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Guide on Tumbling

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me personally? I tumble with mixed shape steel shot from Rio Grande, water and blue dawn. mostly, I work with silver, and I haven't had any problems. I don't have much deburring to deal with, I cut my own rings, and use care when cutting. when I do hard materials, like titanium, I just throw the finished pieces in the tumbler with loose rings. running Ti with stainless shot does a GREAT job of shining up the shot lol

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Well - I gotta say, I wish this thread had been up 5 years ago when I was gifted my vibratory tumbler.  I couldn't find a lot of info and I couldn't find any of the recomended tumbling medias asside from the steel shot, which wasn't giving me any real difference that I could see in my stainless steel jewelry. . . .


So yesterday I wandered into Harbor Freight (they just opened near me - yay!) and found tumbler media!  So I looked through and I saw the walnut media, but the ceramic looked sexier. . . . and it SAID polishing. . . .


Yeah - all of my steel is matte now :/


I just finished separating it and it is now tumbling with it'self and hot water with Dawn.  I will be exchanging for walnut later today lol



That warning given - I used to work in a jewelry store and we sold some stainless steel jewelry.  Heck, for a bit we even had one of those Ed hardy watches with the euro 4-1 band.  The steel was so polished it game me shine envy on every piece.  My jewelry is shiney, and I clean it between fairs with hot water and Darn to get rid of road dirt and lotions and oils folks smear all over it - but it ain't THAT shiney.


IF I understand correctly, folks in this thread are recommending a steel shot mixed media (as in multiple shapes) that is available from Rio Grande, and then the Sunsheen?


feel free to tell me if I'm misunderstanding - I'm suffering from info overload combined with stock destruction shock, and dumb usually follows. . . .lol

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I've gotten good results with mixed shot. Maybe even leave the pins out if it's just rings? (I sometimes wonder if these scratch a little more than without, even though they're good for getting into cracks of finished pieces - expert opinions anyone?)


Ceramic will smooth out larger dents (uneven hills & valleys) and replace them with lots of little dents (even hillocks) - for example, I've used it to make the rough Gr1 titanium TRL sold for a bit, smoother. Then I finished it with shot. ETA: ceramic not needed for most rings sold. You just need shot.


As steel is hard, something hard like shot will burnish the surface - take the existing slightly rough surface and through battering it a lot give it a flatter shiny surface which under a microscope would appear to have tiny dents, but to the eye would appear very shiny. If you want to you can then polish it up to perfection with crushed walnut media (lizard bedding), maybe with a bit of chrome oxide added to it, but most people find the extensive time taken is not really worth the very slight improvement.


Get stainless shot, trust me, you don't want the stuff to rust.


Some people polish the rings, and some find it's less slippery on the pliers as well as faster if they do the finished pieces. Depends on if the piece has soft gemstones or anodised/coated metals, I guess.


You can use any non-citrus based detergent - something plain and basic. You don't need a brand. Don't let the water go black for too long or it will redeposit goo back on your stuff. More of an issue with rubber barrels however.

Edited by calyx

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I've used the mixed shot/dawn soap with mixed success (hehe, get it) it worked well on the scales I had in there, both stainless and tempered carbon but the pin tore my tumbler barrel up something fierce.

For basic cleaning; essentially on new ring day when I pull them out of the envelope from TRL, I do short grain brown rice. It doesn't really matter what the material is, BA, SS, Blackened Stainless, I toss it in dry with rice and let it run for an average of about 8-12 hours/ overnight and when I pull the rings out they're nice and clean with no oil or cutting lube left on the rings.


Just my two cents for what it's worth :)

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On 1/20/2013 at 5:56 AM, Metal Majesty said:

Well my new favorite method for tumbling BA is to tie the rings up into a pillowcase, put them through the washer with a load of towels then into the dryer. Makes them very shiny. Others have not had good results. Some people use rice or crushed walnut shells in the tumbler.

Anodized aluminum is not recommended for tumbling as it may wear the color off, but others will have a different opinion. Try a few in your tumbler, see what you think.

SS can be cleaned up by using water and a few drops of dish soap in your tumbler for a while. Some people swear you have to use BLUE DAWN but again, others will have differing opinions.

If you want to de-burr your rings (SS, copper, bronze) you may try an abrasive of some sort to smooth them out but it will also dull the hell out of your rings, so will need to burnish/polish them after. Stainless shot will make them shine. Some will tell you that the shot will also de-burr the rings but other will say not.

lol is this helping you at all...??

It's all kind of trial and error.. Find what works for you :)

I think it's always trial and error to check what works right? Thanks for sharing this post with us and also your advice is very legit 




Edited by Stephbaker

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