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Tumblers


#1

I need some advice on tumblers. I already have a Rio Grande
flow-through “Good Vibes” tumbler that I use with plastic media,
and switch to walnut shell spiked with “meta-gloss” and finally
corn cob media. This system works pretty good on my bronze and
sterling castings, but is unsatisfactory for my fabricated
pieces, especially the sterling.

Is there any tumbler on the market that will produce a finish

that is even close to hand polishing? What about steel shot?
Is it safe for fabricated pieces. I have a new line which has
small gold shapes soldered onto a sterling background and I need
a better finish ( hand polishing won’t get into the little
crevices.


#2

Wendy, tumblers may work well for your new work. I suggest a
rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot. Also, if you have
firescale, rio has a tumbling agent called super sunsheen
descaler which works quite well. My only caution to you is not
to over tumble, very small pits form on the annealed silver from
the shot if you over do it.

Good luck,
Elizabeth


#3

wendy,

i also work with fabricated pieces, mainly brass and sterling.
i use the big 50lb flow thru system with rio’s pink and blue
cones, rouge and corn cob for cleaning. when i take then out
they are ready to go to the plater. some times they will get a
scratch on them that has to be polished out but most are ready.

if you are interested in more details, e-mail me.

david horn
louisville, ky


#4

I have had excellent luck with steel shot in my tumbler, using
chunks of Ivory soap. (not liquid Ivory) It is very cheap,
lasts a long time, and i f I don’t rinse out the shot and dry it,
I still don’t get any rust. The finish on the silver is very
shiny. The only problem I’ve ever had, and it may reflect the
tumbling process rather than the soap, is that eventually t he
high shine wears off, leaving a greyish finish that my customers
can’t poli sh up, and I simply tumble the piece for them again.
I use this mostly for handmade chains in sterling. Any
comments?

Ruth


#5

I believe the greyish surface that pops up is firescale. It has
never been removed from the surface and this will happen over and
over again. This is one of the reasons I do not tumble anymore,
it is a quickie which does not do the whole job, the tumbler
burishes the fine silver surface which resulted from repeated
heatings and quenchings during the construciton process. This
surface is easily rubbed away over time, leaving the ugly scar of
firescale.

Elizabeth


#6

Ruth said,

The only problem I’ve ever had, and it may reflect the
tumbling process rather than the soap, is that eventually the high
shine wears off, leaving a greyish finish that my customers can’t
polish up, and I simply tumble the piece for them again.<<

I also use carbon steeel shot for polishing handmade chain &
other sterling pieces. However, I use a low sudsing burnishing
soap & household ammonia. My tumbler is the smallest one
Gemstones (Simi Valley CA) makes. I’ve got 7.5 # of shot in it.
Starting with a clean machine & shot, I add just a pinch of soap
& about 1 oz (shot glass) of ammonia. That seems to do OK for
about a week. Then I just add another oz of ammonia. After 3 or 4
weeks I dump the shot in a collender & wash it off with hot water
& clean out the tumbler bowl very good. When the shot has had a
chance to drain the water out, back into the tumbler it goes. Add
a new pinch of burnishing soap & shot of ammonia & we’re off &
running for another 3-4 weeks. If the shot looses it’s shine, I
rinse it off in the collender with water, put it back in the
tumbler, add a cup of water & some Draino or lye (sodium
hydroxide), let it run for & hour or so then wash the shot in
the collender with water. When it’s had a chance to drain, put it
back in the tumbler, add the burnishing soap & ammonia & its off
& running.

You can dump the Draino/lye down the kitchen sink, won’t do any
harm, might even help! Just don’t get any on your skin, it can
cause quite a burn. If you do get some on your skin, just rinse
it off with lots of water & wash with soap & water.

Putting the cover on the tumbler tightly when it’s not in use
will help prevent rust from forming very fast on carbon steel
shot. If the shot gets rusted & pitted it can leave the items you
tumble pitted & discolored also. Tumbling requires bright shiney
shot.

I’ve also found that pickling the item to be tumbled just before
tumbling helps. I believe this is because pickling disolves some
of the copper, leaving a thin layer of fine silver on the
surface. The fine silver tends to burnish to a higher sheen than
sterling. Haven’t proven this scientifically, but it seems
resonable.


#7

Ruth, Have you ever tried Rio’s descaling liquid? Can you use
that with steel shot? Does the shot break through the firescale
barrier? Wendy at @Wendy_Newman


#8

Elizabeth, If you want to come over and hand polish the 200+
production silver pieces that are in my tumbler as I type, be my
guest. I still hand polish my one of a kind pieces to remove the
firescale, but the tumbler leaves a decent enough finish on
production pieces and leaves me time to spend doing other things.

