What Type of Tumbler for Wire Jewelry?

by Gro.


I wonder, do you have the time to give me a tip on what kind of jewelery tumbler to buy (on ebay maybe, just made a search), for tumbling metal wire jewelery for stability and shine?

Is the ones for tumbling stones ok to use?

WhatΒ kind of granula should one use in it? 

I am just a hobby jewelery maker, so not too expensive either.

Thank you so much!


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  1. Most jeweler’s I have talked to like the lortone tumblers. They are more expensive but last forever. For metal, you would want to use stainless steel shot – just make sure you are not tumbling coated wire, as it will remove the coating.

  2. I bought mine from Harbor Freight. If you watch their ads, you can get a double barrel for around $50. They also have a single barrel. I have used mine now for 5 years and never broke a belt.

    Agreed on the stainless steel shot mix.

  3. Thanks for the tips!

  4. I also use the Harbor Freight tumbler, have had it several years with no problems and no broken belts. Ditto the steel shot … a hint about this, however: check your area to see if there is a shop or rock club that sells the shot, as it is heavy and can be expensive to mail.

    I tumble almost everything. It hardens wire, smooths rough edges, etc. I especially love it for ear wires. If I have a delicate piece I tumble it for only an hour. So far haven’t had any mishaps. However, I haven’t tried it on really soft stone.

    I discovered that although the result on copper is just as wonderful, copper leaves residue, and I had to clean out the barrel. Since I rarely use anything but sterling, it’s not a problem for me. I have to admit, though, that it made me appreciate verdegris! LOL. Oh, and if you are coating a metal, I would advise doing that after you tumble the piece, not before.

  5. I, too, purchased my single-barrel tumbler from Harbor Freight. It cost $30 maybe 4 years ago, and I have never had a problem, nor have I needed a bigger one. It is critical that you use STAINLESS STEEL shot, though, and get the kind that has multiple shapes. I bought 1 pound online somewhere (maybe ebay?) and it has always been enough for me. FYI, I do not tumble large objects which would require a larger tumbler and more shot. Not everything at Harbor Freight is a good purchase, but this one definitely is.
    I, too, tumble almost everything. It eliminates a lot of filing plus cleans and hardens pieces nicely. The only two problems I’ve ever had were (1) stone beads that apparently had a coating on them, which was removed by tumbling) and (2) the shot acquired a residue. The residue can be removed by tumbling the shot alone with real (not diet) Coca Cola. The only precaution I take with different metals is to not tumble copper or brass with silver.

  6. I have a Lortone Tumbler and have been using it virtually 24/7 for years now. I also have a Thumler tumbler because it offered the option of a much larger barrel, which I use on larger pieces.

    I only use stainless steel shot, and have never had an issue with copper leaving a residue on the shot or the barrel, but it isn’t good to tumble copper with other metals as the copper can transfer onto the other metals.

    I periodically clean my shot by tumbling it for a couple of hours with Otto Frei’s Citric Pickle. A bit of citric pickle in the water and soap mixture also works wonderfully when tumbling brass.

  7. Mae Carkuff says:

    I have a Lortone and I LOVE it. That being said, I have never used any other kind. I got my tumbler from Santa Fe Jewelry Supply, and my stainless steel shot from Rio Grande, because they had the best prices respectively πŸ™‚

  8. Denise says:

    Hello all!
    For those of you who have tumblers from Harbor Freight, which tumble do you use? Is it the metal vibrating tumbler or the rotary rock tumbler?
    Many thanks for your help!

  9. I use the rotary tumbler. I currently have the single barrel but waiting for the double barrel to go on sale when I have a 20% off coupon.

    Do remember to wash out the barrel before using. Let it run with soap and water for a while other wise your first batch will have the black from the barrel on it.

  10. It’s the rotary tumbler. But use stainless steel shot (mixed shapes), not anything from Harbor Freight.

  11. Oh, and I use a shot of original (blue) Dawn liquid. That is highly recommended for jewelry. Only the blue, however. πŸ™‚

  12. Denise says:

    Thank you for your input!! πŸ™‚

  13. My Harbor Freight tumbler is a rotary tumbler and I, too, use blue Dawn. I originally bought a special product from Rio Grande, but I don’t see any difference, so Dawn it is!

  14. BE SURE you use a low suds soap, what is even better is burnishing soap, you won’t believe the high grade shine it leaves. Usually a retail rock shop sells the burnishing powder.

    A high suds detergent can actually build to much and explode. Trust me on this.

