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Leaving tumblers alone

Is it generally safe to leave the house/workshop when a tumbler is
running? Is it likely that a motor would burn out (or something)
and possibly start a fire? My workshop is in our basement, and we
have a smoke alarm, but sometimes I have to go out for meetings,
etc., and have often wanted to leave my tumbler(s) running. I have
two old and one not-so-old rotary tumblers and one old vibratory
tumbler. I’ve never had any trouble with them over the past several
years. Just wondering.

Judy Bjorkman

Judy, IF you have a name brand tumbler there is no problem leaving it
alone for long periods of time! Most of them are built so if they
motor stalls or the barrel jams, the motor simply shuts off, others
simply get hot and wait for you to unplug them. There is extremely
little chance of fire or electrical short.

We have 6 tumblers of various makes and sizes running in our shop
24/7 and they are unattended for days at a time. A few have stopped
and when we clear the problem they just start up again.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut

Judy,your tumbler motors are no more apt to burn out in your absence
than any other electric motor such as washing
machine,refrigerater.drier.elect. fans etc.and generaly when an
elect. motor does burn out,it does not produce an abundance of flame
but rather it smolders,smokes and stops running.This all is not to
say that it is impossible for an electric motor to start a fire but
rather that it is quite unlikely.

Ralph Cross

I can’t say for certain that it is safe, but I’ve never had a
problem (knock on wood). My only advice would be to constantly check
the motor for heat, if it’s too hot maybe it’s not wise to leave it.
Another safeguard is to vacuum out the motor every so often, this is
advice that is attached to most TV’s and VCR’s, cat and dog hair, saw
dust, or other little nasties could build up inside the motor and
possibly create a hazard…

    Is it generally safe to leave the house/workshop when a
tumbler is running? 

Hi Judy, Tumblers are made to be run without supervision. Every
manufacturer runs them without supevision. Usually when they leave
for the night they have them on timers if they have a cycle that
won’t run all night. You should have no problem.

Ken Kotoski
MPG Repair

Hi Judy,

Is it generally safe to leave the house/workshop when a tumbler is
>running?  Is it likely that a motor would burn out (or something)
>and possibly start a fire? 

Ask yourself this question, ‘How long have you had them & what’s the
longest time you’ve ever let them run continously?’

Assuming the answer is; ‘At least a year & over 3 hours’ I think
you’ve got your answer. After all the machines don’t know your not
home & won’t try to ‘pull a fast one’. If you have them in a place
away (2 feet or so) from combustables not much will happen even if
the motors bind up & over heat. If they get hot enough to smoke &
set of the smoke alarm, so what. You can turn the alarm off & air
the house out when you return.

I’ve used a vibratory tumbler for over 10 yrs., occassionally
forgetting to shut it off. It’s run for 2 days unattended with no
ill effects ( more than once).


Judy - I regularly leave tumblers alone. In the single occurance of
having a vibratory tumbler overheat, the machine had a sensor that
turned it off. I don’t know for sure about the rotary tumblers,
most have exposed motors and are designed for long term operation
tumbling rocks for weeks at a time. I’d make sure that the machines
are away from walls, and anything that could fall into the belt and
tangle up - just the normal precautions you probably do already. I
don’t think I’d leave anything running for a week unattended, but
certainly overnight or 8 - 10 hours should be no big deal.

Judy Hoch

hi judy - just a note from experience on the off-on-off-on running of
tumblers: back before getting the vibratory tumblers i would leave
the drums rotating along, loaded with goodies & motor happily
humming out of harm’s way on the deck, only to check in a day or so
to find them stopped dead, cold, contents frozen solid. chisel,
chisel, dig, scrape, grumblingly get new drum. next time the same
thing would happen. finally when i remarked to my partner, “the
tumbler police are going to arrest me if i keep on killing more
tumblers.” his remark: “well, maybe if you didn’t always leave them
running at night so that i have to turn them off, you wouldn’t have
any problems.” moral: a lot of the wet tumbling medium will solidify
if left setting too long; the only solution is to dig, scrape,
chisel to get the chunks out - which are not much good except for
bordering garden patches - & to leave in the dark pathway a certain
barefoot partner in the dead of night. good luck - ive

Hello Judy, I use tumblers a lot. If you want to have the safest
setup to run them unattended, consider having your outlet rewired
with a Ground Fault Protected outlet. If a motor or wire should short
out while you’re not there this would shut down everything on this
circuit instantly. You may also want to install a timer between the
GFI and the tumbler(s). You can get a 15 or 20 amp timer from
Grainger. I like the outdoor units. This way you can stay out longer.
If you stay out longer than 24 hours it will turn on again. I unplug
the tumbler from the timer when not in use. Hope this will give you
some peace of mind. John, J. A. Henkel Co., Inc., Moldmaking Casting

A good safety measure is to have the circuit breaker for the
circuit(s) for those outlets replaced with a Ground Fault Circuit
Interrupter breaker. Pretty much anything that would fail that
catastrophically will trip the device and shut off the circuit (even
faster than a normal breaker). They cost around $US20 - 30
depending on the size, and if you don’t have the electrical know-how
to install it yourself, the cost of the electrician is worth the
piece of mind. I recommend them for lapidary equipment in general.

 Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
 @Ron_Charlotte1 OR

Dear all, I put an electric timer on mine so that if I know it needs
x amount of hours the tumbler keeps going and then it turns off when
the timer is finished. Cheers Marjorie.