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Stainless Steel vs Corn Cob/Walnut? Vibratory vs Rotary? Why not a Cement Mixer?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by seawash, Jan 21, 2012.

  1. seawash

    seawash Slightly East of Memphis New Member

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    I’m a newbie to this cartridge reloading and am looking for input. I have a press, been stockpiling my brass, have powder, bullets, manuals, and primers. I reload shotgun and usually reload when I have about 1000-1500 hulls in the empty bin. I plan on processing the brass in batches of about 1000-1500 empty 9mm, or 45, or 223 at a time also.

    As I see it, I have the following options.

    Corncob/Walnut with Vibratory Tumbler-
    Pretty standard set up, used by many reloaders, for many years. Tumbler will cost approximately $50-$150 depending on brand and size. Media is fairly cheap.

    Stainless steel and Rotary Tumbler-
    Reloaders that have switched to this method claim they would never go back to CC/Walnut, it’s the cat’s meow, best thing they’ve ever done. Cleaner/brighter brass, less dust, etc. You also have to dry the brass afterwards. Initial costs are definitely higher. Rotary Tumbler will cost approximately $180 - $300, and SS media about $50/5lbs. This will hold about 15 lbs of media/brass/water.

    Given the relatively low cost of the small electric cement mixer from Harbor Freight or Northern Tools ($150), why not use a cement mixer with stainless media for wet processing or Corncob/Walnut for dry processing? Can this be scaled down to accommodate only 1000-1500 cases? I’m actually thinking of removing the cement drum and attaching some type of PVC drum like they are using on the rotary tumblers; haven’t figured out how to do this yet or come up with plans.

    For someone starting out fresh, should I skip the CornCob/Walnut and go straight to SS media?

    Why not just use or convert an electric cement mixer ($150) instead of buying a rock tumbler ($200-$300)?

    Will an electric cement mixer motor burn out, or turn too slow?

    Have I missed something?

    Thanks

    Seawash
     
  2. Swedish K

    Swedish K SW Washington Moderator Staff Member

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    Miwall has (or did a few years back) a row of 20 or so cement mixers they use for tumbling. I'm not sure if they remove the "paddles" from the drums or not. Depending on how the cement mixer you are thinking of rotates the drum you might be able to replace the drum with a 5 gal bucket- or maybe even extend the paddles a bit to securely hold a 5 gal bucket so you just put it in with lid on and run it - swap buckets as you go so you don't have to sift one batch before starting the next batch
     
  3. techieguy

    techieguy Well-Known Member

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    One of the down sides to pins the SS pins is that you should decap the brass prior to cleaning (because of the water) By using corn cob/walnut shell you decap the (on a progresive press) while you reload (extra step needed) I find that using Lyman walnut shell media with a small bit a Flitz polish I get very clean shiny brass. A old dryer sheet keeps down the dust you get with plain walnut or corn cob if you choose not to use the Lyman media...
     
  4. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Cement mixers make great 'tumblers' for large, make that huge, loads of brass. The downside is that the steel paddles can be a little harsh on the brass. Several of the companies that make high speed loading machines (ammoload, camdex, etc) have at one time or another offered their version of a "cement mixer/brass cleaner. Most of them used rubber plate to pad the paddles. Something like two strips cut from old mudflaps, bolted together through the paddles was the way they cured the problem. I have considered buying a small "harbor freight" mixer and just coating the inside with paint on bed-liner. A couple of layers should be enough and one kit should be enough for future re-coating too. The Cement mixer should also have a "lid" but those are easy enough to fashion from a 5-gal bucket lid.

    As for the perceived "downside" to removing the primers first, that too can be a "benefit". It will reveal issues with primer pockets like loose or leaking primer pockets. They've got to come out sooner or later and having the pocket cleaned along with the inside of the case is more than enough benefit to make SS pins a great way to clean cases. To me it's no big deal as I just run the cases through an old Lee progressive that I have set up with just a universal de-priming die. I am also able to run a piece of clear vinyl tubing from my Dillon Case Feeder to the Lee press that is just clamped to the bench next to the Dillon press so all I have to do is pull the handle and sweep the de-primed cases into a bin.
     
    mjbskwim and (deleted member) like this.
  5. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I know that there are many like you that like Flitz and Brasso for that real nice shine but they both contain Ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) in quantities from 1%-5%

    Ammonia and brass don't play well together as ammonia causes embrittlement of the brass. To me, THAT's a real downside.
     
  6. techieguy

    techieguy Well-Known Member

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    From Flitz's website...:)
    Flitz Tumbler/Media Additive

    Will not harm ANY METAL or Primer. Will not stress brass. No Ammonia. No Buildup. Suitable for corn cob, walnut or other media. Cuts tumbling time in half. Cleans, polishes & protects brass & nickel. Eco-safe product

    Brasso on the other hand I wouldn't use either:(
     
  7. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Make sure you're getting the correct "Flitz" product. Here's an MSDS sheet for one polish that contains ammonia

    http://www.flitz.com/images/document/MSDS_Flitz%20Polish_PASTE.pdf

    Here's another that contains Urea which releases Ammonia when it comes in contact with water (which we have a lot of in the PNW air)

    http://www.flitz.com/images/document/MSDS_BrassCopperTarnishRemover.pdf


    Not all "Flitz" metal polishes are created equal.
     
  8. techieguy

    techieguy Well-Known Member

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    True, I supposed I should have mention which Flitz I was using to begin with because of the ammonia in some of thier products.
     
  9. Swedish K

    Swedish K SW Washington Moderator Staff Member

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    Anyone here drop a chunk of jeweler's rouge in with the tumbling media? a friend used to toss in some small finishing nails with his...