Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler Kit
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- Last updated: 20/03/2019
As a long-time user of drymedia vibratory case cleaners, I have always been satisfied with the results from the machines I have owned, but never impressed; so, when the opportunity to try something different presented itself, I was keen to see what it could do.
On test, is the Rotary Tumbler Kit from Frankford Arsenal. When you unpack it, the first thing that hits you is the size and weight of the thing. The motorised base is substantial and, although all the visible parts are plastic, it looks very strong. Not looking unlike an upturned child’s toy truck, it has four wheels on the top, two of which are driven by the motor, and there is a large dial on the front where you set the run time. The tumbler drum that sits on top has large access ports on the ends, with clear sealing inserts secured with heavy duty caps to give a watertight seal. The inside of the drum is coated with rubber to reduce the noise that the tumbler produces, and the end caps include rubber seals to prevent leaks. Included in the kit you get a sachet of cleaning fluid, two sifting inserts and five pounds of stainless steel pins that act as a cleaning media.
Using the tumbler is very easy, you securely seal one end of the drum and then turn it over and drop in the brass and the steel pins. Next, fill the drum with water, add the cleaning fluid and secure the open end with the remaining end cap. The drum is placed on top of the base unit and the timer switch turned to the required setting, for up to 500 cases they recommend 1 to 2 hours. The drum will start to rotate instantly and, if you look in through the clear end caps, you will see the contents moving around like the contents of a washing machine. The motor is quiet but, despite the rubber lining, the tumbler drum is noisy; so, it is probably best used either in the garage or outside.
When the base unit switches off, take the tumbler drum off and start the process of emptying it. Stand the drum on one end, open it at the top and replace the clear insert with one of the sifting inserts provided. Then turn the drum over into a bucket, NOT INTO THE SINK, so that the dirty water and the pins can drain from inside it. If you do not use a bucket, the pins will go down the plughole! You then remove the remaining clear insert and replace it with another sifting insert. Clean water can then be run through the top of the drum and out of the bottom, into the bucket. With the water flowing, shake and rotate the drum to displace the remaining dirty water and pins from inside the drum, leaving the cleaned cases behind. Turning the drum over during this process is also recommended. Allowing the tap to run throughout this process, until only clean water is overflowing from the bucket, is the best way to get all the dirt and most of the pins out. At this point, you can lift the drum out of the bucket and shake out the remaining water and pins, staying over the bucket.
The next step is to dry the cases and remove any remaining pins by tipping the cases onto a towel and spreading them out. To remove the pins, you will need Frankford Arsenals ‘transfer magnet’. This large magnet can be passed over the cases and the pins will be lifted up and removed from the mix. Running your hand through the cases will ensure that the pins come free of the cases and stick to the magnet. The pins can then be put into a suitable container by pulling up on a spring-loaded inner handle on the transfer magnet, causing the pins to be released.
The first thing to say, is that the cases come out remarkably clean, easily the best I have seen from any case cleaner. They really do look like new, both inside and out. The downside is that they come out wet, which is a real pain. The mix of cases I cleaned included some that were not de-primed and getting the water out of them was a nightmare, so lesson learned – follow the instructions! A number of smaller cases got wedged inside larger ones with several pins jammed inside, each of these had to be separated and dried inside. Recovering all the pins also proved fiddly, like the needles off a Christmas tree, they keep turning up all over the place, no matter how well you think you have cleaned up. Another issue, is the size of the machine, being designed for cleaning 500+ cases at a time. Most shooters keep their cases in batches, of maybe 100 or less, and they do not mix them up; so, it may be difficult to fill the cleaner with enough cases to make it worthwhile. In practice, if you shoot several different calibres, you could clean 100 of each calibre and so easily separate them afterwards. Despite the above relatively minor negatives, the cases come out remarkably clean!
Drying the cases and separating out the stainless-steel pins is a pain, but the cases come out so clean it is worth the trouble, it really is. If they made a smaller version I would buy one in an instant. With the tumbler having such a large capacity it would perhaps be a good buy for a shooting club, so that more than one person could add cases and so get the best out of it. It is very well made and worth the price. The optional transfer magnet is a must and will save hours of picking out the steel pins. Overall, this kit gives great results and is well worth using.
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