Educational Zone #154 – Wet Tumbling Brass for More Bling

I have been polishing my brass for years in a standard vibrating tumbler with corn cob media.

It works really well, and does a good job.

But it doesn’t really clean out the primer pockets as well as I would like.

Here are my vibrating brass polishers.

Here are my vibrating brass polishers.

However, a friend on AR15.com, dryflash3, posted a thread in the Reloading Forum that is now 30 pages long about a system he uses to get brass really shiny. I was amazed at how shiny his system made the brass. It made awful, filthy brass, some of it looking like it was buried in mud for years, look as good as brand new brass.

I decided to get such a system myself, and thought I would post about it on my site.

Before we start, I want to address a comment someone made in another thread about polishing brass. He noted that it was a “waste of time and won’t make the cartridges shoot any better”. And he is exactly correct about the shiny brass not shooting any better. But some of us “like” shiny brass and that’s why we shine it up. If you don’t care about that, then just keep on shooting that old nasty looking brass.

The system uses a Thumler’s Tumbler, which was originally designed to be used to polish rocks for folks that make jewelry with the stones.

It consists of a base with roller shafts, and an electric motor.

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It also has a large drum which has a rubber lining and can be sealed to hold water and cleaning solution.

Some folks had complained about vibration and noise, but my buddy Ted gave me a rubber mat that I placed the tumbler on and it really cut down on any vibration.

It makes less noise than my vibrating polishers.

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The drum comes with some wing nuts to secure the lid.

I had also learned that there were some nice knobs available from a place called McFeelys.

They are part number JKA-2500, 1/4-20 FEMALE FLUTED KNOB, and you need 6 of them.

I ordered them while I was waiting for my tumbler to arrive.

I ordered the whole system from Stainless Tumbling Media.

They had a package deal that included 5lbs Stainless Steel Media, a Thumler’s Model B Rotary High Speed Tumbler, an STM Rotary Media Separator, and some LemiShine Detergent.

The whole kit was on sale for $255.

There are so many folks buying these that there is a back order in place for a couple of weeks.

But the Brown Truck O’ Happiness showed up yesterday with my kit.

One great advantage of AR15.com is that I can learn what others have already learned and I don’t have to re-learn the lessons myself.

A problem a couple of guys noted was that the inside of the drum was not painted and could rust.

So, as soon as I got mine, I pulled out the rubber lining and painted the inside of the drum.

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It came with great instructions from STM. Here are the simple instructions.

It is actually pretty easy to do.

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Here is what some of my .223 brass looked like before cleaning.

Here is what some of my .223 brass looked like before cleaning.

I counted out 160 rounds which would be about the correct load, and marked a container so I would know in the future to just fill up that container and I would have the proper load.

I ran the stainless steel media through a cycle to pre-clean it as per instructions.

Here’s what it looks like.

Here’s what it looks like.

The media is stainless and that means you can just leave it wet and it won’t rust.

It is also magnetic, so if you spill any, it is easy to pick up with a magnet.

All you need is some water, some Dawn dishwashing detergent and some Lemishine.

I dumped the brass in the drum, added a gallon of water, a couple squirts of Dawn dish detergent and a ¼ teaspoon of Lemishine.

Then you seal it up good and tight and start tumbling it. I let it run for 4 hours.

As an aside, this tumbler was made for rock polishing as I mentioned, and it is made to run 24 hours a day for weeks at a time. It can handle cleaning brass with no problem.

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I kind of splurged in buying the kit with the rotary media separator, but I had helped my buddy Ted clean some brass with his system and it was kind of a pain getting all of the stainless media out of the brass.

This ought to make that easier.

After it ran 4 hours, it was done.

I opened it up and poured most of the water out.

If you have the correct amount of soap, there ought to be suds.

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Getting rid of some extra water.

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The brass and media were poured into the separator.

I submerged the brass into clean water and turned the handle and it rinsed it and removed the media.

It only took about 60 seconds.

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I poured the brass into another container.

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I then poured the water off of the media.

The media can be re-used for a long time.

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And here’s what the brass looks like after cleaning.

And here’s what the brass looks like after cleaning.

The primer pockets are especially clean.

It is simply amazing how good this brass looks.

I dumped the media back into the drum and it is ready to go again. It doesn’t matter if it is wet.

I rinsed the brass off and laid it out on a towel to dry.

I was surprised that not a single piece of the steel media was left in the brass.

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There were a few rounds with the steel media stuck in the flash hole, but it was easy to remove.

Some folks heat it up to dry it faster, but I am in no hurry and will just let it dry overnight. It is then ready to reload.

One interesting advantage to really clean brass is the ease of inspection.

After I cleaned this brass, my lovely wife, who is an amateur photographer, was taking a few pics for me to use in the post.

She looked at one piece of brass and said, “What’s wrong with this one?”

Here it is.

Here it is.

And here.

And here.

The clean brass enabled us to easily spot a case that was apparently “double punched” for its flash hole.

It fired once, but I won’t reload it again.

Probably would have missed that if the primer pocket wasn’t so clean.

Conclusions:

Does everyone need this system?

Of course not. But if you do a lot of reloading and like your brass to really shine, you might consider going this route.

I am very happy with my results.

6 Comments on Educational Zone #154 – Wet Tumbling Brass for More Bling

  1. Just as an aside, latex paint can cloud window glass so badly, it cannot be removed. Lemishine is the only product I have found that can remove this chemical fogging. I’ve tried everything else, even razor blades. Use a couple of teaspoons in a coffee cup with about a 1/4 cup of hot water, and use a green scotch scouring pad. The results are instant, crystal clear glass.

  2. Mark. Barrett 416 1911 // April 25, 2016 at 12:34 pm // Reply

    Yes I do a quick cleaning with maybe a 1 hr of tumbling and they are spotless. I then tumbled for 6 hrs fell asleep lol. They both look great!!

    Why tumble for 4 hrs when 1-2 hrs is good enough?

  3. Wow. I never knew wet tumbling worked so well. I’m super new to reloading. And still playing around with tumbling and cleaning.

  4. David Farber // June 12, 2016 at 11:26 am // Reply

    I use a Franklin Arsenal tumbler and it works really well. I just noticed that every once awhile you need to clean the pins because they get dirty and transfer that to your cases so they look dull after while.

  5. To dry the brass, I bought a couple of cookie baking sheets and a roll of the paper shop towels. I line the cookie sheets with the shop towels and after I towel dry the brass, I put it on the cookie sheets and put them in the oven. I turn it on at the warm setting for ten minutes then turn the oven off, but leave the brass in it for about 90 minutes. (It does not discolor the brass.) The brass is totally dry then, and I can bag it up, ready to load. I dry the pins for storage in the same way, but leave the heat on for an hour.

  6. It’s also possible to buy the active ingredient (citric acid) cheaper in bulk from Amazon or where ever. Use it in the dishwasher with regular dishwasher detergent (1 teaspoon/load).

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