Craine

Guide on Tumbling

104 posts in this topic

lorenzo, thank you for your reply. But I hope you realize how depressing that is for a newbie. ;)

Anyway, the comments above are already helping. At the very least it gives an idea of the options.

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I work in a machine and fabrication shop and we tumble parts all the time, literally, for deburr and polish purposes. The thing about tumbling is that there are no hard rules. Everything depends on your material, the size, the media, the time, the lubricant/accellerator, etc. We tumble in ceramic media of varying shapes and sizes. Again, this depends on what we need to do to the material.

 

I am lucky enough to be given the used media when it is too worn to be efficient for production and can "borrow" cutting solution when I need it. Star or shark-tooth media can deburr pinch cut spring temper stainless in a half hour or less. The finish is dull, so overnight in play sand then again in corn cob and its nice and bright  again. Always remember to go from more to less aggressive. Never jump back and forth. With mirror polish, you can never get that back.

 

The best I can say is trial and error until you get the results you like. I prefer a vibratory tumble just because I can get one at any reloading supply store for fairly cheap. As for media, you can order the ceramic locally in most cases if you have the cash. If you are cheap, like most of us maillers, you can use sand, gravel, or just about any abrasive that is slightly softer than the things you are tumbling.

 

Sorry to not be more help. Hope what I gave leads you to success.

Edited by bdinus

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That shark tooth or star shaped media is ceramic? I'm looking for something that might actually deburr stainless successfully...Rio has several kinds of ceramic media, wondering if that's the way to go...

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Yes, ceramic. But you have to watch the aggressiveness of the media. The shark tooth is very aggressive when brand new. What I get to bring home is very worn and smoothed. If you keep an eye on your pieces, you should be fine. For deburring stainless, I haven't found a better way short of a diamond file.

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Filing away the burrs, one by one, would seem t-e-d-i-o-u-s to the nth. I will look over at Rio again (when I've got a sec...), and post a couple links, maybe you let me know what you think?

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Talking about deburring...what would you need to deburr Aluminum rings? There was some talk about discs earlier on, but that was immediately rebuffed after which the conversation went to deburring steel rings.

 

But most of the saw cut aluminum rings from TRL have a little burr on the inside I'd love to get rid of.

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Craine: I'm not the best person to answer that, as I've done limited work in aluminum...but what I have used (bright aluminum), I pre-opened to really expose the burrs to the media, and threw them in with my mixed stainless shot in a rotary tumbler with water and a drop of BLUE Dawn. Gave me brilliant clean, burr free aluminum, very nice. My shot is from Rio Grande, and it comes "pre-worn-in"--nice and smooth in about 5-6 different shapes--I think the stainless discs from TRL may be a bit more aggressive.

 

bdinus: Here's a couple of the things they sell at Rio, haven't found any star shaped or shark tooth media, but it seems these would do(?)

 

http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Avalon-Ceramic-Grinding-Media/339072?pos=3

http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Ceramic-Aluminum-Oxide-Cylinder-Media/339416?pos=2

http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Avalon-Grinding-Paste/339073

 

Whatta-ya-think?

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Ring-wyrm,

 

The first link would be for fine burrs. Probably stuff you could knock off with a file pass or two. The second, the aluminum oxide, is agressive. We use that for heavy dross on laser cut stainless. You will want to watch this media so you don't increase the kerf or round off the ends of your rings and destroy your closures.

 

I don't know about the paste. It looks like similar stuff to what is used in a rock tumbler to polish stones to a high shine. I bet it mucks up the tumbler pretty bad.

 

One tip. Keep seperate media for steel, stainless, aluminum, etc. Tumbling can embedd material in your pieces. Suddenly, aluminum is rusting from steel embedding or stainless is turning green from copper embedding.

 

Craine,

 

I would file each one, but I'm a little crazy. Aluminum burrs are usually easy to remove, so I would agree with Ring-wyrm's process.

 

For both of you, don't think you have to tumble in media. Tumbling small parts amonst themselves is a very common process. Stainless is especially good at deburring itself and is less damaging to the rings. Of course, they come out in a big knot that you get to untangle.

 

Also, I checked at work today about polishing and we are using leather buttons alot lately. Keep in mind, we aren't looking for anything better than a brushed finish, but its a thought for rings that only need polished.

Edited by bdinus

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When I worked with bright aluminium, I tumbled it up in a rotary to a bright shine by putting it in with mixed-type stainless steel shot and some soap, and then changing the water whenever it got too dark grey (else it starts depositing back on the aluminium). Did this for a couple of hours. I clean the stainless steel shot afterwards by tumbling it by itself with lots of warm soapy water changes.

