Best Jewelry Tumbler?

by Shawna.
(Arkansas USA)

Best Jewelry Tumbler?  - Discussion on Jewelry Making Journal

What jewelry tumbler do you recommend?

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  • Hi Shawna,
    I like a Lortone tumbler for wire jewelry.

  • JudyK Bjorkman says:

    Shawna, I have had my Lortone for over 25 years and have had no trouble with it! I use it mainly for polishing, both wire and sheet metal, and occasionally for getting a light matte surface, depending on the media I use. I use Cerambits for polishing, which unfortunately is not available any more. There are other media, except I cannot recommend those little white ceramic balls. They don’t get into crevices to polish, but do manage to get stuck in other places.
    If you can get a copy of Lapidary Journal from 1999, I published an article there, on tumble polishing, back when it was beginning to be used more by metalworkers. It’s so much cleaner than wheel polishing and saves time.


  • Moogie says:

    I also have a Lortone & have just used it to polish up some copper chain. It came out beautifully. BUT! Up until this time, I didn’t have much luck. My barrel has been leaching black greasy stuff, making a mess. So I read about how to clean it. I also find I have to tumble things longer than they say. I left the chains in 3-4 hours (mainly because I forgot them!). I use 2lbs of stainless steel shot & just purchased some shine bright liquid soap stuff. I used plain Dawn but wasn’t sure if that was adding to the black greasy problem. Anyway I’m not an expert at using the tumbler but just sharing my experience so far. Good luck & have fun with your jewelry adventures!

  • Linda says:

    I also have had the same issue with my Lorotone, however, I found that if I use a bit of Dawn with the Shine Brite, that seems to work well….

    Since i have upped the amount of jewelry I am making (galleries and teaching) I recently purchased a double barrel tumbler from Harbor Freight Tools so I can keep silver and copper separate. The Harbor Freight one seems to have everything similar to the Lorotone though I had just purchased the shot, so have not used it yet.

  • Love my Loretone! I’ve had it for several years and no problems. I’ve only ever used Sunsheen burnishing compound from Rio excellent results every time so why change now?! As far as timing, that just depends on the finish you are trying to achieve and the compound you’re using. It’s not something I ever really time, more like whatever is convenient for me. I even use it tumble my enamel pieces as I always leave a raw metal edge and even if I want to oxidize it, I want it really clean.

  • Katie VanPatten says:

    I use a Loretone double barrel tumbler. They are not much more expensive than the single barrel tumbler (at least where I purchased mine, from Amazon) and you are able to run a single barrel at a time if necessary (you actually run both but leave one empty – this does not harm the empty barrel). The double barrrel is great for tumbling larger batches of sterling when I am in a jewelry making rush and also for separating components into single batches of matching items and/or different material. This also allows me to spend much less time sorting…say eye pins from jump rings… or pulling items like head pins from small links in chain.
    This tumbler works wonderfully for tumbling large pieces like wire wrapped cabochons – I’ve had no problems with gemstones with a Mohs Hardness of six or more. I also tumble wire pieces containing smaller gemstone beads.
    I use stainless steel shot and have yet to need to change out my shot or do anything extra with my tumbler. I do recommend buying multiple sizes and shapes of steel shot. I actually bought three different mixes and shapes in order to mix them together. This allowed me to have almost all of the available shapes and sizes in one batch. Different shapes and sizes work differently to clean and polish multiple sizes of angles and pockets.

  • Debby Hess says:

    I have begun working with metal clay – would a tumbler be good for this? I’m finding my hands are really sore after the process of polishing my pieces, and have wondered if a tumbler could help with this?

  • Virginia says:

    I’ve been working with Sterling Silver sheet, wire and PMC for 30 years. I had more problems with Loretone tumblers than I care to remember, leaking, sticking lids, gunk and bad results. I finally bought the BEST tumbler ever, and have had NO PROBLEMS in the last 20 years. I fill it with 2 cups of Stainless Steel shot and put all my PMC pieces in it, straight out of the kiln. I tumble them for 1 hour in SunSheen and have perfect shiny pieces, any sharp edges smoothed out. If I add patina and a wire bail or ring shank, I then tumble it again for 15 minutes. Eliminates lots of hard work hand polishing!

    It has an easy on/off lid and clear plexiglass barrel so you can see what’s in it, much better than those bulky, awkward rubber barrels.

    I got mine at Rio Grande: Rotary Barrel Tumbling Machine – Item #: 202019

    It’s expensive, but costs about the same as what I spent on irritating Loretone tumblers and Harbor Freight junk when I first started out. It’s well worth the investment. Highly recommend it!

  • Diana says:

    I have also used a Harbor Freight tumbler without any issues. I just add a few drops of dawn and everything comes out with a good shine.

  • Eleanor Jentas says:

    Hi I use a tumbler for silver clay and it works brilliantly and much less labour intensive.

  • Lezlie Getz says:

    I use a magnetic tumbler. You can get so much more done in a fraction of the time it take to use the traditional barrel tumbler. They are pricey but completely worth the money.

  • Laura Carder says:

    I use a DuraBull tumbler from Rio Grande that I love!

  • I have both a Loretone Tumbler in my studio and a Harbor Freight Tumbler in the class room (both are double barrel). I use them mostly for metal clay with stainless steel mixed shot and Sunsheen burnishing compound. If you are having problems with “black gunk” it’s probably because you are using too much soap or burnishing compound. I always use Sunsheen because it has a sheeting agent that keeps dirt and patinas from redepositing from one piece to another so I can tumble pieces with and without patina together. I get excellent results from both tumblers. The Lortone is a workhorse and I have used it for 15+ years on a regular basis. The Harbor Freight model is fairly new so I can’t speak to it’s lasting power.

  • Debby Hess says:

    Can a tumbler be used with a copper clay piece like this? Because it is a “pocket”, I’m nervous that it will be damaged by the process. But it’s really a pain to hand polish, so I’m hoping there’s something I can do. Hope it’s ok that I hopped on this thread – thank you for any advice!

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