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Tumbling

 

General Information

 

Two methods of tumbling being discussed will be the rotating tumbler, and the vibrating tumbler. For both methods the grinding medium used is silicon carbide.

The Grits: Rough grit (anything under 100) is used for the first stage. Medium grit (100 – 300) is used in the second stage. Fine grit (400-600) is used for the third stage.

Estimating Cost: As a “rule of thumb”, silicon carbide, 220 to 400 grit, weighs approximately 0.8 ounces per tablespoon. Fine grits, 400-600, and polishing compounds, weigh approximately 0.5 ounces per tablespoon.

Weigh your stones when you get your tumbler barrel 2/3 to3/4 full. A six-pound tumbler doesn’t always hold six pounds of rocks. As a rule of thumb, use one tablespoon of grit per pound of stones, or one tablespoon per two pounds of the manufacturer’s weight rating for the tumbler. Most tumbling books suggest more grit than is really necessary.

Volume shrinkage: Roughly 25% of the beginning volume tumbled in step one will turn to mud, so run two loads of step one. This will provide the filler material to replace those that were ground away or thrown away from the first step.

Size and hardness of stones: A superior polish requires a variety of sizes, with the emphasis on lots of small chips that help polish the larger stones. All stones in a load should be of the same approximate hardness. Softer stones will not polish and may be gouged by harder stones.

A Handy Hint: Have a notepad next to the tumbler to record the date, time, and condition of the stones during the various stages, steps, and grit changes.

Polishes: There are many different types of polishes for the final stage. The best one for you will be determined by experimentation. Some of them are: Rapid 61, Aluminum Oxide, Cerium Oxide, Tin Oxide, Chrome Oxide, and Tripoli. Suggestion: Rapid 61, Cerium Oxide, or Tin Oxide.

Burnishing: Use a soap rinse between the third cycle and polish, then after the final polish. Bar Ivory Soap is the only pure soap readily available. Chemical additives in other soaps and detergents seem to leave a residue on the stones. The dark color when this soap rinse is poured off shows how much grit was still on what you thought was a clean stone. Shave the bar with a knife or whatever method you wish. The water-soap combination reaches a balance when little bubbles appear on the surface of the moving material and should remain this way throughout the soap cycles. The soap bubbles provide a cushion for the stones. Excess water slows down this process.

 

Cautions:

  1. Do not let the slurry mud dry on the stones in any cycle. If you goof and you have hardened mud, fill the tumbler with water let it run until the mud has washed off or is soft enough to wash off with a hose or faucet.
  2. Do not pour slurry down the drain. Unless you can afford lots of plumbing bills.
  3. Some materials like Jade or Obsidian require different procedures.

Tumbler Type

Stones of Similar Hardness

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Rotating: Regular method

2/3-3/4 full

 

Water just to cover stones on each step

Up to 100 grit One Tbsp per two pounds Manufacturer’s tumbler rating.

7 – 9 days, then wash thoroughly

200-300 grit

One Tbsp per two pounds Manufacturer’s tumbler rating.

7 – 9 days, then wash thoroughly

400-600 grit One Tbsp per two pounds Manufacturer’s tumbler rating.

7 – 9 days, then wash thoroughly

Soap

12 pound rated. 1/8 – 1/4 of 3.5 oz bar of Ivory Soap

4-5 days

Polish

12 pound rated.

One Tbsp per two pounds Manufacturer’s tumbler rating + 1/8 – 1/4 bar Ivory Soap

4-5 days

Burnish

12 pound rated.

1/8 – 1/4 bar Ivory Soap

24 hours

Rotating: 30-day method

2/3-3/4 full

 

Water just to cover stones on each step

30 – 80 grit.

One Tbsp. Per 2 pounds Manufacturer’s tumbler rating

30 DAYS

Option:

At 14 days add filler material

Omit

Soap

12 pound rated. 1/8 – 1/4 of 3.5 oz bar of Ivory Soap

4-5 days

Polish

12 pound rated.

One Tbsp per two pounds Manufacturer’s tumbler rating + 1/8 – 1/4 bar Ivory Soap

4-5 days

Burnish

12 pound rated.

1/8 – 1/4 bar Ivory Soap

24 hours

Vibrating:

3/4 full

4 lb barrel

Water: enough to moisten stones. Spray with small amount of water when stones become a little dry.

60 – 120 grit

Two Tbsp.

2 – 5 days.

200 – 300 grit

Two Tbsp.

3 – 4 days.

400 – 600 grit

Two Tbsp.

3 – 4 days.

Soap

2 to 3 matchstick sized slivers of Ivory Bar soap.

24 hours

Polish

1 ˝ - 2 Tbsp. +

2 to 3 matchstick sized slivers of Ivory Bar soap.

24 hours

Burnish

2 to 3 matchstick sized slivers of Ivory Bar soap.

24 hours

TUMBLING CHART


Suggestions:

Gas: If you are concerned about gas buildup in the tumbler barrel, add a teaspoon of baking soda for each three pounds of material in each grit cycle.

Spalling: Spalling is a “ground glass” appearance on the edges of the stones. If this occurs in step four using a rotating tumbler, go back to step three and add filler material.

Filler: Filler materials may be purchased and may include the following: Plastic pellets, ground black walnut shells, etc. A material that floats is easier to remove from the polished stones. Vibrating tumblers do not generally need filler materials.

Vibrating Tumblers: If your vibrating tumbler has gray sludge running down the outside during grinding, whitish sludge during polishing, or soapy stuff during burnishing, you most likely are using too much water and grit, polish, or soap

 

                

 

 

 

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