Lou (and other interested parties):
I stopped by my caster’s place tonight to order some pieces and
got the details on his tumbling system. He is Steve Darnell of
Darnell’s Jewelry and Tools and you could talk with him directly
about the products he uses, as he stocks them.
He vibrotumbles in large tumblers he builds himself from Dayton
motors. The prices are somewhat better than the Raytechs, etc.
and they are heavy duty machines, but you could get a better
price (maybe not such a heavy duty machine, tho’) from the gun
He uses three steps in the flow thru system I’ve already
described. No recirculation, but none needed with a 5 gal bucket
to hold the clean water and the same for the dirty. First step
is with pink cones, about 240 grit, run with the appropriate
liquid added to the water, ten hours. Pieces are prepared by
grinding off sprue nubs smooth, but not much more.
Second step is with gray cones, about 600 grit, run about four
Third step is with mixed steel shot for four hours. There was
some ceramic shot in the tumbler tonight, too, “because I had
it”, but mostly it was steel shot in mixed balls, balls with the
disc around the waist and cut wire. The wire had squared off
ends, not the sharp ones I’ve heard described. I’ve seen Steve’s
pieces and they have a nice shine when done. The things I’ve had
to fine tune come from the wax not being great to start with
inside the four prong basket or some such. I think if your molds
and waxes are done well tumbling will give you a good shine.
As far as the drip goes, use “a strong drip” but not a flow and
remember ten hours of tumbling (overnight) does not deplete the
5 gal bucket, which remains unattended. If in doubt, too wet
will not make a problem, but too dry will.
Steve sells stainless shot for $12.50/lb, so you may do better
elsewhere, but I don’t know what his policy is on shipping,
etc., and you might try making a deal with him if you tell him so
and so sells for less — it’s a fairly small business. He did
tell me something I’ve not heard about elsewhere. He said he was
using some carbon steel shot “because I’ve got it — would never
buy it again” and that it would rust on him sometimes when left
in the tumbler. “Then you have to run it awhile to get it to
clean up”, he said. Just run it with clean water and the Raytech
burnishing compound or similar and it will clean itself. I would
say this wouldn’t work if it was really rusted.
Steve also says he pours off the clear water after the sludge
settles from the discarded water. Collects the sludge from the
various tumblers, eventually makes a little plastic “pond” out in
the barn and lets the water evaporate from the sludge before
sending it to the refiner once a year.
I do not have any connection with Steve other than as a
satisfied customer. He’s been around a while and knows a lot — I
saw him cutting slivers of rubber out of a problem ring mold
tonight to get a decent wax out it, something I’ve never seen in
a book. You can reach him at 1-800-778-9107 or fax to (423)
637-5000. I would assume you could use similar products to what
he carries from other suppliers.