    I have both Harbor Freight “tumbler” and a Lortone, the Harbor Freight has been running for about 10 years, the barrel does not show any ware. For the price I’d go with Harbor Freight. Just sayin’

  15. I have been using my Thumbler’s for several years and have never had to replace any parts – works like new. Tumblers don’t really knock contents around very hard – as someone wrote, it’s more like rolling around with thousands of tiny hammer strikes – pretty gentle, burnishing actually. I have been delighted with my Thumbler, but have also heard that Lortone is excellent. If I ever need to replace mine, I might check out the closure on Lortone, because Thumbler has a rubber gasket seal (think big rubber band) that took me awhile to get used to putting on. But I love my tumbler and it’s never given me any trouble.

    Couple of tips –
    Whatever seal your barrel has, make sure that the seal area is dry before sealing. Water always finds itself, so if there is any on the seal area, the inside water is more apt to find its way out, and the Dawn (or whatever burnishing/cleaning fluid you use) will help this along. It’s not a big problem, you just have to open, dry and reseal – but much easier to avoid by just checking for water drops on the edge before sealing.

    Got my “mixed shot” at Rio Grande. You can buy pricey burnishing fluids, but as others mentioned, good old Dawn (original blue only) works GREAT. You literally only need a drop or two though – use more and you end up with suds on parade. In tumblers, a drop goes a LONG way!

    When emptying your barrel, do NOT let any of the shot fall into your garbage disposal – can lock it right up! πŸ˜€ Some people like to do this stuff in buckets. I use my double kitchen sink, just not the disposal side, and I plug the sink. I got a fine-gauge mesh wire strainer (be sure it’s FINE) at Walmart and have been using it for a few years. I hold it by the bottom as the shot is heavy. Again, you can buy pricey tools for this, but no real need.

    I’m curious how others feel about this one – I don’t know if this is necessary, but since shot is pricey, I dry mine out between uses. A cookie sheet lined with paper towels works fine – just let it sit somewhere out of the way until it dries out. I’ve had the same shot for several years and it’s still like new. I’m sure if you tumble rocks, this might not last so long, but I just do lightweight jewelry.

    I opted for a double-barrel model, so I never have to mix metals, and can do tangle-able items separately. But a single would do just fine. Also, while tumbling is a gentle process, (I have even put finished Swarovski in and have had no chips – but that risk is a personal choice only), it can damage soft stones. It takes the shine off of chalk turquoise and sodalite, and can damage pearls. Also, though I’ve never worked with amber, I’ve heard that it releases some kind of oil that doesn’t go well with tumbling. Aside from a few items like these, it’s great.

    The other posters were so right about the benefits of tumblers! They not only shine up sterling like nothing else, they smooth those edges really nicely. I smooth my earwire pokey-ends with emery board or arkansas stone, but then tumbling really gives them a nice smooth finish. I usually only tumble my items for about half hour or so, but some use them an hour or longer. Depends on what you are tryin to accomplish.

    Good luck with your choice!

  16. Thanks so much for many great tips!

  17. How much of the stainless steel shot mix is required in the tumbler? Will 1 lb be enough?


  18. It’s been a while – I filled my canisters about halfway with shot, but forget what weight this was. I think Rio’s came in little 1 lb bags, and think I got either one or two bags per canister.

  19. I got a tumbler for XMas 2 years ago but it’s still in the box! I just don’t know where to start πŸ™ I want to use it for hardening/polishing wirework but I haven’t a clue where to buy stainless steel shot in Canada. I’d prefer to purchase it in person in or around Ottawa, Ontario so I don’t have to pay a ton of shipping. Can anyone help?

  20. Angie, is there a lapidary club or jewelry making group in Ottawa? These folks could probably advise you on nearby tumbler shot sources.

  21. I have a single barrel tumbler from Harbor Freight and I love it. I bought 1 lb. of mixed shot at our local bead shop. I read that you should pick out the pointy stick ones unless you’re tumbling filigree pieces.

  22. Angie, I tried googling it, there is a place in Ottawa called Rainbow Minerals that sells it:

    (There may be more.)

    Once you start using your tumbler you’re going to wonder how you ever survived without it!

  23. I have a single barrel rotary tumbler from Harbor Freight and love it. I bought it maybe 5 years ago for $30 and ordered 1 lb of stainless steel shot online. I don’t remember where I got it but I don’t recall it or the shipping being outrageous. There is no substitute, so just get the best price you can. I use blue Dawn since I saw no difference with the more expensive burnishing products once I tried them. I have only had to replace a belt once. It is inexpensive and easy. I couldn’t live without my tumbler!

  24. Thanks gals! Once you mentioned Rainbow Minerals Nancy, I remembered that they attend the Kingston Lapidary Mineral Club show every October, which I usually go to. Maybe I can email them and ask them to bring some shot with them! And actually, I think I even went to their store in Ottawa years and years ago… a bit far for me though – over an hour’s drive.

  25. I too have owned a tumbler for many years and never used it for my jewelry. I am writing down all your tips and pointers everyone, thank you! But is there a resource where everything is compiled regarding the use of the tumbler? How did you all learn? Just trial and error? Thanks so much for all the guidance!

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