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Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

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Unread 12-14-2010, 08:09 AM
mo mo is offline
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

I don't clean my brass very often, but when I do the SS media does the best job of any product I've ever tried, and tried a bunch of them.
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Unread 12-14-2010, 10:21 AM
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

I'm sure it does MO, but SS looks like a logistical nightmare to me.
It's a combination of every bad part of every method..
And now you have not only wet brass to worry about, but wet bench, wet counters, wet tumbler, a yucky dish sop bottle, lemon shine granules, measuring spoons, moldy sifters, moldy bucket, and moldy media. Haul it all outside to dry, and clean up the inside mess till tomorrow?
Then your brass is clean enough to check your lipstick and run it into your dies, except, you have to coat every one with sizing lube.. Then I guess repeat all that water sloshing again to get it off?
The site mentioned water spots, but didn't mention tarnish or any way to protect your brass from oxidation with time. You know cartridge brass tarnishes right? Ever try to stop rust -once it starts? You can't, it's cancer that has to be cut away or converted.

The only reason to clean the inside of our brass is to relieve the volume of any carbon flakes that can build up, and potentially fall into a position that affects an ignition here or there. It's a very minor concern easily taken care of with traditional/dry cleaning. We apply a bit of polish to our dry media for a coating to prevent oxidation(from over-cleaning leaving surfaces exposed).
So unless trophies(and cash prizes) are being handed out for case internal shinyness, we should really keep our focus on function over form.

Anyway, after wetting your brass, you should dry it with a tumbler full of dry media, and then re-tumble to coat the brass with a wax based polish applied to dry media. And the sooner this is done, the less likely that oxidation will take hold and counter your chances for a trophy..
This well closes a circle of tail chasing you fadsters are falling into here.
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Unread 12-14-2010, 10:58 AM
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

I have considered getting tumbler or some sort of cleaning device, but you guys have convinced me to stay with what I have always done.

I lightly lube my cases to re-size them, and when done resizing I use toilet paper to wipe each one individually. Seems to clean them, and leaves a little residue to keep them from corroding. Can't check my lipstick with them, but they stay consistent.

Periodically I brush out the primer pockets and case necks, but nothing very aggressive.

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Unread 12-14-2010, 11:27 AM
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

"Ultrasonic cleaners or shell case tumblers ??? Please give only your experiences and not hear say."

I have both. I only use the vib tumbler for cases. I only use the US for cleaning mechanical things like string trimmer carborators and small electric motors.

All rational priced bench top US cleaners are so low powered they won't clean more than 20-30 cases at once no matter the size of the tank. The guts will over heat if you run 'em more than 6-10 minutes without allowing 10 minutes of OFF so they can cool. It takes 4 to 8 cycles to get the kind of cleaning you see on the net. They are wet when you fininsh so they need several hours to dry internally before use. If you have 20 rounds it MIGHT be reasonable to use the US but not if you need to clean 100.

Vib. tumbling is good and quite effecent. Media type matters not, use cob or nut, both work fine. Dump your cases in by hundreds, walk off and come back in a few hours (or the next day) and they are ready to use. Vib tumblers are only noisy if you don't have the bowl tightened down enough.

Liquid bath rotary tumblers using (expensive) stainless or ceramic media is, IMHO, much more effective and efficent than an US cleaner but they are still slow and leave the cases wet. They are quite.
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Unread 12-14-2010, 02:12 PM
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

My 'bulk' tumbling still gets done in a big Dillon CV-2001 tumbler with corn-cob media and Dillon Rapid Polish additive. For some of my 'match' brass though I don't like the fine dust and other associated crap (primer pocket residue, etc. that tends to find its way all over my presses and inside my dies.

I tried one of the small cheapie ultrasonic units with the 480 second (8 minute) timer, heater, and 1/2-3/4 gal (can't recall) tank. As mentioned above, it is pathetically under-powered, only has one transducer right in the middle of the tank, etc. 10-12 cases was the practical limit; more than that and whichever end of the case was 'up' didn't get very clean. Having to continually reset the timer on that unit was a serious annoyance - never noticed a problem with having to let it 'cool down' but then it wasn't putting out *that* much power to begin with.

I then tried wet-tumbling with ceramic media in a Thumler's Tumbler - first the 1/8" ovoid sticks with the angled cut on the end. They clean brass like nobodies business, but with bottlenecked rifle cases - forget it. They have a very bad tendency to pack in there and then get 'locked' until you pry out the 'key' piece that lets the rest of the pieces out. Major PITA factor! I tried some of the very small ceramic spheres (small enough to go through a regular flash hole) but they ended up being too 'clingy' (they'd stick to the case like when you pull something out of a box packed full of packing peanuts) and didn't clean as well. I over-tumbled some brass (>24hrs) in the ceramic media and ended up with some severely rounded over and burred case mouths - to the point I had to trim 5-10 thou off the case neck to get past the burrs. Not good.

I let myself get talked back into trying ultrasonic again - this time I stalked eBay until I found a quality brand-name unit (Branson) with considerably more grunt than the cheapie unit I bought originally. Two transducers (each bigger than the single one on the other unit), a mechanical timer that goes up to 60 minutes (or to continuous), and a pretty serious heater unit. I got the special lid to hold two 600ml beakers, got the thinnest glass lab beakers (so as to not attenuate as much of the us waves in the tank), had one filled with various cleaning acidic solutions (50/50 distilled water/vinegar, Citranox, etc.) and the other with a baking soda/ distilled water mix to neutralize the acid. Now I could do 20-30 cases at a time - yee-haw - and get them all the way clean. Still considerably PITA / fiddle factor involved.

When I read about the stainless steel media at another sight (Sniper's Hide) I was intrigued. I'd read about it other places; Mid Tompkins wrote part of the reloading chapter in Nancy Gallagher's book on Prone and Long Range shooting, and mentioned using steel media to wet tumble with - but what he used was a jeweler's mix that costs more for a pound than five of the wire pins does, so I'd passed. With the low cost of the pins now available, I finally tried the stainless steel media in my Thumler's Tumbler.


Cleaner than US with way less fiddle-farting around with the solutions, rinsing, etc.

Less difficult to separate the media, and less abusive to the brass than ceramic media.

No dust or primer crud on my press or in my dies. (I do decap separately)

Drying isn't too big of a deal. Our oven has a setting for 'pure convection' and I put it in for an hour or two @ 140F. I swear its the most use our oven sees...

If you don't have an oven (or an understanding wife!) just leave the brass neck down in a case tray overnight with a fan blowing on it; should do the trick.

It's certainly not 'necessary' - I just like the cases being neat and clean when I go to load them. If I'm in a hurry though and don't have time to clean as described above, I have no issues with simply twisting the necks in some #0000 steel wool, brushing the insides of the necks and get down to business loading. That works too ;)

Last edited by milanuk; 12-14-2010 at 02:20 PM.
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Unread 12-14-2010, 09:48 PM
mo mo is offline
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

Mikecr I couldn't agree with you more! All of what you said is why I don't clean very often.

Last edited by mo; 12-15-2010 at 07:50 AM.
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Unread 12-14-2010, 10:36 PM
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Re: Cleaning Shell cases.....Tumblers or ultrasonic cleaners ???

Thanks for the website for the stainless media Scott.

I do use the ceramic for my straight walled 45-90 black powder cases and it works very well. After I rinse them in a stainless screen type collandier preheat the oven to 200, put them on a cookie sheet that is just for this purpose, turn the oven off and put them in for about an hour or so. I can do 150 cases like this and have no problem with tarnish.
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