Rock Tumbling Tips

Rock Tumbler Home Selecting A Tumbler Instructions - Part 1 Instructions - Part 2
Rotary Tumblers Vibratory Tumblers Tumbling Supplies Kid's Tumblers
Rough Grit Polish Media

Before You Begin

Most rock tumblers require a little maintenance to work smoothly. Be sure that the tumblerís bearings are in place and both shafts turn freely. Oil the bearings with one drop of household oil each. Be careful not to get any oil on the belt or where it will get on the soft rubber barrel. Oiled belts slip and sticky barrels are no fun at all. Oil the bearings after every three weeks or as advised in the instructions of your tumbling kit.

Select a spot for your rock tumbler that is out of the way, like in a basement or garage. The tumbling process takes weeks and the tumbler will make a bit of noise, like rocks thumping around.

Choose a surface that is level and sturdy. You may want to put an old towel or rug under the tumbler to protect the surface.

It will help to keep a written record of the process. Keep track of the types of stones tumbled, tumbling times, polishes used and things you learn. Some of us have a hard time remembering what day we started!

A few rock tumbler tips and reminders!

Plan for disposal of the used tumbler grit, polishing compound and tumbling slurry. Do not dump it down a household drain. The grit is very heavy and can settle into traps and pipes, clogging them and making a barrier that is difficult to penetrate with drain cleaning tools.

Patience is a virtue. If your rocks are not nicely shaped after the rough grind step then run them again. Converting tumbling rough into smooth, rounded gemstones takes time.

If, after burnishing, the stones are still not shiny, you will need to repeat a few steps. The most common reasons why stones may not show a brilliant gloss are:

  1. Not cleaning the barrel and stones well enough after each step, or tumbling cracked or pitted rocks past the coarse grind. Tiny scratches from leftover grit may cause stones to not polish well.

  2. Filling the barrel too full, which limits the tumbling action.

  3. One of the steps may have been rushed.

  4. The rocks that you are tumbling do not polish!
The two biggest keys to success in rock tumbling are patience and thorough cleaning. If the rocks show no shine, repeat the fine grind, prepolish, polish, and burnishing steps. If the rocks show some shine, repeat the prepolish, polish, and burnishing steps. Remove any rocks that are cracked or pitted. Let each step run for its full duration before proceeding to the next. And finally, take care to clean the stones and barrel extra well. With these tips in mind and a little more time, you should be able to see the difference. Keep in mind, though, not all types of rock will polish to a high gloss. Generally speaking, harder stones will take a higher shine. If you are tumbling a batch of low hardness materials, a soft luster may be the end result.

Don't hesitate to ask for advice. If you purchased tumbling rough from a rock shop they might recommend a specific polishing compound for desired results. If you collected your rock locally, ask experienced rock hounds or members of a lapidary club if the material you collected is capable of developing a polish, or requires a specific tumbling recipe.

The art of lapidary is, indeed, quite multifaceted. As with any art, it takes practice to achieve optimal results. If you have problems at first, donít give up! With enough patience and a bit of grit, any beginning rock hound whoís rough around the edges can become a polished expert. Good luck and have fun!

Now let's check out some tumbled stones!
Oil your tumbler regularly
Don't forget to oil your tumbler and do other maintenance. If you take good care of it you will be able to use it for many years.

Rocks before and after tumbling
Before and after photos of our batch of tumbled rocks.

 Rocks and Minerals Commonly Tumbled
Lapis Lazuli
Petrified Wood
Rose Quartz
Smoky Quartz
Tiger's Eye

Rock Tumbler Home Selecting A Tumbler Instructions - Part 1 Instructions - Part 2
Rotary Tumblers Vibratory Tumblers Tumbling Supplies Kid's Tumblers
Rough Grit Polish Media
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