Cleaning Jewelry In
A Rock Tumbler

Cleaning jewelry in a rock tumbler produces a great finish as well as work hardening sterling silver jump rings.

When cleaning jewelry I use a small Lortone rock tumbler and stainless steel shot for this purpose, very rarely do I use any other method to clean chain maille , PMC and sterling silver.

I always use this method to polish newly made chain maille rings.

Tumbling with stainless steel shot is not abrasive, provided a gentle liquid is used, and will not remove material from the surface of a metal item.

Metal items do not generally need to be tumbled for long periods of time.

Stainless Steel Shot

I highly recommend a tumbler and stainless steel shot for cleaning objects.

I use one and a half pound in my barrel for cleaning, it does not rust like carbon steel and is long lasting.

The stainless steel will remove minor burrs and mild scratches.

It will not remove gouges but it will smooth them and leave them very shiny.

Tumbling hardens the outer surface of the metal and can result in major hardening of very thin metal such as ear wires, head pins and jump rings.

It may not be so noticeable with thicker metal.

Oxidised or antiqued items that have been treated with liver of sulphur can be tumbled and will result in a pleasant dull polish retaining the antique look.

Tumbling is very gentle and objects will emerge highly polished and undamaged.

Tumble Items Separately

You need to be selective as to the items you place together as fine chains and ear wires can become badly tangled when tumbled.

A number of fine chains can become very tangled and are better tumbled on their own.

Sterling silver chain maille and PMC have a brilliant finish after being tumbled.

You need to use various shapes of shot, different mixes can be purchased.

Different shapes are needed to get into every nook and cranny of some items.

I use a mix of saucers, balls and thick short pins.

You do not need long thin pins or small balls as they get caught in chain links and inside hollow pieces.

For highly polished surfaces crushed walnut shells perform very well.

Always follow the makers instructions as to the weight of shot you use in the barrel.

Loading The Tumbler

Place the stainless steel in the barrel and add your pieces, add a squirt of Dawn dish washing liquid or other degreasing dishwashing liquid that does not contain bleach, moisturisers or other fancy additives.

Add enough water to cover everything, do not fill the barrel, replace the lid and you are ready to go.

If polishing chain maille rings, thread onto a piece of wire and twist wire ends together, otherwise you will spend a lot of time picking the rings from amongst the shot.

Tumbling can be from half an hour to overnight, subject to the size and nature of the items being cleaned.

Cleaning Barrel

When finished, open tumbler and pour contents into a fine sieve over a sink, be careful not to drop shot into the sink as it will severly damage garbage disposal units if fitted.

Rinse stainless steel and leave to dry before placing back in barrel.

Wash out inside of barrel and dry.

If you find that the water in the barrel is dark and the pieces are dark it means that you have not used enough dish washing liquid.

Rinse all the objects and pour in dish washing liquid and water and tumble again.

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