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Bedrock Bob

Tumbling along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

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A buddy of mine gave me an old tumbler. It had been around since his grandpa bought it in 1968. It is an old Lortone 15 lb. tumbler.

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The barrel was cracked and brittle. It broke when I tried to wash it. Lortone does not make this tumbler anymore but I found a replacement barrel for a Thumler's model B that works great. It cost me about $50 to replace. So I have very little invested into the machine. 

I cleaned it up and serviced it. It has been running constantly with a full charge of broken glass and abrasives for six months. It has stopped only long enough to change out the material when one load is complete. No problems so far.

It can hold a lot of rock. And it can tumble some big ol' chunks too. Here is a load I just ran in the pre-polish.

This is a full load of stones. They fill the barrel up just les than 3/4 full. It holds almost 1/4 of a 5 gallon bucket !

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The barrel is easy to clean with rounded corners. It is pretty quiet with the neoprene liner inside the steel barrel too. Not much noisier than my dual 3# tumbler but it runs more than twice the rock in the same time!

 

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The down side is the addiction. I go through a lot of white powder. I have a connection in Oregon that sends it to me in boxes 25# at a time.

Try getting through the Border Patrol Checkpoint with this under your seat.

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And that is just the pre-polish and polish. This rascal eats about 1.25# per week. 

Do any of you tumble stones?

Do you use silicon carbide from rough to polish or do you use aluminum oxide for prepolish and polish?

How do you build your slurry?

Lets talk tumbling! I am learning a little bit on my own but I would like to hear others experience!

 

 

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I had a homemade tumbler when I was a kid. Used the standard silicon carbide grits then cerium oxide for the polish. Very good results.

I really like the assortment you have in the bucket.

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1 minute ago, Morlock said:

I had a homemade tumbler when I was a kid. Used the standard silicon carbide grits then cerium oxide for the polish. Very good results.

I really like the assortment you have in the bucket.

Thanks!

I will split the quartz and the opalized bone away from the agates and jaspers for the final polish.

I have been using a gang of smaller 1.5 lb barrels to do the final polish. It lets me control things a lot better. I am leary of using this one big drum for all the grits even though it is easy to clean. 

Lots of that rock is cracked and flaky. I will keep those in a separate barrel so if they come apart and release a bunch of grit they don't ruin the whole batch. And the quartz really beats the edges up in the final polish too. I am making some thick slurry with corn syrup and soap and using lots of plastic beads but the quartz and big flat obsidians still need to be segregated or the edges get beat up.

I had some trouble with the final polish on obsidian and a guy told me cereum oxide. I got some. It was way expensive. I am going to try it on my next obsidian tumble and see if it is better. 

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I've never polished obsidian in a tumbler, but I've had the best luck on my cabs with tin oxide. It gives it a nice mirror finish, and it'll virtually instant. Don't know if it's work in a tumbler or not though.

Edited by d_day
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Polish my brass in one of those...

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Wow that tumbler is popping out some real beauties. My buddy and i are just getting into the idea of tumbling stones, so for now just admiring your work but hope to get tumbling down the road. Thanks for sharing. 

-Chris aka ht hermit :thumbsupanim

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5 hours ago, LipCa said:

Polish my brass in one of those...

Is yours an old Lortone 15# like this one?

They have a special motor for brass tumbling that runs at half speed for the Thumler model "B". If you buy the Thumler model "B" from Midway it is for brass and has the slower speed motor. If you buy it from the Rock Shed it has the faster RPM for stones. I discovered this when I was looking for the replacement barrel.

I bet if you adjusted your fill level in the drum you could use the fast speed motor on both. I was thinking about trying brass in there but I was tumbling broken glass when I needed to reload for hunting. Consequently that experiment never got done.

I use a vibrator for brass and I am seriously considering doing my final polish on the stones in the vibrator. I hear it uses a lot less polish and does it lightning fast. It just won't round up the stones and shape them as nicely. 

