Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Tumbling / vibro polishing


#1

G’day…

I have been using the same carbon steel ball bearings of various
small sizes for around 6 years with no sign of rust. And get a
brilliant polish on chains and small silver work. I use a home made
vibrating device, but the manner of shake rattle and roll is
unimportant so long as it is vigorous. I use a few shavings of
ordinary soap and just cover the work with water Admittedly it is
rain water, for we are not connected to the public main supply,but
we collect rain from the roof into a 6,000 gallon tank under the
patio, so it is ‘soft’ water .

The important thing is to pour the contents of the polisher into a
domestic sieve and wash the work and balls under the tap. Pour the
lot onto a little tray, pick out the work, and dry the balls as much
as possible in the tray rolling then around with kitchen absorbent
paper, then allow to dry in a warm room. Store the balls in an
airtight jar, and they’ll be ready for next time. Takes but a few
minutes and is no trouble

If they do rust, don’t chuck 'em away; put them in the machine as
usual with water and soap shavings, let it rock and roll for half an
hour and Lo!! Good as new.

Cheers for now,
JohnB of Mapua, Nelson NZ


#2
    I foolishly purchased steel shot to save a little money only to
find what a maintainance nigtmare it is! 

I learned a neat trick from my mentor, whose shop equipment I
purchased. Included in that equipment was about 13 pounds of steel
shot which I thought was stainless until the first time I didn’t
dry it out well. She showed me how to take care of it easily.

Before emptying the tumbler, lay out three large, old beach towels
on a flat surface, stack the towels one on top of the next. (I use
the top of my clothes dryer since it’s next to the sink.) Empty the
tumbler into a colander or strainer that is big and heavy enough to
hold the shot. Rinse it well and let it drain for a couple minutes.
Dump out the strainer onto the top towel, quickly pick out the
tumbled pieces, spread out the shot into a thin layer, and blot it
with a 4th smaller towel. CAREFULLY pick up all 4 corners of the
towel, making a bundle of shot. Lift it up, and pour it carefully
onto the next towel in the stack. Spread it out, repeat the blotting,
and pour onto the 3rd towel. By this time it’s barely damp, and will
finish drying in only a few minutes once it’s spread out thin, with
no rusting.

It takes about 5-10 minutes at most, and then the shot is dry and
ready to put away until the next use. The big trick is not leaving it
to sit on a damp towel for more than a couple minutes before shifting
it to a dry towel again.

And the one time our shot did rust, we simply threw it all into the
tumbler with some water and burnishing liquid and ran the tumbler for
an hour. The shot came out clean. We dried it as above, and it’s been
fine ever since.

–Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Pet Motif Jewelry
http://www.featheredgems.com


#3

Clean wet tumbled steel shot will form a rust bloom almost instantly
if exposed to air but:

Steel is easily protected if kept wet in an ALKALINE environment.
Just keep it under water with some washing soda ( sodium carbonate)
in the water. John maybe using some old fashioned real soap
which will be slightly alkaline.

jesse


#4

Is it true that steel shot will overtax the motor of a vibratory
tumbler?

Janet


#5

I have an easy way to dry my shot. I pour it into a strainer, and
rinse it to remove all the polishing compounds. then put it into a
shallow steel cake pan, and then put it into my toaster oven for a
few minutes to fully dry. No hassle, no wet towels, and no rust. On
hot sunny days, I put the pan with the shot in it out in the sun to
dry off. Works just great.

Alma


#6

I confess, at last, to my ongoing puzzlement about all the
instructions on drying non-stainless shot to prevent rust. Where I
teach, we had plain shot for many years. We never dried it. As long
as it all stayed immersed in the soapy water, it never rusted-- it
only rusted when it got stuck in the rim of the tub, or the liquid
level in the tub fell below the top of the shot. And then, as John
Burgess said, we just ran it until clean. We have always used Rio
Sunsheen, I believe, for what it’s worth. So, why dry it? Was our
experience anomalous? Thanks,

–Noel


#7

Janet, I don’t know where you heard that but I have been using steel
shot in a vibratory tumbler with no problems at all.

Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com


#8

The tumbling solutions are alkaline ( basic) and steel does fine
wet in alkaline environments. Add a little washing soda to water
and you can store under water too. jesse


#9

Unlike rotary tumblers, which can handle any type of load, most
vibratory tumblers must be set up for a certain range of load weight
(an offset weight on a shaft is moved in or out to set the intensity
of the vibration). To polish with steel shot you need one set up to
handle a heavy load, like a rock tumbler, rather than one that is set
up for a light load like cartidge brass and treated walnut hull. If
you get the wrong one it won’t hurt the motor but you won’t get
enough vibration transferred to the load to do much polishing. The
Mini-Sonic and Vibra-Sonic tumblers now made by Diamond Pacific are
different because they have no motors and they have a knob to turn to
adjust the intensity of the vibration.

Ray


#10

Hello all. I am a long time lurker and first time poster. I have
benefited immensely from your great knowledge and have enjoyed your
websites very much - thank you all! I have a simple question about
vibro tumbling: Is it possible to over-tumble Sterling or gold? I
use stainless steel shot.

