Tumbler questions

I have an online body jewelry business and am wanting to get into
making my own jewelry… i’ve made about 100 pieces of jewelry so
far, but the polishing has been so time consuming… right now i am
polishing the surgical stainless steel by hand with a dremel… i am
thinking of buying a Lortone 3A tumbler… i would like to know some
about tumbling… how much jewelry can i put in the
tumbler? how long will it take to get that mirror shine? i am cutting
the steel with a high rpm dremel and the ends of the earrings are get
very dark from the heat… will that come out in the tumbler? what is
used to clean the jewelry (media)? i’ve heard stainless steel shot is
what i use… i’m totally unexperienced right now, but i have to
start somewhere, right? hand polishing is just taking up so much
time, and i’d love to have my production rate go up… please help…
any about this tumbler and what i’m using it for will be
GREATLY appreciated… thanks!!!

David Basile
Gen-X Jewelry

I too would like some on the subject only I am working
with sterling castings. Michael Hayman

Handcrafted Celtic and Medieval Jewelry
in Sterling and Gold

David, there are several steps to tumble finishing. First you need
to smooth the metal. This is done with abrasive media, in your case
for stainless steel, very abrasive media. If the finish is
sufficiently smooth, then going to stainless steel media for
burnishing to make it shine. If your jewelry is rounded, as in not
flat, that should give you a nice shiny finish. If that’s not shiny
enough, after you use very abrasive media, use a second step of less
abrasive media prior to the burnishing step. And if after the
burnishing, it still isn’t shiny enough, use Simichrome polish in Dri
Shine II.

I recommend that the abrasive steps and dry final polish be done in a
vibratory tumbler - it’s far more effective and faster. The stainless
steel step is done in a rotary tumbler with interior flat sides.
There is no time advantage to running steel in a vibratory tumbler.

As to volume, in a 6 to 7 quart vibratory tumbler, I typically run
two cups of parts or about 10 to 15 % of volume. I seldom use
smaller tumblers because they are much less effective, yielding
inferiior results after a longer time period.

If you need more Rio Grande sells a book called Tumble
Finishing for Handmade Jewelry that I wrote.

Good luck, Judy Hoch


I personally don’t feel that tumbling can ever completely replace
buffing on quality work, however it does help work harden the surfaces
and it’s nice emotionally to be handling items that are already shiny,
and the shot will get into places that are hard to reach with buffing,
brushing etc., (and vice versa). Do everything just right and it comes
close to a buffed finish. I don’t like tumble grinding with abrasive
media because it, in my experience, leaves a film of abrasive on the
metal. (If someone has found the magic method that REALLY eliminates
that problem I’m interested.)

For silver:

THE FIRST THING TO DO is tumble just the shot over night or longer to
polish itself, in the anti- rust soapy solution (available from “Rio
Grande” and other suppliers) then wash the shot in a colander and
IMMEDIATELY add new anti-rust solution. Keep the shot pristine by
changing the solution often, otherwise you will be grinding and
embedding a film of grit into the silver - if you tumble polish stones
don’t use that barrel for silver, or at least scrub the rubber liner
twice, and rinse well.

File, sand, bob, or otherwise remove the flaws, bumps and sprue
marks, and refine the surfaces lightly with extra fine sandpaper or
with your buffer using spongy soft abrasive wheels (the extra fine
version from 3M Corporation, St Paul Mn.)

WASH OUT THE DIRT (use an ultrasonic cleaner if you have one)

and then tumble the castings* in VERY clean and highly polished steel
shot, What I think happens is the pure silver is smeared and burnished
over the fire scale, leaving it unnoticable, (use absolutely no
abrasive polish! - don’t let anyone talk you into using lapidary
polish. You will embed the abrasive into the silver’s surface and then
it will be much harder to buff clean.) I use a rolling tumbler - its a
smoother, sliding action than the vibrators, but others use vibrators
and now magnetic tumblers with apparently good results.

If you are tumbling stainless steel it will probably take longer than
silver, I don’t know how much longer.

Alan Heugh


Dear David it will take a lot of writing to explain it is better to
call me and I will explain everything to you .Dikran N. (213) 6238672

Dear David, Hand polishing is great if you do not have much to do! I
use a loritone tumbler with stainless shot and Super Sun-Sheen
burnishing soap ( Rio Grande has it) and it works a treat. I put as
much as 3/4 barrel load in at once (this includes the shot and
merchandise) and let it go for up to an hour. Less would do also, but
do not know much about stainless steel merchandise. Maybe it is
getting too hot when you polish/cut/burnish it and that causes the
color change. As an added note, do not place soft stones in
tumbler!!!No Turq.,shell, pearls, malachite,etc. I don’t trust
anything softer than agates or jade. Have fun!, Suzanne