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Oiling A Thumler's Rotary Rock Tumbler


Oiling your tumbler is the best way to stop squeaking and prevent wear.
It is also the best way to help your tumbler's motor last a long time.


SAE 20 3-in-1 oil
We use 3-IN-ONE oil to lubricate the bearings and the motors of our tumblers. It is sold in a convenient dispenser bottle. SAE 20 is the type of oil recommended by Thumler's. We bought this bottle at WalMart. We also use Master Mechanic Premium Machine Oil in a metal can with a pointed dispenser. We bought it at a local hardware store. You can see it in photos below.

Why Oil Your Tumbler?



Oiling your rock tumbler is a very easy job. Many tumblers have two things that require lubrication: 1) bearings, and, 2) motors.

Bearings: Regular lubrication keeps your tumbler's bearings from squeaking and prolongs their life. Oiling will help the bearings run smoothly and reduce the load on the motor. All Thumler's rotary rock tumblers have bearings that must be oiled. We show you how to do this easy job below.

Motors: Most Thumler's Tumblers made today have motors with factory-sealed bearings that do not require oiling. Most older Thumler's Tumblers require regular lubrication. In the article below we help you determine if your motor requires oiling. If it must be oiled, all it takes is two drops of oil, once each month of operation, or after you finish tumbling a batch of rocks. Oiling the motor is an easy job.

Thumler's tumbler bearings
It is recommended that all four bearings get cleaned and oiled once a month. This photo shows the location of the bearings on a Thumler's tumbler base.

Oiling Thumler's tumbler bearings
To oil the bearings, place a drop of oil onto the shaft next to the bearing and manually turn and slide the shaft back and forth to ensure that oil gets between the bearing and the shaft. Wipe off any excess oil.

Oiling the Bearings



Is your Thumler's tumbler squeaking? If it is, most likely your bearings need to be oiled. There are four plastic bearings: one on each end of the drive shaft, and one on each end of the idler shaft (see the accompanying photo).

These bearings should be cleaned and oiled after each month of operation (or after every batch of rocks has been completed). The bearings will last longer and operate quietly if they are lubricated and kept clean. The bearings are located at both ends of each shaft (see the accompanying photos).

Before oiling, use a paper towel or a rag to wipe any excess oil and/or dirt from the part of the drive shaft that contacts the bearings. Grab the shaft near each bearing with a rag and rotate the shaft with your free hand to remove any excess oil and dirt. This cleaning is very important. If the excess oil is not wiped off it will attract and hold dust, dirt and grit. Grit in the bearings will ruin them and grind your drive or idler shaft.

After it is cleaned, apply one drop of oil to the drive shaft immediately adjacent to the bearing (see the accompanying photo). Then, rotate the drive shaft and slide the drive shaft back and forth through the bearing. Capillary action will cause some of the oil to flow between the drive shaft and the bearing. Wipe off any excess oil.

One drop per month on each bearing is all that is needed.

PLEASE NOTE: Do not get oil on the drive belt, on the surface of the rubber rollers, or on the surface of the nylon rollers. If you accidentally get a drop of oil on these or other parts, wipe it off and clean that area with the corner of a soft cloth that has been dipped in soapy water (a mild dishwashing detergent like Palmolive or Dawn is perfect).

Oiling Thumler's nylon rollers
To oil the nylon rollers, place one drop of oil onto the shaft next to the roller and manually turn the roller to ensure that oil gets between the roller and the shaft. Wipe off any excess oil.

Oiling the Nylon Rollers



Oil the rollers? Are you sure?

Yes, but only on the idler shaft, and only if they are squeaking.

Occasionally a Thumler's rotary tumbler will develop a squeaky nylon roller. This is normal. The nylon rollers are the hard plastic rollers on the idler shaft. Their purpose is simply to facilitate the rolling of the barrel.

The idler shaft rollers are often loose and can turn independently of the shaft. Sometimes they will start making an annoying squeak when they turn on the shaft. This squeaking can be eliminated by applying one drop of oil on one side of the roller (see the accompanying photo).

Capillary action will help the oil flow under the roller, and turning the roller by hand will help distribute the oil throughout the underside of the roller. Wipe off any excess oil when you are finished.

This lubrication is normally not needed on a monthly schedule. It is best done on an "as-needed" basis.

PLEASE NOTE: The rollers on the drive shaft are made of a "grippy" rubber that enables them to turn the tumbler barrel. They do not need oil. If you accidentally get a drop of oil on the rubber drive shaft rollers, wipe it off and clean that area with the corner of a soft cloth that has been dipped in soapy water (a mild dishwashing detergent like Palmolive or Dawn is perfect).

motor with oil ports
Motor With Two Oil Ports: This motor has two oil ports and requires oiling. One drop of SAE 20 oil in each port after each month of operation (we add oil after each batch of rocks - which takes about one month or slightly longer). These motors were made by FASCO.

oil port
Looking Down Into the Oil Port: This is a close-up photo that allows you to see the silver metal channel that helps the oil to flow to the motor's drive shaft. This motor requires oiling.

