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Which Tumbler is Best?


#1

I am getting ready to invest in a tumbler and have heard the cheap
ones leak and dont do a great job. I am getting ready to launch a
line and need to put in about 10 pieces at a time and want to tumble
it once for a great shine. Any advice on a great tumbler and the type
of shot to put in it would be great. Also, where did you buy it from?

Thanks a mil!
Nicole


#2

Vibe or rotary?

Speaking from a lapidary perspective Thumlers is the best with
Lortone coming in 2nd for tumblers under 20 lb capacity. I refer to
myself as the rock tumbler crash test dummy because I’m always
trying different things. Different manufacturers bowls on other
manufactures motors. I drive my suppliers crazy asking if something
will fit or not. I have a homemade rotary tumbler that tumbles 36 lbs
of rocks at once. I’m now considering buying a used cement mixer and
converting it into a mega tumbler. That’s one thing I can call myself
an expert on. Or the crazy old guy with the pony tail by the looks
the garden hose in the yard.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#3

I like my Loretone Tumbler. It’s a work horse. I use it to teach
classes as well as tumble my own work, and that puppy just keeps
going. I’ve got it loaded with mixed STAINLESS steel shot, water and
Super Sunsheen burnishing compound. Make sure the mixed shot you get
includes the needle shot. I got a good price on this tumbler on eBay.
The seller was Rons Rocks.

I tried the cheap tumbler from Harbor Frieght (Chicago brand
tumbler) and it broke down after just a month or so.

Pam East
www.pameast.net


#4

I have been using Harbor freight dual barrel tumbler and fell very
satisfied with it. The relation price between price and capacity I
think is the best in the market.

Thor Hedderich


#5

I have both sizes of the Dillon Precision tumblers, life time no BS
warranty on them. The HF ones are a joke.

Jerry


#6

I am also looking for a tumbler - one specifically to harden items
such as clasps, hooks etc, - things which may have become too soft
in the soldering process. I have read and been told that a tumbler
will only harden the very surface of the metal. What are others using
to perform this task?

Grace


#7

I’m a believer in keeping it simple. I think a good old tumbler that
you know, tumbles, is just fine. I like the Thumbler’s Tumbler (the
red one such as Rio carries), but the Lortone is fine too. The lid
for the Lortone requires like, 20,000 parts and is annoying.

The upside of the Lortone is that the barrel cannot roll off.

The Thumblers – the lid is faster and easier to put on, there are
fewer parts, the barrels can roll off, but the upside is you can
have two barrels should you want them.

Some folks have gotten the cheap ones from Harbor Freight and it
seems that they generally hold up to hobbyist use.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#8

Elaine,

The lid for the Lortone requires like, 20,000 parts and is
annoying. 

??? The Lortone has a lid, a metal cover cap, a washer, and a plastic
screw nut. The Thumlers has the separate rubber seal, metal plate,
and all the thumbscrews. Both have their advantages and
disadvantages. I use Lortone 12 lb barrels for their price,
durability, and simplicity.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#9

Well I recently puchased a vibratory tumbler from Harbor Freight—
after reading that this was a fast way of finishing jewelry.

I’m starting to wonder now…

Was this a mistake?

CS


#10

I’ve researched alot of tumlers to put up for sale on my website. The
best one I found is by A.E Aubin Company. It never leaks and has a
hexagon shaped barrel that I believe suits a tumbler better than a
round one as it really mixes up the materail inside. I’ve had my
personal one for three years and never had a problem. There are no
belts to replace. You can go online to the site to buy one or I
carry it at a discount in my store. I also sell a great stainless
steel mixed shot that I find excellent to use with water in it.

Hope this helps,
Linda Reboh
YourCosmicCreations.com


#11

Grace,

Tumbling does work-harden sterling. Using steel shot (mixed shapes)
does a great job on earrings, jump rings, rings, wire work (ie, cuff
bracelets, etc), castings, and generally other pieces where the
majority of the pieces are not flat sheet. Large areas of flat sheet
need to be buffed out after tumbling in steel shot. It takes a
beating in the tumbler, literally, so there’s really no advantage
tumbling it over just buffing the piece.

