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How to use a Rock Tumbler

By; Robert Parry

How to Tumble Jewellery & Coins

by: Robert Parry


Watch Robert's video: How to Tumble Jewellery


- Rotary tumbler – small 3 lb. tumbler from Lortone works very well.

- Stainless steel shot – mixed (various shapes). For the 3 lb. tumbler, two pounds of steel shot is required.

- Burnishing Soap – a jewellery grade burnishing soap works best.


1. Put the 2 pounds of steel shot into the rotary tumbler as mentioned above. A larger tumbler will require more steel shot. A 6 lb. tumbler would need 4 lb. of steel shot. Do not use a tumbler barrel that has been used for tumbling stone as any abrasive grit will damage the finish on the jewellery.

2. Put enough water into the tumbler to just cover the steel shot.

3. Add one teaspoon of burnishing soap to the steel shot and water.

4. Add the pieces to be polished.

a) For sterling wire wrapped pendants, you can put 2 to 4 pieces in the tumbler at one time. The tumbling will not hurt most stones. Softer stones such as mother of pearl, turquoise, sodalite and opal should not be tumbled. For them, make the wire setting, take the stone out, tumble polish the setting and then re-insert the stone. The pieces will be polished in approximately ½ hour, but by letting them tumble for about 2 hours, the wire will surface harden making the wire stiffer.

b) For jump rings, you can put several hundred in at a time. Allow them to tumble for about 2 hours to harden the wire.

c) For brass or copper findings, you can add a dozen or more depending on their size. The pieces will usually polish well in ½ to 1 hour.

5. When the pieces are finished tumbling, take the pieces out and thoroughly wash with hot water to remove any residue, then pat dry with a towel.

6. If you are using the tumbler again for another load to be polished, you can use the same soap and water as long as the water is not black. Just add a small amount of soap to the water. After tumbling, when the barrel is opened, the water should be quite “sudsy”. If there are no suds, then you need more soap added, otherwise the dark water will darken the finish so that it will have a blotchy or dull finish. If the water in the tumbler is turning black, then rinse out the shot and tumbler and put in fresh water and soap.

7. To store the steel shot, just drain off the water and store in an open container.

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