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No soap for magnetic tumbler

Just received my brand new Super Finish magnetic tumbler and realized…I forgot to get the tumbling soap! D’oh! :persevere:

I use a tiny drop of original Dawn dish detergent in my rotary tumbler with steel shot and it’s always worked great, any chance that will work in a magnetic tumbler until I can order some proper soap?

I have fresh castings that are in need of cleaning and I am super impatient if you can’t tell :relaxed:

Using dish soap might cause it to foam up too much. Ultrasonic cleaner is designed to be low sudsing, plus some of them have metal corrosion inhibitors to prevent rust spots from forming on the pins.

As long as you clean it out after use and dry your pins you would probably be okay.

I “always”, and I repeat “always” dry out my steel shots/pins in a thick and a very absorbent face-cloth! I leave them overnight to totally air-dry.
If they are just slightly damp and then stored in your air-tight container, rust will start!!!

I’ve been using this ‘drying process’ for may years. So far, not one pin has started to rust. These pins are “great friends“ to you. Treat them as such, your friends!

Gerry, on my iPhone

If you’re going to try a kitchen soap in the tumbler use a liquid dishwasher detergent. Those are designed to be low- or non-foaming and not to rust the dishwasher
Liquids meant for handwashing dishes foam too much. Also, try to use a biodegradable dishwasher detergent.

Hi Arkay,

Well I went ahead and tried it with the Dawn liquid soap (I did admit to being impatient right? :sweat_smile:). Just one minuscule half drop of soap and there was a tiny layer of foam on the top after 10 minutes of test tumbling but not much more than I’ve seen in videos of magnetic tumblers running with appropriate soap.

Mind you with that little soap I might not have been getting much lubricating action on the pins, though my bronze test pieces were noticeably shinier already.

We’ll have to see what happens to my pins, I’ve never noticed any issue with my stainless steel shot using only Dawn, it’s stayed bright and corrosion free for a few years. Do you know if the pins are typically a similar stainless steel to mixed-shape steel shot?

Also, I was taught to wash my rotary steel shot well after using, and then store it in the (plastic) tumbler barrel covered by clean water in between uses. I’ve never had a problem with this, but notice you recommended drying the pins between uses?

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Hi Gerry,

That’s interesting because I have never once dried out my stainless steel shot since I first used it! I was taught to wash and rinse the shot and tumbler barrel well after a session of tumbling, and then put the shot back in the (hard plastic) tumbler barrel and cover it with water (making sure all the shot is submerged with an inch or so of water covering), close the barrel and store it upright.

So far (about four years or so) that has kept my shot in like-new condition, even with it sometimes sitting for weeks at a time, though I’ll admit I have always wondered why the shot doesn’t rust in the water!

I was hoping to be able to do the same sort of thing with my magnetic pins (they’re so tiny and hard to work with!) but now I’m wondering if my method is wrong? :woman_shrugging:

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Hi Elliot,

Thanks for the suggestion, maybe I’ll get a little box of dishwasher soap to try while I wait for my tumbling soap to arrive. We use those little pre-made pods in our dishwasher, I can only imagine what a mess they’d make in a tumbler! :scream:

I too store my SS shot wet in my tumbler barrel without covering it with water. I wash and drain it between each use, but do not dry it. It seems to be just like new four years later. My biggest problem with SS shot is losing some each time that I dump it. I just bought and added a pound to make up for the loss…Rob

I use a fine mesh strainer which might be available at most hardware stores. I got mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Amazon - don’t remember which. Assure strainer is large enough to hold all your shot. AND, put a fine mesh trap in your drain. Never lost a piece (yet) in many years. A colander is way too big.

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I use a colander just as you describe. I lose SS shot when I transfer from the colander to the barrel or when I pour the barrel with pieces that I have been tumbling through a screen sieve to separate the shot from the pieces. I do all of this over a very large tray with fairly high sides, yet I still manage to lose shot. I accept this as a cost of doing business. Thanks…Rob

I have been using 2mm balls and 5mm double-ended pointy slim darts for at least fifteen years. They are sometimes stored damp, sometimes wet, and sometimes under water. For days or even weeks on end. I have never had an issue with rust or corrosion in any form (if I had, you can be sure I would have changed my working practices). They were sold as stainless, probably from Cookson Gold in London.

The magnetic tumblers use tiny pins, I can’t imagine drying thousands of .3mm pins? I’ve found that the magnetic tumbler soap that Gesswein sells (a powder) works best for me, creating far less sludge compared to liquid soap made for magnetic tumblers. Your liquid still turns black over time and needs changing no matter what you do. I’ll also note that you’ll get better results over time because the clipped edges of the pins will burnish with use. At first your pieces will not come out as shiny as they will in future.

Rachel - get the right stuff - Dawn or whatever will create excess suds that inhibits the tumbler action. It won’t help your castings either. And get the right stuff for your rotary as well - the proper chemistry will produce superior results to all make-do drops of whatever.
It isn’t just soap - it is the surficants that make the media move and the detritus sink, it also has to do with what the chemistry does to your metals. There is a reason why there are different products for brass and silver…

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For all tumbling with steel, you need to use clean liquid every time. Would you bathe in last weeks water? At a minimum, change it daily. I rinse mine under running water, pour off the water when the rinse is clear. Then use a paper towel to absorb most of the remaining moisture.
If you think about it - these steel pins are magnetic, that’s why this works. For storing steel pins for the magnetic tumbler, don’t store them in the bowl on top of the magnets. It will eventually magnetize your pins. I find the magnetic gun to be very useful for this technique. You can pickup the pins, leaving your work in the bowl. The gun lets you turn the magnet off and on…

Hey, if you need to tumble, there is nothing to lose from giving it a try! Metalsmiths seems to rely on a lot of ingenuity to get things done, so this is nothing out of the ordinary. :wink:

I keep my pins in the Otto Frei soap in the bowl and they have not yet developed any noticeable rust. OF does say there is the metal corrosion inhibitor and I’ve left them submerged in liquid for the past 4-5 years. I just figured using regular soap might leave residue that could allow for potential corrosion of the pins.

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Thank you everyone for your input! So far my pins seems to be doing okay sitting in clean water between uses (rinsed well before and after each time I use them) and the drop of Dawn liquid hasn’t wrecked anything yet.
I’ll get some proper magnetic tumbling soap with my next jewelry order and compare my results to see if it improves the speed or quality of the finish. Now if only all the soaps offered by Gesswein here in Canada weren’t so damn expensive… :roll_eyes::money_with_wings:

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contact “European Design” they know me very well.
416-363-9078; 1 (866) 457-2020

speak to Charley or Saw! As they are in Toronto.

They are now one of the best tool suppliers in Canada!!.:wink:

Gerry, on my iPhone

Thanks Gerry, I’ll check them out!

And if you can’t find what you want there, Transcontinental is downstairs in the basement!


Hi Karen,

I definitely visit Transcontinental whenever I’m in Toronto, they’re really great. I wish they had a website you could browse their products on but I guess I can stop being lazy and also pick up the phone and call them :smile: