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Effective, inexpensive brass cleaning

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by SinisterSouthpaw, Sep 18, 2014.

  1. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    I use ground walnut shell and Zud, but you can use Bon Ami or Comet. How much depends upon how dirty the brass, how many cases and etc. I have two tumblers by accident not design. You can skip the media separator if you are even more of a tightwad than I am, but it is convenient and helps get the dust out. One tumbler is about 11 years old. The media I used for this session is about 3 years old. I bought it when I finally used up my old batch that lasted around 10 years. I buy 12 to 18 pounds at a time and add a little to what is in the tumbler from time to time. This can of Zud is around 3 years old also. I tumble anywhere from 100 to 500 cases a week depending upon the time of year. I don't do more than 100 at a time. This batch was 50 from a direct gas impingement AR, which I tumbled for 2-1/2 hours.
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    BTW, this can be pretty dusty so you might want to do it int he barn.................

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    Last edited: Sep 18, 2014
  2. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    How do you get those particles/silica or whatever out of/off of that brass? It seems you purposely imbued that brass with an abrasive.. which seems counter intuitive/productive.
     
  3. gunfreak

    gunfreak Boise Well-Known Member

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    I will have to try some bon ami, I always put a couple cups of white rice in with the media and it makes the brass look brand new as well.
     
  4. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    Use diamond particles.. it'll f yer precious up more better. but ooh, shiny! oof
     
  5. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    Bon Ami has no mineral other than calcium and Feld Spar in it and FS is soft, breaks down to micro particles quickly. I use it on enameled sinks.
     
  6. rutilate

    rutilate Vancouver and Surrounds Active Member

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    I've never heard of adding abrasive to walnut hulls, which are all but too abrasive to begin with. Unless you are using it to extend the life of worn-out walnut media, in which case I hope you have carbide dies. Plagioclase is harder than steel on the Mohs hardness scale but softer than hardened steel and carbide.

    If you use lizard bedding, a bag is $7, which lasts me for a minimum of 100 tumblings.

    I prefer to use blasting corn cob media which doesn't abraded the cases if I happen to leave it in the tumbler overnight. I use mineral spirits and nu finish car wax which cleans and polishes while keeping dust to a minimum.
     
  7. Otter

    Otter Oregon - mid Willamette Valley Active Member

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    How did you manage to get those case that dirty to begin with?
     
  8. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    Good question. Perhaps fireforming?
    A little hot water, lemishine and soap will pretty that soot right offa that brass.
     
  9. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    #1 Zud, like Bon Ami and especially crushed walnut shell is NOT--repeat--NOT abrasive to brass or other alloys commonly used in household products. I have marked certain cases with a sharpie in the past and had the marks come out just fine after tumbling. If you actually try to remove paint by making a paste of the compound, and rub it vigorously, it will take more elbow grease and time than 70% of the american public would be willing to spend, even for pay......limiting that public to those under 30 would get us 100% if we do not count border jumpers.............


    #2 Maybe my label was not legible? The cases were .243(6mm)WSSM fired from a direct gas impingement AR type rifle using CFE223 powder. There was no way that those cases would not be sooty with burned case mouths. Actually, this firing left the cases a bit cleaner than usual, since I used a lot tighter neck tension than in previous experiments.

    The cases have been fired 12 times according to the code 2A2 on the label. New cases are labeled N. Then after firing N1 and so on until 5 firings have been done. The cases are then annealed and labeled 1A and so on.

    As you can see, the cases work just fine. I have batches labeled 4Ax in other calibers that have been cleaned over and over in the same manner as these. I chose these to post because they get so dirty, the WSSM cartridge has a reputation (undeserved) for short life and the benefits of this cleaning process are very apparent because of that. I have been getting 25 firings from a case, typically. I could probably get more, but I do not care to take chances. The execption is .30BR brass which apparently lasts forever.
     
  10. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    have you ever used 100% rice? I have a large supply
     
  11. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    #1 I do not believe in wasting food.
    #2 People I know here said they tried it and were not impressed. The details of their experiments, if I ever knew them, are gone from what remains of my memory.
    #3 As long as we are talking about non-standard media, I guess I should mention that a friend tried using coarse sand of the type you used to find in the ashtrays by elevator doors. It did not work in his benchrest bags so he wanted to try to get some value for his money. The stuff was too heavy for a vibratory tumbler apparently, since he said it burned out the motor in his. Maybe it would have worked in a rotary unit. Nobody I know has tried that.
     
  12. rick benjamin

    rick benjamin USA, Or, Damascus Secure the drama Silver Supporter 2016 Volunteer

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    Crushed walnut hulls work good. Didn't cost much. Been using the same stuff for about 30+ years.
    I did pour a small can of Brasso into the mix about 1984.
     
  13. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Generally, I'm tumbling waaay more brass than you guys, and I prefer to wash brass first to remove much of the dirt, and usually I want something that will attack the residue on the inside. Still, the best stuff I've found is off the shelf CLR (lemishine also works, but not as well IMHO) mixed about 10:1 with hot water and then run through a cement mixer, a vibratory tub, or bowl, washed with clean water and dried. This is the prep-step for lubing and processing. It then gets a wash to remove lube and other dirt (same process as above, different liquid) and then goes into vibratory bowl with corncob and a wax-based finisher. Nufinish, dillon, Flitz, or Berry's all make wax polishes, or do something to passivate the surface. Passivation or wax coating removes the possibility of tarnishing after the fact, personally I think the waxes do a better job over-all as it improves the lubrication of the cartridge when firing through a semi-automatic.

