What Do I Need to Get Started?
A tumbling machine rotates the barrels. They're available in several sizes to accommodate large or small amounts of rocks. This machine has two horizontal bars to support the barrel as it rolls around. Some are long enough to hold more than one barrel at once.
You'll need barrels to hold the rock as it turns on the machine - week after week. They're typically made of durable plastic with a softer lid. For modest rock collectors, a barrel that can hold up to three pounds of rock should suffice to produce an adequate amount of polished stones. You'll need one barrel for each phase of the tumbling process.
Silicon carbide grit is another essential. It removes all the rough edges from the raw rock. Grit is gauged by the size of the particles. A good rule of thumb is to have one tub of 80 grit, one tub of 220 grit and one tub of 400 grit. The larger the grit number or rating, the smaller the particles.
Cerium oxide polish helps create the wet, glassy look of tumbled rocks. The polish normally comes in tubs. Expect to use only a fraction of the amount of polish as you do grit.
Round plastic pellets go into the barrel with the rocks, grit and polish to protect them during the cycle. The pellets are hard enough to prevent damage, but not hard enough to cause chipping or scratching to even the softest stone.
Rock tumblers are fun but they also involve a certain amount of science. Getting your rocks to look just right can take a few attempts. The information below is designed to help you get the most from your rock tumbling and answer a few questions about the methods used.
Q: What Rocks Can I Use in My Tumbler?
A: Any rocks will do! Choosing rocks from your own backyard can be lots of fun and can teach children about the beauty of the landscape surrounding them. You may also want to take a special trip to an area with interesting geography to get a wider selection of rocks. Just make sure the rocks you choose are relatively uniform in shape and don't have any cracks or crevices. Try to choose rocks with interesting colors and patterns that will be brought out by the tumbling process.
Q: How Do I Know How Much Tumbling My Rocks Will Need?
A: The amount of time your rocks will require in the rock tumbler depends upon how hard the rock is and how smooth you want the final result to be. With rotary rock tumblers, you should start by tumbling the rocks with coarse grit for one week. You may wish to put them in for longer if they're not as round as you desire at that point. Move on to the medium and fine grits and tumble for seven to 10 days each time until you get the results you want.
Q: What Kind of Rock Tumbler Should I Buy?
A: Rotary rock tumblers are the most commonly used, and come in a wide variety of sizes. Rotary rock tumblers are less expensive than vibrating tumblers. Vibrating tumblers are excellent when you need your rocks done quickly, as they work much faster than rotary tumblers.