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Small economy vibratory tumbler



I’m in the process of setting up a small studio in the basement for
my wife and we have been looking for a small economy vibratory
tumbler. I have found one from Lyman and was just wondering if it
was a good purchase or if you had something else to recommend. Any
help would be greatly appreciated. (where in canada)

There are 2 models I am looking at:



These are dry tumblers suited to cleaning brass shell casings with
corn or walnut shell. They have some utility for jewelry
applications. You would use them dry with a conditioned dry media.
If you would like to use abrasive media, it needs to be run with a
wet cleaning solution. This tumbler would work for a while, but if it
got even a bit wet, it will quit. It really depends on your
application - if you are doing 20 or 30 pieces a year in total, it is
probably ok. It will not turn steel - for that you need some kind of
rotary tumbler. Translation: to start, its ok, if you get serious,
you will want something more capable. I have one, and use it
exclusively for dry applications.

Judy Hoch

I'm in the process of setting up a small studio in the basement
for my wife and we have been looking for a small economy vibratory

The type and quality of the tumbler you need depend on a couple
factors. First are you going to use it for finishing metal or
tumbling stones or both? The second issue is how much do you intend
on using it?

The links provided show tumblers that are intended on polishing
brass cartridges for reloading. These type of vibrator tumblers will
work for metal finishing. They don’t appear to be designed for 24x7
operations. For occasional use the Harbor Freight vibratory tumbler
is a good bargain.

For 24x7 use or for polishing rocks then I would recommend
industrial duty Ultravibe or Gy-Rock tumblers. Kingsley North
( or the Rock Shed ( are good
sources for heavy duty tumblers.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan


Hi Bob,

I’ve have a small Ray Tech that is eight years old and never been
serviced. I use it with stainless steel shot and pins. It goes and

Mary A


Hi Bob,

I’ve been using the 7572 model made by a different company for about
20 years. I use about 5 # of stainless steel shot in mine along with
what ever I’m tumbling.

Mine works fine, no complaints.



Rotary tumblers are “one size fits all” but most vibratory tumblers
are designed and built for a specific load weight range. You need to
ask for the rock tumbling version of the model you are interested in.


For occasional use the Harbor Freight vibratory tumbler is a good

I had three, got them on sale for $39 each. They did not last long.
Good price, not a good bargain, at least in my experience.

Neil A.



You might want to check out the Lot-O-Tumbler:

it seems to get pretty good reviews on the web…I have one and like
it. It isn’t too noisy if you mount it as recommended (on a cinder
block) and then put a piece of carpet under the block.



it looks like a cheaper version of harbor freight’s vibratory
tumbler. They work great if you are cleaning tools, and non precious
metals or a lot of castings that can take fast and hard cutting media
and dry shine (compound). I tried running ceramic media and a liquid
compound in the thing- gaskets seemed ok- boy was I wrong! You must
insure that the tumbler has an output for liquid media (some models
do some don’t) that appears as a hose intake/output or a threaded
post with some kind of nipple or clamping mechanism on it (i have
seen barbs, regular brass inlets, and a number of different
assemblies). Mainly the tumblers you found should be run at top
motor capacity for at least 90 minutes to insure theey are a) made
right, and B) won’t fail after a couple of hours of use - or so the
salesman at harbor freight recommends with any of this caliber of
machines for the small shop made in China…He emphasizes to run them
at top load for as long as you can bear initially and while in the
return and warranty period as many of these types of units come
out-of-the-box with problems that are only revealed after heavy load
bearing use for extended periods- not just turning them on and off at
mid range for the 30 minutes it takes to tumble semi-soft metals
clean ( brasses, drawer pulls, ammo and gun parts, etc. as they are
designed for).

They have place in the jewelry studio just make sure you shop around
for the cheapest (if you look at the specs they are all pretty much
the same though their prices vary wildly depending on the vendor and
label that is attached) unit with the greatest variables i. e. -
speed / motor control settings, power alternatives,media
recommendations, etc., and the capacity for wet or dry use.

Harbor Freight’s unit is a modicum more attractive ( no neon
colours!) and as with all cheaply made items, inspect the lids and
gaskets for as good a fit as you can see, test when you get it out of
the box, and make sure the manufacturer’s recommendations don’t rule
out any of the materials or additives you are thinking of using- some
say don’t use stainless or any metal shot in thin plastic barrels (
though it is generally alright in a small quantity of 2-21/2 lbs. or
less for the size barrel you have pictured ) or that if using liquid
compounds, make sure that they won’t react with any internally
exposed components of the machine’s assembly like aluminum posts, or
galvanized zinc parts, washers, etc. they may react with some
compounds and wreak havoc on patinas, fine silver and metal clay

The plastic ( or glass) media that is sold with them should be
washed before you use it, and if you choose the activated carbon
containing media don’t use it with precious metals or with aggressive
compounds as it breaks the particles of the media down really rapidly
if the castings or other parts you might clean / tumble have any
weight. Never mix metals and metal clay stuff in these things- well
in any tumbler. i have tumbled gold and silver items together
successfully but a student added a few fine silver metal clay pieces
and they turned black ( i suspect it was a screw made of aluminum in
the lid that reacted with the wet media and compound).

A friend added some magnets to the empty bowl to grab iron containing
particles that crept in - It worked unbelievably well…and did not
affect any motor windings etc. just had a lot of black stuff clinging
to the magnets after he opened the container. He then washed out the
barrel and replaced media and recharged with compound. He continues
to use the magnets after a few runnings. I however am not convinced
that its any more effective than washing the media (if wet)
periodically and if dry just replacing it after it stops working as
it did when you first used it…

All in all if you can afford to wait, do and get a jewelry specific
tumbler or if you can’t wait the double barrel tumblers designed for
rocks sold at harbor freight work better for ssmall jewelry than
these vibratory tumblers do wet or dry.

it looks like a cheaper version of harbor freight's vibratory
tumbler. They work great if you are cleaning tools, and non
precious metals or a lot of castings that can take fast and hard
cutting media and dry shine (compound).

I bought Harbor Freight’s smaller (about $40 USD) vibratory tumbler.
They recommend against the use of steel shot, suggesting it will
damage the bowl. I ran steel shot anyway, about two-three pounds.
Initially it worked well, but soon the weight of the shot caused the
bowl to begin turning on the base. There is no way to rigidly fasten
the bowl to the base except the single center-mounted screw through
the bowl. This is insufficient, and so the bowl nearly free-rotates;
little polishing action results. I believe it would be adequate for
lighter-weight media; have not tried this.

David Stitt