Vibratory tumbler under $100

Can you suggest a source for a vibratory tumbler under $100 (or even
a little over?)


 Can you suggest a source for a vibratory tumbler under $100 (or
even a little over?) 

Your best bet is to look at shooting supply houses. Vibratory
tumblers are used to clean cartridge cases before reloading and they
are much cheaper than through jewelry supply companies. Natchez
Shooting Supplies is where I got mine
several years ago. They offer several sizes of Lyman tumblers in
the $40 to $90 range. Look under Reloading then Lyman to get a
list. You can see more on Lyman’s line at
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Paul Ewing
Shining Moon Creations

Try and look at the vibratory tumblers for
polishing gunshell casings. But you should be aware that these units
aren’t meant to handle steel shot. I use mine for polishing with a
ceramic medium. Haven’t tried it for cut-down, and doubt it would
work. I do know that it won’t polish rocks.


   Can you suggest a source for a vibratory tumbler under $100 (or
even a little over?) 

A used paint shaker will work, (I think I saw some in use at Rio
Grande). Not quite the same thing, but one at auction or used might
be found under this price and should do something…

Charles Lewton-Brain

I will second the suggestion about the Lyman tumblers. I have an
older model that works fine for small items. I like it better than
the rotary tumbler at the art center where I teach. It’s easier to
put the lid off and on with a top loading vibratory tumbler. I use
mine with stainless steel shot.

marilyn smith

I second the motion ! The shell casing vibratories are a great value
for use with ceramic media. They cost about seventy five dollars and
are very durable. I have been using a USED one for several years and
it cost me fifteen dollars ! New ones are usually available for
about seventy five dollars. I am sure that the prices that the usual
supply houses charge are a reflection of their cost of doing
business, but we too have a cost of doing business and it behooves
us to reduce our overhead wherever and whenever possible.

Ron Mills. Mills gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

I just posted on this - I tried a friend’s vibratory tumbler for
shells and IT’S TOO VIGOROUS FOR DELICATE WORK!! Unless you only have
hefty castings, don’t go this route. The motor is much more active
than the tumblers for jewelry.

See they have one for $79 and I love it.


Find a toy store and purchase a rock tumbling kit!!! The tumblers
are small but usually ok… Jim


There is absolutely no basis for comparison between a vibratory
tumbler and a rock tumbler. A rock tumbler can actually ruin jewelry
if you are not careful. Furthermore, vibratory tumblers have a much
wider range of capabilities and will perform many tasks in hours
instead of days.

Ron Mills ,
Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca

There is absolutely no basis for comparison between a vibratory
tumbler and a rock tumbler. A rock tumbler can actually ruin
jewelry if you are not careful. Furthermore, vibratory tumblers
have a much wider range of capabilities and will perform many tasks
in hours instead of days.

I beg to differ. Rock tumblers are rotary tumblers and are a viable
jewelry tumbler. Rotary tumblers just take longer when used with
abrasive media for smoothing, but they do work. The increase in time
is usually triple or more over that of vibratory for smoothing. When
rotary tumblers are used for burnishing with steel, they are very
effective. For abrasive media, vibratory tumblers are the best
choice. When vibratory tumblers are used for burnishing with steel,
you need a heavy duty and usually much more expensive tumbler to
handle and move the weight of steel. If you only want to use a cheap
vibratory tumbler, burnish with ceramic beads. And for the record, a
properly rated vibratory tumbler used with steel finishes in the same
amount of time as a rotary one with steel.

The only way I’ve seen tumblers ruin jewelry is to overload the
tumbler with jewelry and have the parts hit each other. I’ve made a
real mess with parts too big in a disc finisher. If you use the rule
of thumb of about 15% jewelry, 85% media in either rotary or
vibratory tumbler, you should be fine. Do check the liquid for
cleanliness periodically or use a flow thru system. Make sure your
pieces can move and rotate freely in the tumbler, which ever type you

For more info, see the tumbling book on my website.

Judy Hoch, G.G.

Dear Judy,

Since you take issue with my statement about comparing rotary versus
vibratory tumblers let me make a statement that illustrates what I
am talking about when I say that rotary tumblers can damage jewelry.
Awhile back I ordered some sterling blank rounds from a major
supplier. All of them were heavily indented with relatively deep
impact marks and I ultimately relegated them to the scrap pile. This
COULD happen in either of the machines that we are talking about,
but it is highly unlikely in a vibratory tumbler. As a matter of
fact, it is very misleading to refer to a vibratory as a
tumbler…actually it is a micropeening burnisher. In a rotary
tumbler the media and the jewelry are carried up the wall of the
tumbler until they tumble down the face of the cascading
load…hence the probabilty of denting. In a vibratory the item
being processed is gently carried round fully suspended while being
rubbed by media that is gently vibrating… There is really no
comparison between the two systems except to say that a vibratory is
faster, less prone to damaging the contents and, usually , less
messy…you can usually retrieve the contents of the vibratory
simply by sifting through the media with your fingers.

