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Review of Lortone and Thumler's Rock Tumblers

This is a feature-by feature review of the Lortone 3A rock tumbler and the Thumler's A-R1 rock tumbler. All of the information below is also relevant to the two-barrel tumblers made by these companies, the Lortone 33B and the Thumler's A-R2.

All four of these tumblers are high-quality, hobbyist grade rock tumblers that will last through years of regular use. They are much better than the inexpensive toy tumblers with plastic bases and plastic barrels that make an enormous amount of noise.
Machine Base Comparison

Lortone Tumbler Base
The Lortone 3A tumbler. The tumbler that we most highly recommend for beginners.
The Lortone 3A and 33B tumblers have a blue metal case that covers important moving parts including the belt, motor and fan. This feature reduces the possibility of small fingers getting pinched in a belt and reduces the possibility of liquid or grit being spilled on the motor. The rubber barrel rides within the case and it is very unlikely that it would jump off of the shafts and leave the machine.
Thumler Tumbler Base
Thumler's A-R1 Tumbler
The Thumler's A-R1 and A-R2 tumblers have a red metal frame that holds the drive shaft, idler shaft and motor. These moving parts and the belt are exposed where kids or a cat could disturb them. The rubber barrels ride on exposed rails and on very rare occasions they will jump off of the rails. We have used Thumler's tumblers for years and this has never caused a mess, however the barrels have fallen off of the machine a few times.
Motor Comparison

Lortone Tumbler Motor
Lortone tumbler motor
The Lortone 3A and 33B tumblers have sealed-bearing motors that are designed for continuous use. They run hot to the touch. Because the motors do not need maintenance, they can conveniently be mounted within the case and away from access. The only time you need to remove the case is to change a belt or replace a motor.
Thumler Tumbler Motor
Thumler's tumbler motor
The Thumler's A-R1, A-R2, A-R6, A-R12 and Model B tumblers have high-quality thermally protected motors. The motors should be lubricated with a single drop of SAE 20 oil in each of the two oiling ports - about once every month of continuous operation. Replacing the drive belt on a Thumler's tumbler is very easy because the motor and pulley are exposed.
Barrel Comparison

Lortone Tumbler Barrel
Lortone 3 pound tumbler barrel
Lortone 3-pound barrels have a metal lid that is secured with a lock-nut and washer. These lids are relatively easy to open and close, and you should experience no problems with leaks if the lids and their seating surfaces are clean and undamaged when the barrel is closed. The inside of the metal lid is covered with a rubber gasket to reduce noise from rocks bumping and rubbing against it. The gasket is durable and will last for years before a replacement is needed.

Lortone 3-pound barrels are round and smooth inside. Some people believe that the round, smooth barrels do not provide as good of a tumbling action as a barrel with faceted surfaces inside such as the Thumler's barrel.
Thumler Tumbler Barrel
Thumler's 3 pound tumbler barrel
The Thumler's 3-pound barrels have a plastic lid that is secured with a thick rubber retaining ring. These rings require a little strength to install. Children and people with small hands might have difficulty opening and closing the barrel without a bit of practice. You should not have a problem with leaks if the lid and the seating surfaces are clean and undamaged when the barrel is closed. The plastic lids will wear thin over time and if you run the machine a lot you will need a replacement about once a year. The plastic lids also produce a small increase in noise compared to the Lortone barrels.

Thumler's 3-pound barrels are round on the outside but have 15 flat facets inside. Many people believe that this faceted internal shape keeps the rocks from sliding in the barrel and produces a much better tumbling action.
Bearings, Drive Shafts and Rollers

Lortone Tumbler Parts
3A rock tumbler base
Lortone tumblers have plastic bearings that should be lubricated with one drop of oil per month of operation. Be careful not to overlubricate, and wipe off any excess oil. If oil gets on the drive shaft or on the barrel, the barrel will stop rolling properly.
Thumler Tumbler Parts
Thumler's A-R1 rock tumbler base
Thumler's tumblers have nylon bearings that should be lubricated with one drop of oil per month of operation. Be careful not to overlubricate, and wipe off any excess oil. The shafts of the Thumler's tumblers have rubber and nylon rollers. These provide traction for the barrel and keep it rolling nicely. These rollers can take a "polish" after months of use. They can be renewed with a very light sanding that removes the "polish" and restores traction. They can also be replaced at a low cost.
Bottom Line

We believe that all of these tumblers are high-quality machines.

Lortone Tumbler
The Lortone 3A tumbler
The Lortone tumblers have barrels that are easy to open and close. In addition, most of their moving parts are enclosed in the case. We prefer them for use by a person with small hands, by children, or in a household where pets might interfere with the tumbler.
Thumler Tumbler
Thumler's A-R2 Tumbler
The Thumler's tumblers have high quality motors, faceted barrels and rubber/nylon rollers that reliably drive the barrels. However they have exposed moving parts and the barrels are a challenge for some people to open/close. We recommend them for adults or teenagers who are strong enough to open/close the barrels. Authors

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