Using a magnetic tumbler w/ the steel pins is great for very small,
angular pieces, ie, castings, where you need tiny areas polished. It
leaves a very tiny dimpled surface (better description would be a
polished sandblasted surface) all over what would normally would be
highly polished, so it is necessary in some cases to take to the
buffer after, for a quick buff.

My favorite tumbler is the “cement mixer” type. It’s model #250 from

http://www.covington-engineering.com

It’s 3-way action is quite effective. My hand fits in the opening, so
I can if I wish, leave the lid off, dip my hand in, grab the piece(s)
to check, or toss in another piece while tumbling. No big lid thing
to deal with. We have two barrels: one, green for jewelry, and the
other black for rock tumbling (which never happens anymore because
I’ve basically taken it over from my lapidary husband.)

I like my vibratory tumbler, as well, but the cement mixer is my
fav. Disclaimer, love the product, but no affiliation w/ Covington.

Kay Taylor


#12

I bought a Harbor Freight vibe tumbler a couple weeks ago when it
was on sale. I bought it for backup and sure enough a week later one
of my vibe tumbler motors quit. The HF has been running about a week
and a half with no issues so far. I have found that the HF bowls do
no last if used for tumbling rocks with abrasive grits. The
indentations on the bowls are wear points. You can stick some epoxy
putty on it to get them to last longer. I’m using the HF for
polishing cabs and stones with Tin Oxide so I don’t anticipate bowl
wear.

I will say there is something I like about the HF vibe tumbler. An
on/off switch. Something that is lacking on the top of the line
tumblers. I’m always unplugging and plugging in tumblers when I
maintaining them.

If you use it for jewelry you probably won’t have any problems. I
was cautioned by one Orchid member that said if you run it without
the lid the bowl will distort. Other than that it’s not a bad tumbler
for $30-$40 on sale.

My tumblers run 24x7. I’m interested to see how long the HF tumbler
lasts…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#13

Hello Carol,

Was purchasing a vibratory tumbler from HF a mistake?? Maybe, maybe
not.

If you are unhappy with the results or the machine breaks down and
there is no service - it was a mistake. If it does what you want and
lasts long enough - it was a good buy.

For making a production line, you need durability and HF tools
probably will disappoint you. For occasional use and a modest
purchase price, HF tools may be just perfect for you.

Just MHO,
Judy in Kansas


#14

Judy, thanks for your note.

I went to use mine and on reading the instructions found that the
ceramic abrasives I purchased for it are not to be used.

So I went back and got walnut shells and some plastic type polishing
abrasives.

I’ll fire it up tomorrow to give it a try. Unlike Ricks, it won’t
get 24-7 use. Wondering if Rick has used steel shot in his?

HF had some glass shot too-- has anyone used that?

CS


#15
I'm using the HF for polishing cabs and stones with Tin Oxide so I
don't anticipate bowl wear. 

This isn’t really an Orchid topic, but I’ve been curious for a
while-- You can polish cabs in a tumbler without losing the crisp
edges? Which parts of the process do you do with a tumbler, and which
at the wheel? Do you put mixed types of stone in together? I love
doing lapidary, but have little time for it (it really has to be
considered almost a hobby at this point). Using a tumbler for the
more tedious parts could create more time for the fun parts!

Noel


#16
small rotary tumbler.doesn't work so good on pieces with somehow a
flat surface. My pendents and buckle are getting a "orange peel"
kind of finish. 

Generally, orange peel results from tumbling too long. Usually 30 to
45 minutes are enough. Longer times work harden the surface and the
orange peel is from some surface grain distortion. Also be sure that
your small tumbler has enough space for work pieces to move freely.
Harry Hamill’s comment about impingement from other pieces is also
correct - too much stuff in a small space doesn’t work.

