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Basic jewelry tumbling


#1

I have always fabricated and made my pieces one at a time, sketch,
fab, grind/buff, set stone, polish (buffing wheel). I’m considering
using some tumbling process. I’ve read about the different equipment
and media here on Orchid and elsewhere and still have some basic
questions.

  • Does tumbling (burnishing & polishing) harden bezels too much to
    set stone. Need to anneal bezel and prongs to set stones?

  • Can you tumble polish as final step with most stones in place? I
    would expect stone like opal and malachite too soft for this but???

I do have a small vibrating tumbler I’ve used for brass but, would
probably purchase a new one with appropriate media.

Thank you,
Regis


#2

Regis,

Get a small magnetic tumbler…different sizes available…I would
never tumble any stones in place and I don’t think the bezel
hardening is an issue. Silver and yellow gold normally about 15 min
in tumbler to brighten…white gold, pall, and plat 30 min.

Good Luck,
Russ Hyder
The Jewelry CAD Institute
www.thejewelrycadinstitute.com


#3

Hello Regis,

Get thee to a jewelry supplier and purchase the most recent edition
of Judy Hoch’s book on tumbling. It is reasonably priced and easy to
read and understand. I know Rio Grande carries it, and likely other
suppliers do as well.

Re your specific questions: I commonly tumble before bezel setting.
I use fine silver bezels, which don’t work harden - so setting after
tumbling is no problem. No comment on the effect on prongs.

After stones have been set, you can change the media to something
like charged walnut shell to polish. However, the time frame is much
longer and the surfaces had better be well finished, just as if you
were ready for the final polish with rouge.

Hope this helps… and DO get the book.

Judy in Kansas, who is watching the tomatoes grow and hoping to
harvest one for the Fourth of July celebration


#4
Does tumbling (burnishing & polishing) harden bezels too much to
set stone. Need to anneal bezel and prongs to set stones? 

Tumbling does not harden bezels too much to set stone.

Can you tumble polish as final step with most stones in place? I
would expect stone like opal and malachite too soft for this
but??? 

That’s generally not a good idea. I’ve had some luck tumbling PMC
with glass set in it. I wouldn’t plan on regularly tumbling pieces
with stones.

I tumble everything I do. I have both fabricated and cast elements.
I finish to about 600 grit or to a point where you could go to
tripoli or white diamond tripoli. Then I put the stuff without stones
in a mild abrasive media in a vibrating tumbler. I usually run about
4 hours. If I want it shiny, the next step is to stainless steel in a
rotary tumbler for about 30 minutes. If it is not textured and I want
a perfectly bright shiny finish, I complete the cycle in dry media in
a vibratory tumbler. In any case, I set stones after all finishing
and patinas are complete.

My work is mostly one of a kind and not high production. Years ago I
found that I really disliked hand buffing. Even with a really good
vacuum picking up the dust, it was dirty. I did some research on how
the big guys finish their production pieces and then scaled down the
process. It is all documented in “Tumble Finishing for Handmade
Jewelry”, available from most of the large jewelry making suppliers.

I do have a small vibrating tumbler I've used for brass but, would
probably purchase a new one with appropriate media. 

After you read the book, you will probably figure out how to use
what you have.

Judy Hoch


#5

Thank you so much for writing your book so clearly (and for
participating in Orchid). I’ve read it and read it and bought an
inexpensive rotary tumbler to go along with my small vibrating one.
And, set them up as you describe.

Have you had any experience with tumbling silver or gold pieces with
enameled parts? Soon, I’m going to experiment with some enameling
for accents.

Again, Thank you,
Regis