So in the future I will be trying the drum for the brass and the vibrator for the stones. We will see if there are any advantages with one or the other!

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I think you have a good idea Bob. I use a 12# Thumler to start with 220 grit silicon. I then go to a Diamond Pacific sonic 10# tumbler

for the 600 grit, pre polish aluminum , then tin oxide. The rotary jobs do use way more grit although you do not have to use the amount 

suggested. 

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29 minutes ago, Bob(AK) said:

I think you have a good idea Bob. I use a 12# Thumler to start with 220 grit silicon. I then go to a Diamond Pacific sonic 10# tumbler

for the 600 grit, pre polish aluminum , then tin oxide. The rotary jobs do use way more grit although you do not have to use the amount 

suggested. 

Thanks Bob! I have to try the vibrator. I am going to experiment with it soon.

I am finding that having a nice slurry has more to do with speed of removal than how much grit you use. It is a lot harder with the AlOx pre-polish and polish. I have not decided yet whether it is the fine grit that makes this slurry thin or the difference between AlOx and SiCa. Or both.

I shape and sand with SiCa abrasives. I found a pile of blasting media that is 1/4 SiCa and 3/4 garnet. It is worn out from blasting the inside of a big munincipal water tank. I have a mountain of it. I can make a great slurry with a couple cups of this stuff and a tablespoon of fresh SiCa per pound. It will round up glass in a hurry and grind rock fast. I settle the solids and pour off the thin water and re-use the paste. It works great for shaping. By the time I do a couple loads of glass it still has enough life left in it to do another one without adding any grit.

I do the same thing with the second step. But I don't use the blasting media to build the slurry. I just re-use the solids from the last batch and add a little fresh grit. I generally add a quarter cup or so of cheap dish soap to help thicken things up and create foam. The coarse grit removes a lot of material and builds a good paste quickly. Glass is usually finished in three or four days. Stones are always finished in a week.

So the first two steps I have got a method for and I don't run into any problems.

But I have problems building slurry with the AlOx pre-polish and polish. So far soap has been best but sometimes the slurry still has no body. I have threatened to use old paint or enchilada sauce. I don't know why corn starch gravy wouldn't work. Vegetable oil. Jello? :idunno:

I have yet to find something that is just right and does not blow the lid off the Thumler's barrels. I have a couple 1.5 lb. dual Lortones that will hold a little pressure and can wait for you to burp them but the Thumlers blow slurry all over the place. If I could figure out the perfect medium I know I could reduce the amount of polish I put in there. Corn syrup has been the best so far but things start bubbling in there and some days you cant burp it fast enough. It starts making wine and blows the lid off the barrel.

Any advice would be appreciated! It sounds like you have been at it a while and have some good experience. Thanks for the input!
 

Merry Christmas!

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Back to rock tumbling Bob. I am no expert, just the way I do this. As I said before I use nothing coarser then 220 grit silicon. Also use it on vibrating flat laps since coarser eats them up too fast. With tumbling I do use the 12 lb rotary tumbler for about a week with ceramic media to take up spaces. Then the sonic tumbler for 600 grit also with ceramic media (each step has its own ceramic) for about 4 days. Next the pre polish for 3-4 days and then the tin oxide polish with aluminum oxide pellets for 3-4 days. I have then added a burnishing step with borax for about 2 days using the same pellets as in the polish step. This last step removes any film that may be on the stones. That is what I now do but I am not telling anyone to do like this.

PS.  many of the vibrating tumblers are very loud. One made of rubber or rubber liner is much better.

PSS> The Diamond Pacific Sonic tumblers are great except the small 3-4 lb containers don't work because the sides curve in and stones bind up. The

10 lb works fine. Perhaps they have redesigned the small ones, I don't know.  Bob 

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I used to belong to a forum called "rock tumbling hobby". I'm sure someone from that group can answer all your questions on tumbling. 

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