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Having some problems with Tumbling

Okay- I have this barrel tumbler that I use with stainless steel. I
love the way my tumbled silver looks after. But, lately I’ve been
having some problems, maybe some of the experts can help…

Problem: The lid kept on popping off.

Solution: I called Santa Fe Jeweler’s supply (where I purchased it)
and he told me if I was certain I had the lid on nice and tight and
secure that I should try reducing the amount of burnishing compound.
Maybe it was the pressure of the suds that popped the top. So, that’s
what I did and it worked great.

Hmmm… “worked?” yes, worked.


Problem: my castings are coming out with a weird coating on them.
They look dull, matte or frosted. But, as soon as I hit them with a
polishing cloth the gunk comes off. So, I’m not getting a black gunk
which I’ve heard speak of on Orchid. Instead, it’s a “frosted” gunk
that’s a little sticky. I actually didn’t realize it was even a
"gunk" until I decided to hit it with a polishing cloth to see what
would happen.

Any ideas? Is it a build up of polishing compound? It kinda seems
like compound, but since I had the lid issue, I’m only using a half

For the record, I wasn’t storing my stainless steel shot in the
barrel tumbler, I’ve been storing it covered in a large tupperware
container, rinsed with some burnishing compound.

But, I’ve been kinda crazed lately, so I left it in the barrel for
about a week. Covered in water with compound.

A jeweler girlfriend of mine mentioned maybe it’s the water. Our
water in LA is kinda nasty. She thought maybe the stainless steel
sitting in our heavily chlorinated water for so long maybe had a
reaction. Or, it had a reaction with the rubber of the tumbler.
Anyone with any experience with that?

Thanks so much in advance for all your help!


I always use distilled water in my tumbler.

Paula Rosenow

Hi Amery, I would clean the barrel, lid and shot in blue Dawn dish
soap, then try tumbling again. I only use blue Dawn in my tumbler,
everything comes out squeaky clean. :slight_smile:

Leanne Elliott Soden
Pieces of Class

Use “Simple Green” in your tumbler. It’s a cleaning product found

I found that using the Super Sunsheen Burnishing Compound (Qt size
Stock # 339-394) from Rio, to be the best in the tumbler. Powders, to
be mixed with water/distilled (if you prefer), often create a film on
the metal piece of jewelry.


Some Orchidean wrote an article for LJ suggesting Ivory soap. I
bought a bar and just shave a bit off with a knife and so far, so


You are correct to correlate the smaller amount of compound with the
gunk. The burnishing compound acts as a surficant and a detergent to
clean the shot and the jewelry. When you reduced the amount, it got

First to clean it, open a can of regular coke and let it go flat -
you could microwave or heat it to make it go flat faster. Then run
the shot and the jewelry in the tumbler for 20 minutes and it should
clean up the mess.

To keep it from happening again, try using a bit less water - so you
can just barely see it in the steel, and add the regular amount of
powder - or try using a different compound.

The coke is quite acidic and that’s what will clean it up. Your
burnishing compound should also be acidic.

Judy Hoch


I had a similar film on tumbled pieces while teaching. I had the
students pour off the water completely, dry the shot, wipe it down
with paper towels, and then used fresh water and fresh burnishing
compound each time they ran it. The problem stopped.

I never figured out what it was but it went away.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

Amery - I use a vibratory tumbler with stainless shot, and
occasionally have a similar problem. When I do, I just reset the
whole system by cleaning everything like new. The best thing I have
found to clean the shot is any kind of Cola. Soak the shot in the
cola for about an hour, rinse with water, and presto! Back in
business. Once you see what the Cola does to the steel shot, you
will think twice about putting it in your stomach. Hope this helps.

Stuart J. Adelman, Designer


I just had the same problem. I was away for a couple of weeks, and
after my return the first batch of tumbled silver came out with a
shiny, but slightly “tarnished” look. After inspecting the stainless
shot I found that it too had this tarnished look. I emptied
everything out of the tumbler, scrubbed the inside with a scotch
brite pad and some soap and water, then put the shot back in and
tumbled it with tap water, a squirt of dish detergent and a
tablespoon of baking powder. I let it tumble for a few hours and
when I poured the shot into a strainer it was good as new. The next
batch of sterling came out beautifully.

Pam from ever soooo cold Massachusetts!!

Many years ago a lapidary friend suggested Ivory soap for my rotary
tumbler. He suggested I open the bar and let it sit for a while
until it got hard, then grate it on my vegetable grater, then to use
it with my steel shot. I was skeptical, but tried it. It works like a
charm. It is cheap, environmentally safe, and I have never had a
problem with rust, or any kind of discoloration of my shot, or my
silver. I just leave it in the tumbler when I am finished, making
sure all the pellets are under the soapy water.


Hi Gang,

The best thing I have found to clean the shot is any kind of Cola.
Soak the shot in the cola for about an hour, rinse with water, and

The phosphoric acid that’s in Coke is the main ingredient that does
the cleaning of the shot. Phosphoric acid preparations are used for
cleaning steel products in many industries.

Another product that works well for cleaning stainless shot (haven’t
tried it on carbon steel) is the granular form of Draino. Just add a
little Draino & some water to the shot. Turn the tumbler on & let it
run for a while. Pour the water down the drain, rinse the shot,
clean out the bowl/barrel, replace the shot, recharge & go.