Hi Orchid, I have finally amassed enough stainless steel shot
(thanks ebay, 25 pounds for $50 with shipping) to properly run in my
new vibratory tumbler. After running a few pieces I now see what the
big deal is, my pieces have never looked so shiny. I would really
like to use this on my sterling and gold-filled wire bracelets, but
I’m wondering if it’s ok to burnish gold-filled in particular and
mixed metals in general. I also do a lotof argentium pieces with 18k
bezels and 18k granulation. Another thing I’m wondering is should I
be using the “flow-through” for steel burnishing or is that just for
abrasive media? Also do I need to have separate media for my LOS/
patinated pieces? I purchased the book “Tumble finishing for handmade
jewelry” but found it left me with more questions than answers about
the subject. I have found it is possible to run a small amount of
steel shot in a larger machine, just put it into a one quart plastic
measuring cup and set it inside the bowl using the handle to hang it
on the edge of the bowl so it doesn’t fall over. It makes a very
nice quick churning action and works great for a few small pieces. I
guess these might be dumb questions but it seems the information
available on mass finishing is often vague and sometimes
contradictory. Thanks for your help, keep Orchiding.
Douglas - there is no problem running mixed metal jewelry in either
a vibratory or rotary tumbler. You don’t need separate media for LOS
pieces. You do need to rinse the media after a run.
Tumble finishing does not remove enough metal, especially with
steel, to impact gold-filled material. Just be reasonable about how
long you run it.
If you have a flow thru - open the flow restrictor to flood the
interior. shut off the flow, let it run for a minute or so to drain.
That is enough rinsing. If you are not running a flow through, dump
the media into a container, drain out the used liquid, and then fill
and drain the container two or three times, while agitating the
media by hand.
The book you reference is quite clear about the amount of media
required. The make-do that you suggest just jiggles the steel media.
It will mark your jewelry with repeated tracks.
The amount of steel required for vibratory finishing is
25 pounds is a very small volume and I am unaware of any small
tumblers that are rated for steel. You might seriously consider a
small rotary tumbler. I hope your ebay bargain is stainless steel.