 

I've tumbled stainless steel with stainless steel shot and it came out pretty nice, but I'm sure I could get it shinier like people do with rocks, by using various powders and the like in my cheap vibratory tumbler.

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To deburr we actually recommend shaking the rings violently in a glass jar. Take a pasta sauce jar and shake with force. You only need to put the rings in the jar nothing else. The violent action knocks the burrs off. The harder the material the more shaking it takes. Sterling is fast and stainless is longer to deburr. 

 

For shining rings we actually recommend tumbling them with crushed walnut shell. Crushed walnut shell can be bought as bird bedding at pet stores. You dry tumble for as long as you like - hours or days. Then you wash them in hot soapy water.

Use stainless shot with extra care - in most cases it will just remove any shine from a surface and make the material rougher. Be aware of metal harness - a soft metal like bright aluminum put in with a hard material like steel shot can make a mess of the aluminum - so test your shot first.

birdboy94, Jax25 and bdinus like this

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Bernice,

 

Yeah, if there is ever a question if tumbling will damage parts, we try tubling against themselves first. We do this alot for clamps, washers, contacts, just about anything we stamp. The good thing about tumbling without media is that there is nothing in there that is harder or more abrasive than the actual part. Burrs get knocked off because they are small and loosely attached while the rings stay in perfect shape.

 

As an aside, I would love to see your presses run. We do progressive stampings where I work, and it is one of the coolest things to watch.

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I tried to put some sawcut bright aluminum rings in the rotary tumbler without media for about 30 minutes and I must admit many of the burrs did seem to come off. The edges of the cut are still sharp tho, which is good for a smooth closed ring. But it is an improvement. I might try it again for longer. But I doubt this is a good idea with anodized aluminum.

 

One of the most obvious things of all the discussions above is that you'd be hard pressed to find two people with the same experiences. This might be a good area for some rigorous scientific research. Anybody volunteering? ;)

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Could be wrong---but I'm not going back through the entire thread and checking--but I don't think anybody mentioned anodized rings. I definitely would not tumble them, even by themselves with the rings open...all you're likely to do is damage the coating. With anodized, the coating IS the shine, so don't do anything to harm it would seem the way to go. That might be the only thing about tumbling anybody would agree on.

 

I found myself in a similar place that you are now, several years ago when I first looked into tumbling. There was nothing if not a difference of opinion. After reading many threads and asking several questions, I bought my tumbler...bought some stainless shot...and some walnut pet bedding----and since getting over the fear of ruining anything, I've pretty well just thrown it in to see what would happen. The only thing thus far that has come out the worse for wear, was some blackened niobium tumbled in stainless shot for too long. It actually did okay for a few hours, but more than that was too much and it started to wear through. Does absolutely fine in walnut, however. Also--nickle silver, when tumbled with copper or bronze, will sometimes take on some of the tarnish from them--but cleans right up with lemon juice. I've tumbled stainless (and blackened stainless--you want to limit the time with this one as well), copper, bronze, brass, nickle silver, aluminum, fine and sterling silver, blackened niobium (being the only exception here), yellow & pink & white gold filled, and 14K &18K gold, all to fantastic results in mixed stainless shot. The only difference between metals is how much time you give them to best result.

 

And I don't have a scientific enough mind (not to mention the time!) for such an undertaking. And something tells me, from the learning cycle we all go through---it wouldn't much matter if someone did--people would still question the results, and not be believers until they did it themselves anyway.

Edited by madd-vyking
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Ok so now I'm even more confused than ever after reading all the posts.  What I'm hoping to get is a way to polish up my rings so they're a bit shinier and look nicer.  Over the weekend I decided to look into getting a small tumbler as I usually just purchase smaller quantities of a variety of ring sizes and metals.  I'm primarily wondering how to put a shine on stainless and BA and maybe a bit of copper.  After working through the process in my mind I asked a few questions and was directed to this forum.  It appears that there are no answers but just more questions. 

 

One thing just popped into my brain though - when using shot to hopefully polish up my stainless, how does one separate the shot (or whatever medium) from the rings.  Also I thought rings were tumbled dry - whats up with the soap comments?  You add dish soap to the mix or is it water soap and shot?  Do the tumblers come with idiot-proof instructions????

 

I'm really wanting to try this but don't want to jump into it and get no results or destroy my rings.  Help please...............

