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Tumblers...vibratory versus magnetic

At the Tucson show, sawe some new “magnetic” tumblers, which
appear to use the same principle as a magnetic laboratory

Anyone had any experience using magnetic versus vibratory? I’d
hate to toss the new vibratory tumbler that I have, sitting newly
in its unopened box.

Mark Z, Denver

A friend invested in one once they got to under $1,000. She
loves it. I saw it work, and was very impressed. Wonderful for
her work which has lots of little parts that need to be
pre-finished before assembly. Works much more quickly, and less
noise. Cindy

Cynthia Eid

Hi Mark,

If I understand your comparison correctly, it maybe a little in
error. My impression of the magnetic stirrer is a small plastic
encapsulated bar magnet or magnet material is put in a beaker of
liquid. The beaker is set on a platform that has a motorized disc
with 1 or more magnets attached. When the motor is energized the
magnetic attraction between the magnets on the rotating disc
cause the encapsulated magnetic in the beaker to rotate in
coincidence with them, thus stirring the liquid in the beaker.

The magnetic ‘tumblers’ generally have a plastic container
containing a quantity of stainless steel pins in a liquid
solution containing a non-sudsing detergent. The container is
supported by a nonmagnetic platform, below which a motor driven
disc containing a number of magnets is mounted. When the motor is
running the magnets rotate causing the pins & other items in the
container to rotate. The rotating/tumbling action of the pins &
liquid in the container cause other items to be
cleaned/brunished. The cleaning/burnishing cycle times are quite
short, usually under an hour. The magnetic tumblers are available
in several sizes starting with one that holds about 1 quart of

The pins are available in several sizes (diameters & lengths).
They have just enough nickel in them to prevent rusting, but not
enough to make them non magnetic.

I’ve not used one of the magnetic tumblers, but have used a
small vibratory tumbler with assorted shapes of steel shot for a
number of years. Given the cost differential between the magnetic
units ($400.00+) & the vibratory ($125.00+)(shot/pins included in
each), my vibratory will be around for a while.

It should be pointed out though, that the pins used in the
magnetic units are capable of getting into much smaller spaces
than the assorted sized shot. If you need to clean/polish items
that have small confined spaces, e.g. filigree etc., the magnetic
unit may be the way to go.


This keeps coming up on the list. It seems that selling magnetic
tumblers is not a bad business to be in at the moment. I have had
one for a little over a year and really love it. I also have a
vibratory tumbler that was hardly ever used because it takes
sooooo looong. I guess if you are fortunate enough to not work
under any great time constraints the vibratory might actually
give better results if you use more than just steel shot. The
magnetic tumbler will burnish your pieces to a shine, inside and
out in about 30 min. It is good for very smooth or refinished
castings, fabricated and assembled pieces and the difficult to
polish tight place such as under a head that you can’t reach.
The vibratory type tumbler can actually refinish or smooth the
not too rough casting if you have lots of time and are willing to
change the media for the various steps. If you are just using
steel shot in your vibratory tumbler, I think you will get a
better result with the magnetic tumbler even if you remove time
as a consideration. That’s because the needles in the magnetic
tumbler get into much smaller places.

I got my tumbler from Gesswien, its the mini mag II, it ran
around $1300.00. I am really happy with it. We have had to
replace the bowl due to cracking. Elaine Corwin of the Technical
Dept. at Gesswein has been an actual saint in standing behind
their product and finding a way to resolve it. I think part of
our problem is that everyone in the 6 person shop has found a
use for this tool and it runs all the time.

Mark P.

I have the tumbler you’re referring to and I have to say they didn’t figure out the bowl cracking issue. I have gone through about 3 bowls in a year and I only use it about 3 times a week at most 30 min. There’s something about the cheap plastic that they’re using that causes cracking and for their price it should not be an issue but it still is.

Hi Mark

20 plus years ago I had a vibrating tumbler that never was used very much as it took too long and required media changes and cleaning. And I never really mastered it.

A few years ago I purchased a Best Built Super Mini 90 mag tumbler from Otto Frei and have been very happy. It is small maybe 5-6 rings and would not work for belt buckles larger items. I run it for 30 minutes for all my castings with buttons on. It will not clean up printer grow lines but it makes everything bright. About every 4 -5 hours run time I clean the pins and shot with water and then add mag cleaner.


When you say the mag tumbler makes your castings and buttons “bright” is this bright comparable to, what “bombing” or stripping does to fresh castings - primarily to remove surface oxidation. Does this work well getting into very minute & tight places on fresh 14k gold castings before any sanding or polishing is done.

In response to this topic on magnetic tumblers, here is my own reply. Personally, I couldn’t clean my castings without the help of this cleaning machine.
But it what does it really do? The “rotating & tumbling” action of the pieces of metal hit against your jewellery and then knock against each other.

=>It’s going into places where no other tool can get into!!<=

Remember one thing, this action does not polish to a fine surface. But what it does do, is to remove the rough casting surface.

This gets into every corner and crevice that no file, pumice wheel or cloth-wheel can get into. It just “prepares that surface” for your next step in cleaning.

Sorry for my convoluted answers & hoping it answers your questions.

Gerry, on my iPhone

1 Like

Hi jfgoldfire

I don’t bomb or strip but understand the process. Gerry is right as usual “prepares that surface” for your next step in cleaning”. It will not remove grow lines or surface defects but helps to brighten up surfaces. I find this helpful with clean up in under galleries, bead-prong work ect. Since I purchased mine all my castings go in and buttons too. Cleans buttons for recast after ultasonic-pickle and steam cleaning.