I am also looking for a tumbler - one specifically to harden items
such as clasps, hooks etc, - things which may have become too soft
in the soldering process. I have read and been told that a tumbler
will only harden the very surface of the metal. 

You are correct that tumbling work hardens the surface. But the
surface, just like the rest of the piece, is a grain structure. Most
of the time, a short ride in steel will harden your work pieces
sufficiently to offset the annealing.

Finishing jewelry with tumblers is a many faceted subject. You
wouldn’t try to just finish work with rouge on a buff. Similarly,
just running steel to finish your work isn’t sufficient either.

First, you need to smooth the work using some kind of abrasive
media. Then you can burnish with the steel. After that, if you are
trying to get a perfectly smooth surface, run a dry media charged
with some kind of polishing compound for a day or two. You absolutely
can get a perfect finish with tumblers. It is like everything else in
this business - a bit of education helps a lot.

Shameless selfpromotion - get the book - Tumble Finishing for
Handmade Jewelry. Most of the Orchid sponsors carry it.

Judy Hoch


#17

I hate power tools without on/off switches! Fortunately, I have a
very handy husband. He’s installed in-line switches on all my power
cords. Takes him about two minutes and it works perfectly.

When they see my equipment, I’ve had other instructors and artist
demand to know where I was able to buy a Loretone tumbler with a
switch! ;o)

Pam East
www.pameast.net


#18
This isn't really an Orchid topic, but I've been curious for a
while-- You can polish cabs in a tumbler without losing the crisp
edges? Which parts of the process do you do with a tumbler, and
which at the wheel? Do you put mixed types of stone in together? I
love doing lapidary, but have little time for it (it really has to
be considered almost a hobby at this point). Using a tumbler for
the more tedious parts could create more time for the fun parts! 

Oh so you want to know the much guarded tumble finish cabs secret.
Well I’m still new at it but with some help from my fellow rockheads
on the Rock Tumbling Hobby board I got straightened out how to use
the vibe tumbler to polish rocks.

First you grind your cab to the shape you want on a 80-100 grit
diamond wheel. Then move over the 280 flex diamond wheel and smooth
out the lumps and bumps. Then into the vibe tumbler with 120/220 grit
for 1-2 days. Then 600 grit for 1-2 days. Then I usually go the extra
mile and do 1000 grit for one or two days. I then have a separate
vibe tumbler for polishing. I use tin oxide for 3-5 days. Then whola!
Finished cabs.

One trick I’ve learned is to use different types of media in the
tumbler. For grinding I use ceramic cylinders and triangles and glass
marbles. For polishing I use ceramic media and tempered glass shards
that have been tumbled to remove the sharp edges. Plus all the
accumulated small rock pieces too.

The bottom edge of the cab does get some rounding. I’ve seen cabs
done my foreign cutters that are really rounded. They were calibrated
cabs so the must go from the cab cutting machine directly to tumble
and they have to tumble them longer to smooth them out. I don’t life
trying to fit a bezel on a stone that bottom edge is really rounded.
I’ll go grind it flat.

I’m picking up more business in the cab business. People like the
way I cut. I think it was because I learned bezel setting way before
I learned to cut cabs. So I cut them how I would like if I was going
to set the stone.

Tumble finishing polishes the back side of the cab too which people
who do wire wrap really like.

I just put 100 cabs in the polish tumbler. Time to start cutting
I’ve got a tumbler sitting idle…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#19
Wondering if Rick has used steel shot in his? 

Nope. I use my tumblers for rocks, cabs, and flats only. No steel
shot used.

Rick Copeland
rockymountainwonders.com


#20
HF had some glass shot too-- has anyone used that? 

I haven’t used HF Glass shot but I do use glass marbles when I find
them cheap. They wear down quickly in the grind tumbler. Also those
odd shaped pieces of colored glass they sell for fish bowels and
such. I try not to waste anything I can re-use in another way. I use
tempered glass shards in my polish tumbler. I’m happy with how the
tempered glass holds up.

Rick Copeland
rockymountainwonders.com