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I currently clean my brass with the tumbler/dry media method. I'm thinking of getting the RCBS Ultrasonic machine. Of course, they recommend their 'special' concentrated cleaner which I believe goes for $20 bucks a quart or maybe it's a gallon. Whatever, there has to be some savvy reloaders out there who wet clean and have a 'home brew' mixture that works as well or better at somewhat less the cost. What say you guys? Thanks for any light you can shed on this one.
 

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I use a squirt of Dawn and a 9mm casing of Lemishine. Then rinse and dry in a food dehydrator
 

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I currently clean my brass with the tumbler/dry media method. I'm thinking of getting the RCBS Ultrasonic machine. Of course, they recommend their 'special' concentrated cleaner which I believe goes for $20 bucks a quart or maybe it's a gallon. Whatever, there has to be some savvy reloaders out there who wet clean and have a 'home brew' mixture that works as well or better at somewhat less the cost. What say you guys? Thanks for any light you can shed on this one.
If making your own cleaning solution presents a really strong draw for you, have you considered wet tumbling with stainless steel pins? Home brews work much better there, since the mechanics of the actual cleaning operation are simpler.

Ultrasonics work via cavitation. The waves sent out by the transducers create tiny vacuum pockets in the solution. The cleaning action takes place when those tiny pockets collapse and the liquid rushes in to fill the void. The collapse is physically violent and generates momentary temperature spikes that can approach 5000 degrees. The aggressiveness is controlled by the frequency of the waves. Lower frequencies create larger vacuum pockets that carry more energy. Higher frequencies create smaller pockets that can form in smaller spaces that are also gentler when they collapse. So, what does this have to do with home-brewed cleaning solutions? Things like the concentration of dissolved gas and ionic qualities change the cleaning solution's ability to form vacuum pockets (this is also why most solutions work best at about 80% of their boiling point). Furthermore, you don't want to use any chemicals that might embrittle your brass or cause stress corrosion cracking. So, personally, I prefer to leave those types of details to chemists who actually know what they're doing.

As you noted, the commercial concentrates designed for cartridge brass cost about $20/quart. I don't have a bottle in front of me, but I think the Hornady solution that I use gets diluted 30:1 or 40:1. At that level of dilution, the cost of the cleaning agent isn't a whole lot more than the distilled water it gets mixed it with. I like my brass really clean, and a quart still lasts me a long time.

For wet tumbling with pins, lots of people have reported having good luck with Lemishine (a variant of citric acid) and Dawn dish detergent. I don't know what 10 gallons worth of that would cost, or how long it lasts before the solutions need to be replaced/refreshed.
 

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I use a very small dab of detergent with even less Lemonshine in my small Harbor Freight tumblers. I don't really look for a gleaming case, just clean the powder flash and dirt off. I can stand some tarnish, so the less detergent the better, rinses a lot faster..
 

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I tried the ultrasonic route, but really for firearms. I mixed up Ed's Red for the ulstasonic. For brass, wet tumbling with or without SS pins is the way to go IMHO. You can do much more per cycle and less chemicals. I used Dawn or Turtle Wax car wash and Lemishine.
 

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im still using this formula and have been over 10 years

http://www.6mmbr.com/ultrasonic.html
That formula acts primarily via CHEMICAL cleaning via the acetic acid, rather than mechanical cleaning, which is what ultrasonic systems are designed for. Note the warnings at the bottom of the "experimenter's" page, plus his advice to use it at low temperatures, where the ultrasonic action will be at its least efficient.

I don't know if chemical degradation poses a problem for most people. If you're cleaning rifle brass for benchrest shooting, and you're only going to shoot that brass a very limited number of times before throwing it away, than the dezincification probably won't pose an issue. As a general rule, though, acetic acid is NOT a good choice for long-term cartridge brass cleaning. Most of the brass I clean is pistol brass used for light to mid-range target loads. I expect it to go 20 or more reloadings. I don't think it would last that long if I bathed it in vinegar between each firing.
 

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If making your own cleaning solution presents a really strong draw for you, have you considered wet tumbling with stainless steel pins? Home brews work much better there, since the mechanics of the actual cleaning operation are simpler.

Ultrasonics work via cavitation. The waves sent out by the transducers create tiny vacuum pockets in the solution. The cleaning action takes place when those tiny pockets collapse and the liquid rushes in to fill the void. The collapse is physically violent and generates momentary temperature spikes that can approach 5000 degrees. The aggressiveness is controlled by the frequency of the waves. Lower frequencies create larger vacuum pockets that carry more energy. Higher frequencies create smaller pockets that can form in smaller spaces that are also gentler when they collapse. So, what does this have to do with home-brewed cleaning solutions? Things like the concentration of dissolved gas and ionic qualities change the cleaning solution's ability to form vacuum pockets (this is also why most solutions work best at about 80% of their boiling point). Furthermore, you don't want to use any chemicals that might embrittle your brass or cause stress corrosion cracking. So, personally, I prefer to leave those types of details to chemists who actually know what they're doing.

As you noted, the commercial concentrates designed for cartridge brass cost about $20/quart. I don't have a bottle in front of me, but I think the Hornady solution that I use gets diluted 30:1 or 40:1. At that level of dilution, the cost of the cleaning agent isn't a whole lot more than the distilled water it gets mixed it with. I like my brass really clean, and a quart still lasts me a long time.

For wet tumbling with pins, lots of people have reported having good luck with Lemishine (a variant of citric acid) and Dawn dish detergent. I don't know what 10 gallons worth of that would cost, or how long it lasts before the solutions need to be replaced/refreshed.
This is very good information on both methods. Here's a few more specifics on using Dawn and Lemi-shine: I wet tumble most of my brass in a 17 lb total capacity drum. After the weight of the water and 5 lbs of stainless pins, that leaves room for 4 lbs of brass, which is around 325 cases of .45 Auto.

For this size drum, I use 2-3 tablespoons of Dawn and no more than 1/4 teaspoon of Lemi-shine. This leaves the brass looking brand new after 3-4 hours in the tumbler. So for wet tumbling, the cost of cleaning/polishing agents is extremely minimal. One container of Lemi-shine would last most people years.
 

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harbor freight rock tumbler
pins off ebay
mequires wash/wax (car soap)
i dry them in a plastic green house thing out side in the sun
the microwax in the soap really keeps the cases from tarnishing
and gives a bit of lube for sizing/belling
and they are perfectly spotless


 

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What kind of bullet you using?
thats the Lee TL452-200 SWC cast of about 10bhn range scrap
powdercoated in my own cool whip bowl
and baked in my own oven
sized to .452"
and the case is expanded with a 45/70 expander almost to the full seating depth
and a nice .469" taper crimp

ive been messing with ways to expand the brass even better than the M-die
and i think im there now :scratch:

i should start a thread on that topic........
 

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Discussion Starter #12

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thats the Lee TL452-200 SWC cast of about 10bhn range scrap
powdercoated in my own cool whip bowl
and baked in my own oven
sized to .452"
and the case is expanded with a 45/70 expander almost to the full seating depth
and a nice .469" taper crimp

ive been messing with ways to expand the brass even better than the M-die
and i think im there now :scratch:

i should start a thread on that topic........
I am looking forward to it
 
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