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Tumbler and different media


#1

I am looking into getting a tumbler as I spend too much time sanding
and hand polishing components that I get back from casting. I have
seen a few that are not too much money - a vibrating one and a rotary
one. I am looking to get a shiny, polished look to my silver pieces.
It is likely, however, that I will want to experiment with other
finishes so I would like to have that option. Can anyone recommend
which type would be best for me to get?

One more thing - I have been told to use steel media to get a high
shine but in looking at the options there are many different shapes
of steel shots. Is there a good “shape” for me to start out with?
What is the difference anyway between a pin shot and ball cone, for
example?

Thank you!
Molly
marlowdesigns@yahoo.com
www.marlowdesigns.com


#2
I am looking into getting a tumbler as I spend too much time
sanding and hand polishing components that I get back from
casting.(snip)   One more thing > - I have been told to use steel
media to get a high shine but in looking at the options there are
many different shapes of steel shots. Is there a good "shape" for
me to start out with? 

Molly–as you will no doubt hear from others, the different shapes
get into different types of details. I think most use a mixture.
But what I’d like to say is-- My solution to this situation is to
have Daniel Grandi, at Racecar Jewelry (here on Orchid) do my
casting. He does all the cleanup, tumbling, finishing, even
patination if you want it, at a very reasonable price. I am a 100%
satisfied customer. --Noel


#3
  I am looking into getting a tumbler as I spend too much time
sanding and hand polishing components that I get back from casting.
 Is there a good "shape" for me to start out with? What is the
difference anyway between a pin shot and ball cone, for example? 

Molly, I hand file and sand up to 600 grit before using a tumbler.
For round, smooth beads, I use green plastic fine grit pyramid media
in a deburring compound and distilled water, first to achieve a
satin finish, followed by mixed stainless steel shot in a burnishing
compound and distilled water (4 hours each). A tumbler is
indispensable for finishing pieces with soldered links and fine
detail.

The gray porcelain media is supposed to burnish after 12 hours of
break-in time, but I found the break-in period to be more like
80-plus hours. Before then, the porcelain media gave me a satin
finish. Rio Grande suggests a 12-14 hour break-in period, but the
better advice to follow is Judy Hoch in her book on tumbling, run
the media for 5 days, day and night before using with jewelry. I
also tried rouge in walnut shell for a dry tumble media. After
hours and hours (10-plus), I achieved a satin finish with the shells
but massive amounts of rouge entered the beads and I spent more
hours using an ultrasonic cleaner to remove the rouge. Also, I tried
carbon steel shot purchased from a gun shop. It works, but cleanup
of the carbon sludge (which gets on everything) is very time
consuming to remove, not to mention the rust that sets in
immediately. If you don’t want to invest in the somewhat expensive
stainless steel media (which lasts forever), then I suggest using
porcelain as a better burnishing alternative to carbon steel.

I use an inexpensive Lortone round barrel tumbler, nothing fancy but
it works fine. Almost no silver is removed in burnishing and, in
spite of the weight of the steel shot, the metals, including jump
rings and other fine detail are not distorted in tumbling. The
steel media seems to slide around rather than crash against the
piece. Some of the other types of tumblers may be more aggressive.
I remove the straight pins from the mixed steel media when tumbling
annealed copper or round silver beads because the pins seem to poke
occasional pits in the surface. If the piece has fine detail that
only the pins can reach, I run the piece through a second 4 hours.
The Rio Grande catalog includes a chart on Workpiece Identification
and Media Selection, which I found helpful. Also, check the Orchid
archives for more on tumbling. Nancy www.psi-design.com


#4

Hello Molly, If I understand your message, you have castings done
elsewhere and then do the finish work yourself. May I suggest a
different caster - Daniel Grandi, RaceCar Jewelry. The castings he
returns to me are absolutely ready to use! He uses the
tarnish-resistant sterling alloy if you work in silver - I really
like that! He is an Orchid member.

If you still want tumbling info, buy Judy Hoch’s book, “Tumble
Finishing for Handmade Jewelry.” It is a great reference for those
questions you’ve not thought of yet. It’s sold by Rio for $11.95.
She is also an Orchid member. The book really takes tumble finishing
down to understandable terms, directions, and techniques. After
you’ve read through it, you can decide which method and machine will
meet your need.

Good luck with this. I love my tumblers, both rotary and vibratory.
Judy in Kansas


#5
        I am looking to get a shiny, polished look to my silver
pieces. It is likely, however, that I will want to experiment with
other finishes so I would like to have that option. Can anyone
recommend which type would be best for me to get? 

