The Tumbler: an update
November 7, 2015
A few months back I posted about my new favorite tool, the tumbler. To quickly recap: It’s a thing that vibrates steel shot around jewelry to polish it, and I love it so much.
However, I’ve learned a few things. It turns out that in the jewelry world (as in so many others), people can be wrong. In my case, both the individual at Scintillant and the Internet were wrong (whaaaa? The Internet, wrong? Why, I never.). Mostly the person who taught me to use the tumbler gave me bad info, and the Internet never directly contradicted it.
Here’s what I’ve been doing wrong (at least according to Adam, the owner of the studio and thus the equipment):
- Filling the basin 2/3 of the way with shot is too much. 1/3 or even 1/2 of the way full is more than enough.
- Too much water, and additionally, the wrong solvent. I’d been adding enough water to cover the shot just barely, plus a squirt of dish soap. The solvent (dish soap) is probably a matter of personal choice, but because Adam’s tools = Adam’s rules, I’m now using no water and about 1/4 cup of a solution that smells an awful lot like diluted ammonia. This jives with another jeweler’s advice to use a solution of ammonia, soap, and water to remove polishing compounds by hand.
Both the shot and the water/solution actually speak to a larger issue with vibratory tumblers, especially older ones that see heavy use: it’s about the weight of the thing. The heavier the container, the more the motor works, which could lead to it potentially burning out. I don’t want to be responsible for that.
Plus, it’s working just as well with less shot and a different solvent, so I have no complaints. The only other thing that I could be doing “wrong” is the amount of time I leave the thing running — Adam swears a half-hour should do it, but unless someone’s waiting, I still let it run for about twice as long.