Author Topic: National Geographic Tumbler Kit - a good choice for a young rock enthusiast?  (Read 108 times)

Rock Mama

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Hi everyone! Hoping for some expert advice about the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Professional Rock Tumbler Kit - would you recommend this one for a young enthusiast who is new to the hobby?

Very casual at this stage and definitely way younger than the 8 age limit it recommends, but will be working under supervision/help at all times. Alternatively, is there a more young kid-friendly option I might not have found yet?

Thanks so much!  beers


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Hi and welcome.
The National geographic tumblers come with some inbuilt traps for new tumblers.
Number one is the instructions, they tell you your rocks will need a week in each stage. Wrong. Tumble rocks in the first stage until they are nice and rounded and smooth, Some tougher rocks like Agate Jasper and Petrified wood could take months to get through first stage, that is fine, they also turn out great.
Have a look at them every so often, do a clean out and put any that are ready aside for the next stage, Top up your first stage with some new rocks some saved sludge and a bit of new grit and set them rolling again. Repeat until you have enough smooth rounded rocks to make up a complete batch for the subsequent stages.

Beware of soft rocks, they are difficult.

Try not to carry any cracked or broken or rocks with holes on to the next stages, they can transfer coarse grit and stop you getting a polish, Also rocks with broken edges will also stop you getting a polish, rocks are hard, broken sharp edges will scratch other rocks of the same hardness.

National Geographic don't include polish so it doesn't matter what you do you wont get a polish.
Get some polish from Aussie Sapphire Lapidary Supplies, get yourself a supply of coarse grit as well and also give them a call and talk about Tumblers before you commit to the Nat Geo one.

« Last Edit: June 16, 2022, 04:46:23 AM by Rusted »

Aussie Sapphire

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As Rusted has noted, they do not actually include polish in these tumblers which is really just setting people up to get frustrated.

They dont specify what grits are used in the kit but a review video I saw a while back said he asked the company and they use #60, #220, #600 and #1000 silicon carbide which would not be what most experienced rock tumblers use.

Our grit kits generally include #80, #220 and #600 silicon carbide for the grinding stages and then a choice of polish types - either cerium oxide, tin oxide or #14,000 aluminium oxide.  There are also options to add a pre-polish step in between #600 and final polish if needed.

The National Geographic kits only contain maybe 1.5 tablespoons of grit per stage which is pretty stingy in my opinion.

Check the barrel size - in the Professional Kit (they claim a 2lb barrel), the barrel volume is very similar to the Lortone 3 pound barrel - it is slightly wider in diameter but shorter in height but only very slightly smaller in volume compared to a Lortone 3lb.  The Hobby Kit has a 1 pound barrel but I am not sure of dimensions there - smaller but volume is the key and not sure how that compares.

In the video, the machine was noticeably noisier in operation compared to a Lortone.  The rocks included are interesting and "gemmy" but there are not many and by the end of the process have diminished in volume such that most people would be using some filler media but none is included.  The machine runs very fast - too fast in my opinion particularly if the volume is not filled to optimal level. 

Feedback on busy rock tumbling forums indicate that the motor may not last as long as one would expect.  We have had a couple of customers come to us after a breakdown with one of these but not in such numbers that I would be able to comment on this issue with any authority.  But I would check on the availability of spare motors and other parts (eg drive belts, shafts, etc) as this may be a factor in your purchasing decision.

They are definitely cheaper than a Lortone with the added advantage of being available now.  We and other Australian dealers have had a lot of trouble getting sufficient stock from Lortone since the pandemic started.  We have had a large order in since last year - we hope to get just a few pallets this week which is nowhere near enough stock for our needs. 

We are working on this supply issue with an alternative option in the works now - will take a bit more time just to iron out all the logistical issues but we are excited about this project.  But that is just a sneaky peek and there is a bit more waiting before we can announce something on that.

In the meantime, if you are considering a Nat Geo tumbler, this video may be of interest:

And we or any other good lapidary dealer can supply additional grit and a range of polishes to help make the tumbler give the desired results.

cheers Leah
Aussie Sapphire - The Lapidary Warehouse


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