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Tumbling results get orange peel finish

Well, I finally got my new tumbler up and running yesterday and
wanted to tell everyone that I absolutely love it!!! I’ll have to
plan my fabrication steps a little differently perhaps but I’m very
pleased with its initial efforts.

I put some components in with stainless steel shot and burnishing
compound for approximately two hours yesterday. They have a very
slight orange peel finish which I’m not too bothered about as
they’re not finished yet and I’m sure that will go with some final
polishing. I also put in a necklace I fabricated with lots of little
setting joined together with jump rings and the “chain” part was also
handmade by me. That has come out absolutely beautiful and I’m
pleased to say that all my solder joints remained intact.

Does the orange peel mean that they were in the tumbler for too

Helen Hill

Yep - you don’t want to be in the stainless steel for much longer
than 45 minutes to an hour… and ESPECIALLY not without changing
the water and rinsing the shot. You’ll end up not only with orange
peel but black gunk that’s almost impossible to remove.

Karen Goeller

You'll end up not only with orange peel but black gunk that's
almost impossible to remove.

eewww eewww ewwww!!! (waving hand in the air frantically)

I know how to get rid of the black gunk!!! I’ve done it enough times

Flat coke- not diet, reg coke. Flat- you can put it in the microwave
for a few minutes to get the bubbles out. Keep an eye on it so it
doesn’t boil over.

Put the flat coke and the shot and the pieces back in the tumbler…
and it’ll come out looking nice and clean.

Glad I could share some of the knowledge the others have passed on to

Amery Carrire Designs
Romantic Jewelry with an Edge

I leave my pieces in the tumbler with steel shot for hours and don’t
get orange peel. I believe the problem is in your casting or if it is
fabricated you could have used too much heat. To avoid that nasty
black mess, get rid of that black drum and get a cheap vibratory
tumbler from Midway USA for $46.

I’m still really enjoying my new tumbler. It’s like a revelation. I’m
loving the fact that pieces come out suitably work hardened, such
that they will keep their polish and resist scratches more easily. I
am setting stones after they come out of the tumbler, then cleaning
up any tool marks and giving a quick final polish. My bristle
polishing brushes used to leave tiny scratches as the silver was too
soft, but now they’re coming out much harder, they take a beautiful
shine which will hopefully stay for a good while.

Another revelation for me this week was some new drill bits I
purchased from Cookson’s, the jewellery supply company I use. I was
using some HSS jobber drill bits my husband gave me from his garage.
They were brand new, still in the packet. They would either blunt
after drilling one hole (which was a labour intensive excercise at
best) or else they would come out of the packet already blunt!!! I
needed some new ones and was going to order some more of these cheap
bits which cost mere pennies each. However, I decided to try some
Swiss made drill bits from Cookson’s which cost 1.24 UKP each if you
buy more than six. I tried one out for the first time yesterday to
drill holes in the sides of a tube setting I’d made (so as to make a
hidden bale). What a dream it was to use!!! It went straight through
two double layers of sterling silver like a hot knife through
butter. What a difference quality tools makes - and I think they will
last a good while. I’ll have to get some more in different sizes.

Sorry to bore you all, but it never ceases to amaze me how much
better it is when using quality tools.


Glad you like it (I’d have felt horribly responsible if you didn’t).

One thing - the end caps of the drum on that model sometimes make a
very thin “flap” of plastic that sticks out from the edges and
causes the drum to turn badly. If it does - just trim them with

and yes, I love good drill bits. I’ve just got some very nice new
diamond bits which I love. They’re cylindrical instead of threaded,
and boy to they work better (and boy, are they cheaper. Which is such
a nice surprise.)

I get neither orange peel nor black gunk, by the way. never seen
black gunk!

Hi Richard,

I don’t do casting. I fabricate everything I make. I guess it could
be a “too much heat” problem as I like to use hard solder for almost
everything (although I am following protocol more frequently now and
using easy in some subsequent steps where using hard might make
everything fall apart - been there, done that too many times).

I don’t get the nasty black gunk so that’s not a problem - I empty
out the liquid after each tumble and rinse everything. I’ve just
spent 67 UKP on my tumbler and am very pleased with it so there’s not
much point paying a further $46 for a Midway vibratory tumbler. I got
mine on the recommendation of others who use similar (and in one case
the exact same) machines and am glad that I opted for that one.

You have to tumble yours for longer because the action of the
vibratory tumbler is not as aggressive as the rotary tumbler so you
can’t make a direct comparison. Apparently, according to those who
use rotary tumblers, 2 hours is long enough to get orange peel and
they recommend less time. So I’ll carry on and experiment to reach
the optimum time for what I’m making.

If it ever dies (which apparently is not likely for many years),
I’ll look at the Midway, but for now, its convenience and shorter
time scale to achieve a good result is well worth what I paid for it.
Thanks anyway for the tip - I’m working on not giving the metal too
much heat.


I just want to clarify a couple of things here…

  1. The black gunk does NOT come from a rubber barrel (although a
    rubber barrel can make the problem worse). I use an Aubin as my
    rotary tumbler and it has a hard white plastic diamond-shaped barrel
    (ideal for steel shot). The black gunk occurs as a result of various
    contaminants reacting with the silver, the water, and the burnishing
    compound being used. Amery - thanks for the reminder - you are
    absolutely right… tumbling with cola is the BEST way to remove the
    black gunk and is also a wonderful way to clean your shot when it
    gets to looking a little dulled from use. Not recommended for
    black-barrel tumblers, though, from what i’ve heard as the acid can
    actually eat away at the barrel itself.

  2. The time limits I mentioned (1 hour) are for rotary, not vibratory
    tumbling. Vibratory tumblers aren’t really all that good with steel
    shot, producing a “sliding” action across the metal rather than
    little tiny hammering actions as the shot “falls” onto the pieces.
    You don’t really get much work hardening and while you might have a
    shiny surface, it’s nothing like what you’ll get with a rotary with
    steel. BUT… the downside of the rotary with steel is that if you
    leave it too long you get the orange peel (too much hammering) and
    gunk. Vibratories are much better for the finishing and cutting
    passes with abrasives and polishing compounds (plastic, ceramic,
    wood/buff media) where the sliding action is more effective on the

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry

Guys N Gals

please remember when you mention “cola” for cleaning etc it is
nothing but weak PHOSPHORIC ACID that is the tingle you get on the
taste it is phosphoric acid its used in sweets etc to impart that
sour tingling taste. most of those fancy gunk removers you see on TV
nowdays are all phosphoric acid based IT IS EDIBLE. Thats why they
use it. It can be used for an amazing amount of jobs etching rust
removal cleaning degreasing phosphating and its safe as well.

frank t