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Reducing production time

I am a new member and have been enjoying my AM coffee with the orchid
mail. My quest of the moment is… what tumbler to buy. I am a one
person operation . Starting to get into production. Die cut,
fabricated pieces, sterling, gold . I am looking to reduce time .I
seem to be getting lots of different answers. $$$ is an issue. I
would be grateful for any feedback. Rotary??? Vibratory??? Stainless
steel or plastic. Thanks for listening. Kim Kershaw

Hello Kim, If I were buying now I would by vibratory. You can get
smaller ones for less than 200 from most suppliers. You can get
cheaper ones from sporting goods. They use them for polishing bullet
brass before loading. I use both rotary and vibratory. If you are
patient, you can find used equipment at rock and mineral shows. If
they have used equipment it is usually rotary tumblers. I use Gyrock
(sp?) vibratory tumbler which is carried in Rio Grande’s catalog.
Steve Ramsdell

Welcome to Orchid! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

You didn’t say what you wanted to do with your tumbler; polish
(burnish, really) or use it to cut down rough edges etc. The media
used will vary depending on the job.

I’ve found the vibratory tumbler is the quickest & most economical
for most jobs. For burnishing, assorted shapes of stainless steel shot
work the best. They get in all but the tiniest of spaces. Both carbon
& stainless steel shot is available. The stainless costs a little more
to start with, but it won’t rust & maintenance is lots easier. It’ll
last a lifetime. Carbon steel shot, about 1/2 as costly as stainless,
but it rusts & may have to be replaced if it gets pitted.

For cutting rough edges, ceramic media will probably be your best
bet. It kind of depends on the roughness, material & degree of cutting

Vibratory tumblers come in many sizes starting with about a 10"
diameter bowl going up to about 24" diameter bowls.


Hi Steve. Please tell us why you prefer a vibratory tumbler to a
rotary one. Your feedback would be appreciated. Jay

Kim, I also would recommend a vibratory tumbler. Stick with the mid
range size and buy only quality tumbler media. They are faster,
cleaner, and easier to use than a rotary tumbler. Most production
shops use vibrators.

Gerry Galarneau

Dear Gerry Galarneau

You mention using quality media. Currently my shop is using a vibe
tumbler but we are having difficulty selecting media. Do you have
any or tips on media selection? I’m currently tumbling
pewter which has be coated with a graphite solution to give texture.

Hello Jay, I use the vibratory tumbler for metal finishing and
sometimes for finishing a batch of cabs. The reason is time for the
metal finishing. When I was teaching metal work students could put
things in the vibratory tumbler and take it out and finish it in one
session. Time was very important to them. On the cabs I find the
vibratory tumbler not as aggressive. It doesn’t wear the stone down
as much. I do rough grinding and sanding by hand, then I will tumble
finish (on some harder stones).It is also faster than rotary. When I
tumble stone I use a rotary tumbler. It gives a much more rounded
effect on the edges of the stone.But I am not in any hurry for more
tumbled rock. It ends up staying in the tumbler longer. Steve Ramsdell

All, There are many kinds of media for tumbling. I would suggest
calling one of the manufacturers. Johnson Bros, Rio Grande, etc.
In our production we used ceramic media which was imbedded with
abrasive and a rubberized media imbedded with abrasive. This media
was quite expensive, but it out performed all the cheaper media.
Remember that media must be used according to the manufacturers
instructions. Before castings were placed into the tumblers the
sprues were cut off, ground flat, and any obvious metal bubbles were
taken off. Tumblers will not remove these. Also, media must be
cleaned and dried before the next use. Do not leave the media full
of gunk and expect it to perform the next time you use it.

Gerry Galarneau

A vibratory tumbler is preferred over a rotary tumbler for these
reasons. In all applications except for moving steel, a vibratory
tumbler is about 4 times faster. PIeces processed in a vibratory
tumbler don’t impact the other pieces in the tumbler as opposed to
rotary where they really bang into one another. The pattern or
induced patina is complete - it seems to thoroughly cover the pieces.
It is much more gentle. You can process lots more at one time.
And very important - you can constantly change the rinse during the
process with a flow-thru tumbler. This results in a much finer
finish since the junk you have removed is gone rather than getting
beat into your parts. All of this presumes that you are using a
tumbler and abrasive media to smooth your pieces. If you don’t
smooth your pieces first, it’s just like rouging a piece that has
only been filed. It will be shiny, but not smooth. I alternate
between using steel in a rotary tumbler for a shiny finish and using
ceramic media in the vibratory tumbler for the same. The steel is
lots quicker, but if I want shiny, and have fragile stuff, and
overnight to run it, the ceramic media gives a better polish. Plan
on 12 hours for the ceramic burnishing.

There is no time advantage for vibratory over rotary when moving
steel. If you only have a rotary tumbler, you can use it for abrasive
process, but plan on very long run times. And be sure to clean the
abrasive residue from your barrel before running steel.

Judy Hoch in Colorado

Rio Grande will select your media for you. You send them a piece,
tell them what finish you want, and they finish it for you and tell
you what they used. I’ve never used the service, I’m happy with my
media. But it seems like a nice option.

Chicago area, Northern Illinois
(who does not work for Rio Grande…)