Mar 17, 2012

How to Tumble Aluminum Blanks


Tumbling is a method of polishing metal.
It takes much less effort than hand
sanding and polishing.  Tumbling involves adding 
media to a machine which rotates or vibrates 
to create a polished finish.

It is well worth the time and money
to invest in a LARGE quality tumbler
 if you're serious about metal stamping.

MY FAVORITE TUMBLER

The Thumler Tumbler High Speed Tumbler.  

The best price I've found is through Buffalo Arms.
This model is about $200.

Here's the link:


SHOT
Shot - stainless steel balls that are added
 to your tumbler to polish your metal.  

You'll want to buy STAINLESS STEEL elipse shot 
(NOT the jewelers mix, it will scratch the aluminum).  
I purchase my shot through Rio Grande Jewelry Supply.  
You'll need 10 pounds of shot for the Thumler Tumbler.

This is around $100.

Here's the link:



H20

Use only COLD water to tumble.   
Warm or hot water will expand with the soap 
and crack the metal welds in the tumbler barrel.  
***Soft water is best if you have it.
Note if you use soft water you will need to reduce the amount of soap.
You'll need to experiment to get the correct amount.

***Fill the barrel about 1/2 of the way full.


Soap
I have tried many different soaps and solutions, but
***Breck 2 in 1 Kids Shampoo seems to get the best results.  
My favorite is the coconut.  It is available at Dollar Tree.  
We use 1/2" cup of this product.

or you can use

EOS Laundry Soap.
We use 1/4 cup of this per load.

I found this soap at Costco.

Next you will need
A 1/4" teaspoon of
***Supersunsheen Non-Chelating DeBurring Compound
for each tumbling load.


This conditions the water
 and also helps the flecks of metal float in the gel,
instead of scratching the metal.

NOTE:  Aluminum is very sensitive to drying.
Harsh antibacterial soaps, like Dawn, 
 will ruin the shiny finish.


How many pieces?

35  or less - small discs or blanks (1" or smaller)

30 - 1/4" cuffs

20 - 3/8" and 1/2" cuffs

Only one - 1" cuff or larger can be tumbled at a time.
Larger pieces tend to scratch each other.

You can experiment with more soap and you may
be able to add more blanks.


How long do I need to tumble?
45 minutes per load with the high speed tumbler is usually enough.


Strain
Use a large strainer to dump the contents of the tumbler
when your load is complete.

We found a very strong Farberware strainer at Target.

RINSE
Rinse the shot with high pressure water.  A kitchen sprayer is fine.  
The tumbling breaks off small flecks of metal which can scratch the blanks.
You'll want to make sure the shot and the blanks are very clean
to prevent scratching from those flecks of metal.

***Use clean water and well rinsed shot for each tumble load.


Dry Quickly

Rinse  and then dry quickly so the metal doesn't get water spots.  
We use old kitchen and bath towels.


HAPPY TUMBLING!!!


Let me know if you need any help or have any more questions.

ENJOY CREATING!
Lizz Barnes :-)

Visit our ETSY store for Food Safe Aluminum Blanks 

7 comments:

  1. Can you suggest a smaller/less expensive tumbler for a beginner? If not, maybe some things to look for in one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harbor Freight has a small tumbler, but you will have to have your cuffs curves to fit in the barrel. Also, this is a much slower tumbler and will take about 3 hours to tumble with the same quality.

      Delete
  2. Hi, I hope you can help. When I tumble copper and brass, it comes out
    cloudy looking no matter what solution I use. The blanks stick together
    too. Thanks so much

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Copper and Brass can handle much harsher chemicals. You'll want to purchase
      Sunsheen Brass Deburring Compound
      This is available at Rio Grande Jewelry Supply.

      Delete
  3. Harbor Freight has a Very small tumbler for under $100.
    http://www.harborfreight.com/3-lb-rotary-rock-tumbler-67631.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Liz,
    great article, really informative! I was wondering if you knew of any alternatives to the Non chelating Deburring compound the achieves a similar result? I live in Canada and trying to order it from rio grand would be very expensive. thanks!

    ReplyDelete