Molly - there are at a minimum two parts to mass finishing - the
smoothing part with abrasive media and the burnishing part. The
traditional tumbler for abrasive media is a wet vibratory tumbler.
The most efficient and economical tumbler for burnishing is a rotary
tumbler. You can burnish in a vibratory tumbler with ceramic media,
but it takes an extended period of time - a couple or three days.
The vibratory tumbler will give you the best options for a variety
of finishes.

   One more thing - I have been told to use steel media to get a
high shine but in looking at the options there are many different
shapes of steel shots. Is there a good "shape" for me to start out
with? What is the difference anyway between a pin shot and ball
cone, for example? 

Steel media gives you the high shine - after smoothing with abrasive
media, and as best I can tell - a mixture of the steel shapes is
the usual choice. Skip the pins, unless you are doing filagree.

You might want to get the little book I wrote on the subject of mass
finishing “Tumble finishing for hand made jewelry” available from
Rio or Frei and Borel. It will help you with choices both for
getting started and as you refine your expectations.

Judy Hoch, G.G.
@Judy_Hoch


#6

Frankly i have tried every experience possible with thumblers and
was suprised to see that it wasn’t as fast as doing it by hand…
you need to do at least 3 cycles… coarse -medium and fine. meaning,
you will have to wait 72 hours before taking your pieces out of the
thumbler and still you will have to do some polishing (i dont realy
love the final thumbler finish). if you want to be productive with
thumblers you will need 3 of them. 1 with each kind of media. or a
magnetic thumbler (which i bought and am very satisfied with). i was
once like you , trying to find ways to cut on work but the best way
is the old way… by hand.

it’s by jeweling that you become a jeweler…
have a good day

Syd


#7

Hello Nancy. Two questions after reading your post to Molly.
First, how in the world do you manage to pick out all the pin shapes
from a barrel of mixed steel shot? Second, can you describe the
carbon sludge that got all over everything ? I’ve used the old
non-stainless mixed shot for probably fifteen years and never had
that problem. My favorite burnishing compound has been Rio’s
Sunsheen. It never allowed any sludge or any other awful stuff to
get on my work or anything else. If your pieces go in really
grungey straight from the casting process, I can imagine a lot of
dirt build-up. But there’s no point in burnishing unclean pieces,
so I’m curious how you got sludge. You also shouldn’t have
encountered rust. After use I rinse carefully all the shot and
store in an anti-rust solution - also from Rio. Never had rust no
matter how long it sat unused in a sealed plastic tub. Since I
recommend my tumbling experiences to students, I’d love to be able to
do any trouble-shooting necessary to head off the problems you had.
Sounds like you have a good system now, at any rate. Best of
tumbling to you.

Pat


#8

Hi Judy, You mentioned a tarnish resistant silver in your reply. Is
this silver available as wire? Is it much more expensive than regular
sterling? Are its properties similar to regular sterling?

Thanks!
Dan Tregembo
DanielBe Jewelry


#9
 How did you manage to pick out all of the pin shapes from a
barrel of mixed steel shot?  Can you describe the carbon sludge
that got all over everything? 

Pat, To be honest, I put the mixed steel shot in a big bowl and use
tweezers to pick out the pins. Do this while watching TV. I am not
using that much ste el shot in the small barrel, so there are only
about 40 pins. Another Orchi d writer mentioned the use of a screen
to sift the pins out. However, if I had a large amount, I would be
inclined to keep the pins separate and, when needed, run the jewelry
first in the mixed shot, then in the pins.

As for the carbon shot, I used the tiny balls (2-3 mm) sold in gun
shops fo r loading into shotgun cartridges. After tumbling, the
burnishing compound was thick and gray and it coated my hands, the
sink and the jewelry. The je welry was clean going in and coated
with carbon coming out. I washed the sh ot, dried with paper towels
and put it in a dish on a hot radiator to comple tely dry. A couple
of hours later, the shot was coated with rust. I washed it again,
coated it with cooking oil and stored it in a glass jar. I haven 't
used it since. From your account, I have to believe that the carbon
stee l shot sold for tumbling does not give you the same hassle.
Says in the cat alogs that the tumbler carbon shot is tempered (which
might make some differ ence), and, of course I did not have the
proper storage solutions. In any e vent, the mixed stainless steel
is clean going in, clean throughout the proc ess, and requires no
special care. Nancy www.psi-design.com


#10
First, how in the world do you manage to pick out all the pin
shapes from a barrel of mixed steel shot? 

