The Static Cling post talks about how to control dust in case tumblers using scented fabric softener. This is a follow up post to talk about the tumblers themselves. There are two basic types. The vibrators and the rotary tumblers. Both have their uses and will do the job. I believe the rotary tumblers will last the longest, but they cost more. They also will seal so that liquid media can be used. Most vibrators have the motor attached to the bottom of the bowl such that they will leak liquid on to the motor, thus they are not recommended for liquid media.

Over the years I have evolved the following generic cleaning method. Toss the brass (after sorting to avoid mixing calibers) into the vibrator and walnut shell media. My vibrator cleaner is the smallest size so it does not do well with a massive number of cases. In the picture below, the vibrator cleaner is on the right, and is shown with a hundred 45 ACP cases. For larger cases, like 45 colt, I only clean 50 at a time, or 25 rifle cases. I run them for about three hours. It cleans them fairly well, but I prefer a new, shiny look. For that, I use the rotary tumbler with a small amount of liquid polish (I use Dillon Rapid Polish 290) added to the corncob media, which does a fine clean and spiffy polish. I run the rotary about an hour. That is after the basic first clean. The rotary is on the left side of the picture below.

Case Tumblers


The two step procedure I use can be accomplished with only one case cleaner, but you will be constantly changing the media back and forth, and liquid additives are a risk with the vibrators. (Just use a tiny amount and let it absorb in the media before turning on the vibrator type.)

The rotary tumbler has seen many uses (including lapidary work) and is 25 years old. The vibratory tumbler is about a year old and has failed twice. Both times, the power lead to the motor broke at the solder joint and was re-soldered. This was due to lack of vibration protection of the motor wire connections. I suspect most vibrators will be susceptible to this failure mode. The rotary occasionally fails due to the metal roller gears wearing the plastic bin edges smooth. I correct this with quarter inch flexible door seal tape and it works great for about six months till the tape wears off and needs replacing.

I cannot take credit for this one. I have seen it in several places and do not know who originated the idea, but when I tried it, I have been amazed at the way it works so well.

Case cleaning for me has evolved into a two stage process. First, a vibrating tumbler with walnut media for the first, rough clean. Next, a rotating tumbler with corn cob media spiked with Dillon Rapid Polish 290, to really sparkle the brass.

PROBLEM:  The cleaning media and the resultant residue means the media gradually becomes a mix of the media plus fine, silt-like hazardous dust. Primer residue like lead stiphinate and other
harmful stuff. Eventually, this dust begins to inhibit the media’s cleaning and polishing capabilities. That is when you change it out and technically, this is most likely a hazardous waste.

SOLUTION:  Bounce Scented Fabric Softener. No Kidding. The first few times cut a single softener sheet into four pieces and throw into the tumbler with the cases. Clean as usual and remove the softener sheets and carefully discard. After a few times, you only need two cuts (half sheet). This one is incredible. All the hazardous dust collects on the sheets, the media looks like new and just keeps on going like the ever-ready bunny. No fine poison dust to worry about breathing or handling. Big Grin ==> And your cases smell really good and no static cling to the powder you add.

Just try it before you point at me to tell others I am a nut case.

Reloading Issue – cases

OK, I will kick this example off by talking about an issue that caused me grief back before the internet when research was a royal pain. This issue deals with step number 2 above, case re-sizing. Generically, case re-sizing involves restoring the case to the SAAMI standard case size for the caliber, and is usually a straight wall “type” or a bottle neck “type”. Usually, a straight wall case refers to the short, pistol calibers, although there are larger straight walled rifle cases. The pistol cases being rather short respond very well to “carbide” resizing dies, meaning that the carbide size ring is so slick for a short pull that the brass case can be pressed through the die without the need for lubrication. And this has been my experiance. I have never had or seen a problem with carbide resizer dies on pistol

Not so with the bottle neck “types”. Even though “carbide” dies are available for some bottle neck cases, all such cases require lubrication as a result of additional forces encountered in re-sizing.

PROBLEM:  I was new to reloading and had no data source other than the manuals I had obtained. All the manuals, even today, will tell you that you must properly lubricate bottle necks. Too much lubrication will result in hydraulic case dents, too little will mean a case stuck in the die. But the “how” to achieve the “proper” part is not well explained, even today. So, time to experiment. Back then, I had a lub pad and some super honey-like, very gooey and messy lube. I glop it on the case, bolt the reloader and dies to the earth’s core, and ram the case into the die. I remove it, and ugh ! I figured out right away what a hadraulic case dent means. Several tries later, each with less and less lube, I finally have a case without dents. Success. That technique seems right. I was happy. THEN it happened. I was lightly lubeing and ramming away and wham. Resistance. I tug harder and the case just won’t come out. I really tug and the handle comes free as does the base of the case. The rest of the case is just, well, stuck.

SOLUTION:  Lets skip forward in time about three weeks later when I recieved my order for an RCBS Stuck Case Removal tool. The instructions say to remove the die decapper and drill and tap the base of the case in the primer hole to allow the removal tool to be screwed into the case and with the attachments, allow the case to be removed with a bolt pulling it out via the tap hole. Well, this tool does NOT apply if you have broken the base of the case off.

Long story short, I finally threw the die and stuck case in the deep freeze. Took it out and pushed from the top with a small wood dowel and the partial case fell out. Be sure to clean and oil the die a bit cause it will be dripping wet from the condensation. They do rust easy.