Rock Tumbling FAQ
What type of tumbler would you recommend?
If you are new to tumbling, or you're just not in a big hurry, I would personally suggest a rotary style tumbler. Lortone makes excellent units. Each of their models work the same. Capacity, and the size of the rocks they will handle are the only real differences between them. The Lortone tumblers come with an excellent instruction booklet. If you are somewhat experienced at tumbling, require a vibrating unit for a specific application, or just want to process your materials much faster, then a vibrating unit is for you. When purchasing a vibratory unit, it is recommended that an extra bowl assembly be purchased and used exclusively for the final polish step to help prevent contamination.
What is the basic difference between the rotary style and vibrating tumblers?
Rotary units: Slower - 21 to 30 days for a 4 step finishing process. Quiet. Grit and or polish changes about once a week. Consistent results. Very easy to operate and understand. Less monitoring. Vibrating Units: Faster - 7 to 14 days. Uses less grits and water. Requires close monitoring. Grit and or polish changes about every 12 hours. Noisier - Not recommended for apt. or condo.
What will I need in addition to the tumbler to polish stones?
In addition to the tumbler you will need grits, polish and plastic pellets. Plastic pellets are mainly used in conjunction with rotary style tumblers. Grits and polish can be purchased in a kit or in bulk. 4-Step Grit Kits are available for both rotary and vibrating style tumblers. They contain all four steps required. Most folks use the kits when operating tumblers with less than 12 pound capacities. The plastic pellets are reusable. Lortone rotary tumblers come with an excellent instruction booklet.
I have a Lortone tumbler. The instructions recommend Ivory powdered or King detergent for the burnishing step. I can't find these products anywhere in town. Can you recommend something else or tell me if the liquid ivory detergent is an acceptable substitute?
Powdered Tide is another one to use if you can't find Ivory or King. Stop by one of your local laundromats. The coin operated vending machines may have the Ivory, King or Tide in small boxes. No sense in buying a big box of something you don't use for other purposes. We don't recommend using any of the liquid detergents.
How do I get my tumbled rocks to be as polished as purchased rocks.
First, "read and follow the instructions that came with your tumbler". The following are areas to focus on when using a rotary style tumbler. Remember, tumbler barrels need to be filled to a specific capacity to operate properly. Barrels should be filled 2/3 to 3/4 full of stones for the initial load. Choose the material you intend to tumble carefully. Not all rocks tumble well. Make sure the stone sizes are compatible with the size barrel you are using. Use a mix of different sizes. Use a four step tumbling process when tumbling harder materials. Clean you barrel(s) completely between steps. Contamination is one of the most common problems. Clean the stones thoroughly between steps. The first grind is very important. When you have completed the first grind, inspect the stones well when cleaning. Discard any stones with cracks or chips. Any coarse grit left in a crack will contaminate the next step or grind. When burnishing, DO NOT use any liquid detergents, dishwasher powders, or products that contain bleach or additives as these products may damage the tumbler barrel and ruin the final polish.
Can I polish metals with a tumble-vibe 18 ? I need to polish various metals from soft brass to chrome. Thanks.
Yes. But there are two TV-18 models. Raytech's TV-18 model #23-023 (with drains) is used for processing metal(s). The TV-18 model #23-022 (without drains) is for rock processing only.
What are the instructions for using a rock tumbler?
You might want to obtain a tumbler instruction booklet. We carry an excellent (rotary tumbler) instruction booklet. It will tell you everything you need to know about operating a rotary style tumbler.
I have a 12# barrel Lortone tumbler. What size rocks can I use?
Lortone recommends rocks up to 1" in size. 25% of the volume to be smaller stones. 1/4" to 3/8". The remainder of the volume split between medium, 3/8" to 5/8" and large 5/8" to 1". We add a "few" larger, up to 3" to the 12# barrel at times and have good results.
What are polishing beads?
If you're referring to the rock tumbling process, "plastic pellets" sometimes referred to as "polishing beads" are used for three purposes. 1. They are sometimes used as a filler. 2. They help carry the polish for better results. 3. They help prevent chipping in the final tumbling step(s).
I'd like to make "sea glass" especially blue stuff which is hard to find on the sea shore. Can I tumble glass shards (say from a Harvey's Bristol Cream bottle) with SAND in one of your Lortone tumblers to get the "all-over rough" feeling of natural sea glass?
Yes you can. We have hundreds of customers doing this type of process. Some use sand, most use a coarse to medium fine silicon carbide grit to get the beach glass effect they desire. You may want to experiment with different grits or polishes to get your desired result. This is normally a quick and easy process. I would recommend a rotary style unit like the Lortone 3A. The size or capacity of the tumbler you might select will depend on the size of the glass pieces and the amount that you want to process at one time. If you're not sure, don't hesitate to call and discuss.
I am told that while plastic pellets ARE reusable, that they should NOT be reused in different grit cycles, that each time one changes grit from coarse to finer, the pellets must be changed as well because the grit will embed in the pellet, thus contaminating following steps.
Contamination is always a big concern. We also recommend using dedicated pellets for each step they are to be used for. Better safe than sorry.
My son is turning 7 next month. He saw a tumbler in a toy book. What do you have that he could start with and be able to handle? Thanks, Tim
Tim, For this age group I recommend the Lortone model 3A, 3 pound rotary tumbler. The 3A is an excellent unit. Not a toy store tumbler.
I just replaced the drive belt on my lortone 33B because it was worn and starting to slip, but when I replaced the belt the motor does not turn. It will turn without the belt, but not with it on. can you help?? Thanks
Make sure the new belt is not too tight. You may have to adjust the belt tension for the new belt. You can do this by moving the motor a little toward the shaft pulley. There are three acorn type nuts on the motor end of the unit. Loosen them a bit and slide the motor over a little, retighten them and give it a try again. Hope this does the trick. If not, Lortone my be able to offer additional suggestions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do the tumblers work on glass cullett?
Certainly. We have hundreds of customers using tumblers to process glass products in one way or another.
How long does each step take on the rock tumblers.
There are some variables, but typically one week for each step.
How much charge do I use per step in a Lortone 33B? When is the burnishing step used?
3 pound barrel compound amounts are as follows: Steps 1 and 2, (4 tablespoons). Steps 3 and 4, (6 tablespoons). Burnishing is done after the polish step. Use (1 tablespoon) of powdered soap, Ivory Snow, White King, or equivalent. DO NOT use liquid detergents.
We live on the Oregon coast and have great agate hunting after big winter storms, we have been using a 12 Lb. tumbler with good success was wondering how do the vibrating tumblers do on agates?
Vibrating tumblers work equally well on agates.