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Using a tumbler


Hello All- I just prchase a small double barrel tumbler and
stainless steel shot. But I don’t know what to do next! I have not
been able to find any directions for how-to-polish in the few books I
have, or in the archives at Ganoksin. Can anyone either direct me to
a site, or otherwise give some advise? I am using the machine to
work-harden some bangle bracelets, and to polish some small pieces.
Thank you- Cherie


I’m usually pretty much a lurker but I had to tell you about a
tumbling instruction book. This is an ebook put together by someone
on another list. I think it is a fantastic book with a lot of step by
step info. It’s $9.99 plus you get free updates as they come out. (I
have no affiliation with him other than I think it is a great

I found it very useful as I am new to tumbling as well.



There is a nifty little book -“The art and science of automatic
jewelry finishing.” By James V. Stevens ISBN 0-9602386-0-3, that lays
out the basics quite well. Mine is Copyrt. 1978 - hope is still in
print. Quickly, though: Use tumbling soap, even with SS shot (keeps
dirt suspended, all clean, etc.) Fill tumbler 1/3 - <1/2 with shot
and work, add 1tsp. or so of soap (depends on soap brand), just
(only) cover mix with water, and tumble for 4-8 hrs. depending on
work. notes: you must have about 80% shot, 20% work or less, or work
will just bang into each other. Raw castings will be cleaned up,
filed, and emeried pieces can be just about finished up. (tumbling in
shot does not give you a truly “finished” polish-there’s no substitute
for a hand-worked final) Flat pieces don’t tumble very well - if you
don’t remove at optimum time, will begin to get peened. You need to
keep sqweaky clean - run a work-less cleaning cycle, heavy on soap,
frequently. Dirty shot DOES NOT POLISH. Fill tumbler (as above) run
for 1/2 hour, and open it. You should have foam not quite to the
top, and it should be pearly white. Lastly - these are guidelines-
tumbling is an art-your own work, and needs, will determine your own
procedures. Good Luck John Donivan, SF, Ca.


Fill one barrel with the ss shot, throw jewelry on top. Add water
to half an inch above shot/jewelry line. Add drop of dish soap or
capful of (for ex.) Rio’s Super Sunsheen Burnishing Compound.

Run tumbler for an hour or two, strain shot with a strainer, spread
shot out on a towel to dry.

Order Judy’s book on tumbling.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Certified PMC Instructor


Cherie, You need to run your Stainless steel shot with Super Sheen
burnishing compound or something similar. This combination should
give you a nice burnished finish. To take it a few steps further,
you can run silver items through a product called Shell shine green
and finally an absorbent cob meal. The last two processes are run
dry. The shell shine green is a fine Walnut shell which contains a
chrome oxide polishing compound. This will give a fine/high polished
finish. The cob meal is the last step which removes any residue left
from the dry, chrome oxide media. You only need to run the last step
for about 1-2 hours. If you need further on these
processes, Rio Grande has a technical support department to assist
with questions like this.

Phillip Scott G.G.
Technical Support & Sales
Rio Grande


Hello Cheryl,

    Hello All- I just prchase a small double barrel tumbler and
stainless steel shot.  But I don't know what to do next! I have
not been able to find any directions for how-to-polish in the few
books I have, or in the archives at Ganoksin. Can anyone either
direct me to a site, or otherwise give some advise? 

There is a nifty little book written by Judy Hoch (an Orchidian),
titled: “Tumble Finishing for Handmade Jewelry” and it’s available at
Rio Grande for US$11.95. There may be other sources too. Really
does a nice job getting you started and helping you avoid problems.
Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936


I just finished editing a new e-book on tumbling for grammar - not
for content, as I am new to tumbling also. I found it to have really
helpful especially for beginners to tumbling. It
includes details on buying the tumbler, types of tumblers, types of
tumbling media, directions for tumbling, the hardness of different
gems so you know what can go together in the tumbler, and info on
wire and how the weight translates into inches - so if you are buying
so many ounces of this, it works out to how many inches. The author
is also offering free updates, which is nice. His site is then click “products” then “e-books”.

Beth (who has no financial stake in this!)


Cherie, Should I assume you want to use the tumbler to polish/burnish
metalic items? I find it is important to do some pre-polishing first
with bobbing or tripoli. Then put the items into the tumbler with
shot and ‘burnishing’ soap. There are many of them out there and
most work about the same. I like the soap provided in the ‘grit
kits’ from Diamond Pacific…it works great whether cleaning stones
after polishing or if burnishing metal. Anyway, put in a couple of
table spoons of the soap and fill the tumbler with water just above
the shot. By the way, the shot should be of all sizes and shapes.
That way it will get into even the smallest spaces. Put in the
pieces to polish, close the tumbler and run for about 1 to 2 hours.
Don’t run it too long…I believe it polishes to a point and then
begins to abrade the surfaces. Tumbling will cause surface work
hardening but not deep into the metal. When you remove the pieces,
be sure to rinse well in clean water. I am rarely, if ever,
satisfied with the final tumbled surface and always give the piece a
final buff with Fabuluster, ZAM, or some other polish. The good
thing about tumbling, it gets into the nooks and crannies you can’t
reach with a buffer and when you do the final buff it usually looks

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1


Hi Cherie, there’s a great write-up at this site that explains the
various types of mass media finishing processes.

If you have the Rio Grande Tools catalog, in the tumbling section
you’ll find the types of media to use based on your pieces and they
give you a time table to go by.

Good luck!
Terri Collier
Dallas, TX


John mentioned a nifty book on this topic by James V. Stevens, The
Art and Science of Automatic Jewelry Finishing. It is indeed a great
book but is not in print nor likely to be, and Mr. Stevens died some
time ago. I found a copy (by the grace of God) while once meandering
through the Free Library in Baltimore (for those of you who may wish
to use Interlibrary Loan to peruse the book).

If you have a copy of Lapidary Journal, July 1999, there is a basic
article I wrote, “Tumble-Polishing Metal Jewelry.” In there, I
refer to my favorite tumbling medium, smooth brown irregular ceramic
pieces called “Cerambits” – I still have not been able to find
anything like them. The white ceramic balls which Rio sells are OK,
but they are a pain to use, since they bounce around (and escape)
when I’m pouring them in and out of the tumbler, and even the tiniest
ones do not quite polish corners, etc., as well as the Cerambits do.
If anyone knows where Cerambits can be gotten, please let me know!

I’d also recommend buying Judy Hoch’s book on tumble-polishing.

All the best,
Judy Bjorkman


HI Judy, Raytech has Cerambits listed at

Love and God Bless