I make lots of chain & all I’ve ever used to polish it is a
vibratory tumbler with assorted shapes of steel shot. I use about
7 pounds of shot in the smallest vibratory tumbler Raytech sells,
add a pinch of dry burnishing soap & about 2 ounces of household
ammonia. Put in the items to be polished & run the tumbler for
1/2 to 1 hour. The soap & ammonia work for about 2 days. Then I
wash the shot with hot water & put it back in the tumbler with a
new charge of soap & ammonia. Burnishing soap is nothing more
than a low sudsing soap, powdered dishwasher detergent works as
well. The soap provides lubrication for the shot & items being
polished. The same ingredients & routine will work with either
carbon steel or stainless steel shot. The important thing to do
is to put the cover on the tumbler tightly when ever it’s not in
It sounds like you purchased the carbon steel shot, it rusts!
There’s a stainless steel shot available that doesn’t rust.
However, it costs more than the carbon steel shot. Thunderbird
Supply sells the stainless steel shot. Their prices are about
the lowest I’ve found. They have a web site at
http://www.tbscorp.com Their email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to give your steel shot another try, it should be
cleaned up first. This can be done by rinsing the shot off with
water until the water runs clean. Then return the shot to the
tumbler, add water until it covers about 1/2 the shot, add some (
I use a 2 ounce dixie cup full) Draino or lye (sodium
hydroxide), Put the cover on the tumbler & let it run for about
an hour. Rinse the shot in water & clean out the tumbler. Return
the shot to the tumbler & repeat the cleaning process if required
or add the burnishing soap & ammonia. Place the lid on the
tumbler tightly when the tumbler’s not in use.
FWIW: I’ve been using the same carbon steel shot for about 8