Vibratory finishers

I just purchased a vibratory finisher (“tumbler”) that has a
capacity of 100 rings. I also purchased, at the same time,
mixed stainless steel shot to use with my rings. Well, two
pounds of shot seemed like enough but when it was delivered I
noticed that it weighed quite a bit for it’s size and was about
enough to fill up a 6 ounce paper cup. And this cost $33. So I
actually have no idea how much steel shot I need to do about a
hundred rings at a time. Can anyone offer some insight into


In the Rio Grande Tools Catalog on page 236 there are
specifications for one of the machines that they sell. It lists
media capacity at 50lbs. of steel shot and workpiece capacity of
3 cups or 100 rings.

You should check with the MFG of your tumbler to be sure.

Timothy A. Hansen

TAH Handcrafted Jewelry

Dear Paula and Dennis,

Look in the #45 Gesswein 1996-97 catalog (their most recent one)
on pages 326 and 327. You will find charts that list the tumbler
models and their media capacities. On page 326, for instance,
vibratory tumbler Model 25 with a capacity of 125 ladies rings
with a 14" diameter donut bowl has the following media capacity:

Ceramic media:  Heavy Duty media = 17 lbs    Light Duty media = 17 lbs.
Plastic media:  Brown = 12 lbs.    Green = 10 lbs.  White = 12 lbs.
Dri-Shine:	Dri-Shine I = 10 lbs.   Dri-Shine III =6 lbs.
Steel Shot:	50 lbs.

As you can see, for this particular vibratory tumbler, you could
use 50 lbs, 5 times what you purchased.

Hopes this helps.


If you can get a copy (through Interlibrary Loan) of James V.
Stevens’ book, The Art and Science of Automatic Jewelry
Finishing (1978 – out of print), you may find it to be helpful.
Many of the tumblers he described are still in the catalogs.
The book gives a wonderful description of how automatic
finishing works, in both rotary tumblers and vibratory
finishers, and recommends the weight of various media to use in
specific models, as well as the amount of compound and water,
etc. If you can reveal the make and model of your vibratory
finisher, I’ll be glad to tell you what the book says about it
(although I’ll be out of town on and off in the next few weeks).
A book that is available through Rio Grande might also be
useful to you: Tumble Finishing for Handmade Jewelry, by Judy

Judy Bjorkman

Hi Donna,

Thanks for the Are you familiar with these
finishers? Do you think that I really need 50 lbs?

Actually, it would be 25 times what I purchased. This shot is
very heavy for it’s volume. I bought 2 lbs and it just about
fills a 6 ounce paper cup, hardly enough for 100 rings at a time.
I think that I’m looking at another major expense.


etc.  If you can reveal the make and model of your vibratory
finisher, I'll be glad to tell you what the book says about it
(although I'll be out of town on and off in the next few weeks).

Hi Judy,

Thanks for the offer. I purchased a Reytech Adjusta-Vibe 25
(AV-25SS) Steel Media System from Rio Grand (p236). The catalog
says “media capacity: 50 lbs. steel media”. My interpretation of
this was that 50 lbs was the maximum amount that could be used
rather than the prescribed amount. I bought 2 lb which I now
realize was foolish as it was practically nothing in volume. If
I bought 50 lbs of stainless steel shot it would cost about 700
bucks. I guess that I had no idea what I was getting into here.
Surely I can operate this with less than 50 lbs of shot, no?

Anyone know of a source for stainless steel shot that is less
than $15 a lb.

    A book that is available through Rio Grande might also be
useful to you:  Tumble Finishing for Handmade Jewelry, by Judy

Thanks, I will get it. It has to be of some help.

I would really like to get the vibratory finisher up and running
because I make hundreds of rings and find that I am spending a
large portion of my life sitting in front of a polishing machine.
I has ceased to be “fun” long ago. :slight_smile:



Since the subject of steel shot has come up in this thread, I
have a question. What’s the advantange of steel shot over the
porcelain burnishing media that Rio sells? I’ve been using the
porcelain for a number of years, and have been quite happy with
the results. Is there some reason steel is better? The porcelain
is much cheaper, weighs less per volume, and doesn’t pose any of
the rust difficulties. Opinions?

Rene Roberts

Hi Dennis,

Ten lbs. of steel shot only fills a one quart bottle. It’s very
dense indeed. Because of this you need a fair amount of shot
for a tumbler that finishes 100 rings.

First check to be sure that the tumbler you bought is in fact
able to handle that much weight. Do you know the brand name?
Or was it advertised specifically as a shot tumbler? Vibratory
tumblers that can run shot usually have some sturdier parts in
order to compensate for all the effort required to tumble all
that weight. If you run it in a standard vibratory, you can
damage the motor.

Best thing to do is to call the manufacturer or supplier of the
tumbler and ask how much shot they recommend. (It’s not just a
weight factor either - if you don’t have enough shot in the
bowl, you won’t get the “right” tumbling action and results will
be inferior.)

Best Regards,

Elaine Corwin
Phone: 203-366-5400
Orders: 1-800-243-4466
Tech Support: 1-800-544-2043, ext. 287 for me. :slight_smile:

Hi Dennis,

I have the same model vibratory tumbler that you have. I rarely
run 100 rings at a time, maybe half that amount. Since I don’t
need the volume of media to run the maximum number of workpieces,
I usually run with 30 to 40 lbs of stainless mixed shot. I am
able to get a good rolling action as well as circular movement
with this amount of shot. I figure that this lesser amount will
help prolong the life of the motor. I also have the amplitude
adjusted to medium.

Stainless shot is very expensive, but I think it’s worth it in
terms of ease of use, care and durability. The carbon steel stuff
rusts and contaminates more. With stainless, you don’t have to
worry about wrecking an entire batch of shot by forgetting to
treat and store it properly. I just wash, dry and store my
stainless shot in a clean covered plastic container when I’m not
using it. It’s a one-time big investment.

Why don’t you try 30 lbs to start and buy more if your needs
require it.


Dear Paula/Dennis: We offer a stainless steel shot assortment
(balls, balcones, pins) for $14.75 with a 10LB minimum. If you
can handle 50LB it drops to $12.95LB. Eisinger 1-800-282-1980.RG

To the question of advantage of stainless steel over porcelain
for finishing - Steel is much faster, a typical cycle is 1 1/2
hrs to 2 hrs - and porcelain runs 24 to 48 hrs. Porcelain is
much gentler, but steel work hardens if you need that. They are
both good, just different. Porcelain, being round, doesn’t
finish next to bezels, where steel having funny shapes gets
closer. a major use of steel for me is to work harden pieces
prior to abrasive cycles. It makes a much more even brighter
finish on planished pieces. the cycles still require abrasives
to clean, then steel again to burnish, and optionally Green or Red
buff if you are finishing bright.

Rene - The advantage of steel shot over porcelain beads is its
speed and the work hardening that occurs. However, to get the
speed advantage, you must run the shot in a rotary tumbler. The
work hardening is useful in several ways - if you run pieces in
shot prior to abrasives, you will end with a brighter, harder
finish and less “orange peel”. the disadvantage to shot is that
it work hardens bezels, withch is either good or bad. The main
advantage to porcelain beads is that they are more gentle to
pieces. However, their cycle time is nearly 24 hrs. Porcelain
beads also do not finish as close to bezels as steel, due to the
difference in shapes. Porcelain should be run in a vibratory
tumbler, which can be good or bad depending on how many cycles
you need to run or how many tumblers you have. so neither is good
or bad, they are just different. Judy in sunny summery Denver.