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  1. #1
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    Default Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    So I have been using an ultrasonic cleaner to clean my brass (.38 .45 and 9mm).
    I am considering getting a tumbler, either to supplement or to replace it.

    Presently, I fit about 150 .38s in a tupperware container that I st inside the cleaner. I use a mix of water and ammonia as a cleaning solution. The tupperware makes it easier to move between my bench and the sink.

    After two or three 8-minute cycles, I will dump the dirty solution and rinse the brass. Then refill the container with distilled water and run another cycle or two to clean off the cleaner.

    I drain and pour them out on a towel, then spread out on a tray and a few minutes in a warm oven (150-175 F) to complete the drying (in the summer I would leave them out in the hot sun to do the same thing). The whole process is rather time consuming and labor intensive.

    While they are ready for reloading at this point, they are not very pretty. The insides are usually shinier than the outside.

    I am thinking of the tumbler to make them look nicer. Is there any real advantage to this, or am I just getting vain?

    Discuss....
    My opinion plus $1 will get you a sweet tea at McDonalds

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    Shiny only helps you pick them up out of the grass easier. You need to look at fastest cleaning time and least amount of work. That's what's important.
    Steel Valley Casting is your source for hard cast and powder coated bullets.

  3. #3
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    Washington, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    I have never tried ultrasonic. With my tumbler the outsides turn very shiny, more so than the insides.

    Less time consuming I'm thinking. I let it run overnight then sift out my brass.
    FOAC Member, NRA Member

  4. #4
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    Aug 2007
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    Johnstown, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    I would be leery about ammonia if left in too long . Try vinegar on lemi shine or even unsweetened lemon cool aid , does the same job with less aggressiveness .
    DAN

  5. #5
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    Mar 2011
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    Chalfont, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    I wet tumble with a dual drum rock tumbler. Used to dry tumble, but after wet tumbling brass that was already dry tumbled and the water was disgusting. With a 1 year old in the house I didn't want that crap in the air.

    It is nice to have clean brass inside and out. Heard stories that clean brass adds a little bit of velocity, but haven't proved it yet.

    Sure it takes a little longer with brass prep and everything, but it's worth it.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    I think whatever set up you do, there is going to be some labor involved. From my research people seem to have better luck with wet tumblers than the ultrasonic cleaners. The ultrasonic cleaners often you end up having to run for several cycles and more a pain than just putting a tumbler on for a few hours.

    I had good luck with Lemishine. I wanted to clean hundreds of pieces of brass at a time, so I bought a tough plastic bucket with sealed top at Lowes for $2.50. Put some water in it with a pack of Lemishine and some Power Clean Dawn. Attached it to the riding lawn mower and let it bang around for a couple hours(I have some bumpy mowing to do) and every once in a while I'd give it a big shake to make sure it was all getting mixed well. Rinse several times, towel dry and shake and then left to roast in the sun. Brass came out nice and clean.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    I've never tumbled brass so I don't know how labor intensive it is.
    The ultrasonic is not without some effort.

    1. De-prime cases ( you do this so that you get cleaning solution through the whole case, otherwise you get air bubbles at the primer. Also, it cleans the primer pocket, and why would you want to clean the used primers).

    2. Pack them in the tupperware. Fill with hot water to cover, add a splash of ammonia (not much), which I personally found to work better than vinegar.

    3. Put in the ultrasonic and add water to that to same level as the water in the tupperware.

    4. Set for 480 seconds (8 minutes). Go do something else for a while.

    5. Return in 10-15 minutes, stir the cases with a pencil. Repeat step 2, two more times if they are real dirty.

    6. Remove the container, carry to laundry tub, pour them into a net bag and rinse.

    7. Clean the container, put the cases back in, fill with distilled water.

    8. Back in the ultrasonic for a 480 second cycle.

    9. Drain and lay out on a towel to start drying.

    10. If in a hurry, put in warm oven on a cookie sheet. You can leave them sit in the sun on a warm dry day, but then you are waiting on the weather.

    About 2 hours in all (most of the time is just waiting for the next step). Yields about 150 clean .38 cases ready to load.
    My opinion plus $1 will get you a sweet tea at McDonalds

  8. #8
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    Jan 2012
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    Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    I use both a sonic cleaner and a tumbler. In my opinion they perform totally different functions.

    I begin by hand depriming my cases. Then they go in a Hornady Sonic Cleaner for several minutes. Depending how dirty the cases are I may run them through several times. The sonic cleaners are great for removing primer and powder residue.

    If I want the cases polished I toss them in the tumbler. However, I do not like the media residue that stays on the brass. It is not uncommon for me to put them back in the sonic cleaner to remove the media residue. The end product is brass that looks new.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    It is starting to sound to me like the only thing I will gain by using the tumbler is prettier brass.
    Not sure that is worth $60 or $70. Maybe if I come across one on sale or something.
    My opinion plus $1 will get you a sweet tea at McDonalds

  10. #10
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    Piney twp, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Case cleaning: Ultrasonic vs Tumbler

    Ammonia will corrode brass, check Compatibilities & Incompatibilities http://www.rmtech.net/Anhydrous%20Ammonia.htm Vinegar will tarnish the brass to some extent. Have used citric acid (lemishine) for years followed by tumbling. The advantage of citric acid is that is also passivates the brass. An exhaustive thread about it: http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...ht=citric+acid
    From a trailer park on a strip cut where my neighbors call me Mister.

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