"Best" wet cleaning machine?

daved20319

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So with time on my hands, low inventory on some critical components, but piles of brass, I decided to start slogging through getting a bunch of it prepped. Since my little Lee APP was already set up for 9mm, that's what I started with. All was good until I got to the cleaning primer pockets step, at which point the whole process turned into a misery. I know, lots of you don't bother cleaning primer pockets, especially on handgun ammo, but it just bugs me if I skip it :oops:. Anyway, as I have thousands more cases to go, both pistol and rifle, I've decided it's time to invest in a wet SS pin type cleaner. I've avoided it up to this point, mostly because of the hassle of drying the cases, but that's still a lot less pain that cleaning those primer pockets manually :eek:. Besides, it occurred to me that I have a good sized dehydrator that rarely gets used.

So all that out of the way, what machine is at the top of ya'll's list? I'm a fan of Frankford Arsenal products, I know there are others out there, but the price starts going up in a hurry. That said, price isn't my primary motivator, but if I'm going to pay twice as much, I expect to get twice as much :rolleyes:. So are the more expensive machines worth it, or is it just paying for a name? Looking forward to your suggestions and recommendations, thanks.

Dave
 

Dyjital

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Tumble in dry media for clean brass.
Tumble in wet for cleaner brass.
Tumble wet with pins for exquisitely clean brass with clean primer pockets.

A lapidary dual drum from Harbor Freight with SS Pins is a good start for low volume cleaning. Frankford Arsenal came out with a smaller tumbler for around $85 I heard, or their larger tumbler can be had for more.

I ran one of those for a long time, sold to a member and I think he is still using it. I've been using the FART for a few years and don't regret it. I can buy bulk dirty, run through sizing and depriming and tumble 1,000 cases in two batches. Spread out on my dryer, I can finish drying one almost in time for the second set to come through. Normally I do them days apart but my production could increase 2x with another brass dryer.
 
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daved20319

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Thanks for the summary, Dyjital. In doing a Google search, the FA unit consistently comes out on top of the list, and Optics Planet has it in stock for $165, best price I've seen.

On a related subject, what about media separators? I currently use one of the FA sieves that goes in a 5 gal. bucket, works fine for dry media, but not so sure about SS pins. Would one of the magnets be a better choice vs. a rotary separator? And if the latter, which one? I think I've asked this before and the Dillon came out on top, but memory, ya know? Thanks.

Dave
 
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Build your own like I did. Used an old bed frame along with 4 5/8 pillow blocks, 1/4 or less HP motor, some 5/8 steel rod covered with 5/8 heater hose. A couple different size pulley's and a good belt. The drum is what I got first, insides are all rubber, was the most expensive part. The rest including the motor was under $50.00. 5 pounds of stainless pins, water, Dawn soap, and a small amount of lemishine, tumble for 4 hours after de-priming the brass and both inside and outside come out nice and clean including the primer pockets.
The first time you empty the drum will scare you as the water will be gray/black and you would think it should be brass color. I pull the brass out by hand and most of the pins will shake out of the brass. Put the brass in a separate container with hot water then spread the brass out on a towel to dry.

updated_tumbler1.jpg
 

osprey

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I started with the FA large model and it works great for large volumes of same caliber brass. What I found is I am usually wanting to clean smaller volume and a couple different cal’s so the FA was kind of a pita for that purpose. I picked up one of the harbor freight dual drum tumblers on sale and it fits my needs very well. It is the one I use 95% of the time. I still have the FA for the occasional large batch. They both work very well but the FA usually will require a bit less time due to the internal paddles giving a bit better agitation. The Hf unit works well but usually needs 30-45 min more than the FA to get primer pockets totally clean.
 

Camohunter

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I received the dual HF rock tumbler and 2 lbs of SS pins for Christmas.
Since I only wet wash my lower volume 9 mm it fits my needs. It works really well for cleaning 200 per cycle. I am amazed how clean the brass is both inside and out.
If you do higher volume the FART looks like the winner.
 

Dyjital

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On a related subject, what about media separators? I currently use one of the FA sieves that goes in a 5 gal. bucket, works fine for dry media, but not so sure about SS pins. Would one of the magnets be a better choice vs. a rotary separator? And if the latter, which one? I think I've asked this before and the Dillon came out on top, but memory, ya know? Thanks.
I don't deal much with magnets except for catching the strays that fall around the place. Magnet works good to sweep the leg and walk away like taking a Rex-Kwon-do class. (Napoleon Dynamite reference)

I use the Frankford Arsenal media separator. I went all Grey/Blue on my brass prep. I don't run the tumbler dry, as in I like to have just enough water to kiss the bottom of the tumbler by 1/4"-1/2", this helps the pins fall down to the bottom. it creates less mess and less pins fall out of the tumbler due to the decreased agitation. I will though separate a large batch in two separation cycles. Less pins make an easier tumble. It also helps to not drop all media and pins in at the same time. I try to separate pins out as best I can first using the grate that comes with the FART. This helps to reduce the escapees.
 

thorborg

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After tumbling, having a separator will save much grief, this one fits the top of five gallon buckets. It also works well to seperate media from my dry polish vibratory tumbler too.
having two buckets is handy. 1611252641436.png
Do not use your kitchen sink if it has a disposal in it, errant pins could cause you grief.
Some sort of surfactant, or lemishine on the last rinse will avoid water spots. I shake and roll in cloth to remove as much water as possible before drying. Any fan that can move air well will speed drying up especially if you can shake the racks or run your hand across them from time to time to rotate brass. I use a cheap box fan and made frames the same size with fiberglass screening. Any pins stuck to the brass will usually fall right out when fully dried except maybe for a few primer holes, a dental pick is handy. An old T shirt on the separator will sift the water from the pins. A large powerful magnet covered with a removable cloth (to get them off the magnet) will help clean up pin spills. After the brass is dried I spread a t shirt out on the frame and dry the pins, (stainless yes but there is still some Ferris in them so can rust) then gather up the edges tie it up and store it in the cleaned and dried out tumbler with a bottle of my home made soap goo for storage.
 

