I’ve recently read someone asking about a wet tumbler and asking for advice on model (maybe on FB). And of course, there’s are ongoing questions about what washing solution to use, anything from a drop of endangered cobra semen to rare Himalayan yeti blood. This alchemy bullshit is not for me, I though, this is all too complicated and people are heard animals (read: stupid), so I am going to do my own research.
First the tumbler. I have both – vibratory (dry) tumbler (e.g. corn media) that I got for $60 (or maybe just over $100, I don’t remember) when I started reloading;
and rotary (wet) tumbler (e.g. stainless steel media), around $115.
(this is what I have)
Final straw was when I ran my dry tumbler for 6 hours and still didn’t get the results that I could have with some elbow grease and steel wool. It had to go, but I wasn’t about to spend astronomic amount of cash on one. Also, my time building one is worth more than buying one.
N.B. I use vibratory tumbler for powder coating now
Before the sandy-vagina brigade chimes in, yes, I like my equipment clean and pretty. I also like to see the damage, that you can miss under dirt. Brass gets filthy – and it does, last thing I chose to do is sit there for hours (consecutively or cumulatively) and rub the bloody things with steel wool. It keeps excessive dirt out of your gun, dies, hands, ammo storage, etc. So tumbler is a great solution for that. Anyway, moving on…
This is what I have (link above), I don’t recall what I paid exactly, but that’s the ball park. It’s been going strong for about 3 years. I run it pretty hard. Very happy. One issue I had was a leaky bucket, but I strongly suspect that it was my fault and it was replaced very quickly anyway.
So there’s that, no need to go with the grain, there are heaps of good cheap options. Bigger bucket would be great, but what I have is perfectly fine too.
The difference between wet and dry tumbling is huge!
Thing about this stuff is that it’s easy to say “comes out like new”, however with wet tumbling you can get it a lot better than new, if you are into it. I am not, I just want the dirt out and cases clean inside and out.
So here’s a practical example – 20 minutes tumbling to clean the cases, covered in carbon, dirt, lubricant, graphite and just general wear.
Cases are a lot filthier than what photo shows them as.
I pack the bucket, which you shouldn’t do… With a smaller quantity (few centimetres from the top not packet in) it would be a lot shiner. However, I just wanted them cleaned…
To get the same result will take around 4 hours in a vibratory/dry tumbler.
I am all out of cobra semen, so I decided on the following:
- Citric Acid (if you’ve been watching US videos, this is active ingredient in Lemmi Shine) (about 2 x 22LR cases worth)
- Dish washing detergent (about 44MAG case worth)
- (stainless steel media obviously)
- Hot water (just over half when bucket has all other materials in it, otherwise you’ll learn all about Archimedes principle and how it applies to your reloading bench)
As of writing this, I had the same stainless steel media, detergent and citric acid for about 3 years. A little goes a long way, There’s probably another 3-4 years in there.
So, pop all that business in the bucket, crank ye ole knob to 20 minutes and off it goes.
Every 20 minutes I’d add a tray to the dehydrator (more on that later).
After brass comes out of the bucket, it needs to be separated from the media and very well rinsed under cold running water to avoid oxidation and staining from citric acid when drying.
Again, no need for anything fancy (with caveat, if you are doing thousands of cases at a time, you probably do want a proper separator, but for me, this works).
I use this $2 cloth peg holder from Woolies and some plastic container I had laying around.
helps to have a magnet near by, in case some pins fall into the sink and they will
Now, here’s where it does get a little different. If you have grass to grow and want to watch that miracle of life in action, by all means, spread them out in the sun and wait.
Another alternative, is to preheat the oven to (google the temp, I don’t remember). Turn the oven off and pop the cases in as the oven is cooling. Make sure to leave the oven door cracked open for moisture to escape. This is certainly a solution.
Since I have a dehydrator - that’s what I use and it’s made for that. Personally, I recommend buying a dehydrator, because Jerky is delicious, then take up reloading, because now you already have a dehydrator.
That’s it. No need to get complicated or expensive.
To get them really shiny, I mean, burn retina kind of shiny that new cases could never be… Fill bucket half way with cases. Add water (also half way) and let it run for 2 hours, changing water and detergent after the first hour.