Stone polishing tumblers

I would like to hear opinions on what is better - vibrating
tumblers or rotating ones? Which is the best for someone who just
wants to get started tumbling? Which supplier has a good deal on
new or used tumblers?


Scott, Decision depends on two things, time and money. Rotary
tumblers are less costly and take quite some time to complete a
task. Vibratory tumblers are more costly and faster by at least a
4 to 1 margin.

Both are effective when properly used.

Where money is no object, there is a magnetic tumbler.


Hi Scott, I don’t tumble stones myself, but, your best bet for a
good price on a rotary tumbler would be to buy direct from
Lortone. Their website - From what I’ve seen,
rotary is the standard for stones. I would imagine vibratory
would beat them up something awful! Hope someone else can give
you specifics on the subject.

Good Luck,
Marlo M.

Dear Scott, I use both type of tumblers. They have a mulitude of
uses from cabachon finishing to jewelry burnishing. Some people
I know even use them for gold separation.

Generally a rotary tumbler is slower, but does a much better
job of cutting down the rough stone. If you are using rough
stones use a rotary. A vibrator is about twice as fast, but
does not cut down the rocks near as much. Check with Irons
Lapidary for tumblers. He is very knowledge able and has a
good stock. E-mail


G’day; As Sharon said, (well, sort of) it depends what you
want to pay. I personally use a home made vibratory job which
polishes small sterling pieces and chain brilliantly inside an
hour. It cost practically nothing, but you have to have a source
of DC power - 6v; or a very small controllable AC motor. If you
REALLY want details, write off-list. –

        /\      John Burgess
       / /
      / /    
     / /__|\
    (_______)  "New and Improved" appears in advertisements a

lot now. My experience of that is; ‘Half the value and twice the price’

Hi Scott,

I’ve used a vibratory tumbler for burnishing metal, but not for
polishing rock.

I’d imagine that the various abrasive grits used in rock
polishing would work similar to used for burnishing, except
they’d be cutting rather than burnishing. A vibratory tumbler
should work faster than the typical rotary barrel tumbler.

In a barrel tumbler, the media & rocks take on the shape of the
barrel except for the side that slopes from the top to the
bottom as the barrel turns. The only portion of the contents that
are actively polishing at any given time is the relatively thin
layer (about 1 in. thick) that’s sliding form the top to the
bottom. The remainder of the media & rocks are just being
positioned for there slide down the hill.

In a vibratory tumbler, everything is constantly in motion,
bumping into its’ neighbor. The cutting/polishing action is
taking place throughout the entire mixture. This full time
action greatly reduces the time required to cut/polish a rock.

Gesswein, Rio Grande & Swest all have various sized vibratory
tumblers listed in their catalogs. Another co. that makes good
vibratory tumblers is Gemstone Equipment Mfg., 750 Easy St., Simi
Valley CA 93065, 800-235-3375.

The type & size of unit needed will be determined by your
requirements. If you’re going into rock polishing in a commercial
way as opposed to a once in a while thing, the equipment
requirements would be completely different.

Basically though, a vibratory tumbler is faster than a barrel


l have both types of tumblers, the vibratory is the best, the
amount of time spent is far less and if you preshape your stones
you can control the method better. Although the old standard
works well to.


That’s not really the way it works for a properly filled
tumbler. If the rocks are sliding the speed or fill is wrong.
They’re supposed to be tumbling, not sliding. Of course, that
doesn’t alter the fact that a vibratory tumbler is faster.


vibratory tumblers, the stones, etc., will vibrate around the
bowl and each other. With stones, you can even safely mix slabs
and small stones (rocks) as long as you have enough grit solution
in the bowl. With a rotary tumbler, you wouldn’t dare tumble
slabs, let alone a combination! With a rotary tumbler the stones
literally tumble and fall over each other. The vibratory tumblers
are also much faster than rotary tumblers, roughly 4 times
faster. My vibratory tumbler was a Raytech, and is soon to be
replaced by a “Thumler Tumbler”, which comes highly recommended
by a very knowledgeable man in our Gem & Mineral Society.

Hope this helps!

If you tumble slabs in a rotary tumbler and they are “tumbling
and falling” all over each other, then you don’t have enough
material in the tumbler. Rotaries REQUIRE 3/4 to 7/8 of a barrel
full of rocks and grit for each load (coarse, fine, pre-polish &
polish) before they work properly. So, using a rotary tumbler
with too short a load will result in ‘bruised rocks’. Lortone
has been in the business for nearly 40 years and makes what we
think is the best rotary tumbler.

Vibrating tumblers do work much faster for the pre-polish and
polish grits. However, they do not do as good a job at cutting,
smoothing and rounding off the corners as a rotary tumbler does
in the coarse and fine grit loads. And they are very much more
expensive than a rotary tumbling system.

You should be aware that Thumbler’s Tumbler is much more
difficult to get replacement parts for as it is generally sold as
a whole unit in hobby-type stores. For instance, I know of no
store in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia which sells any
replacement parts for this particular tumbler. Be sure that
there will be back-up support for the type of tumbler you

Jan MacLellan
Mountain Gems Ltd.
4611 Hastings Street
Burnaby BC Canada
V5C 2K6

(604) 298-5883
(604) 298-2669 fax

Open: Tuesday to Friday, 10-6; Saturday & Sunday, 11-5. Closed Mondays.