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Cleaning a Vibratory Tumbler

As you can see in the picture below, tumblers get dirty over time. During the process of vibratory tumbling, the media scratches spent powder and lead out of the shell casings. That lead doesn't simply vanish - some of it lodges in the media, but a good chunk of it gets deposited inside of the tumbler. I deliberately tumbled a number of loads of brass without cleaning my tumbler, in order to write this article.

Getting it clean

The layer of material on the inside of my tumbler was thick enough that it could be scraped with a fingernail. I used Hoppes #9 powder solvent, a popular bore cleaner, to dissolve the accrued powder and lead. I dipped a corner of a paper towel in it, then used the paper towel to apply it to the cleaning area - then wiped it off with the dry part of the towel.

Water as a Solvent

Some of you may think that water and scrubbing could substitute for powder solvent - this is not the case. After a bit of scrubbing, the ring of powder lightened up a little, and that was the extent of water's cleaning virtue in this context. I stopped scrubbing when the paper towel wore through, having only lightened up the ring - not penetrated it. The moral of this story: without a decent powder solvent, nothing short of steel wool will remove tumbling residue.

In the last picture, you'll notice all of the gunk that was removed from the tumbler. It's also worth noting that the central shaft of the tumbler will pick up some gunk as well.

Informal Testing of Powder Solvents

I'm purposely letting my tumbler get a big nasty dirt ring again, so that I can test multiple solvents against it. At present, I intend to test:
  • Water
  • Hand soap
  • Hoppes #9
  • Break-Free CLP
  • Your suggestion? Contact me with some solvents you want to see tried. If you can mail me a small sample, that's even better.

Picture Gallery

  • Ring around the tumbler:
    s_dsc02132.jpg

  • Water does not remove powder:
    s_dsc02137.jpg

  • Hoppes #9:
    s_dsc02134.jpg

  • Cleaning the ring:
    s_dsc02135.jpg

  • Freshly clean tumbler:
    s_dsc02141.jpg

-- SeanNewton - 11 Mar 2008

Topic attachments
I Attachment History Action Size Date Who Comment
JPEGjpg s_dsc02132.jpg r1 manage 28.7 K 12 Mar 2008 - 00:20 UnknownUser Ring around the tumbler
JPEGjpg s_dsc02134.jpg r1 manage 29.7 K 12 Mar 2008 - 00:21 UnknownUser Hoppes #9
JPEGjpg s_dsc02135.jpg r1 manage 28.5 K 12 Mar 2008 - 00:22 UnknownUser Cleaning the ring
JPEGjpg s_dsc02137.jpg r1 manage 25.3 K 12 Mar 2008 - 00:22 UnknownUser Water does not remove powder
JPEGjpg s_dsc02141.jpg r1 manage 29.0 K 12 Mar 2008 - 00:23 UnknownUser Freshly clean tumbler
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Topic revision: r3 - 14 May 2008 - SeanNewton
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