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Posted: 8/25/2015 11:33:22 PM EST
[Last Edit: 8/25/2015 11:41:23 PM EST by JFCisme]
I’ve read about people using stainless steel pins to clean their brass. I finally decided to take the plunge after I had to clean my Dillon press for the umpteenth time because of the debris left over from depriming brass. It gets all over the press and the primers don’t always make it in to the bin. I had been using corncob/walnut media. It gets the outside clean but does little for the inside and doesn’t touch the primer pocket.
I started to prototype some tumblers. My first model used an ice cream motor that turned a rolling pin. My drum was a three gallon bucket with a pvc insert to agitate the brass.

This was an epic fail because my wife said it was too loud. She could hear it in the garage.

I got back on youtube.com and saw a tumbler made by MFRshooter. He is a machinist and made the most incredible tumbler. If you don’t believe me look at this:


I wanted to make something similar. I copied everything I could put on a plywood base. I bought the pillow block bearings, skateboard wheels, and half inch stainless steel rod on Ebay. The parts are relatively inexpensive. You may have to hunt around. I spent a month gathering parts. I used skateboard wheels (cheap ones) and modified them with a Dremel to glue ½ inch stainless steel collars.

I drilled holes in the wheels to tighten the set screw with an allen key.

The motor is 120vac, 700rpm, 1/8th HP, with a half inch shaft used in HVAC. Get it with the mounting collar. I use a fan to keep mine cool.

I used size #25 sprockets and chain. I also drive the idler shaft to make it easier to transfer torque to the drum.

You will have to do some calculations to determine what size sprockets/pulleys to use. This web site was helpful:


Remember you have two sets of pulleys to calculate for. The first is from the motor to the drive rod. The second is from the skate board wheels to the drum.
I selected 170 rpm from the drive rod and 40 rpm as the final output. Your results may vary.

Different sized drums are available at http://www.candmtopline.com/tumbling_barrels.html
I use the 2.5 gallon model.

Here is a youtube.com link to a video showing my tumbler in action.


Note the use of a programmed switch for 1, 2, 4, or 8 hours. I use 2 hours.

With a 2.5 gallon barrel, I fill it half full with water. I then add 5 pounds of stainless steel pins (0.255 x 0.047), a couple of tablespoons of dawn dishwashing liquid and a teaspoon of lemi-shine (detergent booster). To this I add one gallon of brass. That’s over 1,000 pieces of 45acp brass. I know this because I counted them once. Since then, it’s one gallon of brass using a plastic ice cream tub. The total weight is 35 pounds. This is way more than the “hobby” type rock tumblers can do.

The cost can depend on how well you can scrounge parts. I got an “old stock” motor for $40. The drum was $150. I spent a little over $245 in total for parts. Some things I already had.

Once I had a tumbler I had to prepare the brass. I use a lee press with a universal depriming die on a portable table. I have an RCBS rock chucker on the other end. I process a gallon of brass at a time. When it is cleaned I put it in tubs and have it ready as I need it. I have clean brass in 45acp, 45auto rim, 44mag, 38spl, 357mag, and 9mm.

When the tumbler is finished I rinse the brass—the water is filthy. You can use a workshop sink or outside with a hose. As the drum fills I agitate by swirling the water and then pouring it into another container to catch any brass or SS pins. I do this about three times or until you think the water is clean enough.

I have a sieve that I used to separate corncob/walnut media. I shake the brass to get most of the pins to fall through. Then I dump it on a towel in front of a fan. I have a furnace blower that is awesome at drying brass and keeping me cool on hot days in the garage. I use a magnet that roofers use to drag through the grass to pick up nails. If one SS pin is in a piece of brass it will stick to the magnet. Pistol brass will dry lying down and occasionally agitated, but rifle brass will need to be stood on end for water to drain. I have heard of people using dehydrators to dry brass and another person I know uses an oven on low heat.

This isn’t the cheapest tumbler by any means, but it is durable and engineered to last a long time. My drum weighs over 35 pounds and I could still put in more. You could use the 8 gallon drum on this setup and still not slow it down.

If you see something I didn’t address feel free to ask a question.
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 6:23:11 AM EST
Very nice. I made one similar last year that runs on a cordless drill. Works great. I only tumble every few months now, thousand at a time.
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 6:30:44 AM EST
The drums are the expensive part. The drum you purchased of good quality?

Nobody ever talks about the waste water. I would think that pouring this down the drain is illegal because of the heavy metal and lead contaminants. My waste goes to our local town's waste treatment plant. What do you guys do with the water?
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 7:15:41 AM EST
The drums are the expensive part. The drum you purchased of good quality?
View Quote

This drum is the heart of the device. It is a US made commercial tumbling drum made for tumblers that cost over a thousand dollars. It has octagonal shape that agitates the brass.

Visit youtube.com to see my tumbling videos under JFCisme.
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 9:48:01 AM EST
Over kill but I like it. I thought about purchasing a couple of the 1.5 gal drums from them, but the cost was a little high. I build mine from 6" PVC. If I was building really big tumblers and doing 1000's of pieces of brass at a time, Id buy one of the 8 gallon drums from them.

You might want to jump in for an extra 5lbs of pins. I only have 1.3 gallon drums on my tumbler, and when i went from 5 to 7.5lbs of pins, the different is notable for cleanliness and speed. My brass gets just as clean in 2 hours as it does in 4.
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 5:04:06 PM EST
I have an extra five pound bag of pins. The brass is clean after 2 hours and I didn't' see the need to add them. Perhaps, if I upped the amount of brass I would use them. Currently, one gallon of brass is all I need at one time.
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 5:05:27 PM EST
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 6:53:32 PM EST
I have used #2 steel shot and it work's.
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 7:36:39 PM EST
I love the ingenuity of reloaders
Link Posted: 8/26/2015 9:02:40 PM EST
Where did you get your electric motor?
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I got it on E bay as "old stock" This was a difficult item to get. I had searched Craig's list and had visited a surplus parts place called Skycraft in Orlando. My next step was to start calling HVAC installers and see if I could pick something up. I lucked out when I found my motor. Some places want over $150 bucks for one.
Link Posted: 8/27/2015 12:10:06 PM EST
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By JFCisme:
I have an extra five pound bag of pins. The brass is clean after 2 hours and I didn't' see the need to add them. Perhaps, if I upped the amount of brass I would use them. Currently, one gallon of brass is all I need at one time.
View Quote

Yep, its all relative to how much brass you are running. I run a 1.3 gallon drum pretty full at times. Pistol brass seems to be OK to fill the drum 3/4 of the way full, rifle I try to load no more than half unless In just cleaning up some range brass before I prep it.
Link Posted: 9/2/2015 1:17:25 PM EST
seems like in the time you made that rolling pin tumbler you could have just worked a few more hours at work and bought a new one , but if you had fun making it....
Link Posted: 9/3/2015 9:59:18 AM EST
I went through an evolution of wet tumbling also. I started with an ice cream mixer drive system that lasted about ten times befor it stripped out. Now I use the PVC pipe drum on a welded frame with a dedicated industrial motor.

Link Posted: 9/3/2015 11:07:14 PM EST
I just ordered myself one of these.

Figured I'd just throw it on the treadmill sitting in front of my reloading bench with a 2x4 stop and a couple of roller wheels to keep it from rubbing. Thinking I can glue either some kydex strip to the inside or maybe some rubber weather stripping to keep it agitated.
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