                          Wendy

#9

Wendy, wow 200 plus pieces. You do need help! Tumbling is
great for that kind of thing, I agree, and find the Rio products
very effective. Sorry, got my own polishing to do, otherwise
would love to help. I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just
answering the questions with respect to my experience. :>)

Elizabeth


#10

I have used tumbling barrels for polishing quite extensively.
They are excellent for polishing small objects, say castings.
Obviously you have to clean them up a bit before putting them
into the tumbler for polishing. You can leave them to work while
you are doing something else, but they can be fairly noisy. So I
wouldn’t recommend being to close. The small ones are ok for
hobbyists. A fairly large machine of say about 5 litre capacity
is ok for continuous use. The media is highly polished steel
shapes and a detergent to keep the work clean. You can leave the
machine running for 8 hours or more. They do produce excellent
results. They also harden the metal to a certain extent.

As I am in the UK, I can’t offer any sources. But there must be
many places to but. I assume you are in the US?

Richard
UK


#11

Hi Richard

No Im not in the US....Im in the UK.

South Wales to be exact.

More info would be great

Andrew


#12

I have used tumbling barrels for polishing quite extensively.
They are excellent for polishing small objects, say castings.
Obviously you have to clean them up a bit before putting them
into the tumbler for polishing. You can leave them to work while
you are doing something else, but they can be fairly noisy. So I
wouldn’t recommend being to close.

Thanks for your I do have a question. Do you have
any suggestions as to how to keep the tumbler from placing a
thin gray film on sterling after it has tumbled for about 20
minutes or so. I am using steel shot and a small amount of a
liquid that is suppose to promote polishing and keep the shot
from rusting.

Thanks
Vance McSwain


#13

No Im not in the US....Im in the UK.

That’s great. I’ll get you some more I have to
research it for myself too. You could try the British Jeweller
and Watchbuyer. They are at Frederick St., Birmingham. What kind
of work do you do?

Richard
UK


#14

I have used tumbling barrels for polishing quite extensively.
They are excellent for polishing small objects, say castings.
Obviously you have to clean them up a bit before putting them into
the tumbler for polishing. You can leave them to work while you
are doing something else, but they can be fairly noisy. So I
wouldn’t recommend being to close.

Thanks for your I do have a question. Do you have
any suggestions as to how to keep the tumbler from placing a thin
gray film on sterling after it has tumbled for about 20 minutes
or so. I am using steel shot and a small amount of a liquid that
is suppose to promote polishing and keep the shot from rusting<<
Vance, It is inevitable that there is a slight change of colour
in the tumbler.You need to use new detergent and clean media and
water every time you empty the machine. Which detergent do you
use?


#15

You need to use new detergent and clean media and
water every time you empty the machine. Which detergent do you
use?

Richard, Thanks for your reply. I haven’t been using a detergent.
Which one do you recommend? How long do you tumble your sterling
silver and how often do you change the water, etc.?

Vance.


#16

Wendy, I’m finally catching up with old mail. sorry. I don’t know if the
descaling liquid from Rio is OK to use with steel shot. I hven’t had any
luck with steel shot taking off the fire scale. What I think it does is
to burnish over it, making it nice and shiny for awhile, and then the piece
looks like---- 6 months later, when the luster wears off. Drat that fire
scale! If you have any suggestions, pass them along please! Ruth


#17

We just got a vibrating tumbler where I work. We tried to get a
high polish with rouge and walnut shells but the metal doesn’t
look very different to me than when it went in. Except for the
red rouge all over each piece.

What are we doing wrong? We got the tumbler from Thunderbird
because we got a large catalog order and thought it would be a
way to do the pieces faster. So far it hasn’t been. (BTW we are
in the Seasons catalog winter edition if anyone is interested-
tiny ss sled earrings)


#18

I have used steel shot with chunks of Ivory soap and water in my
tumbler, and everything is highly shined! When it looks grey and
scumy, I wash off the shot in a salad collander, and start over.
I usually leave the pieces in the tumber for at least 24 hours if
I can stand the motor noise.

Ruth


#19

Hi Stacey,

I can’t help you with the tumbler… that’s a step I haven’t
taken yet. However, I would be interested in how you landed the
deal with the catalog! Any tips, suggestions or anecdotes?

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com
http://www.sebaste.com


#20

Hey Ruth,

If you add 50% ammonia/50% water with your soap - you will have
everything clean in an hour. I do it all the time - stones in
my silver as well - except the soft ones like malachite family
and organics. Those have to be cleaned by hand. I keep a large
kitchen sieve hung at the back of my sink - and it does the job
of washing both the jewelry and the shot. Don’t forget to wash
your whole barrel inside and out, including lid, to get rid of
residual dirt. I found my tumbler works much better if I make
sure my barrels are squeaky clean on the outside when I start
them going. Also, my workshop sink runs out to a grating
outside the building, and I put another sieve under the outlet to
catch any shot that accidentally goes down the drain.

I’m using three barrels - one for silver, one for gold, and one
for investment removing solution. I marked the lids with
nailpolish so I don’t get them mixed up.

Nina

Nina - Silver Design, 9122 S. Federal Hwy, Suite 249,
Pt. St. Lucie, FL. 34952 : Toll Free:1-888-460-1800
URL: http://www.nina-sd.com : Email: @Nina