When to use magnetic tumbler

I have recently purchased a magnetic tumbler. I am trying to use it in the process of my jewelry making. I am getting like a satin finish on my pieces. Is this normal? I am using stainless steel shot. My end goal is to not have to do so much polishing at the buffing cabinet. Any suggestions?


What have you tried already? There are a number of YouTube videos on this.

I add a couple inches of clean water, some soap, my pieces, and let it run for 20 minutes. It usually leaves a uniform satin finish that I can polish using a polishing motor or flexshaft.

Mine is a frankentumbler made from a treadmill motor so mileage may vary.


Well, maybe that’s the type of finish I’m supposed to be getting. I’m just going by some of these videos on YouTube and these guys are pulling their Cuban link chains out of the magnetic tumbler looking like they’ve been polished at the buffing cabinet.


What size pins are you using? I use this size:

The larger ones will leave a different finish. I’m not an expert but mine definitely need a polish to be “shiny shiny”

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I have questions. How much water do you add? Are you using tumbler soap as well?

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Just enough water to cover the pins and the pieces. Also using the Rio Grande super sun sheen burnishing compound.

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You will get a satin finish from a magnetic finisher/polisher. You should only be using magnetic pins in this machine, not stainless steel shot.


The way that I describe it is that a magnetic tumbler gives a sheen, not a shine. I don’t know if you’ve ever used a polished planishing hammer to planish sheet metal and saw how the shiny hammer leaves shiny dents on your metal. That’s a big part of what’s happening with a magnetic tumbler. Thousands of tiny shiny hammers are burnishing or planishing the surface of your metal. Personally, I like the finish, but it’s not the same high polish that you can get with a buffing machine or a flex shaft.

One of the great strengths of a magnetic tumbler though, is that it can sometimes get into low lying areas that are difficult to reach with a buffing machine.

A lot of my work is textured, so a magnetic tumble finish often works for me.

Like others have said with a magnetic tumbler, the ratio of water to amount of media, to the amount of lubricant, to the size/weight and number of objects, to length of time that you’re tumbling, all matter. Also the size of the stainless steel pins also matters.

Since you just bought this magnetic tumbler, my advice is to play around with changing the ratio of water to pins. I’ve found that magnetic tumblers often work best with fewer pins, not more.

My guess is that you’re using the stainless steel pins that came with magnetic tumbler, not stainless steel shot. Stainless steel shot is used with a rotary tumbler.

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to get a buffing machine like polish with any tumbler. You can get close to it with a series of progressively finer tumbling media. I just did a quick Google search to see if there was a short comprehensive video out there to explain the process and I didn’t find a video, but I did find this kit from Contenti, which has a .PDF that explains tumble finishing.

You can spend a lot of money or a little bit of money on rotary tumblers or vibratory tumblers. I’ve purchased this one from Harbor Freight and for me it’s works great.

Here’s a link to past Orchid posts regarding tumble finishing. You might find something useful there.


I’m not doing production work right now, but in the past, using the process that Contenti describes and that little Harbor Freight tumbler, I could go from rough casting, with minimal filing to fairly shiny object. Again, it’s not as perfect a buffing machine polish, but it’s pretty good.

It takes days to accomplish that with a little rotary tumbler though. One fantastic thing about magnetic tumblers is that they’re quick. 3-10 minutes.

Hope all that helps!


Yes, I meant to say magnetic pins, not stainless steel shot.


I also want to note that the studio that a I use (co-op), in the magnetic finisher — they use Mr. Clean mixed with a little bit of water. It works amazingly well and is a LOT cheaper than commercial products. Btw, it’s the blue Mr Clean and it should still be a very bright blue after adding a little bit of water. We usually add about 3-4” of Mr Clean/water mixture above the pins.
I leave my pieces in for about 5-6 mins or so, then rinse with clean water.


I too was hoping that a magnetic polisher would give a lovely shine as seen on some videos. Alas, I cannot achieve this regardless of water to pin ratios. I bought some special pins that had rounded ends but these also gave a satin finish - perhaps a little shinier but not much in it. My polisher now sits forlornly at the back of of bench :frowning: .
I would be interested if you do achieve a high polish and how to got it.

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