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Tumble Finishing


Vincent - you asked about using a vibratory tumbler for chain and
about the pump for a flow thru system.

First - you can brighten a chain almost any way. But to really get
the best possible polish, this is what I do, both with gold or silver
handmade chains. It sounds bizarre, but first run the clean, pickled
chain for an hour in stainless steel in a rotary tumbler. Then run
for 6 to 10 hours in a medium abrasive in a vibratory tumbler.
Follow with a fine abrasive for gold, optional for silver, again in
vibratory tumbler.

Then run the smoothed chain in stainless steel again for an hour or
so in a rotary tumbler. The final buffing step is 24 to 48 hours in
a dry vibratory tumbler with Dri shine III primed with Simichrome or
Red or Green buff. All the buffing media should be augmented with
about 20% wood pegs. This will give you a finish that is as good or
better than hand buffing, and a lot safer.

If you don’t have a rotary tumbler, you can’t work harden the chain
initially, and will not have as fine a finish. If you only have a
vibratory tumbler, you can substitute a 12 to 18 hour run in ceramic
beads for the time (2nd) in the steel. Follow with the buff step as

As to pump - I buy them from Rio. They seem to be impervious to the
grit and junk that accumulates during the abrasive steps. I do
elevate the pump from the bottom of the bucket with a stand made of
the plastic material used to protect gutters from leaves - there is a
picture of it in the 3rd edition of the book. As to adjustment - I
use a clever little red clamp that pinches the tubing to reduce the
flow. I have some little white ones that don’t have as fine an
adjustment, but they work too. Purchasing from Rio is the path of
least resistance - I’m sure there are other sources. I use separate
pumps for different abrasive grits so that cleaning is not an issue.

The way I set the flow for my pump is to load the tumbler with media
but not start the vibrating action. I plug in the pump and pinch
down the tubing with the little red gizmo until the flow is slightly
more than a dribble. Then I start the tumbler and run it for a bit
to wet the media. I turn off the tumbler, recheck the flow (you
can’t see it very well when the tumbler is moving)… Restart tumbler,
add pieces (counting), and reward your self for getting so much work

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know - but if there is
more, contact me off list and I will try to help.

Judy Hoch