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For tumbling with steel shot, use enough shot to cover the piece, then enough water to cover the shot. The tumbler should be between 1/3rd and 2/3rds full. Adding a bit of Blue Dawn binds to any bits of loose metal that get knocked off, allegedly helping the tumbling action. 

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If you tumble with rice or walnut shell than the rings are tumbled dry.  When tumbling with stainless steel shot you add water and a drop of either blue Dawn (hand dishwashing liquid) or a pinch of jewellers compound.  I personally can't stand the smell of Dawn so I use jewellers compound.  If your water is hard you might consider using distilled.

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I do not recommend tumbling anodized, ever. We send alot of parts out for anodizing, and it is not sturdy. If you want to keep that pretty color and shine, don't tumble.

 

I'm seeing alot of posts about wanting to polish rings and what media to use, but you can always just wash the piece. My friend throws his bronze bracelet into his dishwasher and it comes out sparkling. I hand washed a few pieces in regular dish soap and some vigorous shaking and they come out nice and shiny. Just make sure the water is HOT. Heat breaks down grease and increases any reaction, chemical or mechanical.

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So if all you have to do is wash stainless in really hot water then why do people tumble?  Does the hot water thing work for copper as well?

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Hi FayJ,

Seems like you are in the same bind as I am. Here are some very tiny pieces of tumbling wisdom I have gathered from my own research:

 

Disclaimer: nobody agrees on anything about the stuff below. ;)

 

Apparently there are several steps to take for various purposes, and those steps change depending on the material you are trying to tumble.

Some common tumbling purposes are: deburring, cleaning, polishing, 

 

Most rings come a little bit dirty. Washing them in hot water and blue Dawn will clean up the dirt and oily residue from the rings.

 

Deburring can be done by shaking the rings in a jar, or tumbling them in a rotary tumbler for a bit without media.

 

You should never tumble with a media that is harder then the material you are tumbling. So, stainless steel shot works for stainless steel rings, but will damage aluminum. Hard media such as ceramic will be abrasive; not a good idea for rings, gems or jewelry.

 

Also, it seem it may not be a good idea to mix materials you are trying to tumble. While most of the time this may not matter much, apparently tumbling copper with other materials will cause problems.

 

Dry tumbling rings can clean and polish and should be done with fairly soft media such as rice or crushed walnut shells.

 

As for separating rings from media, a sieve works for most dry media. A magnet may help separating stainless steel rings from shot (shot is usually non-magnetic).

 

Now watch for the contradictory replies... ;)

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First in for a contradictory reply!

Tumbling softer materials with harder shot can be totally ok. The stainless mixed from Rio Grande doesn't have any sharp edges, and gives a perfect shine to things I've done in silver --- including larger cast/fabricated pieces, not just rings. 

madd-vyking likes this

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I'll second that---as I mentioned a few posts back---the mixed stainless shot from Rio works fantastically with not only stainless, but also all your copper alloys, fine and sterling silver, gold fill and "solid" gold, etc...with both "raw" rings and finished pieces, as well as castings, charms, pendants, etc...

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FayJ,

Tumbling is not for cleaning. Its for deburr and polish. If you want something to really shine, tumble it. But if your just cleaning it, just wash it. No need to go buck wild if you don't have to.

 

Craine,

Generally, media is softer than what you are tumbling, just more abbrasive. Harder media, like steel shot, is not abrasive like ceramic, so no worry. I agree with everything else you said though.

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Also, seems like nobody mentioned that for copper alloys (bronze, brass, etc) you can shine them right up with lemon juice or other weak acids (some people even use ketchup).  Just make sure that you wash it off afterward and don't let it sit in there for too long.  We established in a thread not long ago that if you leave brass in for too long it will actually tarnish. :P

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Also, seems like nobody mentioned that for copper alloys (bronze, brass, etc) you can shine them right up with lemon juice or other weak acids (some people even use ketchup).  Just make sure that you wash it off afterward and don't let it sit in there for too long.  We established in a thread not long ago that if you leave brass in for too long it will actually tarnish. :P

 

You actually need salt and acid to get this to work.  I've read the chemistry around this, but I don't remember what it is right now.   It only takes a couple seconds to a minute to get the effect.  If you want to test it use an old penny.  

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Salt and acid for the tarnishing? Ah. I was dealing with second-hand information from one of the threads a couple weeks ago. 

 

If you meant for the polishing, you don't need salt at all.  I've done it many a time with my copper chains.  Just swish it around in lemon juice for maybe 30 seconds to a minute and then wash it with soap and water. 

madd-vyking likes this

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