Shot stuck in beads

I made a couple of 22 mm sterling rondelle beads with 4 mm holes this
week. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the risk in placing these into
my tumbler with mixed stainless steel shot. Now the beads are jammed
with shot that neither I nor my husband have been able to extricate.
Needless to say, this is very frustrating, given all the work I put
into fabricating and decorating the beads. I’m afraid I’ll be forced
to cut the beads open to remove the shot. I know I could resolve this
by purchasing small round shot, but I really don’t want to buy more
shot - I’d rather invest in precious metals. I’m considering stuffing
the beads with cotton wadding to prevent this from occurring again.
Will this be sufficient? Is there anything I can do?

Linda in central FL

I string them up on strimmer line, and melt the end into a ball. They
a easier to find as well!

Tim Blades

I'm considering stuffing the beads with cotton wadding to prevent
this from occurring again. Will this be sufficient? Is there
anything I can do? 

I was casting 2" long curved tubes for someone and I used plastic
tapered things that when you drill a hole in a wall, you insert that
plastic piece and use a screw that expands the plastic to hold
something to the wall. You can get them in different sizes, don’t
know if they come small enough for your beads.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.

Hello Linda,

So far as removing the shot, put one of the beads in a sturdy covered
container, like a small box. With the cover on the box, shake it like
a maraca. The shot should be jarred loose without damaging the bead.
Do one bead at a time to avoid the beads clanging into each other.
Although I’ve not tried this, an alternative might be to put one bead
into your empty tumbler and let it roll or vibrate. What caused the
shot to pack in might cause it to come out.

Thanks to Noel for this tip… although I recall she suggested
shaking the box like a crazy person. :slight_smile: Judy in Kansas, where
yesterday was absobloominitly perfect. 80 degrees, no wind, partly
sunny. (Sigh.) Not many of those days left in this year!

Interesting one!!

Now if it was me Id get out the stick welder with a 1.6mm rod and on
lo amps say 15 amps stick the wire onto the end of one of the shot.

Pull it out.

This should release whats effectively a log jam and the others will
fall out.

I’m not sure how to remove the shot but the way that I stop it
getting in there in the first place is to stuff the hollow with a
wad of plastic cling wrap film Ideally is should be a single piece so
that you can grab it and pull it out with tweezers or serrated jaw
needle nose pliers after you have finished tumbling.

All the best

Good idea Richard! Those plastic things are referred to as "Mollies"
I think. K.

A way to keep shot from getting inside hollow beads is this. Find
some plastic mesh. The kind that makes bags for vegetables works well
or the mesh that comes from the fabric store. Cut a long skinny piece
and stuff it into the bead or hollow form. Leave a bit hanging out,
like a little tail. This not only keeps your tumbling media from
getting jammed inside, it also adds some weight to the hollow form,
thus increasing the effectiveness of the tumbling. Cotton wadding
wouldn’t work as well because it would get wet and be hard to remove.
Another trick is to string each bead with the biggest electrical tie
that will go through the hole. When done, cut the tie and pull it
out. That keeps the shot from being jammed inside.

When your tumbling is done, gently pull the tail and all the
stuffing is removed easily.

If you are using an abrasive media, you do need to put the bead in a
sonic between steps to avoid contaminating the subsequent process. Or
you can remove the stuffing, rinse everything well and re-stuff for
the next step.

To remove the steel shot from inside the beads now, try putting them
in your sonic, that usually works. Lacking a sonic, put them in a big
heavy plastic bag and sit and shake them for a while. Eventually one
piece will find its way out and all the others follow quickly.

Judy Hoch

Hi Linda,

A quick thought. To remove steel shot from a glass bead I would first
try to work with the principle of a difference of co-efficient of
expansion between the glass bead and the steel shot. Without taking
the time to look them up I would first try putting the bead in the
freezer for 10 minutes and then try to shake it out. If that doesn’t
work, after allowing it to warm up slowly, I’d put it in hot water
for a similar time and then try to shake it out. I think the key
would be to do it quickly after the cooling/heating.

If that doesn’t work, back to square one.

Dennis Fisher


Preventive-Next time run a pipe cleaner through each bead, twist the
ends, and tumble. Keeps the shot out.

Remedy-If using a magnet doesn’t remove some or all of the shot, put
the bead(s) in an ultrasonic cleaner. This should rattle the shot
loose enough to release the jam and allow for removal.

Hope this helps,
Linda Kaye-Moses

It’s not a very delicate process, but I put the jewelry item in a
plastic container with a tight lid and shake it in all directions.
Eventually at least some of the stuck media comes loose. Remove media
and repeat process.

To prevent the problem, string your beads on something before
polishing. Tie knots between the beads if you need to prevent them
gathering together while tumbling.

Been there & done that!
Judy Bjorkman

Hi, I use pipe cleaners as you can twist them so they don’t fall out
while tumbling. To get out the existing shot, try tumbling the beads
in an empty tumbler. Good luck, I feel for you!

Upon reading everyone else’s answer it seems the general consensus is
if one piece of shot will come out, the rest will.

You could soak the lot of them in some warm super-saturated alum
solution overnight and the steel would probably be mostly gone in the
morning, or at least small enough to fall right out.

Paf Dvorak

Thought I’d give an update on my shot-stuffed beads; at the
suggestion of a number of Orchidians, I put the beads back in the
tumbler, sans shot, and let the tumbler do the shaking. This is
something I’d thought of trying myself, but I guess I needed the
incept validated by more experienced artists.

The tumbler did it’s job, and removed most of the shot within an hour
or so. One last bi-cone shaped piece resisted expulsion, but was
readily extracted with the assistance of a magnet. (Not sure it was a
"rare earth" magnet, Ray, but now I know what to look for when I
order the little disc magnets for magnetic clasps).

Thanks, again, to everyone for their suggestions.
Linda in central FL