I found a way to get the pin shapes out, but it took some time:
dumped a small amount of shot at a time into a big old kitchen
strainer with mesh wide enough to pass the pins but not the other
shapes, .Then agitated the strainer until the pins fell out into a
pan. At one point i got impatient and passed a magnet under the
strainer while shaking it, to hasten the process. The magnet caught
a few of them on the way out, but I don’t know if it made the
operation any faster. Hate those pins! Dee


#11
     Frankly i have tried every experience possible with thumblers
and was suprised to see that it wasn't as fast as doing it by
hand..... you need to do at least 3 cycles.. coarse -medium and
fine. meaning, you will have to wait 72 hours before  taking your
pieces out of the thumbler and still you will have to do some
polishing (i dont realy love the final thumbler finish). if you
want to be productive with thumblers you will need 3 of them. 1
with each kind of media. or a magnetic thumbler (which i bought
and am very satisfied with). i was once like you , trying to find
ways to cut on work but the best way is the old way....... by
hand. 

Well, I have to disagree. A normal finishing cycle takes about 10
hours. A good medium abrasive media running 6 to 8 hours in a flow
thru vibratory tumbler, followed by a maximum hour in steel in a
rotary tumbler gets a nice polish. Even if you run a subsequent
fine polish run in dry charged media - simichrome in walnut shell -
for 24 hours to get a better shine that you can get by hand, you are
well under 72 hours.

And if you have lots of bucks to save time, the disc finisher I’m
testing right now does the whole thing in about 4 hours. Abrasive
and fine finish. Seems to me like it is really economical compared
to hiring buffing help.

Judy Hoch


#12
    Pat, To be honest, I put the mixed steel shot in a big bowl
and use tweezers to pick out the pins.  Do this while watching TV. 
I am not using that much ste el shot in the small barrel, so there
are only about 40 pins.  Another Orchi d writer mentioned the use
of a screen to sift the pins out.  However, if I had a large
amount, I would be inclined to keep the pins separate and, when
needed, run the jewelry first in the mixed shot, then in the pins. 

I found out (the “hard” way) that with a little stirring and shaking
around, the pins go right through the sieve that I use to wash my
shot in!

    In any e vent, the mixed stainless steel is clean going in,
clean throughout the proc ess, and requires no special care. Nancy
www.psi-design.com 

Stainless costs a bit more, but you don’t need all that much of it,
and you only have to buy it once!

margaret


#13

Removing pins from mixed stainless media is easy. I use a magnet
that I got at the sewing supply store, it is coated with plastic and
has a handle. The pins stick to it when you run the magnet thru the
shot.

I’m not sure if the pins retain their slightly magnetic quality for
a period after running the tumbler - I’ve always removed them right
after a run.

Yes, I know that stainless steel isn’t supposed to be magnetic - but
the pins are, slightly.

I got this hint originally from the lab at rio grande.

Judy Hoch


#14
    Hi Judy, You mentioned a tarnish resistant silver in your
reply. Is this silver available as wire? Is it much more expensive
than regular sterling? Are its properties similar to regular
sterling? 

Hello Don Tregembo, I have had no success in obtaining the
tarnish-resistant sterling in smaller (>100 oz.) quantities of wire
of sheet. I keep hoping that someone will decide to distribute it.
I understand the alloy is resistant to fire scale!! I would really
like to get some and work with it in sheet and wire - find out how
malable, bittle, solder-friendly, etc. it is. The casting grains
are available if you have casting capability. Sorry not to be much
help. Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936


#15

Hi Gang,

  I use a magnet that I got at the sewing supply store, it is
coated with plastic and has a handle. 

Judy’s post reminded me of another trick when using a magnet with
small items.

Before placing the magnet close/into the mix, put the magnet into a
plastic baggie. That way the items can be easily removed by turning
the baggie inside out when done, trapping the items & leaving the
magnet free of contamination.

Dave


#16

Dave Arens, thanks for a great studio tip.

    put the magnet into a plastic baggie 

I work with steel a lot and the owner of the studio where I
sometimes work is paranoid (and probably reading this :slight_smile: about me
leaving my steel filings and bits all around and “contaminating” the
work space. I use a magnet to clean up but then it’s a pain in the
butt trying to scrape all the crumbs off the dang thing. I’m going
into the studio today but I’m going to stop at the supermarket first
and buy a box of bags!

Christine in sunny, autumnal Littleton, Mass.