Is there any REAL technical difference between the VIBRATORY
tumblers used by gunsmiths and the tumblers used by jewellers?
What is this difference if any?
Lee - if you are going to use the tumbler in the same way as the
gunsmiths, it will work fine. BUT - the gunsmiths are using the
tumbler to clean out cartridges - not smooth metal, only finely
polish it. For my last cycle on high polish, I use one of these cheap
tumblers - to put the final finish on jewelry with dry media.
Why is there such a difference in the price? I meen the Raytech
AV25 model costs something like 400$ and other tumblers for
gunsmiths cost anywhere from 30$ to 100$. Why this difference in
The jewelry finishing vibratory tumblers handle the wet heavy media
needed to do the big work of smoothing uneven surfaces. Think about
them as the automated workers doing the 1200 grit sanding and Tripoli
polish. The media carrier needs to be heavy enough to make the
abrasive work - compare the different polish on your wheel when you
lean into it or just touch it with the jewelry. One cuts, the other
does not. This media is run wet so that the crud can be removed from
the tumbler and not pounded back into your jewelry.
Do the cheaper tumblers for gunsmiths use both types of polishing
cycles or just dry cycles? Is there any danger of using them for
wet polishing cycles?
To the best of my knowledge, gunsmiths or reloaders do not run their
stuff wet. And to make the distinction, most users of cartridge
cleaning tumblers are not gunsmiths, rather reloaders. Gunsmiths are
highly skilled metalsmiths.
And yes there is a danger of using the new reloading tumblers wet -
if water can leak out of the tumbler when running - at a minimum, you
can ruin the motor, or cause a nasty electric shock or fire.
To answer Ron at Mills Gems about a plan to extract more money from
jewelers for tumblers by making the reloading tumblers no longer
appropriate for wet processing, I offer this thought - a mould for
the bowl that has no undercut, and is made of less material, and not
impervious to the abrasives we use is likely to be less expensive to
make. It would not make sense to lose a market if you could satisfy
two separate requirements with one product. It is possible that they
had enough unsatisfied jewelers complaining that they went to the
expense of making a better product for our business.
What about the amount of media that can be used. I've visited
several gunsmithing companies that carry these tumblers and they
only state the amount of cartridges that can be used (about 500 -
600 casings) how does that translate into rings or other pieces of
While you can do the translation directly into weight of rings,
consider the difference in the softness of the brass metal for
cartridges and silver or gold jewelry. If you run as much jewelry by
weight as cartridges, you will almost surely have impingement on your
work - little dents from the stuff hitting each other. I calculate
available mass by volume - about 10 to 12 percent jewelry is max in
Also in your considerations for tumblers, even if you can run wet
media in a reloading tumbler because of the bowl shape, consider how
long the tumbler will survive being used at 200 to 300 percent of
design capability. I bought my Raytech tumblers 12 years ago and they
run as well today as when I purchased them. If you are not doing
volume work, but rather work at a hobby level, get the cheapest thing
you can - but expect it perform at that level.
Here’s the commercial - I had all those questions and more at one
time. I did research with major jewelry manufacturers, the US Mint,
and European jewelers. Then I wrote down what I learned in a small
book - Tumble Finishing for Hand Made Jewelry, ISBN 0-9728269-0-4. It
is sold by many of our supporters of Orchid - Rio, Gesswein, Otto
Frei and others. Reading it would save you a lot of time and agony.