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Vibratory or Rotary Tumbler


#1

Hi,

I am looking to purchase a tumbler. And I am not sure if I should go
with a vibratory or rotary. At the moment, I am looking to polish
clasps and cuff bracelets that are being cast without doing each one
by hand. Any suggestions on which kind of tumbler and which kind of
media?

In the future, I would also like to tumble silver and gold cuff
bracelets as well as chain, just to polish…

Any advice would be great!

thanks,

hannah
Hannah Garrison, AZU
www.azustudio.com


#2

Hannah:

The best for your needs would be a vibratory tumbler, and there’s a
very good, reliable and efficient model for sale through the
Minnesota Lapidary Supply called the “Lot-O-Tumbler”. I have a friend
who has at least six of these running 24/7, and I’ve had mine for at
least six years. Works just as well for metals finishing as it does
with stones.

Chris


#3

Hannah,

For the dollar, and if time is not an issue (as in you’re cranking
out tons of goods each day), you cannot beat a good rotary tumbler.
In fact, you can’t beat a cheap one either. Compared to the vibratory
models, besides being a fraction of the cost, they are quiet and run
forever. You will have to be good about changing out your solutions
properly since there is no flow-through system but, on the other
hand, you’ll never have a flow-through system go too slow or clog up
resulting in ruined surfaces, and you’ll never be cleaning up the
floor when it goes too fast and overflows the bowl.

I did learn the “experential” way that it is a good idea to place
the machine in a container of some sort - we use plastic kitty litter
boxes - for the occasional times someone doesn’t get the lid fastened
correctly.

I also recommend using separate drums for separate media. And buy
stainless shot, not standard steel. All of which can be had for less
than the price of most vibratory tumblers with a single bowl and no
media.

Les
L.F.Brown Goldwork


#4

Hannah

You have hit one of the great debates of the forum. I prefer the
Vibe tumbler,

http://www.raytech-ind.com/finish2.htm

I use this one most often and buying additional bowls is pretty
cheap. I have others, but this one is relatively quiet and can do
most things such as chains rings and pendants. I use this as a media,
it is sold most places as jewelry mix

http://wire-sculpture.com/items/G9_52.php

you can get both stainless or regular steel. I prefer the stainless.

Solutions are pretty much up in the air, there are a lot, but I have
been satisfied with 2 drops of dish washing detergent with about 1/4
cup ammonia and about 1/2 cup water. Ratio is a personal preference
and I seldom actually measure, I just guess and it usually comes out
well.

Time to process is usually an hour or less, sometimes I hit really
stubborn items that might run 2 or 3 hours.

The unit will also work well with ceramic media of which I do on
occasion use, times are a little longer but it is still shorter than
what I hear of rotary tumblers.

Good luck on your decision, you will get a lot of input.

Terry


#5

Hannah,

I’ve been very happy with the little Lortone tumbler I got from
KingsleyNorth.com. Good prices there, too. Not sure what your volume
will be, but if it’s not too big, the small barrels are quite
useful. I got the one that holds two barrels at a time, but I have
only ever used one of them. It wasn’t that much more than the single,
though, so I figured I’d get the double & I’d be all set if I needed
two at once. If you want to use different types of media, but don’t
need more than one running at a time, you can get one that holds one
barrel at a time, and just get extra barrels. I use stainless steel
shot, mixed shapes, and I’d highly recommend that. Where I bought
the shot (Fischer, in Germany) it was sold in 1kg bags, and I didn’t
want to buy two, but one seems to work fine in those small barrels.
You will probably want other types of media, too, to do more than
just the final polish of your cast pieces, but I can’t speak about
that, I just use the tumbler at this time with stainless shot.

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#6

I use a rotary tumbler, vibro tumblers in the UK are generally a lot
more expensive for an equivalent capacity. However, I have used the
one made by Lyman for case cleaning and it works as well as the
lapidary ones I have seen but costs a third of the price here. Check
out your nearest sporting goods store. I dont bother with the dry
media though, have tried 3 different sorts and none of them are good
enough.


#7

Hannah - The archives here have a lot of on your
question. Try searching tumblers.

My short answer is this:

Vibratory and rotary tumblers perform different actions. Rotary
tumblers work very well for burnishing metal. Vibratory tumblers work
very well for abrasive processes. If you want to smooth metal, use a
vibratory. If you want to burnish metal or work harden it, use steel
in a rotary tumbler.

Superficially, they are both tumblers. The way they work is quite
different. Further the kind of jewelry that you wish to finish will
determine how to use mass finishing.

I wrote a small book on the subject. It might be useful to buy or
borrow a copy and get a decent overview of the processes and
equipment. It is called “Tumble Finishing for Handmade Jewelry”,
subtitled - Small scale mass finishing. All of the Orchid sponsors
carry the book – Rio, Gesswein, Otto Frei, and others. Amazon wants
silly money to carry self published books. They don’t have it.

Judy Hoch


#8

Hi Nick,

I bought a vibratory tumbler from Rio and had it shipped to the UK,
you are right it is not cheap, but cheaper than one from a jewellery
supplier here. I was interested to see the Lyman case cleaner ones at
thegunshop.co.uk, a very good price. My question is do they stand up
to continued use with abrasive media, and can they be converted for
flow-through ?

