media in there.

    I called Pellets LLC Monday morning and ordered 5lbs of media (SCW-41 X .255). Then I went to HF and picked up another tumbler while it was still on sale. If you really didn't have the money, you could get 1lbs of SS Media online for maybe 15 shipped from somewhere, and then the single drum tumbler for 40 bucks at HF. I spent 86 on the two tumblers out the door from HF, and then 40 shipped from Pellets LLC for the 5lbs of media. Still cheaper than just the Thumblers tumbler. Grabbed a small digital scale and started decapping some brass that I want to get done. I figured if I put 3lbs in each drum, that's 1lbs media, 1lbs water, and 1lbs brass. These tumblers from what I understand are designed to hold 2lbs in each drum, then the drum itself weighs 1lb. They are for rock polishing and are literally left on for 10+ Days at a time to polish rocks. I am going to load these to 3lbs inside each so it will be a little over weight, but running only 2 to 4 hours at a time vs days I think it should be OK. Only time will tell. Weighing each out I came up with the following.

    In each drum, I can fit this many cases. Each amount comes out to 1lb on my scale.

    45ACP = 85
    38 Special = 100 (95 Nickle)
    357 Mag = 90 (85 Nickle)
    40 S&W = 100
    9mm = 120

    So for me, running 4 drums I can easily handle my weekly shooting. I love the idea of being able to separate the brass into the different drums so that I can run 45's at the same time as 40's etc. Normally I would have to do separate loads in my Hornady M-2 or they would all be having sex with each other when I put them through the media separator later on.

    Mandatory pics:

    The tumbler.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It is belt driven. They supply 6 extra belts. Some people have issues breaking belts, apparently they replace with vacuum cleaner

    belts and dont have any more problems. I am waiting to see how mine hold up.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The containers are made of a hard rubber, but you can still manipulate it with your hands.
    [​IMG]

    Here is a little scooper I made with a 9mm casing and some wire. I think I ripped this idea off of Dryflash3, but I may be mistaken. Either way, its a great cheap way to measure the LemiShine.
    [​IMG]


    Now here is the way I do this:

    Put the 1lbs of media into the container.
    [​IMG]

    Then I put the 1lb of brass in. (This is about 1/2lb of brass. This disgusting brass is a test run)
    [​IMG]

    Then I put in the water just to cover the brass. Then I add in a 1 second squirt of Dawn, and the 9mm case of LemiShine.
    [​IMG]

    Seal it up, then put on the lid and tighten it down. The first part of the lid is metal with a rubber covering, that creates the air tight seal inside.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  2. PapaGeno21

    PapaGeno21 Member

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    Here they are setup minus one drum.
    [​IMG]

    And here is a video (Click the pic) of them running.
    [​IMG]

    So here we go with some brass pics. I am still in the process of doing lots of brass. Some was given to me that was in a bucket which had about 2" of water in the bottom of it, and he said it was in his basement for 15 years. Who knows how long these sat in the water. You can see how disgusting and green some of them are. I honestly from the get go figured they would be trash, so I don't care that they did not come out sparkling new.

    Here are the before pics.

    308
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    223
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    38 Special
    [​IMG]

    45ACP
    [​IMG]

    So now here is the after shot. These are dry, sat them in front of a little fan for about an hour. I also towel dryed them when they came out. I use the bowling ball cleaning method to towel dry them. The way I dump the setup is pretty simple. I have this and I fill the bucket to the top with water then submerge the blue strainer half way. Then I undo the lids on the drums, pour out as much **** water as possible without losing the pins and then refill and do that about three times. Then I dump the whole shebang into the media seperator. Close it up and spin, and all the SS pins fall to the bottom of the 3 gal bucket.

    Here is how they came out after a 2 hour run. From top left, running in a counter clockwise circle. Good 308, Crap 308, Crap 223,

    Good 223, Good 38 (There was only one lol), Crap 38, Good Nickle 45, Good 45, Crap 45.
    [​IMG]

    Some close ups. I know the pics suck but I will get more later.

    223
    [​IMG]

    308
    [​IMG]

    38
    [​IMG]

    45
    [​IMG]

    So there is a HUGE improvement, and the clean ones feel so nice. They have no residue like how a dry tumbler leaves on them. So weird. Anyways, I am running the crap 45's again for 4 hours. I am also running some of my brass that I fired off this weekend. I am expecting that entire lot to come out like new. I figure running 4 hours should have everything come out amazing, minus the crap 45's. I really do not see how they could become better as they just seem totaled. Hell, at least they are clean scrap now!
     
  3. PapaGeno21

    PapaGeno21 Member

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    Here are the 45's I am going to run again.
    [​IMG]

    And the 357's and 9mm's I am going to run.
    [​IMG]

    AND! Here we go. This is a 4 hour run time of the 357's, some 9mm, and some 45's. This is 3 drums total. I will get to the 4th drum in a few.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    So now the last drum. Like I had said, the first run I had done were 2 hour times and they did not remove all the corrosion. Well, I ran the "crap 45's" in a drum for 4 hours with this last batch. They went from...

    This
    [​IMG]

    To this. Seems the corrosion has turned into a very faint pink now. I think I am going to run these again for another 4 hours with my next batch to see if I can get them back to normal.
    [​IMG]


    So I will keep updating with this, but that is the basics of it. I am still in shock as to how well this system works.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  4. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

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    Excellent. Perhaps one day..
     
