October 13, 2014
I have discovered a new tool, my friends. I’d seen this mysterious, motorized thing in the studio’s tiny bathroom, vibrating loudly against its milk-carton constraints, but I didn’t really internalize what it was until I saw someone using it.
Guys, it’s magic. It’s a tumbler, and it polishes all the things I really hate polishing on the big & powerful polishing wheel. It also cleans up and shines things like chain, which you shouldn’t ever take to a wheel unless you feel like maybe losing a finger today. (If the chain gets caught in the wheel and whips around to hit your hands, it can do serious damage.) The tumbler is perfect for things like my Big Dipper necklace, let’s say.
To use the tumbler, you fill its plastic basin about 2/3 full with tumbler medium. I ran a little experiment in which I used all four grits of media that we have in the studio (coarse, medium, fine, stainless steel burnishing shot) and concluded that only the stainless steel shot will be useful for me in terms of polishing. The other three grits get things super clean, but not shiny.
Add just enough water to cover the jewelry and the medium, plus a squirt of dishwashing liquid. Yes, a “squirt.” That’s literally the most precise measurement I’ve been able to find. Too much and you end up with a thick head of foam, though!
Place the basin on the motorized base (that’d be what, in my case, is in the milk carton), secure it, turn it on, and let it run for an hour or so. I did time trials — 10 minutes isn’t enough, 30 minutes is ok, one hour is so far pretty perfect.
As a kid (or as an adult, because why not), you may have used a tumbler to polish stones. The same concept applies here, except the medium is different. Also, Scintillant’s tumbler is not a rotating tumbler; instead, it vibrates to move the medium around the metal. It’s called (not surprisingly), a vibratory tumbler. (Also, I’m pretty sure that the Model B in that link is exactly what I’ve been using.)
Also — I worried about damaging jewelry with the stainless shot, so I did a little research. Turns out the shot’s not going to hurt my metal, but it *could* hurt my stones, so my rule of thumb is NO STONES IN THE TUMBLER. Because why go through all the work of setting them, only to have them destroyed?