Thanks,
Allison Birney
www.louilouidesigns.com


#11
    To polish with steel shot you need one set up to handle a heavy
load 

Thanks for the Ray. One of the PMC websites sells
vibratory tumblers and steel shot. I wonder if they know about
this?

    rather than one that is set up for a light load    like
cartridge  brass and treated walnut hull. 

Drat, that’s exactly what I bought. I thought the price was pretty
good–guess that’s why.

Janet


#12
I have an easy way to dry my shot. I pour it into a strainer, and
rinse it to remove all the polishing compounds. then put it into a
shallow steel cake pan, and then put it into my toaster oven for a
few minutes to fully dry. 

a great idea Alma

We have been using the towel on the floor drying method and often
end up kicking it accidently and the shot shoots across the floor
gets caught between the floorboards. We sometimes (when needing a
little break) walk around with a big magnet on a string… The shot
is slowly disappearing and when enough is gone, I hope to buy
stainless.

Sandra


#13

This is exactly what I use and I have had no problems. If I run
small things like rings and earrings a half an hour will bring up a
shine with stainless. I don’t do production and that would make a
difference. I like the fact that it loads from the top and is easy
to check unlike a rotary where you have to be careful to get a good
seal or you will have water all over. I usually turn it on before
going upstairs because it is noisy. Sometimes it has run for five or
six hours with no harm to the motor.

Marilyn Smith


#14

Noel, you are correct that carbon steel shot will not rust if left
well covered with liquid. I too have always used Rio’s Sunsheen
compound for burnishing jewelry. BUT, I use their storage solution
for putting the steel shot in when not in use for awhile. In a
plastic tub with snug lid, under the solution, there’s no chance that
the water will evaporate and cause rust when I’m not looking.

Pat


#15

Janet, I have successfully used steel shot in two vibratory tumblers
of different sizes. What is very important is that you know and
understand the weight limit of whatever machine metal work pieces, is
what you must consider before using any tumbler. Mine are getting
quite old now, but have never burnt out nor failed me and I Only use
steel shot in them for burnishing. Works great !

Pat


#16
    as it all stayed immersed in the soapy water, it never rusted 

Hi Noel.

I have read lots of postings over the past two years about shot of
various composition, and methods of storing and cleaning it.I have
come to the conclusion that either I buy new stainless or as I have
been advised, rustless shot, or I put up with the problems of
cleaning the shot each time I use it.

I have tried all sorts of tips and whatever I do, if I don’t want
to dry the shot each time I use it, I have black gungy shot under
greeny black gungy liquid in the barrel and I must clean it by
tumbling it in Coke and fairy liquid (the best combination for me.)
It only takes about 30 mins to clean, with one or two changes of
liquid and I now accept that this is the best I can do for the
moment. However, I have just read the posting about adding washing
soda to the mix, so another experiment looms.

Ruth in the UK.


#17

Hi Ruth,

I have  black gungy shot under greeny black gungy liquid in the
barrel and I must clean it by tumbling it in Coke and fairy liquid
(the best combination for me.)

You might also try lye (sodium hydroxide) as a cleaner for grungy
shot. In the US there’s a product called Draino for opening clogged
drains that’s basically the same thing. Get the dry granular Draino,
not the liquid variety.

To use, dump the liquid out of the tumbler. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons
of lye/Draino, 2 or 3 oz of water & tumble until the shot looks
clean. Pour the lye liquid down the drain, rinse the shot in clear
warm water. The shot can then be returned to use. If it’s real
stainless, it shouldn’t need to be dried. If it’s carbon steel, dry
it if it’ll be stored for a while.

Dave


#18

Hi Janet,

Is it true that steel shot will overtax the motor of a vibratory
tumbler?

Not in my experience!

I’ve been using a small (bowl angle food cake pan shaped, 8" in
diameter & 4" deep) vibratory tumbler with 5#s of stainless steel
shot for over 14 years. It’s still on it’s original motor with no
signs of giving up.

Dave


#19

It won’t hurt the tumbler to try it out. At worst, you may have to
keep the used bowl and exchange the base for the correct one. I
don’t know if the weight is adjustable or if they use two different
sizes. I had to send back the first vibratory tumbler I bought for
the same reason (it had come from an ammunition reloading supplier).
The instructions that came with it said nothing about rocks and the
company said send it back. I have used a Vi-Bro-Lap for grinding and
polishing flat pieces of agate and petrified wood. It has a large
chunk of lead as the offset weight but the mounting hole through it
is not through the center. It is designed this way so that it can be
turned over when switching from grinding to polishing because
polishing produces more drag.

Ray


#20

I’m with Noel on this one. After years of drying shot by all sorts
of methods, I finally said the hell with it and left it in the
tumbler. (okay, I put fresh burnishing soap and water in first).
The shot stayed un-rusted, and the tumbler was always ready for
action. On two occasions when the shot unexplainably discolored, I
tumbled it in Coca Cola which had been left to stand until the fizz
was gone. The shot came out nice and shiny ,I washed it off and left
it once again in its soap and water solution. I’ve had the same
batch of shot for fifteen years.

Dee