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First Time Tumbling

This is my first time tumbling. Followed the following process;

– Loaded tumbler with ceramic, add solution, silver rings,
tumble for 24 hours,

– Loaded tumbler with mixed shape steel shot, at solution,
replace silver rings, tumble for 24 hours.

Rings come out polished but with a non-smooth surface, small
dents, very uneven surface. Rings with smooth surfaces were put
in with a non-polished but smooth surface. On one sample item
the wax was polished with an alcohol polish application, yet the
item also appeared as above.

What should I do to the mixture. More liquid, shot etc… I fill
the tumbler a little less than half with ceramic or shot and then
add liquid to just below the aggregate(ceramic or shot)

Also, some detail continues to show the ‘white silver
non-polished surface’ as is done after cleaning. Should I add a
’small wire shot’ to the Shot mixture to resolve this problem??

Getting beat up by the tumbler,


Jim: I have been using a small rotary tumbler with stainless
steel shot–the kind that has mixed shapes. The instructions
with the solution say to add it to a depth of about one inch
above the level of the shot and jewelry, and not to put too many
pieces in at once. I usually tumble for about 4 hours( sometimes
even less if the pieces are small and with little surface area)
and they come out wonderfully shiny and smooth. Sometimes the
fine silver surface(the white surface) doesn’t clean up
completely and then I use the finest abrasive wheel I have on the
flexible shaft , very lightly so as not to add any scratches. I
don’t know if this helps–I hope so. Sandra/ElegantBee

Hi Jim,

I use a vibratory tumbler with assorted shapes of steel shot.
Have never had the problem (except for the ‘white’ silver’ in
tight corners) you’re having.

FWIW, I’ll hazard a couple of guesses, 1, that the ceramic media
is leavi ng the marks on the castings; 2, your media has become
contaminated with something that is inflicting the roughness on
the castings. A flow throug h system or frequent washings of the
ceramic media may correct the contamination problem.

The steel shot won’t remove scratches, dings or dents. All shot
does is burnish the existing surface. The surface must be free of
all imperfectio ns previous to being put in the shot. Shot can
also become contaminated. Lik e most things in jewelery making,
cleanliness is next to Godliness, when it

comes to tumbling with steel shot also. Be sure your shot is
clean. Flow through or frequent washings should correct the
problem if it’s contamination.

Good luck,



Well, it was my first time so I assumed the shot and ceramic
were OK(Bad assumption, just because it was new). I really
didn’t look at the items after the ceramic tumbling… But I
beleive it is coming from the shot… its is burnished or
polished but the flat surfaces or not flat they appear as if I
finished the surface with narrow certex wheel and causes the
surface to becomes uneven not glassey like …( hope this
explains it). Tried it again after refinishing the surface and
the same thing happen… maybe the shot is to large??? or some
it. . .

I am considering purchasing some small stainless wire, cutting
it to various lengths, smooth the ends, and try either adding it
the shot or a separate tumble for the white silver small
creviises… what do u think??


Tried it again after refinishing the surface and the same thing

Why don’t we start at the beginning.

1, What are you tumbling, raw castings, sheet, wire, a

  1. What kind of a tumbler are using, a vibratory or rotary,
    (barrel), what size?

  2. What shape steel shot are you using, round, pins, oblong,
    tapered, flying saucers?

  3. How much shot/media is in the tumbler?

  4. How much product is in the tumbler at any one time?

  5. How long are you tumbling?

  6. What type of finish are you expecting?

I’m sorry if you’ve already listed some of these, but I don’t
recall the answers. I’m sure with answers to these basic
questions the list will be able to give you several ideas to
solve the problem.

    a separate tumble for the white silver small creviises.

In order to get in the small crevices, the media has to be small
enough t o fit in them. If they are very tiny you may have to
polish with a wheel, buff or soom other means. There’s a limit to
how small the media can be a nd still burnish the piece.


Thanks Sandra,

I was told to put the liquid level 1/4 inch below the shot and
item level… think yours will work better.


JIM- any luck? Let us know what works. Sandra


Figured out one thing… 24 hours is TOOO much time! Have tried
sampling and it appears that somewhere between 2 and 4 hours with
ceramic will do a nice cleaning and smoothing job…

Now for the shot … at 4 hours with the ceramic there are no
’dimples’ … Going to try the shot now and sample every 2 horus
up to 4 hours … really believe that the shot at 24 hours did me
in… But that was the suggestion of the supplier!!!




There is a lot of info on mass finishing/vibro in Gerald
Wykoff’s book about jewelry design. He also references a book
about mass finishing. This might help.