Tumbler and Ultrasonic

What is the difference between a tumbler and an ultrasonic? Can they
do some of the same functions? It seems as if tumblers and
ultrasonics are two of the machines that I hear of jewelers talking
about the most and I would like to cut down on the machinery that I
am buying, so I would like to only buy one.

ultrasonic cleans and tumbler reshapes stones. two different jobs.

Good Morning Annabel,

I am going to try and answer several questions at once from your
different postings. First ultrasonics. They are small tanks, filled
with water and a cleaning solution used to clean jewelry. There
usually is an option to have the tank heat the water, and when you
turn the tank “on” is passes ultrasonic waves through the water which
will help dislodge polish, dirt, investment etc. from what you have
suspended in the tank. Key side note, objects must be suspended, not
set on the bottom. Tumblers are machine that are usually used in
material removal. There are countless different set ups so I will
skip how they all do it, but the basic concept is you place your work
piece in the tumbler with a “media”, depending on the media used and
the tumbling process, surface material is removed form your piece at
different rates of aggression from heavy removal down to an almost
polished appearance.

Casting, let’s use a single ring as an example. You send to a
casting house your wax ring to be cast. This is attached to a wax
sprue, which is attached to a base. The metal flask is placed over
this investment is poured in. The base is removed, the flask goes
into the kiln, and the wax burns out while the investment hardens.
This leaves you with a negative impression of your wax in the
investment mold. As you pour the metal in it follows the sprue hole,
fills up the negative impression of the ring, fills up the sprue
hole, and then there is extra added for casting integrity that forms
a “button” on the end of the sprue. Lessons in casting later, which
would explain the purpose of the button. Different casting houses or
different casters for that matter do things differently depending.
All of them are going to clean off the casting to be able to cut the
ring from the sprue. Some casters will do a better job of cleaning
then others, but most if not all of the investment should be cleaned
off. If there is any lest you could either put the piece in a sonic,
or even use a stiff nail brush under running water. Another trick,
put the piece in your pickle pot for a little while, and then use the
nail brush or an ultrasonic. If I can answer anything else let me

Thank you,
Eric McCafferty

As I think of it They do two different things, Tumblers with
burnishing solution and steel shot is great for cleaning castings
and fabrication pieces. It leaves a work hardened finish with a
decent shine. Ultrasonics are used to clean dirt and soluble
residues from small tight places that are difficult if not
impossible to clean any other way. A example is in between filigree
wires. I haven’t found any other way to easily clean that type of

This is my humble opinion as I know there is far more expertise out
there that can probably give a more authoritative responce.

John (Jack) Sexton

Just to make things more interesting, there is a brand of tumbler
that are Sonic tumblers. Google sonic tumblers, they are used
primarily for tumbling stone. They do not have a motor, I believe
they are ultrasonic tumblers.

Richard Hart

Hi Billy,

ultrasonic cleans and tumbler reshapes stones. two different jobs 

Depending on the media in the tumbler, they can also be used to
polish (burnish) metal. Using stainless steel shot does an excellent
job of polishing. It’s best to use assorted shapes of shot to get in
all the nooks & crannies.