Vibratory Rock Tumblers
Faster than rotary. They use less grit, polish and electricity per pound of rock.
We start by loading our rocks, filling the barrel with water, and then inverting the barrel and allowing the water to drain. Now you have just enough water to wet the surface of the rocks. Then we add two level tablespoons of medium silicon carbide grit (about 150/220) and two level tablespoons of water. That runs for 12 to 24 hours and we rinse the rocks and add fresh grit. Continue 12 to 24 hour runs with medium grit until the rocks are smoothed to your preference - usually three or four runs. Wash the rocks and barrel thoroughly. Then run 24 hours with water and two tablespoons of fine grit (500 or 600 silicon carbide). Wash the rocks and barrel throroughly. Finish with water and two tablespoons of TXP or Rapid polish for 24 hours or until polished. The process is that fast.
The Lot-o-Tumbler uses about 50%as much grit as a rotary tumbler of similar size and about 25% of the electricity per pound of rock. The polish is usually awesome! Almost all of the jasper, agate, petrified wood and natural glass that we tumble is polished in a single Lot-o-Tumbler.
Read the full description on the product page. This tumbler must be glued to a concrete block or the floor for proper operation. More Information!
This is a very economical tumbler to operate because of its small grit and electricity consumption per pound of rock. It is also economical to purchase. For a small price increase over the Lot-o-Tumbler Single (shown above) you double your productive capacity.
For proper operation this tumbler must be glued to two concrete blocks or to another stationary object. Also, both barrels must be loaded for proper operation. If you don't have enough rock to use both barrels, simply fill the other barrel with ceramic media and a little water and it will do fine. More Information!
Like the Lot-o-Tumblers above, the UV-10 uses a three-step tumbling process starting with medium grit (150/220), then fine grit (500 or 600), then polishing with your favorite rock polishing compound. It is a heavy-duty tumbler designed to tumble rocks - don't confuse it with the brass tumbling model that is light weight and costs less.
The UV-10 can tumble rocks up to about three inches in diameter - about two or three that size per load if they are surrounded by ceramic media or smaller rocks ranging from 3/8" to 1 1/2" in size. It is a durable, fast-working, and economical tumbler that will last for many years. More Information!
Why We Love Vibratory Rock Tumblers
Our tumbling methods changed after we purchased our first vibratory tumbler. We used to do all of our tumbling in rotary, but once we learned how fast a vibratory tumbler can smooth and polish rocks, and how nicely then can polish, we almost totally abandoned using a rotary tumbler for the medium grit, fine grit and polishing steps. We now do almost all of that tumbling in a vibratory tumbler. (The only exception is when we tumble soft material like glass or obsidian. For those, we start with medium grit in a rotary tumbler then go to vibratory for fine and polish.)
Instead of allowing our rocks to run for a week in a rotary tumbler for the medium, fine and polishing steps, we do that same work in a vibratory tumbler in one to three days per step. It more than cuts your tumbling time in half - and at the same time, cuts your electricity bill by the same amount. The amount of grit and polish saved is also substantial.
The Small Drawbacks, and Accommodating Them
In a rotary tumbler the rocks tumble in rotating barrel. In a vibratory tumbler the rocks are shaken in a bowl. The rotary tumbling process does a better job of rounding the rocks. A vibratory tumbler does not change the shape of the rocks as much. We like our tumbled stones well rounded, so we get that done by running them in coarse grit until we are satisfied with their shape. We feel that the rounded shape is worth spending the time and the electricity. However, as soon as we have the shape that we want the rocks go straight into a vibratory tumbler for the medium, fine and polishing steps.
Vibratory tumblers also cost a little more and make a bit more noise (especially those made with a plastic or composite bowl like the Thumler's UV-10 and UV-18). Most people run them in a basement, garage or outbuilding where the noise will not bother anyone. We used to run a Lot-o-Tumbler single in our basement. The noise could be heard upstairs at night. So, we would start the tumbler in the morning before breakfast and rise the rocks before bedtime. That gave us about 14 to 16 operating hours per day and fresh grit in the tumbler each morning. :-)
The Vibratory Learning Curve
Vibratory tumblers take a little more learning and experimenting than rotary tumblers. The challenge is getting the amount of water right. There should be just enough water in the barrel to keep the rocks wet as mud accumulates during the run. We check our vibratory tumbler a couple times a day and add a couple tablespoons of water as needed. The amount of water needed depends upon the size and shape of the rocks and how fast they cut. A bowl full of tiny rocks takes a bit more water than large rocks because they have a higher surface area. And, fast cutting rocks require more water than slow cutting rocks because you need enough water in the barrel to keep the mud thin enough for a nice tumbling action.
When you are first learning to run a vibratory tumbler, check it several times per day until you learn how things work. Once you understand, then the only time you need to pay extra attention is when you are tumbling a new type of material. Happy tumbling. :-)