Brass Cleaning

Ok, Ok, it’s a boring subject, I know. But it’s gotta be done so let’s get this out’a the way.

First, equipment and supplies.

  • Cleaning machine. I’ve got the small Dillon vibratory cleanerthat does up to 500 pieces of brass in about an hour or so. It’s well made and does the job and, after several years, I’m still using the original.And, yes, it’s a bit on the pricey side compared to others. But you’re not into this hobby because it’s affordable … because it isn’t. And you don’t reload because it’s more economical — come on, I know better than that. You reload so you can shoot, and you shoot everything you make. If it was “economical”, you’d be selling what you’ve made instead of shooting it up. So stop complaining and go ahead and get a machine you won’t have to think about. It will last and do what you need without problems.
  • Abrasive for the cleaning machine. Some use ground up corn cobs. Some us ground up walnut shells. Choose whichever is available and least expensive. My pick comes from Harbor Freightand, at roughly $25.00 for 25 pounds, the price will be hard to beat — I know that contradicts the attitude I espoused in the previous item. Ok, so I’m arbitrary. Or maybe after buying that expensive Dillon cleaner, I feel guilty and compensate by saving money on the abrasive. Ok, I feel guilty. Can we move on now?Regardless, beware the shipping charge from Harbor Freight for that 25 pounds. It’s an additional $9.00 for me. Instead, if you have one of these stores in town, pay the local sales tax (about $2.00 in Phoenix) and save on the shipping. I replace the media when the brass starts looking “very dusty” after cleaning. I’d guess that’s about every 5-10 batches, more or less. At that rate, the 25 pounds of walnut media will last for a long time.
  • Manual Timer

    Timer. While you may find a “Turn off the plugged in appliance in two hours” electrical timer somewhere, why bother? Just write yourself a note and leave it where you’ll find it. Coffee pot, refrigerator, front door and computer screen are all good places to stick it. I’ve left brass churning in there for hours and hours with no apparent harm so it’s no big deal to run over. (For “noise abatement”, put the machine outside and well away from any windows. It does make a racket.)

  • Separator. Use this outside — the “stuff” that floats up is gonna be bad for your lungs. Don’t breath it! Again, I have the little Dillon modeland it works fine.But there are two caveats. First, watch out for the stray 22 shell amongst the 45s. During cleaning, they will “separate” very nicely but when you dump the batch into the separator, they’ll sneak back inside a 45 shell and stay there until reloading when it’ll make a nasty noise in the deprimer. Inspect the batch carefully and remove any non-45 brass as early as possible.

    And second, tumble and separate thoroughly. Bits of the walnut media may hide in the flash hole and make an odd “scrunch” when you deprime. It’s distracting and causes me to pause and look to see what’s wrong. Interruptions in reloading lead to errors in reloading, and that can be bad. Avoid it by taking the time to purge any wrong size brass before you start pulling the crank.

  • Brass polish (optional). This is dumped into the walnut media (and run empty for about 10 minutes before adding brass) and shines up the brass more than just the walnut shells would’ve done. In my opinion, this is purely cosmetic — but there’s nothing wrong with “clean and pretty.” I use it and, again, it’s the Dillon product. (What can I say? Their store is “in town” for me and it’s a fun place to lust and drool.)
  • Something to store the cleaned brass in — and it’s not from Dillon! I use the quart-size ZipLock baggies and, because I keep my brass separated by head stamp, I also stick in a hand-written 3×5 note so I can see what flavor of brass is in a given bag from a couple of feet away. This week I’m reloading Winchester brass so those are the bags I’m after.
  • A place to store things when not in use; one of those annoyingly essential things to figure out. Mine are under the work table and come out from there when in use and then back when done.

 

That’s about it — and I can see by the note taped to my computer screen that the current batch of brass has been in the cleaner for 75 minutes. It should be done.

I’m headed outside to tumble and separate.

See ya!

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