Hi Nicholas old friend! Say hi to your Dad for me and Lorraine. I
was amused to read your post on Orchid. I’ve had the same
frustrations with tumbling silver. I’ve come to realize that it is
an art form unto itself, and like all the techniques we use, has a
definite learning curve. I bought a vibratory tumbler and all the
media, ceramic, silicone, porcelain. My initial fears were that my
silver would be abraded away to nothing, so I’d get up in the middle
of the night to check my tumbler. The water would be muddy, but
otherwise, virtually no change in the surface of my metal. I
eventually bought a couple pounds of stainless shot, and I use it to
burnish my handmade chains as a final finish. I’ve also learned that
my machine isn’t actually rated for steel - not powerful enough for
the heavier media.
I spoke with my caster about tumble finishing a few years ago, and
she described to me her process, which was very detailed, and totally
idiosyncratic. Clearly this was something she developed over years
of trial and error. I couldn’t even follow the notes I took.
Basically, I’ve given up - I just don’t have the time to master this
technique too. There’s a jewelry maker here in SoCal named Frances
Wang who uses tumbling extensively on fabricated silver pieces. I
don’t know if she reads Orchid, but maybe she does and can give you a
little insight. I’m sure you’ll get a slightly different process for
every answer you get.