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Rotary tumbler recommendations

Hi Friends,

I am in the market for a steel shot rotary tumbler and would like to
hear if any of you have recommendations about a particular brand or
model you’ve had good luck with. I don’t want to spend a ton of
money, but I want something that will be reliable for years to come.
I currently have a vibratory tumbler. It has its pros as well as its
cons. My biggest complaint is that since the tumbling medium is
round, it doesn’t get into the nooks and crannies of a piece. This
is why I want a rotary tumbler. I only make jewelry, so I don’t need
anything really large, but I need the barrel to be at least three
inches in diameter to accommodate bangle bracelets. A friend of mine
uses a small rock tumbler and has had decent results. Has anyone
else done this? Any feedback you can offer would be greatly



Maybe you need stainless steel pins. I use these in combination with
shot in a vibratory tumbler and find the pins get into all the nooks
and crannies of a piece. Perhaps before you invest in another
tumbler, you should try stainless steel pins. You can order the pins
from Rio.

Good luck.


C and M Topline Co sells a barrel with a 4" opening. My C & M is a
workhorse and I can leave it for a few hours with no worry. Previous
small gem style tumblers gave me trouble with the rubber belt
slipping off but it could have been a defective machine.

I have a double barrel from Rio - love it!

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

A couple of recommendations:

the cheap tumblers that you find from places like micro mark are good
for about 15 minutes. I’ve bought three of them. Better to spend your
money on a good one rather than money down the drain.

John Fong

Hi Denise,

There’s an assorted shapes variety of steel shot available. It
consists of round, pyramid, flying saucer, & french cut green bean
shapes. It does a very good job of getting into nooks & crannies.

It works very well in vibratory & rotary tumblers. It’s available
from many jewelers suppliers. Rio Grande lists it in it’s 2010 tool
catalog on page 406. The assortment part # is: 339-097.


Most rotary tumblers are slow. I have one that rotates much more
quickly, and like it a lot. It is the first of the two listed on the
following page. Part of the description reads:

“High speed professional quality rotary tumbler… will polish metal
and debur as fast as a vibratory tumbler…”

Neil A.

I have the Lortone 3A and am very happy with it. It is probably
large enough but I’d make sure before buying. I use 2 lbs mixed
stainless steel jewelry shot with small amounts of product. If you
have more product, you can use less shot. 15-20 minutes is enough to
make my saw-cut copper jump rings or finished maille pieces gleam.

AHA finally found the specs: Part #020-91 – 3A Barrel for 3A or 33B
Tumbler 3 lb. Barrel – 4 1/8" deep; 3 7/8" diameter

If that’s not enough “ease,” they have larger models.


Hi Denise,

I use a mixed stainless steel shot in my vibratory tumbler and it
works great. The shapes are round, melon, ‘Saturn’ (round with a
middle band) and skinny pins. I do very scrolly wirework and the shot
definitely gets into the nooks and crannies. I often have to pop a
piece of shot out from inside a scroll. I got mine at Rio. So maybe
you don’t need a new tumbler, just different shot…


Hi, Denise!

I use a 3lb. rotary rock tumbler that I bought from Harbor Freight
and it works just fine. For when I only have a couple pieces to
clean, instead of getting out the tumbler I put the the pieces in a
Tupperware (with lid) with some stainless steel shot, water, and blue
Dawn dish soap and gently shake. Essentially, turning the Tupperware
dish into a rotary tumbler. For small pieces, it only takes a few
minutes until they’re cleaned/polished.


Thumler’s Tumbler is my workhorse. You can leave it and not have to
worry about it burning down the house, because it has motor overload
protection. I like the flat side barrels the best.

The rotary tumbler that you choose should allow you bracelets to
turn freely inside. A 3" barrel is probably too small. My first
rotary was a lapidary unit with a rubber barrel and the icky top that
liked to leak. My second one was the right one for running big
batches, a 60# rated loretone. It’s awfully big and heavy when
loaded. So what I have now that I really like is this one: the link
is to Otto Frei, but RioGrande and others also carry it.

It comes in three sizes and this is the middle one. I like the
programmable times and reverse. It is very easy to load and doesn’t
leak. Not cheap, but mine has run for four or five years with no

For more tumbling - get the book “Tumble Finishing for
Handmade Jewelry” - Otto Frei, RioGrande and others carry it.

Judy Hoch

For all of you out there who use the rotary tumbler and use the
plastic four-inch opening drums of different sizes that have a type
of expandable plugs that works by turning a wing nut on a stainless
steel cover I’ve got a goodie for you.

I purchased a tumbler on eBay from an individual who makes them,
super heavy-duty great price he even makes his own drums from gigantic
PVC connectors. Very clever, but the drums he makes are round inside
them from what I gather all our more suitable for lapidary tumbling.

But I digress, it is from him that I got the following idea. Instead
of using a nuisance cumbersome ergonomically irritating expandable
four-inch plug on your plastic tumbling drums go get a 4 inch rubber
PVC cap from your local big box store they come with a stainless
steel band that I tighten with a small cordless drill and a hexagon
bit (you can get the same type bit it in a screwdriver format) it fits
perfectly, pop on,pops off no leakage no index finger and opposing
thumb finger stress.

About five bucks, a serious improvement.