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Hard time using rotary tumbler

I have a small Lortone Rotary Tumbler Model 3A. I’ve only had it a
few years and the last 2 years It’s having a hard time tumbling.
I’ve tried everything from setting it at different angles and that
worked for awhile. Today it worked while I held it…but I’m not
about to do that. Right now I have it propped at a right angle and
it’s tumbling. The rod underneath is working fine, it’s when I put
the barrel on, the barrel won’t turn. Right now I have two rings in
it, the steel shot and some soap and enough water to cover it.

Any advice?

Holly Eve Designs

That’s too funny–I was having the EXACT same problem (even propped
it up like you mention) last week, and after doing a Google search
it seems that the belt just needed to be tightened. If you loosen the
screws on the end you can slide them to one side, then retighten.
That tightens the belt on the inside and did the trick for me. Mine
has worked great ever since!

did you tru to oil it? it happend to me once and after i oiled the
ends of the rods where its rubing i got it working just fine.


Hi Holly,

I had the same problem and took it to my supplier. He tightened the
belt for me and showed my how to do it myself. He also told me that
the belts do wear out and would need replacing at some point.

Good Luck,
Elaine Shah

Elaine, so how do you tighten the belt? Is it a matter of moving the
pieces further away from each other (the motor from the fan-like
piece)? My tumbler recently took an extended vacation. The belt
seemed terribly loose, so I order two new ones. Only enough, they
too seem loose, but the tumbler is rotating for now. I also ordered a
barrel guide as I think that the barrel getting stuck against the
end or the front of the tumbler made the tumbler work harder.While
waiting for the new belts to arrive, I used thick elastic bands.
Worked well, but I kept a close eye on the tumbler as the bands were
being shredded and I was worried about things overheating.


The rod underneath is working fine, it's when I put the barrel on,
the barrel won't turn. 

Sound like the belt is slipping. You need to open the motor cover.
Loosen the screws that hold the motor and move the motor until the
belt is tight. Keep holding the motor with the belt tight and
retighten the screws. You may need some help with someone holding
tension on the belt and the other person tightening the screws.

Belts stretch and need to be retightened periodically. Usually more
when the tumbler is new.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan

This may seem overly basic, but have you checked the drive belt for
tension and excessive wear? How much shot are you using?

Jim Harkins
Blessed be…

I’d guess that steel shot is too heavy to use in a small tumbler.
Try some ceramic, i.e., more light-weight media. Or use very little
steel shot.

Judy Bjorkman


If this tumbler is belt driven it may take just a belt replacement
to fix the issue…could be the belt is just worn out…

Chris R
Stuller Inc.

I have the same type of Lortone Rotary Tumbler and I have also had
the same problem. What you need is more weight in your tumbler - try
filling it 3/4 full of water. Also, sometimes I rough up the surface
of the barrel with coarse sandpaper, as the barrel seems to wear
smoother after a couple of years. Hope this helps


I’m using 1 lb of steel shot. I haven’t had a chance to check the
belt yet, but that seems to be the answer from most people.

Thank you Jim,

I'd guess that steel shot is too heavy to use in a small tumbler.
Try some ceramic, i.e., more light-weight media. Or use very
little steel shot. 

We have all kinds of customers quite successfully using steel shot
on their jewelry. Generally you don’t want to overload the barrel
and that means no more than half full (jewelry plus shot) before you
add water.

Lyle Craver

What is the weight of steel shot in the barrel? (Either weight or

Generally if shot plus jewelry comes to more than half before
cleaning soap you’re using too much shot. Sometimes the barrel will
stick and a light tap will do the trick.

Another thing to check is whether the belt is straight between the
two pulleys as if not it could well run well empty but not loaded.
Easiest way to check that is to remove the blue skin (this means
removing 3 or 4 screws depending on how old a 3A it is) and run the
tumbler either without barrel or with an empty barrel. If the
pulleys aren’t perfectly aligned with each other, loosen the screw
on the pulley with an Allen key and adjust it ‘just so’ - it seldom
takes more than 2 or 3mm adjustment.

If you don’t already have the Lortone 3A Manual you can get it at

Hope this helps!

Lyle Craver

Oiling is also excellent advice particularly if the tumbler is being
started up again after laying idle for several months.

Just don’t get carried away and over-oil the rollers - I once had
someone bring me a Lortone 3A with the complaint that “the barrel is

My “repair” was lightly sponging off about 90% of the oil with paper
towel, reassembling everything so there was no oil in the bottom of
the tumbler case to leave it nice and clean then keeping a straight
face until the customer had left the store after which I went to the
back room and laughed helplessly for the next 10 minutes…

Generally anything more than 3 or 4 drops per bearing is plenty even
if the tumbler has been stored long enough for the oil to dry out.

Lyle Craver

Thanks for the manual. I’m using 1 lb steel shot.

With Christmas and all and being out of the state, I haven’t had a
chance to check the belt either, so I need to do that in the next
few days.


1 lb steel shot in a 3A Tumbler sounds about right.

My apologies with my first posting (after lurking for 2-3 years) to
Ganoksin - those 3 messages were composed at different times but
turned up together.

Also check the belt to ensure the motor pulley and drive pulley are
perfectly aligned. This is easy to do with the right Allen key.

Good luck with your work - the Lortone 3A is a simple but extremely
durable tumbler that has been around for nearly 50 years (which I
consider a sign of its quality) and I have plenty of jewelry
designing customers that use it daily for polishing their jewelry.