. . .I don't polish rocks. I know tumblers are used in jewelry
work, but I don't know how or why. I'm hoping someone can give me
some on the uses of tumblers. I go to F.I.T. night
school for jewelry, but the teachers don't teach, Augest
Hi Augest: Ok, tumblers can be used to finish metals, in the same way
as using consecutively finer abrasives and then finally polishing
media as we do in other ways. The metal articles are tumbled with
plastic or ceramic bits that consist of different abrasives included
in their composition, then with things like wood or walnut shell and
polishing compounds. That is a rough overview. Burnishing is also
done, which imparts a luster to metals using small steel “shot” of
different shapes and a fluid lubricant, usually simple soap and water
or additives engineered for that purpose. Stones are polished in
tumblers using abrasive grits of consecutively finer grade. The
stone are put in in water, usually, and substantial amounts of
abrasive are added. Again, a course overview. There’s an excellent
book out on using tumblers for mass finishing. I don’t have the name
handy, perhaps someone with more knowledge of this will advise you.
Now here are some interesting things you can experiment with using a
Go to a lapidary supplier and ask them if they have a rock
tumbling kit of graded abrasives and some rough stones they would
suggest using. Or gather your own around the yard or on the beach,
etc. Find a gravel pit. Look for hard stones, dense and especially
translucent ones since they often turn out surprisingly nice. Follow
the directions that should come with the kit. Meanwhile, since it
takes days and days to tumble the stones, you can use that time to
research so you’ll understand why you got what you are going to get
when you’re done. Certain materials polish up nicely, some never
will. Some materials affect the polishing of other materials, etc.
Next time you select rocks to tumble, you’ll be looking for certain
types based on experience. What will you do with them? Set the flat
ones in bezels in bracelet links, in pendants, in bezels for drawer
pulls and on canister lids, or get a cheapo concrete birdbath and
learn about mosaic! Imagine a birdbath in your back yard completely
covered in polished rocks. Or buy a few terra cotta pots and cover
them. Cover a bird house, or just leave a bowl of polished rocks on
the coffee table. People will love to handle them. For mosaic
materials, go to the building supply store where they sell materials
to tile bathrooms and kitchens and tell them what you’re up to.
It’s the same as laying down tile for a kitchen counter. Sticky
cement and grout. Plenty of books out on the subject.
Collect small pieces of broken glass. Or take a bottle or jar,
colored usually, and wrap it in aluminum foil. Put it in an oven
heated to 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so then take it out and dump
it in a bucket of cold water. Unwrap carefully. Maybe you should
wear gloves for this, and safety glasses just in case. Don’t take a
hammer to it, it’s too dangerous. Better to put glass in a coffee can
with a few largish rocks and duct-tape the lid on securely. Shake
well. Take the broken glass and put it in the tumbler with sand.
Get nice fine beach sand, or go to the building supply store and get
playground sand-box sand. Dump 3 or 4 cups of sand in the tumbler
with the glass, fill 2 thirds with water and let it run for a day.
Check to see what’s happening. Might take a day or two, but you’ll
get lots of the famous “beach glass” that you can use in the manner
Finally, surprise us with something we haven’t though of yet.
How about a real challenge. Get some diamond bits and try inlaying
metal in stone. Use plenty of running water with those bits. (Hint:
aquarium pump). Can you find some of the polished stones that are
tough enough to withstand the pressure of hydraulic die forming?
Press them into metal and use the indented pieces to fabricate little
beds for the rocks. Study the rocks, then carve complimentary rocks
in wax and cast or carve directly in metal, polish some, leave some
rough castings, etc. Compose with these. Forge some flatware with
bezel set stones terminating the handles. You are a student, you are
supposed to be getting juiced on this stuff. Gawd! I wish I had time
to play like that.
Get to the library. Research technologies, research artists like
Antonio Gaudi. Look at pictures of the Watts Towers in L.A., get
"stoned" on the whole process.
No teaching being done at F.I.T.? Hmmm. Can anyone explain this
to me? Why, if I had their resources . . grrrr. You’re not a slacker
are you? I can fix that. . . look into my eyes, you are getting
sleepy. . . mumble. . . mumble. . .
David L. Huffman (more madness or just dreams?)