Tumbler FAQ



Vibratory vs Rotary.



better at polishing

better at deburring

much faster at polishing


easier to load, unload and check on the load


no belts to break




The vibratory tumblers should be used 75-90% full.

This means about 4lbs of walnut. The amount of steel shot you need would exceed the rated weight capacity of the tumbler. The amount of media will vary a bit depending on what you are tumbling.


Steel shot is used for "burnishing" this make the surface smoother but dirty. Walnut is used for cleaning and polishing. Typically the wire used for rings is already smooth and all you need to do is clean and polish.


Walnut is always used dry, steel media is typically used with a small amount of water and detergent.


Source of above information: The Ring Lord, http://theringlord.com/cart/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=166&cat=Tumblers




Some advice gathered from The Ring Lord forum and personal experience:


Where to buy a tumbler:

Tumblers are pretty easy to locate online, possibly tougher to find in a local store.  They can most commonly be found at jewelry supply stores, gun shops, rock shops, and of course e-bay (just be sure to do some homework first).


Recommend brands:

Lymann, Lortone, Gy-ro, Ray-tek, Thumler are all quality products.

I must mention Harbor Freight because so many people I know have bought from them, with mixed results.  A number of people have had problems with belts breaking, and motors going out.  I bought mine from them and checked belt alignment, tension, and oiled the bearings before my first use and have absolutely no trouble with mine.  I paid $30 for a dual barrel 3 Lb capacity (so 6 Lb total), and paid a couple extra dollars for the extended warranty plan.  For the price it is a good way to start out, but a more expensive tumbler will be a better investment.


Buying tumbling media:

You should be able to get tumbling media at the same shop as the tumbler.  When shopping around for cheaper prices you can check odd places like pet stores (walnut shells for reptile bedding) or sandblasting supply stores.


Types of Tumbling Media:

For polishing you can use crushed walnut shells, crushed corncob, dry white rice, white flour, or a flour/baking soda mix.  All of these are used dry.  Try each one and see which you prefer. You may find you like different media for different metals.


For deburring you can use steel pellets, steel shot, or ceramic media.  Walnut will work for light deburring also.  Ensure the steel is stainless steel so it wonít rust. Magnetic stainless steel is easier to remove from the rings because it is magnetic (makes sense doesn't it?).


Rinse your steel shot after every use.  If your steel media gets dirty your rings will get a dull color, this is especially noticed with new steel shot.    After deburring simply polish them with your choice of polishing media (I prefer walnut shells).  You can also clean them with Simple Green if they are just dirty from the steel.


Size of media:

The tumbling media should be small enough to get into the details of the weave and make good contact with the rings.  Pin shot or walnut is very good for small jewelry pieces.   The ceramic pieces have odd edges so they also work very well.


How full should my tumbler be?

Vibratory tumblers should be 75%-90% full.

Rotary tumblers should be 50%-75% full.

For a 3Lb capacity rotary barrel load about 1 Lb of shot, a little warm water, a shot of dish detergent, and your ready to roll (and your rings of course).  You will want a detergent that is plain soap, avoid the additives.  Color, smell, and lotion added just leave residues on your rings. Blue Dawn has been recommended by many people.  Change the water and soap every few hours to keep it cleaner.


Tumbling times:

The amount of time varies by the type and condition of the metal, type of media, and a countless other variables.  Some pieces only need a few hours (for simple polishing) while other may need to tumble overnight.  This is, unfortunately, another one you will figure out with some trial and error.


Should I tumble loose rings or finished pieces?

Again, here is one you have to figure out what you prefer.  Some of the tighter weaves are hard to debur once assembled, but tumbled rings tends to be a bit slippery.  I only tumble finished pieces and have had good results.


Can I tumble anodized aluminum?

You donít want to scratch the anodized finish but you should be able to tumble it for an hour or two in walnut or rice without harming the finish.  It wonít really shine it much but the walnut may help deburr the rings.  Some have said they use stainless steel shot for up to six hours with no ill effects, but I have not tried it so canít really comment.


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