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Tumbler problem


I just bought two new Lortone tumblers… A single barrel for myself,
and a triple barrel setup for my art jewelry class at the high school
I teach at. I use stainless steel shot in both. At home things are
fine, but at school when my first student went to use the tumbler,
her sterling piece came out all gray and ruddy looking. I have read
in several places to use flat Coke to clean shot and barrels, and so
tried that. Same result. We have tried three different ‘soaps’: a few
drops of Dawn in the barrel, Ivory Snow baby powder granuals, and
some old tumbler powder I’ve had around the shop for years. This is
our second tumbler, so for now we are using our old barrels, but what
gives? The store where I purchased the new ones said that the coke
ruined the barrel… but it was turning things ugly before we tried
that. Anyone with thoughts? At $35 per barrel, I’m really hoping to
not have to replace them. Ugh!

Linda in the not-so-sunny-at-the-moment Okanagan Valley, BC.

hello every now and then this happens, its like the steel shoot gets
loaded and then lets go of the tarnish its been collecting from the
silver (cant really say this is completly true but it seems so),here
in mexico there is a product for shoot cleaning its a blue semi
caustic liquid ( I bet rio grande has it in the states) first clean
the steel by tumbling it with the blue cleaner a couple times ( 15
min) and then rinse the silver only with the liquid rinse well and
start again, with new soap and silver and steel shoot and yea rio has
it its acidic but it seams the same:

You need to get yourself an honest dealer… How could coke ruin a
tumbler barrel ? Never heard of such rubbish… I have Lortone
barrels that are over 30 years old & still work fine… Try running
some 100 grit with quartz for a few days & then clean them out, then
try the shot & dish soap with the stirling…

I think this happens when you tumble for to long in the steel and its
been a while since youve cleaned them, but as I understand yours
where new they probably needed to be broken in and cleaned,(are they
carbon steel or stainless? ) if carbon you either need to dry them
or keep them moist in a preserving solution (this you can use the
same for a long long time)

One possibility: even very small amounts of casting investment can
contaminate burnishing solutions. That has been a big problem in my

Stephen Walker

Hi, if you underfill the barrel with shot you do not get a tumbling
action but a throwing of the shot around inside the barrel and this
leaves the silver with a matt finish that is caused by tiny dents. I
fill to half full with the shot and then to three-quarters with
water before adding my silver and soap. If I use too much shot it
just puts an extra burden on the motor and takes a bit longer but too
little and grey peined work is the result. You could use a plastic
filler but I have only tried it once and it slowed the polishing down

Nick royall

Simple Green spray cleaner…available at grocery stores. As for the
cause, you did say it was a high school class?!?

I had this same problem with my Chicago. I did extensive research on
the Internet and found several suggestions:

Wash barrels in dish washer
Clean shot with draino
Tumble shot with distilled h2o and shaving of white bar soap

I tried them all to no avail

The only real solution is tumbling over and over and continuing to
wash your shot. Apparently there is a coating inside the barrels when
you purchase them. Until you wear it down this will continue to

Carin Jones

When I purchased a large tumbler from Rio Grande I had trouble with
silver turning out grayish. The liner of the tumbler barrel is a
black rubber-like material. I was using the powdered burnishing
compound that I also purchased from Rio.

I called Rio and they said I should be using their product called
"Super Sunsheen Burnishing Compound". It comes in a gallon container
and you use 1/3 of a cup in a gallon of water, although I make it
stronger than that as Rio’s Expert suggested. I have not had a
problem since. EXCEPT for a very different problem with silver
becoming a gold color after being tumbled for a few hours when I
first moved here to Hilton Head from New York. That was solved when I
began using distilled water in my tumblers. I also have a very old
Neoprene (I think) tumbler that I use for normal small loads in which
I still use the original powdered compound. This situation existed in
both tumblers and was solved for both with the change of water.
Apparently there is a lot of chlorine in the water from the tap. The
water from our kitchen reverse osmosis system that was later
installed is also fine for the tumblers. No more gold color.

Betsy Rogers

Linda - the likely candidate for the mess is dirty work in the
tumbler with inadequate cleaning material. Use a solution designed
for use with stainless in a rotary tumbler - I like the Rio Sunsheen
burnishing compound. I mix up the diluted solution in a gallon bottle
and use it new in each run. It is advertised to be formulated for all
types of barrels, including the rubber ones.

It is just good practice to always rinse the media after a run.
That’s hard to edict in a school situation but really necessary.

Using bits of Dawn or Ivory or unmixed powder just isn’t as reliable
as something made for the process. It isn’t just soap, it is a
surfactant, lubricant and the correct pH for steel.

And cleaning the barrel with coke doesn’t hurt it.

Judy Hoch

Try sudsy ammonia. Put it in the tumbler with stainless shot for
about 20 min. Rinse and recommended by an engineer at Gesswein years

Got tumble 60-120 grit to clean out barrels, then wash out with dish
soap…no brainer…

And cleaning the barrel with coke doesn't hurt it. 

The acid is what cleans, the sugar dirties. Paf Dvorak

Thank you everyone for your replies. I think I’ve got the problem
beat. Today I ran the tumbler with the stainless shot for three
cycles with a vinegar/water solution, and then one with a baking
soda/water solution before rinsing clean. Saw it on a "Cool Tools"
article. They are working properly now. I didn’t realize there would
be a coating on the new barrels and shot. I think I’ll order the Rio
product to try though anyways. Funny the coke didn’t fix things up
first though.

Incidentally, my old 3 barrel tumbler from Lortone was at least 16
years old. Those barrels are quite a bit ‘sturdier’ than the new
ones. Thicker, stiffer rubber or something. Thanks again everyone.


the gentleman I bought my tumbler from suggested “4 GOOD squirts of
the green original Palmolive dish soap – has to be the
original”…my analysis and conclusion on “4 good squirts” is about
4 tablespoons. It’s worked for me.


There are stainless steel pins/shot and there are ‘stainless steel’
pins/shot. The real stainless steel can be stored dry, the so-called
stainless steel has to be stored submerged in water or will rust.
The difference is in price. I put a little baking soda in with my mix
of ammonia and dishwashing soap. The first wet batch is to clean off
any old casting investment. I dump and rinse and then fill with fresh
water with burnishing compound and a pinch of baking soda. I no
longer get the black film left over in the bowl. You might even try a
few shavings of Fabulustre (Rio) to the mix and see if it helps. I
had sent a wedding set out in AG 935 to have diamonds set that I was
rather proud of and polished to perfection! The setter told me he
’finished’ the set and put a final polish on it. I asked what was
wrong with it the way I sent it. He replied that silver has a
blackish film that is difficult to remove and a little buffing with
the Fabulustre takes care of it. I have to admit, they looked great
and the customer was ecstatic! I learn every day and figure in
another ten years I’ll know what I didn’t know now.

For any newer ones learning, if you would like to see images of my
learning process of the finishing stages from casting, tumbling in
stainless steel pins, ceramic, porcelain and finally walnut husk, let
me know and I’ll send you a link to the page. I also documented the
weight loss from beginning to end.