What Polish Should I Use for Rock Tumbling?
There Are Many Types of Polish
Hobbyist rock tumblers have been popular since the 1950's and in that time many different polishing
compounds have been successfully used. Some are sold in a variety of grades. Some are very expensive.
Only a few good ones sell at a reasonable price. The most popular polishes include:
- Aluminum Oxide
- Cerium Oxide
- Chrome Oxide
- Tin Oxide
How to Start a Rockhound Debate :)
Most people who have done a lot of rock tumbling have experimented with a number of different polishes and
have their personal favorite(s). If you go to a gathering of rockhounds and ask them what polish is
"the best" for rock tumbling you will certainly start a debate and maybe an argument!
People who have used a polish for a number of years will be dedicated to it and think that it is the
best. Other people have done lots of experimenting and have found that multiple polishes will do
a great job on a particular type of rock. The difference is in the procedure rather than in the material used to produce the polish.
We Use Aluminum Oxide Polish
We have found that aluminum oxide is an excellent polish for almost any variety of agate, jasper or quartz.
The TXP polish that we sell is a micron aluminum oxide (sometimes referred to as "alumina").
It is easy to use and the results are reliable. The best part is aluminum oxide is a very inexpensive
polish. We use it almost 100% of the time when we tumble.
We use TXP polish it in rotary tumblers and it has produced a great luster on almost every material we have tumbled.
Our procedure is to tumble for one to three weeks in coarse (60/90) grit until the rocks have a nice rounded
shape. We then follow with one week in medium (150/220) grit and one week in fine (500F) grit. We then polish for
one week in TXP polish.
We also use TXP polish in the Lot-O-Tumbler, vibratory machine. This is our favorite method of
polishing because it regularly produces some of the highest polishes that we have achieved.
Our procedure is to tumble the rocks from one to three weeks with coarse (60/90) grit in a rotary tumbler. We then
use the Lot-O-Tumbler with medium (150/220) grit for 48 hours, fine (500F) grit for 48 hours and polish with TXP
for 48 to 36 hours.
Tin Oxide is one of two polishes that were extremely popular for tumbling before aluminum oxide started
winning market share. It is a white polish that does a great job on all varieties of quartz, jasper and agate.
It works exceptionally well on volcanic glass such as obsidian and on man-made glasses.
Many people also use tin oxide
when polishing soft materials such as calcite, rhodochrosite and malachite. Tin oxide is not widely used today
because it currently costs about three to four times as much as a good aluminum oxide.
Cerium oxide is the second polish that was extremely popular before aluminum oxide started winning market share.
It is a pink polish that does a great job on varieties of agate, jasper, and quartz. It also produces a
great polish on petrified wood, coral, obsidian and man-made glasses - including goldstone. Many people prefer
cerium for tumbling feldspar materials such as moonstone, labradorite, sunstone and amazonite.
Since about 2008 the price of cerium oxide polish has doubled and tripled. Cerium is a rare earth element that
is in short supply and that shortage is driving up the price of cerium oxide polish.
Before these enormous price increases cerium was the most popular polish for rock tumbling.
Chrome (Chromium) Oxide
Chromium oxide, also known as chrome oxide, is a bright green polish that generally works well on very tough or
very hard materials such as jade, tourmaline and garnet. It is also used on rocks composed of multiple minerals
such as lapis lazuli, rhodonite and unakite.
Tripoli is a very inexpensive polish. It is a residual material produced by the weathering of certain siliceous
limestones. It consists of diatoms, radiolarians and other siliceous materials. It is most often used in tumbling
when a low-quality finish is acceptable or as a prepolish step after grinding in silicon carbide.
Sources of Polishing Compounds
We recommend these sources of rock polishing compounds for your rock tumbling needs...
TXP Aluminum Oxide Polish, Cerium Oxide, Tripoli, Tin Oxide, Titanium Oxide and Red Rouge by RockTumbler.com
Small Quantities of Aluminum, Tin, Cerium, and Chrome Oxide by Minnesota Lapidary
Large Quantities of Aluminum, Tin, Cerium, and Chrome Oxide by LittleRedStore.com
|Popular rock tumbler polishes include tin oxide, tripoli, aluminum oxide and cerium oxide. These are all micron-size powders that work well at polishing many types of rock.
|Agates and jaspers are usually very easy to polish with inexpensive TXP aluminum oxide. Beginners can be successful with almost any variety of these materials if the rock tumbling instructions are carefully followed and the rocks, barrel and lid are thoroughly cleaned between steps. Lake Superior Agate and picture jasper are two of our favorites.
| Rock Tumblers and Supplies
||We highly recommend:
Modern Rock Tumbling by Steve Hart.
Learning is the fastest way to improve the quality of
rocks that you tumble. In this book you will learn from an expert with extensive
experience. You will increase your abilities, learn to save time, money and have a great reference book
that you will use again and again.
||We highly recommend:
Gemstones of the World (fifth edition) by Walter Schumann.
One of the most popular gemstone books ever written, with over one million copies sold. It has about 100 pages of basic gemstone information and about 200 pages dedicated to photos and descriptions of over 100 gems and gem materials.
|Tumbling Articles and Resources|