I might get one to try with dry media though, like you I have not
had any success with it, it jammed in alll the holes in beads and
left a strange residue, I suppose I was doing something wrong

regards Tim.


#9

I have now read Judy’s fine book and listed to a lot of advice.

I certainly feel a bit more prepared to make a decision, but I guess
after basic info, everyone has to make their own decisions!!

I am really impressed with how helpful people have been.

My decision thus far has been to start with a lortone rotary tumbler.
I am trying to figure out if the 3 lb will fit a cuff bracelet, but
it is hard without seeing them. SO, It will either be a 3 or 6 lb for
the rotary. I will use it only with stainless steel shot for
burnishing (and to work harden things like ear-wires, etc)

Then, my next move will be to get a vibe. However, though my budget
would allow me to get the smallest raytech now…I think it might be
wise to wait a bit and then get the flow-through…It seems that
they work better for the first steps of cutting after casting. I
think I am also going to invest in two bowls, that way one can be
for dry polishing (after burnishing in the rotary).

If anyone thinks I am wrong on the fact the the flow through is
better, please let me know!!!

I can’t wait to start experimenting and moving forward.

thanks again to all who helped and good luck with your own
projects!!

Hannah
Hannah Garrison
www.azustudio.com
www.relixband.com


#10

Hannah,

Sorry to be coming a little late to the party, but I agree with your
choice of a rotary tumbler. I’ve used rotary, vibratory, magnetic and
centrifugal disc finishers extensively over the years and they all
have their place.

If I had to pick only one however, I’d go with a rotary. They run
forever, are simple and easy to repair and I believe, give a superior
finish. If you are handy, they are easy to build yourself, just buy
the barrels. The only downside is that they are slower than the
others, but not so slow that they impractical.

I would suggest that you use barrels with the greatest diameter that
you can. The cutting or burnishing action in a rotary primarily
takes place when the piece is sliding down the face of the media as
the barrel rotates. A bigger barrel, means more time sliding and a
shorter overall finishing time. You can find barrels that are tall
and skinny, I like the Topline TL-3 for smaller amounts of media and
parts.

It might be bigger than your looking for, but it’s a nice barrel. A
larger barrel will have more media and solution in it as well, so it
will stay cooler and cleaner, longer. I prefer the plastic barrels
over the black neoprene like the Lortone, less problems with leakage
and I think the parts,media and solutions stay cleaner in them.

Harry


#11

Tim

I have a Lyman vibe unit, and one of the ones made for jewelry, a
Raytech.

One of the first things I noticed is the Raytech is quieter. My
first Lyman lasted about 30 years I used it for reloading, the
Raytech I have only had about 8. I still use a Lyman, a Midway and
the Raytech.

I tried wet work with the Lyman and it leaked. I placed and ‘O’ ring
over the shaft and under the retainer nut, it worked, it doesn’t
leak, but I can hear it on the 3rd floor when it is running. I don’t
hear the Raytech and it didn’t leak from the start. I use both the
Lyman and the Midway unit for dry media now.

You could probably tweak the Lyman to make it a flow through with
little work. I would try a Midway unit though, it has a clear solid
lid, rather than the strainer lid that comes on the Lyman.

Terry


#12
I bought a vibratory tumbler from Rio and had it shipped to the
UK, you are right it is not cheap, but cheaper than one from a
jewellery supplier here. I was interested to see the Lyman case
cleaner ones at thegunshop.co.uk, a very good price. My question is
do they stand up to continued use with abrasive media, and can they
be converted for flow-through ?

In my opinion, the case cleaner ones will work for quite a while
doing work for one jeweler. I am not convinced that the motor is
appropriately sealed to be used with liquids. At the worst - you
might short it out and ruin the motor. These cartridge cleaner
tumblers has somewhat thinner bowls but seem to work just fine for
dry media.

I might get one to try with dry media though, like you I have not
had any success with it, it jammed in alll the holes in beads and
left a strange residue, I suppose I was doing something wrong

Here is a hint for running media with hollow product - stuff
something (easily removeable) inside the bead prior to running the
product in media. I use some version of nylon net or a piece from a
potato or orange produce mesh bag. Lemons and limes are often sold in
mesh too. Leave a bitty tail that you can grasp with a needle nose
plier and easily remove it after running.

The residue left after a dry process is usually very similar to that
remaining after buffing your work with rouge. Soapy water almost
always does the trick to remove it.

Judy Hoch


#13

The size of the tumblers you choose is largely dictated by the size
of the pieces you wish to process.

A six pound rotary will do your cuff bracelets just fine. The three
pound is too small.

The flow thru vibe is a good choice for the same reason - it is big
enough for your cuff bracelets to move freely. The little TV-5 really
isn’t big enough for anything other than small earrings and pendants
and rings. I define small in this case as no dimension over one inch.

Good luck.
Judy Hoch


#14
.....start with a lortone rotary tumbler. I am trying to figure
out if the 3 lb will fit a cuff bracelet, but it is hard without
seeing them.... 

I tumble cuff bracelets (and bangle too) in my 3 lb Lortone. Its big
enough for up to 3 bracelets at a time.

Jan McClellan
www.designjewel.com