Monday, March 13, 2017

Reloading - Extreme Tumblers Rebel 17

One of Sir Knight's favorite pastimes is reloading.  He has been reloading for years, hauling his Dillion RL 550 B from Western Washington to the heart of the American Redoubt.   He has set up his gear in the drafty basement of a late 1800's house, the dark office of a large heated shop, on a workbench in a 40' shipping container and now, in a small niche of our shouse bedroom.   He has reloaded untold rounds of .223, .308, .45ACP, 9MM and .45 Long Colt - and even a few rounds of .300 Winchester Magnum and 35 Wheelan.  He has reloaded with Maid Elizabeth at his knee, followed by Master Hand Grenade, Miss Serenity, Princess Dragon Snack and now, Master Calvin.  He has allowed countless young men to spend hours on our shooting range, having them police the brass afterwards and then sitting them down at the reloader to replace what they shot.  Not only is Sir Knight an advocate of reloading, he is also a teacher and mentor to those who have the desire to reload.

Over the years we have accumulated a LOT of brass, much of it coming off the range, tarnished and corroded.  Sir Knight has always used a vibrating tumbler to clean his brass.  Although it worked (mostly), it took about 6 to 8 hours to tumble relatively clean brass and 24 hours to clean tarnished brass.  Unfortunately, some of the range brass we've collected has been so tarnished that it was (according to Sir Knight's standards) unsalvageable.  Hating to throw any brass away, Sir Knight began searching for a better way to tumble casings.

Tarnished .308

Lone .223 brass
Sir Knight's research led him to STM (  STM sells rock tumblers, however they have figured out how to use them for tumbling brass.  Through a process of trial and error, they have come up with the proper proportions and time frames to quickly and easily clean brass - even tarnished and corroded range brass!

Knowing he wanted to try the wet tumbler (the rock tumbler uses water and stainless steel media instead of dry walnut or corncob media), the kids and I pooled our pennies and bought one for Sir Knight for his birthday.  Now, I have a love/hate relationship with his new tumbler.  I love it because Sir Knight loves it.  He loves how quickly it cleans brass and how well it shines up really tarnished brass.  My hate relationship?  I never knew Sir Knight had SO much brass!  Please!  Just a moment of peace!!

STM sells a Basic reloading kit which includes the Extreme Tumblers Rebel 17, five pounds of stainless steel media and a bottle of Lemishine detergent.   They also sell a Deluxe kit which includes everything in the basic kit along with an STM media separator.  We just bought the tumbler and media (we purchased the Lemishine at Walmart) and Sir Knight uses his old media separator.

STM did all of the homework and came up with a winning formula for their tumbler.  Basically, the tumbler is rated for 17 pounds (total capacity) which equals 5 pounds of stainless steel media, 1 gallon of water (8 pounds) and 4 pounds of dirty brass (the weight depends on the caliber - it's approximately 275 - 300 rounds of .223).  Opening the tumbler, you put your brass in, 1 gallon of water (approximately 1" from the top of the tumbler), 2 tablespoons of Dawn dishwashing liquid, 1/4 teaspoon of Lemishine (available at Walmart).  Make sure you don't use any more Lemishine - too much citric acid will tarnish the brass.  Seal the tumbler and tumble for 1 hour.  If your brass is black and tarnished, tumble for 3 to 4 hours, changing the water half way through (and adding new Lemishine and detergent).  After the brass has been thoroughly cleaned pour the water out of the tumbler and rinse several times until the water runs clear.  Dump the brass and media into your media separator (fill the separator with water) and rotate to separate the media from the brass.  Pour the brass onto a kitchen towel and dry.  There are several methods for drying, ranging from sun drying to drying in a dehydrator.  Our method of choice at the moment is drying on a kitchen towel in our wood cook stove's warming oven (it generally takes 1 hour, depending on how hot the stove is).  One thing to note is that the Lemishine softens the water and prevents water spots from forming on the brass.  Another thing Sir Knight is experimenting with is using Armor-all Wash and Shine instead of Dawn dishwashing detergent (use the same amount).  The Armor-all is the equivalent of putting a polish in your dry media tumbler.

Taking the top off the tumbler

The inner seal

Stainless Steel Media

Dirty brass goes in....

Add Lemishine, Detergent and Water

The water after an hour in the tumbler

Media Separator full of water

Pouring in the cleaned brass


The Media has been separated

Media in the bottom

Clean brass on a kitchen towel

Master Calvin helping to get the media back into the tumbler

Drying in the Cook Stove
So far, Sir Knight has been thrilled with his new tumbler.  It cleans the brass quickly and wow, does it do a beautiful job!  A few days ago we dug through our brass and found some really corroded, ugly casings.  In the past, Sir Knight would have tossed that brass, however this time he eagerly tossed it into his new tumbler.  The transformation was amazing.  The brass came out beautiful and shiny.  Perfect.  And in only an hour and a half!

The single .223 casing

Look at that shine!!
Hopefully, Sir Knight will tire of his new tumbler soon, or perhaps, we'll run out of brass.....but until then, we'll have the best looking brass in the neighborhood!


  1. Very interesting. I had no idea what was involved in simply cleaning the brass. Thanks for sharing. Sir Knight is passing on awesome skills to others.
    Montana Guy

  2. A very useful tool. I wonder if Armor All or another additive that included a polish or lubricant would help lubricate the brass and make reloading easier?

    1. I know that oil will kill powder. I found several case lube formulas on line and the one I used had lanolin for the lubrication. I do know that you are to stay away from oil being anywhere near the powder.

    2. Jonathan - As you can tell by the one photo, I'm using ArmorAll Wash and Wax instead of Dawn dishwashing liquid. I read about this on a forum and my hope is that the small amount of wax in the soap will prevent the brass from tarnishing while in storage. This is not a new concept. The "magic" polishing compounds used in dry media case cleaning is Turtle Wax.

      Steve - You're right about oil damaging powder and primers. The beauty of this system is that you size, decap (remove the primer), before you polish the brass, so the oils will not be a concern. If you process your brass before tumbling it the stainless steel media will clean the primer pockets, take all of the fouling from inside the cases and actually remove the marks on the brass made from sizing.

      I hope this answer your questions.

      Sir Knight

  3. How often can you use the media? How long does it last, being stainless?

    1. Cederq - The stainless steel media will get dirty, and after about 11 loads it's helpful to run the tumbler with just soap, water and lemishine (with no brass) to clean the stainless steel media. The media last forever. You will lose small amounts of it down the drain when you rinse the brass so it will need to be replenished from time to time, but it never wears out.

      By the way, if there is any odd sized media that gets stuck in the mouth of your brass, pull that piece out and throw it away.

      Sir Knight

  4. Very interesting. I wonder if this thing would do double duty - say, vehicle parts? Maybe not a carb, or things with tiny pieces, but some mid sized parts, I bet would clean up nicely with this thing. Awesome!