Elle - Part of the reason you are having trouble with the process is
that your process is incomplete. In order to get decent results with
mass finishing, you need to do the same things you do with a buff.
The work pieces need to be smoothed - as in tripoli - and for that
you use some kind of abrasive media. For small intricate parts, I
use Rio Grande aqua clean cut cones with their non chelating
deburring compound appropriately diluted. I run that for 4 to 10
hours in a vibratory tumbler with flow thru cleaning.
The next step is burnishing, as in rouge. this is done with any
of several media. Your choice of stainless steel is a good one.
However, your tumbler needs to be rated for steel so that it can
"move" the media adequately. I choose to use a rotary tumbler for
that step. If your work is fairly small parts, an old used rock
tumbler should be good. I found my first one used for $60. That
step is about 2 hours, run with the burnishing compound that you
Last, and only if your work is smooth and no antiquing - you can
get a near perfect finish with 24 to 36 hours of Dri shine III or
green buff in a dry vibratory tumbler.
If you need more please contact me off line, I’d be
happy to help.
Incidently, I use the tumblers because I hate the dust and dirt of
hand buffing. They do save tons of time too.