Monday, March 3, 2008

So what is this tumbling business?

So Yazmin has asked for more details on the tumbler story so here we go! This one goes out to all my crafters and curious people!

Things you need:

tumbler - for tumbling, duh.
mixed stainless steel shot - for hardening (and shining I think)
Dawn or burnishing compound - for the shiny
some kind of strainer of colander - to drain the water but catch your shot

My starter tumbler is one of those rock polishers you can get from Michaels craft store or AC Moore. This could set you back around $30 (or in my case, $15 because I used a coupon. There's never an excuse not to use a coupon at Michaels or AC Moore). I think professional tumblers start at about $90 or so.

Stainless steel shot should be available from a local jeweler. That's where I got mine. You can find it online as well. I purchased a pound because my tumbler canister is really small. You may need more if you go for a pro tumbler like from Lortone. You want stainless steel so that it doesn't get rusty. You want mixed shapes because I said so! I can't remember why at the moment but it's the best way to go. This runs around $25.

Burnishing compound or regular old Dawn (nothing fancy just the original). Just add a couple of squirts and you're good to go.

What you want to do is fill the tumbler canister with the shot and then add about an inch or two of water above that. Then add your pieces. Some beads are too fragile to tumble (like pearl I believe) so you'll have to add those to your design afterwards. Some are just fine. Do your homework. Add the two squirts, turn that puppy on for about two hours and you're good to go. I checked mine after 90 minutes and was satisfied with the bling and the hardness. I read somewhere that tumbling longer than two hours is unnecessary and can actually do harm to your metal by making it too brittle. So be aware if you are doing some kind of marathon tumbling. Take the pieces out. Ooh and aah at the shiny. Drain the shot in a strainer or colander with teeny holes and let it dry out. You are good to go!

I've also heard of walnut shells for brightening silver. I think you use that dry and in place of the stainless steel. So if for instance you have a patina you did that you don't like, stick the piece in (provided there are no softish beads again I would guess) the tumbler with the shells and tumble away until it is shiny and free of color.

Hope this helps. This was my first-how to and I'm no expert so I suggest you do some other research on your own.


ara133photography said...

Interesting - never knew you could tumble silver/steel!! Love the effect, the photo below helped me understand the purpose a lot. Very cool!

Gemheaven said...

I tumble fw pearls with no problem - 30 mins and they are fine - just thought I'd let you know :) (OH and I've tumbled for 12hrs before when something really needs it - again no problems ;0))


Yazmin said...

Hmmm...I may need to buy this weekend's newspaper to get a coupon and just do it!

But maybe a little research is in order...and doesn't hurt. :) Thanks!

Loella Medina said...

I got my tumbler (Lortone 3A) for $83.95 from:
It included the stainless steel shot and soap (I haven't used that soap that came with the tumbler I use Palmolive). So far I am sooo happy with this tumbler. I tumbled a pair of stainless silver earrings that were sooo old and when I got them out of the tumbler I had to do the "tumbler" dance lol They looked brand new.

miznyc said...


Jo - thanks for the tip on the pearls. I'll have to try it.

Loella - Thanks for that great info for when I'm ready to move from my starter tumbler to the real deal :D