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Tumbling seems to have damaged my work


I have just removed a handful of rings and earrings from my tumbler
where they had turned with stainless shot and burnishing soap for
about for about 40 mins, just under. I’d finished them nicely
already, with those 3m bristle dics down to the finest option and
just put them into the tumbler for a final high gloss, and they have
come out LESS finished than when they went in. The patinated rings
are not the lovely glossy black I’ve come to expect and the bright
silver looks as if it has a very fine texture on it - almost like
very tiny, shallow pores.

does anyone have any idea as to what might have happened? I am
REALLY narked.

thank you!


does anyone have any idea as to what might have happened? I am
REALLY narked.

Uh, you add the patina last, after you tumble.


Hi Sophie,

Sorry to hear about your problem with the tumbler,. Bummer.

If I had to guess, I bet the tumbler/shot got contaminated with
something. A good cleaning of the shot & tumbler is in order. Another
possibility (although a little far fetched) is that sharp edges on
one or more of the pieces caused the problem.


1 Like

Hi Sophie,

Tumbling rings (or anything, for that matter) actually burnishes the
metal by compressing it instead of removing metal.

Anything that has already been shined or patinated, etc. would not
do well in the tumbler for very long at all. The small pieces of shot
are actually hitting one another and anything else in there. The
force of tumbling will create ‘dings’ in the material being tumbled.

We tumble pieces for about 24 hours minimum. This gives a more
complete tumbled finish, but remember it is burnished and not
polished. Pieces that have small recesses, that are very odd shapes
or not-polisheable for any reason but are sturdy might do well with

I’m not sure if you were trying for a certain effect, but tumbling
something that is finished will undo all your work (as you found
out…sorry, it really is horrible to have that happen.) Likewise, if
you have a patina on a piece, tumbling will impact your finish. Now
you know what it looks like…take pics for yourself as a reminder of
what happens. Maybe take some pieces as an experiment and tumble them
for a while and see if the effect is better than what you have now.
The pock marks will be more smoothed by longer tumbling. That way
you’ll know what the finishes look like if you ever want to use them
to your benefit.

By the by, I don’t know if there is a problem with my computer or
your site, but the address comes up as not found. If there’s a typo,
please email so I can have a look. :slight_smile:

Best of luck with your pieces,


Hi Sophie,

I was always taught to patina my pieces after I tumble. I actually
tumble my pieces with patina I don’t like to remove the patina.

Hope this helps,
Linda Reboh

Sophie -

What other equipment is near your tumbler setup? What do you do with
your container & lid when not in use?

I had a case of the stupid one time and left my tumbler barrel open
and near my buffer (a drill press with a buff on it; throws stuff
sideways). Rouge dust got in the barrel and contaminated the next
load of tumbled silver.

It took hot water, degreaser and Dawn to finally get everything
clean - the barrel, lid and shot. I assumed everything about the
tumbler was contaminated. I ran the tumbler three times with nothing
but degreaser and shot before I tried putting jewelry in it.

Now I keep my barrel, lid and shot in a closed container, and well
away from my buffing station.

Good luck, and HTH,

Silver is soft, Stainless steel is…hard, thus the new finish on
your work. What did you expect to happen?

We tumble pieces for about 24 hours minimum. 

Tumbling sterling pieces that have prong setting for 24 hours will
work harden the prongs and they will crack when setting. I had a
customer that I was doing wholesale casting for and she kept
returning large quantities of casting with broken prongs. I could
not figure out what the problem was for several years. I tumble
finished the pieces and I had several other accounts that had no
problems setting the pieces. One day she tells me that they take the
finished castings and re-tumble them for 24 hours. I told her that
she had been ruining the castings for years and returning them as
defective and I fired her as a customer. I had previously warned her
about tumbling pieces for that length of time and I did not realize
that she chose to ignore my advice.

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co.

Thank you for all the responses. I do understand the principle
behind tumbling - burnishing rather than abrading and I’ve been using
my barreller (tumbler) regularly for some time now; but this is the
first time I’ve seen this happen. I realise silver is softer than
steel, I don’t think the process would work so well otherwise :wink: and
I only have ball bearing and satellite shaped shot in the tumbler.
As to what I expect? I expect it to come out all shiny, like it
usually does! that’s the point of it, no?

I usually put work which is safe to tumble into the tumbler for the
final polish, and it usually comes out bright and shiny - the reason
I’m so surprised at this is because of the unusual finish; I
wouldn’t have queried it otherwise…

As far as patina goes; if I want a matte patinated finish I patinate
after polishing, but I like the finish I get with barrelling pieces
patinated with platinol, which has a much tougher finish than LOS
and this usually gives me a glossy black finish far more reliably
than any other kind of polishing after patinating.

I’m going to clean out the barrel and the shot really well (I use
them in a different room to my bench, btw and store the shot in the
barrel with the lid on) as I think the most likely issue seems to be
contamination of some sort.

and I fixed the link in my sig, doh. Thanks for the responses, I
appreciate them.