  5. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Thanks a bunch Papageno21, I've been waiting for someone to try this wit the Harbor Freight rotary tumblers.

    Now for someone to list where one can get a pound or 2 of inexpensive pins.
     
  6. Maj Dad

    Maj Dad Member

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    O.K., Geno, you tipped me over the edge - ordering the tumbler & media & headed off down a new rabbit hole. Tally-ho! :D
     
  7. blarby

    blarby Member

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    a $50 SS tumbler ?

    I might be able to get behind that :)

    I'm gonna need a new uni decap die.........
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  8. mbopp

    mbopp Member

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    I picked up some scrungy 45 brass at the range. To decap it before cleaning I used a 44Mag expander die with the decapping pin in it. The expander didn't touch the inside of the case and the ID of the die was big enough to clear it also.
     
  9. blarby

    blarby Member

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    Papa,

    Do you think we can get you to section one of those .308's so we can get a look at the inside ?
     
  10. PapaGeno21

    PapaGeno21 Member

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    Sure I can do that later when I get home from work. Those were only ran for two hours, but they looked nice inside from what I could see. The brass that has run for 4 hours is brand new condition. It's impressive to see it in real life!
     
  11. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Impressive.
     
  12. mikeadams

    mikeadams Member

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    Too much lemishine can cause the brass to turn pink by leeching out the zinc. I have read that can weaken the brass, but I personally do not know. Wouldn't hurt to look closely at the the pink brass and make sure that's it actually crud that still needs to come off.
     
  13. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    Careful with that nasty .308 brass, even if you get it looking pretty. I've fired some corroded .30-06 ammo that didn't look as bad as that and had pinholes blow out at the corrosion -- hot gas and particles from the powder back in my face.

    I have one of those HF rock tumblers that I use for making black gunpowder. It may have another use now.

    Instead of buying SS pins, does anybody think it would work to buy a foot of #4 uninsulated copper cable and chop it into 3/4" pieces? The strands would come apart into little pins...
     
  14. CMV

    CMV Member

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    Looks great. The LemiShine amount seems pretty high for that much water. Try some newer production Speer 9mm brass if you have any. That's my litmus test for too much LemiShine in the US cleaner - it will pink before any other type I've cleaned so far.
     
  15. PapaGeno21

    PapaGeno21 Member

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    I actually am not going to use the 308, it was given to me and I don't own anything chambered in it was just testing. I will still scrap it as that was way too corroded for me to trust.

    I plan to back off the lemishine as one batch was a little bit too orangish. Gonna try half a 9mm with of it. I just love that it actually worked. Now just have to figure out the exact run times and lemishine amount to use.
     
  16. waho

    waho Member

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    One 9mm case of Lemishine is supposed to be for one load in the Thumlers Tumbler which is close to a gal of water.
     
  17. HJ857

    HJ857 Member

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    I've been using the same HF dual drum for about seven years now. It breaks a drive belt every three to six months, but other than that it's been great. I have to try the pins, but so far just let the tumbling action of brass against brass along with a bit of dish soap and concentrated lemon juice. It's been working great but the pins certainly look to make a notable improvement in the primer pocket.

    I would guess that fewer pins will do the trick just as well, and add more brass. You don't need a lot of water either since it's tumbling.

    I suggest trying a 30 minute tumbling, then a rinse which will get rid of almost all the carbon residue, then a refill and second tumble. A 3 1/2 hour total tumble leaves brass almost painfully shiny.
     
  18. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    Report back after you make your first 1000 pistol rounds, and tell us how you like having to neck lube your pistol cases!
     
  19. NeuseRvrRat

    NeuseRvrRat Member

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    i wet tumble in SS pins. haven't had to lube any pistol cases.

    have you tried wet tumbling in SS pins? are your remarks based on actual experience?
     
  20. jeeptim

    jeeptim Member

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    Very well done report thanx.
    And as i sit here two tumblers running I just don't think I can live any longer with dusty walnut shells and corn cob.
     
  21. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    No. Yes.
    I purchased SS tumbled 9mm and 45ACP cases. I immediately noticed increased force needed to bring the ram back down after flaring these cases. Enough to be annoying. And after a short while, I had galling all over my expander ring making vertical scratches all around the inside of the case mouths. I sanded off the expander ring. Even after a good polishing, I found that a little bit of Lee lube on every fourth case made the process easier. Even if the galling didn't return, the little extra sticking on the downstroke slowed me down.

    I don't inside neck lube my .223 cases, even. I imagine that might be problematic with SS tumbled brass.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  22. dbarnhart

    dbarnhart Member

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    My 223 brass looks really nasty and it takes about 12 hours in the tumbler for it to come out nice and sparkly-shiny.
     
  23. NeuseRvrRat

    NeuseRvrRat Member

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    i have noticed no difference in lubing requirements between walnut/corn cob tumbling and wet tumbling in SS
     
  24. PapaGeno21

    PapaGeno21 Member

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    I don't care about them being harder to go through the resizer, but I have not noticed a difference anyways.

    Bling brass is worth it!

    Going to section one of the 308's sometime soon.
     
  25. NeuseRvrRat

    NeuseRvrRat Member

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