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.


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 - 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:


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.

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.

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 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.


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

Lizz Barnes :-)

Visit our ETSY store for Food Safe Aluminum Blanks 

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