DizzyJ

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FA. I also use their media separator. Fill the bucket up with water enough so the spinning separator is almost half submerged under the water. This will help with surface tension which tends to make the pins stick to the brass.
 
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Ironbar

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I bought a Rebel 17 tumbler and I've been pleased as punch with it! It holds quite a bit, it's reasonably quiet, and it's easy to use.

1611274409445.png
 

aasbra

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I have the thumblers tumbler with SS pins purchased from Brownells when on sale IIRC. Has worked well for me. I use a Franklin Armory separator that partially fills with water to separate out the pins and final rinse the cleaned brass,, and a Franklin armory magnet to help with picking up/collecting the pins to put back into the tumbler. spread the clean, wet brass on a cookie sheet and set out in the sun (if warm and sunny) or more often, use a repurposed food dehydrator to dry the brass.
 

CLT65

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I bought a FART a few years ago, when they were still fairly new. The timer gave out a long time ago, but other than that the thing is a tank. I have no idea how many loads of brass I've run through it.

There are a couple things I always caution people about with tumblers- lead exposure for one. Most people know that the dust in a dry tumbler is bad, but I'm convinced that the water in a wet tumbler is just as bad. Metallic lead is not absorbed through skin, but lead oxide dissolved in acidic water can be. Be a bit careful with that water.
 

Ironbar

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I bought a FART a few years ago, when they were still fairly new. The timer gave out a long time ago, but other than that the thing is a tank. I have no idea how many loads of brass I've run through it.

There are a couple things I always caution people about with tumblers- lead exposure for one. Most people know that the dust in a dry tumbler is bad, but I'm convinced that the water in a wet tumbler is just as bad. Metallic lead is not absorbed through skin, but lead oxide dissolved in acidic water can be. Be a bit careful with that water.
This post got me to thinking about the actual chemical makeup of primers and our exposure to spent ones, so I did a little digging.

Here is the actual chemical makeup of the average primer. According to the article I read, the ingredients have changed very little over the decades.

1611318032229.png
Lead Styphnate is the primary ignition ingredient, and yes it is toxic to humans. I believe now that wet tumbling is the way to go to minimize exposure, and from now on I'll be wearing gloves when handling waste water and spent primers(even though absorption through skin is low risk).

The article goes on to say that Federal has developed a new breed of primer they named the Catalyst primer that doesn't use heavy metals. Really interesting article! https://www.outdoorlife.com/cartridge-primer-technology-developments/

Here is a link to the Material Data Safety sheet for Lead Styphnate. https://winchester.com/-/media/PDFs/Safety-Data-Sheets/LEAD-STYPHNATE---NORMAL.ashx
 
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daved20319

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Thanks for the info and the cautions, guys. Went ahead and ordered the big FA unit last night, still shopping for a media separator, but not a big deal. Also need to order cleaning supplies. And on that subject, another question. Most of the posts I've read on the subject has folks using Lemi-shine, some sort of carwash/wax, and a little Dawn. I get the first 2, but what's the reason for the Dawn? And is there any reason NOT to sub citric acid for the Lemi-shine, we always have it on hand for canning. For that matter, what about vinegar? Guess I need to do some more reading :oops:. Almost forgot, what's a FART :rolleyes:? Later.

Dave
 

Camelfilter

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What is the issue with the HF units?
Dunno honestly, worked fine for me as is.

Upgraded it by making a larger single drum with inside fins. Videos online how to do so.

Decent value as is, mid value if you build a bigger drum (unless you already have the parts & glue).

Upgraded further to the FART.

Truly depends upon budget, and how much you plan on reloading.
 

Camelfilter

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Thanks for the info and the cautions, guys. Went ahead and ordered the big FA unit last night, still shopping for a media separator, but not a big deal. Also need to order cleaning supplies. And on that subject, another question. Most of the posts I've read on the subject has folks using Lemi-shine, some sort of carwash/wax, and a little Dawn. I get the first 2, but what's the reason for the Dawn? And is there any reason NOT to sub citric acid for the Lemi-shine, we always have it on hand for canning. For that matter, what about vinegar? Guess I need to do some more reading :oops:. Almost forgot, what's a FART :rolleyes:? Later.

Dave
FART = FA unit.

Dawn is used by most folks because its a great grease cutter/soap, and you use minimal to do so.

Lemi Shine is citric acid primarily, along with some bicarb, anticaking & fragrance. Folks use straight citric acid as well. Mind, most folks hardly use much (like a 9mm case full), so a few $ can of lemishine goes a long ways!
 

Dyjital

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FART = FA unit.

Dawn is used by most folks because its a great grease cutter/soap, and you use minimal to do so.

Lemi Shine is citric acid primarily, along with some bicarb, anticaking & fragrance. Folks use straight citric acid as well. Mind, most folks hardly use much (like a 9mm case full), so a few $ can of lemishine goes a long ways!
They run dawn because they are cheap brasstards.
Real OG’s run a car soap with wax. Then your brass runs through your dies smoother. :)
 

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