• Cabela's Ceramic Porcelain Polishing Media

    Not to long ago I realized I was long overdue to change the media in my tumbler. I have used walnut, corncob and treated corncob in the past with acceptable results, but was curious if there might be a better alternative out there. Walnut leaves my cases nice and shiny, but it loads up with resize lube pretty fast and thus requires frequent changes. Corncob works well for removing the lube and leaves my cases clean, but they're not near as shiny as those done with walnut. The Lyman Red Rough Treated Media results in the best shine, but the downside is you have to hand wipe all the red dust off the brass after tumbling to find it.

    Since I was in need of some new media I decided to drive to the Cabala's in a near by town to see what they had. When I got back to the area with the media I found I had five choices: walnut, clean corncob, red corncob, green corncob and ceramic. I first looked at the green and was not to sure about it. It looked like it shouldn't leave a dusty residue, so it might not need the extra clean up like the Red Powder Rough. I then looked at the ceramic media and remembered back to the days I used to tumble S&W slides in ceramic media after the machinist finished a batch and it always cleaned them up pretty good. After a little hee-hawing back and forth I decided to give the ceramic media a try.

    At $49 a bucket the price kept me at bay for a moment or two, but how long can you resist advertising that says you will have longer lasting media and cleaner, shiner cases? After paying for my great, best thing since sliced bread media, I had to get straight home to try it out....after a healthy dose of pizza of course as the only thing between me and a good meal is cooking time.

    When I finely arrived home with my new pail of wonder cleaner I went in search of a tool to open the plastic bucket. It was going to take a sharp tool to slit the lid sides before I would be able to pry it off. After finding a knife I thought was sharp enough to do the job, I . made my slits in the lid and pried it off.

    Oh no! Those things are huge! They looked like some one had taken rods the size of ink pen cartridges and cut them into quarter inch lengths. My first thought was "If those make it into a .223 Rem case they're never going to come out!"

    The next step was to clean the vibratory tumbler I intended to use. Unfortunately, I soon realized there was a catch; the tumbler is a Lyman 2500 Pro Mag which are made to be self-emptying. The top bowl has slits in the bottom that let the media pass into a lower bowl and out the side into a pail. I wasn't quite sure if there would be enough media to fill that much space. It was at about this time that I decided it might be a good idea to read the directions while thinking about how I may have to plug the slits with duct tape.

    "Add water."

    Huh? Water in the media? Ok, it seems I do remember having to do that with the big tumbler we used for the S&W slides. It was just a small trickle, but water non-the-less. So exactly how much water do I need? The directions call for 1 quart of water to 8 pounds of media. How much media do I have? I have no clue as the pail isn't labeled anywhere. Better read some more...

    "Do not run water higher then the media height. Keep water low enough there is no splashing visible. Too much water will dampen the movement of the media."

    This is starting to sound formidable. There is no way to use the Lyman tumbler. Water would leak out between the two bowls. Everything would set in the bottom bowl. It is now time to look at my smaller RCBS vibratory tumbler. It uses a single bowl and the center of the bowl where the stud comes up through is tall enough to keep the water in.

    After a soap and water wash with an inspection for cracks everything looks good for the RCBS. I poured in the media, filling the bowl three quarters of the way. Next I turned on the power and watched the dust fly...guess I better get that water! Most of a 16oz tumbler brought the water level up to a non-splashing height. Next was four capfuls of the supplied polishing compound and we're all set.

    More directions…

    "Run media 24 hours to brake in for shiny brass. Not braking in the media first will result in clean but satin finished brass."

    This media is huge!Have you ever seen the poster of two buzzards in a tree waiting for their next meal? One says to the other "Patients my rear, I'm going to kill something!" Needless to say, waiting 24-hours to break-in the media just wasn't going to work with my complete and utter lack of patience. So, in went a few pieces of .220 Swift, .308, and some .444s.

    Two hours later I started plucking out the brass. The .444 come out ok, but they were packed full of media and had to be held against the side of the running tumbler to break it loose. The .308 cases were not so easy as they were also full and the media is wet and adhesive. Washing them in a pan of fresh water helped to unclog them. Last but not least came the .220 Swift cases. They were also full of media and it absolutely refused to come out. The caliber is just to small and will not let wet sticky things fall out freely. It took lots of shaking and fresh water to finely rid them of the media.

    All the cases were clean, but they were not shiny at all. I guess I should have heeded the directions and broken the media in for 24-hours as directed, so that is the next project.

    If you guys thought watching paint dry was a test in waiting, try listening to a tumbler run for 24 hours. There was also something written in the directions about washing the media between batches. Hope the wife didn't notice me using her screen strainer to wash my dirty little rocks.

    After a day of torture, I put the media back into the tumbler with a fresh supply of water and compound, and an assortment of .223, .308, and .45 ACP cases. A couple hours later and the same painful cleaning process convinced me that the ceramic porcelain media is no longer a great thing.

    The cases did come out with a better shine then the first batch, but it still wasn't as nice as those tumbled in walnut. The inside of the cases cleaned up well also - not polished, but almost all the old powder residue was gone.

    With the amount of handling involved in removing the media from bottle neck cases, washing the media after each batch of brass, washing and drying out the brass, and picking up all the little spilled pellets that fly around from trying to shake them out of the case it simply makes the ceramic media not worth the effort for bottle neck cases. Every thing is wet, you're constantly trying not to spill something, and with all the extra handling it is only a mater of time before you do spill something and make a huge mess. It works well for straight-walled cases, but forget about it with bottle-necked cases if you wish to keep your sanity.

    If I were shooting a lot of competition handgun I might consider the ceramic media if I didn't have a problem with having to mess with all the water and drying. All that washing and handling just isn't for me.

    Lesson learned, and for now I'll revert back to corncob media and a rotary separator. Few turns of the crank and my brass is clean, dry, shiny and ready to prime. The Ceramic Porcelain tumbler media went back in the bucket and back to the store. When I was talking to the returns person he put extra notes with the product for the management about my opinions of the product. I also left a note buried inside the product for the lucky person to visit the “Bargain Cave”.

    Additional Photos:

    A close-up shot showing the pellet size. It doesn't take much to get this stuff lodged in bottleneck cases, and getting it out is a real pain.
    From Left to Right

Corncob cleaned 6mm
Ceramic .308 before break-in
Ceramic .308 after break-in
Ceramic .223 before break-in
Ceramic .223 after break-in

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