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Author Topic: Homemade vibratory tumbler  (Read 217 times)

Rockette

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Homemade vibratory tumbler
« on: May 12, 2018, 12:52:05 PM »
Hi all, total newbie here wanting some expert tips. After a bit collecting of pretty rocks while we are camping I looked into tumbling but couldn't afford a machine. I like the rocks as they come just wanted them to be shiny so seemed to me that a vibe tumbler was what I wanted, so even more expensive.
My houseshold is full of engineers and handymen and they soon decided (after a bit of YouTube watching) to make me one. It works a treat! But of course comes with no instructions. We do have a prospecting & fossicking supply shop in town and the nice people there got me going with an Aussie Sapphire grit and polish kit and some words of wisdom. All my rocks are quartz but keen to go looking for others.
While I get, from reading here and other forums, that tumbling is not a perfect science and that all machines are different, it seems to me slurry consistency is the most important thing.
Sooo ... Finally to my questions,
Consistency of "Pancake batter", is this right?
Is that then the same for all 4 stages? Or is pre-polish and polish "runnier"?
Are glass beads or decorating pebbles (that you put in vases) OK to use as filler in last two stages? Plastic pellets sink to the bottom.
Thanks in advance for any help. Halfway through my first batch and very excited to see the results.
Rock on!

Rusted

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2018, 07:29:49 AM »
Welcome to the forum

Vibe tumblers can be a bit tricky to get the hang of.

You need very little water, start with the rocks wet then empty all the water out. It's the same with grit, too much and it will cake in the bottom.
I can't recommend a quantity of grit because I have no idea what size barrel you are running.

After you add the dry grit you will need to add a tiny amount of water, a squirty bottle is the trick for this, just a few sprays with the trigger and see how its going.

I find that plastic beads as filler absorb the vibration and can stop the thing working, if you need to add beads spoon them in  in small amounts, if they are sinking to the bottom then your tumbler isn't working right. You need everything rolling around.

Glass marbles are fine for filler, be aware they will grind down fast as they are softer than your Quartz. I personally don't use filler because I always have lots of small pieces of Agate hanging around my workshop, when they are done I give them away, I keep some solid pieces that get recycled time and again for the polish stage.

Pull out any rocks with deep cracks and holes as they can carry coarse grit through to your final and polish stages. Watch for cracked rocks going into polish, a rock breaking in the polish stage can be a disaster, sharp edges will quickly remove polish from the rest of the rocks in your batch.

I hope that helps, and congratulations on your tame mechanics building a vibe tumbler, they are a lot harder to build than a rotary.

Paul

Rockette

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2018, 10:01:41 AM »
Thanks, Paul, for the reply. Yes it took a bit of trial and error to get the action right but I think we have it now.
The glass beads are working well. As I am just starting out I don't have a collection of stones to use as filler but this first batch is my trial run using my least favourite stones and will have plenty of "seconds" to go back in again. I have two more batches to come from my last fossicking trip.
Today is probably the last day of polish and then burnish with lux soap.
Any tips on burnishing times? I've read anything from an hour to 5 hours. Longer is better? Can I over do it?
Thanks for your time, everyone, for reading my post and replying. I appreciate the help.
Rock on!

Aussie Sapphire

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2018, 11:51:10 AM »
Rule of thumb is 0.5 to 1.5 tablespoons of grit per kilo of rock in a vibe tumbler.  Use the low end of the range for polish.


All other advice given by Rusted is on the money.


When you are ready to end a stage, add extra water to the load about 10-15 minutes before stopping the tumbler - this will loosen up the grit slurry and make everything a bit easier to wash off.  Dont do this for too long or it can excessively wear the barrel - just long enough to get the slurry thin enough to start coming off the stones more easily.


Burnishing step should not take long - suggest checking after an hour or so.  Longer really isnt better so check earlier and stop when you are happy.  Note that depending on water quality, material and technique, burnishing may or may not help but easy to do and doesnt take long to try.  Make sure you use a pure soap - avoid anything with additives (such as moisturisers, deodorants, oils, etc).


Dont use plastic pellets in a vibe tumbler - they dont work well.  As you note, you can use the glass beads although they are quite soft.  Or you can use porcelain shapes - these are a bit harder and will wear better and are available in a range of shapes.


Good luck.


cheers
Leah
« Last Edit: May 16, 2018, 11:53:54 AM by Aussie Sapphire »
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Aussie Sapphire

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2018, 12:01:41 PM »
You need very little water, start with the rocks wet then empty all the water out. It's the same with grit, too much and it will cake in the bottom.
Paul

Rusted has given good advice here but this one is very important.  The line between too wet and too dry is very thin with a vibe tumbler.  If you add too much water, it kind of looks like everything is shaking and tumbling but what is really happening is that the grit is being washed off the rocks and settling to the bottom where it can excessively wear the bowl. 

Too dry and the load will stop rotating so just a spritz of water from a spray bottle will add enough moisture to get it moving again without overdoing it.

Check morning and evening to make sure slurry consistency is correct.

cheers
Leah
Aussie Sapphire - The Lapidary Warehouse

Rockette

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2018, 09:23:25 PM »
Thank you for the advise. Finished the batch and I have made notes of what I did.
I will look at being more vigilant in removing rocks with cracks and crevices. But overall I'm very pleased with the results.
One thing that I noticed - some of the bigger squarer rocks had nice smooth edges at pre polish stage but were not shiny after polish. Flattish spots were very shiny but the edges looked rough and more frosted than they did earlier.
What did I do?
Anyway off to do the next batch and make some pendants if I can master drilling holes.
Rock on!

Rusted

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2018, 07:34:06 AM »
Frosted edges are a common problem with some rocks, Quartz,  (eg. amethyst, smokey Quartz,) Obsidian, glass, Feldspar. All will get frosted edges if the rocks are banging together too hard in the final stages.

People have come up with all sorts of things to stop rocks hitting together and bruising.
You need to make sure the barrel is very full, this is where filler is important.
Some people put thickener in the slurry. Sugar, Metamucil, borax. The only time I attempted thickening the slurry I tore up an egg carton into little pieces and tumbled in Papier mache in the polish stage, it worked. If you do use Borax don't put it on your garden it kills things.
Plastic beads are good in a rotary tumbler but not in the vibe.

The only way you can reclaim your frosted edge stones is to go back to 2nd stage and run them until the frosting is gone, it shouldn't take long, maybe a day, then run them through all the rest of the stages again.

For a beginner tumble try and get some Agate or Petrified Wood, they are  hard and take an amazing polish.

One other thing don't put your used slurry down the drain, Silicon Carbide is heavy and will cement up plumbing very quickly. The easiest way is to tip it into a bucket, let it settle, pour off the clear water and then put it somewhere out of sight and forget it until it's a dry lump that can go in the garbage.

Gemster

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Re: Homemade vibratory tumbler
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2018, 04:04:06 PM »
Peanut shells work well too.  But you must have Beer to wash down the Peanuts before using the Shells... ;D

  Gemster.... beers
I swing a 12-pound hammer,smash gibbers by the ton
I used to think it convict work,but now i think it's FUN

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