I might also add that the operational parameters of rotaries are not
capable of easy control in that the speed is seldom variable. The
viscosity of the load is a variable as is the load level and the
size and shape of the contents. If the variables are not balanced
there is a tendency for the rotary to “throw” or drop the contents
thus causing varying degrees of damage. Anyone who has ever used a
rotary for rock tumbling will attest to the fact that a small
deficiency in balancing the variables will generally result in
either not getting the desired results or in damaging the contents.
For example, whe n you tumble agate, if you do not control the load
ratios and /or speed you will get the familiar surfucial conchoidal
fracturing that results in having to start all over again.

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

P.S. You can still get a decent vibratory for around seventy-five
dollars !

Hi Ron,

Any comments you might have on the 3 lb. (A-R1) Thumler’ tumbler
with regard to silver pieces would be appreciated. I did use one
for Art Clay Silver and was very pleased with the results, but have
never used it for silver or copper. I did get the ss shot and pins
from Rio for it as well as the liquid for it, just haven’t used it
yet. I am also interested in using it to polish some rocks (not at
the same time), so maybe I should use this one for rocks and get a
vibratory tumbler for silver?

Cheers !Dinah.

This is my first post here, although I have been reading this site
for a couple years now, and have learned much from your experiences.
Thought I could add something basic to this discussion of rotary vs
vibe tumblers.

I believe it all depends what type and volume of jewelry to be
tumbled. For someone like me, who is a weekend jewelry warrior, has
a regular day job, but is nonetheless serious about my work, a 3lb
rotary tumbler works wonderfully. Using a well manufactured tumbler
with 1 pound of stainless mixed shot is all I need. It doesn’t ruin
the jewelry. In fact, for the sterling chain I make, it works
wonders. The quiet, gentle tumbling for 2 hours results in chain
that is highly polished and smooth as a baby’s behind.

The shot and tumbler cost me $70.00 in total.

Also, the comparison of tumbling rock and tumbling jewelry isn’t a
fair one. I am sure if I tumbled my jewelry for days there wouldn’t
be much left of it, and of course it makes sense that it would be
ruined. But 2 hours does indeed give me the results I want.

It’s a matter of preference. One type may be more appropriate for
some than the other. For me, my good quality rotary tumbler is a
perfect choice.



I had bad luck using a vibratory tumbler. Even though it claimed to
work much fast than a rotary, I wasn’t able to fill it with as much
shot as I needed and could really only put small pieces in - and few
at a time. I’ll admit that when I put in chain, it did work quickly,
but the chain was lightweight and small and there was very little
shot in the container. Most of the time, however, I’ve been working
on production-size orders. Putting in pendants, rings, etc. just
wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting any movement with the stainless
steel shot. I know there are vibratory tumblers on the market that
will move the amount of shot I need when working in high volumes, but
they are extremely expensive. I also like the work-hardening that
the rotary provides.

Ron - It is absolutely true that you can ruin stuff in a tumbler.
You can also ruin stuff with a buffing machine. What’s necessary is
to learn how to use the tools that you have. A properly loaded
mixture of media and jewelry with an appropriate solution will yield
great results. Every time.

Orchid does us all a favor by sharing our successes and mistakes.
Hopefully we all can learn.

Judy Hoch, G.G.

Hi Dinah !

My usual choice is to use a rotary for stones and a vibratory for
jewelry and/or metals. Each system has it’s pros and cons, but there
is no doubt that a vibratory is next to useless for shaping (
rounding off ) stones. For production applications the most
efficient method of processing stones is start out with a rotary for
shaping and then go to a vibratory for the remainder of the
sequences. This approach will save you a bundle of time and

It has also been my experience that rotary efficiency increases with
size. The weight of the load is a factor in acheiving faster
results. This factor seems to be most important with rotaries, but
not so much in vibratories.

Another approach is to use the rotary for the first three steps when
doing stones and then go to the vibratory for the final polish. I
really don’t think that you can get a better polish than that which
can be acheived in the vibratory. Furthermore, the vibratory is more
effective in polishing flats or the backs of cabochons.

We all have different requirements and each approach has its merits
and demerits.As for tumbling in general, it is noisy, messy and time
consuming, but it is also one of the biggest helps that a jeweler or
lapidary can have…especially if you are production oriented.

Good luck ! Ron Mills,
Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

Dear Cathy,

I really don’t think that stainless media are suitable for the
typical low cost virbratory. The weight of the media greatly exceeds
the intended load factor. On the other hand, while ceramic media are
also somewhat heavy, they are not nearly as heavy as the stainless
variety. I suggest that you switch to non abrasive ceramic media if
you want the benefits of vibratory machines. Remember though that
ceramic media have to be broken in.

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.