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Rotary Rock Tumblers

Thumler's rock tumbler
The Thumler's Model A-R1 is a small tumbler with a soft rubber barrel.

Rotary Rock Tumblers Explained

[Transcript of the video]


I'd like to show you several different rotary rock tumblers, we recommend rotary tumblers to anyone who is buying a tumbler for the first time because they are very easy to operate.

What is a Rotary Rock Tumbler?

What is a rotary rock tumbler? A rotary rock tumbler is a small machine that has a barrel. And into that barrel you place crushed rock such as this, along with some water and some grit. You then seal the barrel and place it back on the machine. The machine rotates the barrel over and over, and as this barrel rotates the rocks inside are tumbled. And the rough rock like this is rounded, smoothed and polished over time. In the end what you wind up with is some highly polished gemstones such as these.

Small Tumblers to Large Tumblers

Let's take a look at these five tumblers I have here. They range in size from a small one to a large one. This small one holds about one pound of rock. The large one will process about eight pounds of rock. In addition to the size difference there is a range of prices to. Smaller tumblers cost less, larger tumblers cost more. There is also a range of operation costs. Small tumblers don't take very much rock, they don't take very much grit and not much electricity. But the large ones require a lot more of all of those things.
Thumler's MP-1 rock tumbler
Thumler's MP-1 tumbler is a small tumbler that can process about 1 pound of rough raock into polished gems.

Thumler's MP-1 Rotary Tumbler

This tumbler right here is the Thumlers MP-1 rotary tumbler. As I mentioned it will process about one pound of rock, and when you purchase it it comes as a kit. It has all of the rough rock and grit that you will need to process one batch of rocks. And it also comes with a small jewelery kit that you can use to make a keychain and other jewelery projects.

Lortone 3A Rotary Tumbler

The most popular tumbler that we sell is the Lortone 3A tumbler. It holds about two pounds of rock. Now if you read on our website it says that it has a three pound barrel but I said that it process about two pounds of rock. Where is that other pound? Well the other pound is the water that you add and the grit that you add and that combined with the two pounds of rocks makes a three pound capacity tumbler. This is the most popular tumbler that we sell. It processes about twice as much rock as the MP-1.
Thumler's rock tumbler
The Thumler's Model A-R2 is a small tumbler with two soft rubber barrels of three-pound capacity.

Thumlers AR-2 Two-Barrel Tumbler

This tumbler has two barrels, it's the Thumlers AR-2 tumbler. Why two barrels? Maybe you have two people that are going to share this tumbler, each person can have their own barrel. Or, maybe you have two different types of rocks your going to process, put type A in one barrel and put type B in the other barrel. Or, maybe you have rock that is in the first step of the tumbling process, the rough grind that is going to round the stones. And maybe you have other rock that is being polished. So you can separate that with a tumbler that has two barrels.
Rotary rock tumbler
An example of a rotary rock tumbler with a 12-pound rubber barrel by Lortone - (the Lortone QT12). Rotary tumblers take about four weeks to process a load of rock - one week for each of the following steps: coarse grind, fine grind, pre-polish and polish. Some people run their rocks for two or more weeks in the coarse grind to obtain superbly-shaped gems.

Lortone QT-6 and QT-12 Rotary Tumblers

Moving up in size we have the Lortone QT-6 tumbler. This has a barrel that will process about four pounds of rock. Twice as much as this one (Lortone 3A) or the same amount as this one (Thumlers AR-2) but you only have one barrel. That makes it fast to clean up. For example you might process four pounds of rock with the Thumlers AR-2 tumbler, the same four pounds with the QT-6 but you only have one barrel to load, one barrel to clean so it's alot less work. Only buy a two barrel tumbler if you have two people or if your going to tumble small amounts of different kinds of rocks or if you might be tumbling rock at different stages of the tumbling process.

Then we have the Lortone QT-12 tumbler. It holds about eight pounds of rock.

Who Buys These Tumblers?

Beginners usually purchase these smaller machines (MP-1 or AR-2). They allow you to try the tumbling hobby at a much lower cost. They are very easy to use. These larger machines (QT-6 and QT-12) are usually purchased by people who have a place where they can find their own rock or perhaps they are using the rocks that they tumble for craft projects.

More Information for Rotary Tumblers

I hope that this tour helped you understand some of the features and benefits of these different tumblers. On our website at we have a comparison chart that compares these tumblers and several others. And there's also detailed information about each model. We welcome you to visit and thank you for watching our rotary rock tumbler video.

Happy Tumbling! 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