Thoughts of Design Inspiration

tumbling media and copper


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Tumbling Madness

rock tumblerA tumbler is a great tool to do a few things – tumble, polish, harden, smooth and so on. I did my first experiment with copper (and a few pieces of stainless steel, even though they do say it’s good to keep the metal one kind).

The tumbler I have is a 3 lb model with a rubber barrel. The only thing you had to do before use according to the manual was to oil the bearings. (I used shredder oil.) The shot I use is stainless steel, sort of all purpose with varied sizes of pieces especially made for jewelry tumbling. I put in 2 pounds because I read that you should have the barrel half to 3/4 full of material. Not sure yet if this actually only applies to rock tumbling since I have been reading contradicting info elsewhere. Some jewelry tumbling instructions say to just use a little shot media and there are videos showing the tumbler only 1/4 full.

tumbling media - mixed stainless steel shot

Tumbling shot – mixed stainless steel for jewelry

tumbling copper jewelry

Tumbler filled and ready to go.

copper jewelry and junk pieces to be tumbled

Copper pieces ready for the tumbler.

So how did it all go down:

  • I filled my tumbler with 2 pounds of stainless steel shot and the metal pieces in the picture (with some junk copper end pieces in there to fill it up more)
  • Added water to just cover the contents and one drop of dish soap

 

Notes: My tumbler had a little trouble getting rotating at first. I washed the outside to make sure there was no oil that might cause it to slip, cleaned the nylon shaft covers to make sure they were clean. My husband’s opinion was that because I had all the 2 lb of shot in there the barrel was too heavy. It did start turning though and kept going eventually, and then later on when I stopped it you could see some of the rubber started wearing off on the nylon shaft covers and the grip got better.

copper coated with rubber after tumbling

I let the tumbler run for about 7 hours.  (It is surprisingly quiet!) Excited, I open it…everything looks fine, except my metal is totally coated with black rubber! Bummer. What is this?! I went online searching and found some similar results by other people. There were possible explanations: the barrel needs a break in time where the loose rubber will come of,  there wasn’t enough soap, there was too much tumbling media. I have no idea, but I will try again with less media and more soap… It took me a good amount of time to scrub the metal clean. Otherwise, the pieces did get smoother edges and earwires were harder. I would say for perfect results, you would need to tumble a bit longer. I still had to hand sand some pieces a bit and hammer my wires a bit more.

Overall a good first attempt. Hopefully next time no more rubber!

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