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Tumbling vs. hand polishing?


#1

I need some advice on tumblers. I already have a flow-through “Good
Vibes” tumbler that I use with plastic media, and switch to walnut
shell spiked with “meta-gloss” and finally corn cob media. This
system works pretty good on my bronze and sterling castings, but is
unsatisfactory for my fabricated pieces, especially the sterling.

Is there any tumbler on the market that will produce a finish that is
even close to hand polishing? What about steel shot? Is it safe for
fabricated pieces. I have a new line which has small gold shapes
soldered onto a sterling background and I need a better finish ( hand
polishing won’t get into the little crevices.

Wendy


#2

Wendy- Try stainless steel shot with tumbler soap/compound. It works
great on fabricated pieces. I use just an old fashioned rotary
tumbler.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#3

I use steel shot very successfully, but for hand polishing on your
kind of work I am in love with the 3M radial bristle discs. They get
into all sorts of crevices that nothing else will touch.

Janet Kofoed


#4

Wendy,

My vibratory Ratech tumbler using stainless steel shot and pins
works great. Some times I tumble for 1.5 hours and sometimes for 30
minutes. It holds about two quarts. Its about seven years old. I only
tumble sterling in the bowl.

Best regards,
MA


#5

When it comes to using the 3M radial bristle discs, do you use any
sort of compound with them? If not, what grit do you use to achieve a
mirror polish finish?


#6
Is there any tumbler on the market that will produce a finish that
is even close to hand polishing? 

In a word, no, there’s not. I understand that many Orchidians love
their tumblers, but it only gives a pretty good shine - even the
whole routine down to walnut shells. It’s nothing at all like hand
polishing, if you truly are looking for a fine polish. If good
enough is good enough, which sometimes it is, then tumble. Otherwise
ya just gots to learn how to polish.


#7

Hello Wendy,

I’ll suggest that you purchase Judy Hoch’s book, “Tumble- Finishing
for Handmade Jewelry.” It explains the process very well and will
answer your questions… and others that have not yet occurred to
you. Rio carries it and the price is very reasonable.

Be sure to get stainless shot in several shapes. Those pointed
cylinders (Judy calls them “long pins”) work on tiny crevices and
details. I’ve had good results with a mixture of shapes. I use a
rotary tumbler and add a low-sudsing liquid soap. You can tumble
everything but set stones in steel shot. Yes, I tumble fabricated
pieces with bezels - not a problem.

Those little rotary tumblers are not very expensive. I have a couple
and each is dedicated to a different media. Just call me doing things
the easy way… or lazy!

Judy in Kansas, where triple digits are making things miserable
outside. So glad to have AC!


#8

Wendy - Yes, you can absolutely get a finish that is as good or
better than hand polishing. A lot depends on what kind of shape and
texture you have. And yes, steel shot is both safe and indispensable
for fabricated work, as well as cast.

The orchid archives discuss this in detail. This post leads you to
six or seven posts in great detail.

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/confused-about-the-polishing-order

Or buy the book “Tumble Finishing for Handmade Jewelry” - several of
our sponsors on Orchid carry it.

Judy Hoch, author of named book


#9
When it comes to using the 3M radial bristle discs, do you use any
sort of compound with them? If not, what grit do you use to
achieve a mirror polish finish? 

You don’t need to use any compound with them. I have a full set of
them and work my way down from 80 grit yellow down to 1 micron light
green. After that I do tripoli if I feel I need it and then rouge. I
consider it really good pre-polish, where I can get into all the
nooks and crannies.

Janet Kofoed


#10

OK, guys. There are times I prefer the polish I get from my tumbler.
There are times I prefer the shine from hand polishing. It all
depends on what you want on the piece you’re making. “Better for
what?” is the question. What looks best on the piece is all that
counts.

Dick Stromberg


#11

i use a vibratory Ratech tumbler with stainless steel shot and pins
as well. the electrical chord wasn’t properly strapped down and the
edge of the weight cut through the chord disrupting the power.
luckily raytech repaired it, but only just. you know it could only
happen, right before an important event…