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Using a rock tumbler for polymer clay beads

Does anyone have experience with and advice about how to use a rock
tumbler for preparing polymer clay beads for buffing? I’m thinking
about getting a Loratone Tumbler but hesitate to use metal shot on
polymer clay.

Thanks for your help.

Nancy Levine,

My daughter is somewhat of an expert on polymer clay. I forwarded
your message to her and she responded:

… she absolutely must NOT use metal shot on her polymer clay
beads! Instead, many small 1x1in squares of waterproof sandpaper
should be put in the tumbler (w waterproof seal) with water and a
drop of dish soap. Grits starting from 360 or 400 should be used
individually in separate turns, stepping up to 600, then 800, then
1000 grit. After that, polishing the polymer clay pieces on a plain
soft muslin wheel (don’t use any polish like ZAM, etc) while firmly
holding the pieces and moving them around constantly will result in a
brilliant shine. For an in-depth article on this, check out Polymer
Cafe magazine’s archives.

Nancy - I’m not sure what you want the tumbler to do - but if it is
smoothing, a very fine abrasive media would be a good choice. The
steel media is for burnishing, and I’m pretty sure that polymer clay
doesn’t burnish very well.

Judy Hoch


No - don’t use the shot that you can get for tumblers to smooth
polymer clay. I use an ordinary rotary tumbler and either line the
barrel with wet/dry sandpaper, or add lots of little pieces of the
sandpaper to the barrel with the beads - add a teeny drop of dish
wash liquid and water - sometimes I tumble it dry with the sandpaper
(except for the final tumble - I use water and dish wash liquid for
that to clean up the beads. There’s an absolutely fab sanding tute
with a tumbler and sandpaper at
Desiree has lots of tutes there. She also uses river rocks for
tumbling her polymer clay beads - have a look round her site for
some great ideas. Hope that helps


I’ve heard of using sandpaper in a tumbler - but why would you do
it? Even going to the length of gluing two pieces together and then
chopping them up?

There are much more effective things to use to sand your polymer
beads - it’s called media and comes in many different grits. The
material that carries the grit can be heavy or light depending on how
hard you want to media to work on the material. It is way more cost
effective than sandpaper and much kinder to the tumbler bowl. It
doesn’t disintegrate like the paper backing of sandpaper.

Judy Hoch