Rotary vs Vibrating Tumbling?

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by olehippy, Sep 15, 2009.

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  1. olehippy

    olehippy New Member

    Jul 26, 2009
    S Tx near San Antonio
    Has anyone ever looked into rotary vs vibrating case tumbling? I had never paid any attention, just always used a vibrator (but I hadn’t heard of washing brass until a few months ago!).

    I visited an old man a couple days ago (for me to consider someone ‘old’ says something too, I am a dinosaur!) but he proclaims rotary tumblers do a vastly superior job in a shorter time. The brass he showed me was impressive, from simple observation it looked like unshot brass.

    BTW for clarification I use a vibrating TUMBLER, that didnt come out quiet right the first time!:eek:

    gunnut1215 likes this.
  2. gdmoody

    gdmoody Moderator Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Athens, Georgia
    For the first few years of reloading, I used a rotary tumbler and it worked just fine. 15 or 20 years ago I bought my first vibrating Lyman tumbler and it works just fine. I can say that I did not notice a difference in the time of tumbling or in the quality of the brass turned out by each method.

    I gave that old rotary tumbler to my neighbor a few years ago and he is using that for his tumbling and has not complained about it.

  3. army mp

    army mp Member

    Jan 30, 2009
    western Pa,
    I think it has more to do with expense than anything else. And the valium of brass. Rotary with the liquid bath would do a better job. But the price of the Rotary tumbler is about 3 times the price of a Lyman Vibrating. And the liquid cleaner would probably not last for multiple uses like corn or walnut. My lyman dose a pretty good job . and all I am looking for is cleaning enough to inspect the brass before reloading.
  4. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    In a vibratory brass cleaner the media makes the biggest difference in speed and end results.

    Walnut shell media is fast and leaves the brass with a kind of brushed surface look. It is more aggressive on stains on the cases too.

    Corn cob media polishes rather than cleans. It takes longer to get the brass as clean as walnut shell media. The brass is more polished than walnut shell media but really requires the brass to be in the cleaner longer, much longer.

    Once the brass has been through the sizing die its surface is burnished and the difference between the two media's surface finishes is less marked.

    With a vibratory cleaner the process is dry and you can go from the machine to the press. If any other cleaning process is used that includes a wetting of the brass, getting it thoroughly dry can be a problem. Either time or a little heat works but just air drying can leave little pockets of water in a tub of brass cases. Too much heat can destroy the strength of the brass, too.

    With wet processes you have to be careful of what chemicals you use as the chemicals that work the best MAY degrade the strength of the brass under the tens of thousands of pounds of pressure they must undergo in a firing cycle of a gun. If the chemical is not made exclusively for firearms cartridge cases, it is wise to not use it. Use only liquid cleaners specifically designed for cartridge cases.

    Last edited: Sep 15, 2009
  5. olehippy

    olehippy New Member

    Jul 26, 2009
    S Tx near San Antonio
    Thanks for everyone's thoughts so far.
    One additional note: this guy was using corn cob in the rotary tumber, not liquid.

  6. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    Can't comment on the two for brass. I use a vibrator type machine for brass, and a tumbler for rocks, etc.
  7. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    Using corn cob media in a tumbler must have taken hours and hours. In my huge Dillon Vibratory cleaner it may take an hour but certainly no more than two hours. I don't try for brass that looks like new but brass that is clean with carbon removed externally. Stains may not be gone but who cares about a few stains on a few cases. Rifle cases necks always have discoloration that I would think might take days of vibratory cleaning to remove (??).

    I would think (just a guess???) that the falling action of the case in the tumbler would dent the brass?????

  8. I'm glad this topic came up because I have wondered about this myself. I thought about the denting issue as well but I guess it really depends on how fast the drum is rotating. It may only be fast enough to make the cases kind of roll over each other instead of tossing them around like clothes in a dryer.
  9. 312shooter

    312shooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2008
    Las Vegas NV
    Funny you brought this up, somewhere I read an article of a guy who was using a concrete mixer with something like 50 lbs of walnut and cleaning several thousand rounds at a time. God help him when it came to seperating that mess.
  10. medalguy

    medalguy Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    New Mexico
    Don't knock the concrete mixer! It works great when you have a LOT of brass to do. I bought a concrete mixer at Home Depot a couple of years ago for under $200 and used an old motor I had around here to power it. Still works great but I do have a smaller Thumler I use for small lots. The Dillon large brass separator works fine to separate the brass and media.

    The secret, if there is one, to using barrel tumblers is to not overload them. The tumbling/sliding action is what cleans the brass. If the barrel is filled too much, the brass doesn't really slide enough to clean it. Not more than half full is the magic mark. The maximum cleaning effort is on the top of the pile as it slides around the barrel. The speed is not terribly important as long as you're not slinging brass to the ourside of the barrel! Too slow and it just takes longer. And the tumbler does not dent any brass. Nothing with sufficient force in the barrel to do that, even with 2,000 rounds of 30-06.
  11. Thanks for that info. I haven't bought a tumbler yet and now I have some better info in order to make a decision on what style to get. I thought that was how the rotary tumblers worked.
  12. Rocket J Squirl

    Rocket J Squirl New Member

    Jul 20, 2009
  13. wolf_man

    wolf_man New Member

    Sep 16, 2009
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    I have a vibratory tumbler, and stumbled into a large amount of brass, so I borrowed a friends RCBS rotary to help out. I HATE the rotary! For example I use walnut media -w- a couple of tablespoons of Turtle Wax red rubbing/polishing compound. My vibrating tumbler will do a real good job on about 800 pcs of 9mm in just a couple of hours, but if I put more than 400 in the RCBS rotary, it takes 6 to 8 hours to get the same results. Half the brass in twice the time. Don't get me wrong, the brass ends up turning out great, but takes so much longer. Also at over $400, I can wear out several $60 tumblers and still come out ahead. Only real plus for the rotary is noise, much quieter.

    25 lb bag of KAYTEE Walnut Bedding at Pets Mart for between $20 and $25. Turtle Wax (or your favorite brand) red heavy duty rubbing/polishing compound from the automotive section.

    Fill tumbler with brass and about half of your normal amount of media. In a small container mix about 1 or 2 tablespoons of the red polishing compound to the remainder of the media, mix well, (media will be slightly damp and sticky but that's ok, it will dry out quickly in the tumbler), then slowly add to the running tumbler.
    Recharge media with compound as needed.
  14. Popgunner

    Popgunner Active Member

    Dec 3, 2005
  15. Patriot1

    Patriot1 New Member

    Sep 17, 2009
    Spring, Texas
    I'm new to this also, but a buddy (Marine) told me he uses an old ice cream
    motor and the drum to clean his brass. Only about fifty at a time though.

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