    I will admit, I have a very high standard for what brass looks like afterwards, as I realize people will pay premium $$ for stuff that looks as good as it shoots.

    The stuff I've found that doesn't work all that well:

    Walnut media - it will remove a lot of tarnish and discoloration, but leaves a matte finish that's hard to remove later.
    Abrasive additives - These sorta-work, in the past I've used baking soda and bon-ami, they work, but don't do as good a job as other additives, I want my brass looking new, this doesn't cut it.
    Acid washing - I've tried various types of dilute acids, sulfuric, phosphoric, hydrochloric and they work, but tend to remove zinc from the surface, leaving the brass looking pink afterwards.
    Steel Pins/Jewelry Mix - I used this rather briefly, there was a very high startup cost to this, the problems I experienced were high cycle times, needing to use different equipment (it pretty much requires a liquid filled drum), the materials packing, sticking, and just general nuisance of use. It did a VERY good job, but just wasn't worth the hassle.
    Deburring stones - Again, very similar to the experience with pins and jewelry mix. if you use the larger stones (that won't go into the cases) they work well, but the end results are very similar to what you get just tumbling the brass against itself (part on part). And it fails to accomplish one of the core missions... getting the stuff out of the inside.
    Soda Syrup - When we were looking for an "ecological alternative" that didn't require as much post-treatment of our wash water, soda syrup is one of the things we tried, as it's legal to pour it down the drain afterwards. It does clean the brass about as much as washing with phosphoric acid does (fyi, soda syrup is like 60% acid) but leaves the cases looking green. It's also sticky, smells bad, draws ants, and is expensive.

    If you have something that works for you... by all means, don't let me talk you out of it, these are simply my observations as generally I need to: Reduce handling time, automate, and handle mass quantities with low cycle times.
     
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  14. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    For personal use ALL it has to be is clean which mine is and I have been doing it this way for over 30 years, getting long life out of my brass. I might add that the rifle brass I am getting well over 20 or 30 firings from is mainly premium brass like lapua and norma, and I do not work it hard. Still, it is evident that the brass is not harmed by this process, as some would have us believe. Polish does nothing for accuracy or operation of the lock.

    If I were selling used brass or reloaded ammo I would probably add a polishing step at the end of the process like the folks I know who do just that. You would want it to look new in that case. All the extra time and mess mentioned might possibly be worthwhile in that case, but it is just silly to do that for your own brass. There are other things more important to spend time on-like learning how to dope the wind................
     
  15. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    You were the one who called it "effective, inexpensive brass cleaning" :) For some of us, it's not effective or inexpensive :)
     
  16. Sstrand

    Sstrand La Grande OR Well-Known Member

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    Have any of you used Bar Keepers Friend as a media additive??
    It contains oxalic acid, whatever that is, and I don't know what else.

    Sheldon
     
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  17. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    I know when I use oxalic acid crystals for removing rust, I use a neutralizer after.
     
  18. Sstrand

    Sstrand La Grande OR Well-Known Member

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    OK I found some Bon Ami I'll stick to that.

    Sheldon
     
  19. XSubSailor

    XSubSailor SW WA Active Member

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    Corn cob and a capful of Nu-Finish works for me...why make it harder than it has to be?
     
  20. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    Ok--I'll change the name to "Effective, inexpensive, for those of us who want to use our dies as long as we can and get good downrange results and are not trying to make used brass look new so we can resell it "........ How's that?

    I have actually tried adding Bon Ami, Comet, and Zud. Someone told me--or I actually read the label on Comet--and decided it was going to be slightly abrasive in my dies and to my brass. I looked at the label on Bartender's friend ( a name guaranteed to get MY attention ) and for some reason decided against it. Please understand that this was many years ago. I used Bon Ami for a long time until I tried Zud. Zud was recommended by another ( I'm one too) geezer BR shooter retiree over BA. He was right-the Zud worked better when it came to cleaning the really dirty cases he was dealing with in Schutzen competitions (mainly black powder) so it really did the job on my cases. Between the two of us, we likey shot over 100,000 cartridges annually at that time. These days I only shoot an average of 200-300 a week or so.

    These days the only cartridges I shoot that need to be tumbled are used in my two ARs and my handguns. Around 4500 a year or so. It depends upon the weather here. The longer the rainy season the more (indoor) handgun cartridges I shoot. The BR cartridges I shoot in the summer are fired from custom made match barrels to which the sizing dies are matched so that there is almost no soot deposited on the necks, let alone on the body of the cases as seen in the pix above. The interiors of the cases are of no concern to me, nor to any other match shooter I know or have heard from online. If I were cleaning fired brass to sell I would probably think differently as the AM guy does but I am only interested in what works best for my money, not what sells best.

    BTW, at the time and place where I grew up there were plenty PLENTY of people who had used corncobs for the purpose mentioned by someone above......................................... and we used them in deer camps sometimes..............and they were nicer than GI TP in the VN theatre........
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014