NOTE: If you do not see the silver metal channel in the oil port, you may have a sealed bearing motor. Some Thumler's vibratory tumblers were made in a case that had unnecessary oil ports but no silver oil channels. Do not oil these motors.

sealed bearing motor
Sealed Bearing Motor: This motor was lubricated and sealed at the factory. It does not have oil ports. It does not require oiling. These motors are made by P-TECH.

Does Your Motor Require Oiling?



The motors on most Thumler's rotary tumblers made in 2021 and later do not require oiling. However, the motors on most of their older rotary tumblers require oiling.

Motors that require oiling will have two oil ports - one on each end of the motor immediately above the drive shaft (see the accompanying photo).

To make sure that they are oil ports, look down into the port to see if there is a silver-color metal channel inside of it (see the accompanying photo).


Did You Find Oil Ports?



If you found oil ports with silver metal channels on a FASCO motor, then your motor requires oiling. Before you get your oil bottle (or can), this is a great time to make sure that your motor is clean. Get a clean dry cloth and wipe any dirt from your motor. Be careful how you wipe the motor. Be careful that you do not wipe dirt into the oil port or wipe dirt into the air vents.

Now, place one drop of SAE 20 oil in each oil port after each month of operation. (We oil our motors after each batch of rocks - which takes about one month or a little longer.) Wipe off any excess oil with a clean, soft, dry rag.


You Didn't Find Oil Ports?



If you didn't find oil ports, then your motor will look similar to the "Sealed Bearing Motor" in the accompanying photo. If your motor was made by P-TECH, it is a sealed bearing motor that does not require oiling.

Keep this motor clean. Operate it where it will not inhale dust and dirt, and it should last a long time.


Need More Help?

To help you further with making sure that you are oiling your Thumler's rotary tumbler properly, we have prepared a tumbler-by-tumbler summary below.

Find Your Tumbler



Thumler's MP1 tumbler

Thumler's MP-1


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: MP-1 motors have sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)

Thumler's Model T tumbler

Thumler's Model T


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: Model T motors have sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)

Thumler's A-R1 tumbler

Thumler's A-R1


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: P-TECH motors have factory-sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)   FASCO motors (used prior to 2021) require oiling.

Thumler's A-R2 tumbler

Thumler's A-R2


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: P-TECH motors have factory-sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)  FASCO motors (used prior to 2021) require oiling.

Thumler's Model T2 tumbler

Thumler's Model T2


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: Model T2 motors have sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)

Thumler's A-R6 tumbler

Thumler's A-R6


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: P-TECH motors have factory-sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)  FASCO motors (used prior to 2021) require oiling.

Thumler's A-R12 tumbler

Thumler's A-R12


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: P-TECH motors have factory-sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)  FASCO motors (used prior to 2021) require oiling.

Thumler's Model B tumbler

Thumler's Model B


Bearings: Lubricate once a month - or after each batch of stones.

Motor: P-TECH motors have factory-sealed bearings and do not require oiling.  :-)  FASCO motors (used prior to 2021) require oiling.

SAE 20 3-in-1 oil
We use 3-IN-ONE oil. You can buy it in this convenient dispenser bottle. It is SAE 20. The manufacturer says it "keeps small motors humming happily". We bought ours at WalMart.

The Importance of Clean Operation!



Keeping the tumbler clean of excess oil is very important. Oil attracts and holds dust, dirt and grit. Dust and dirt can attract and hold moisture. Dust, dirt and grit on the bearings will cause excess wear. Moisture on metal parts will cause them to rust.

Oil can also damage the soft parts of your tumbler such as the barrels, belt, and the rubber rollers on the drive shaft. If you accidentally get oil on any of these soft parts, clean it with a rag or paper towel that has been moistened with a gentle soap - such as Dawn dishwashing detergent.

Finally, if you notice that your tumbler is accumulating a lot of dust and dirt, it might be a good idea to find another location for your tumbling. Tumbler motors are air cooled. Operating them in a dusty, dirty environment will force them to inhale dirty air. That will significantly shorten the life of your motor. Dust and dirt accumulations in the tumbler can also become a fire hazard. Keep your tumbler and the area around it clean!


Happy Tumbling!



Following the lubrication and cleanliness tips above is easy and will help your tumbler run quietly and efficiently for a long time. Many of our customers have tumblers that have been in operation for decades of regular use. We still use a Thumler's Model A-R2 tumbler that was given to us as a Christmas gift in the 1960s.

RockTumbler.com Authors



Hobart King Hobart M. King has decades of rock tumbling experience and writes most of the articles on RockTumbler.com. He has a PhD in geology and is a GIA graduate gemologist. He also writes the articles about rocks, minerals and gems on Geology.com.