One of my first childhood memories centers around a rock tumbler my parents gave me as a gift and features the persistent rolling and slurring sound coming from the basement. Most folks tend to associate rotary tumblers with rock-tumbling processes, but there are several ways the rotary tumbler can benefit jewelers with mass-finishing processes. Rotary tumblers can accomplish abrasive cut-down, burnishing, and polishing. Burnishing is the most common way to use a rotary tumbler and involves using stainless steel shot or porcelain media, burnishing compound and water to create a shiny burnished surface on your metal parts and pieces.
The turning of the tumbler rolls the steel shot through the solution in the barrel, rubbing it against your pieces to smooth and shine their surfaces. The compound, not too alkali or too acidic, decreases the friction between the materials in the barrel, allowing the right amount of contact to take place. A solution that’s too soapy or too foamy, or water alone, will not give you the most effective final finish. It is important to use a compound that is made for the burnishing process.
Other media, such as abrasive media, can be used in a rotary tumbler; plastic, aluminum oxide, or silicon carbide, partnered with a deburring compound, can be tumbled to smooth your pieces or to debur them as the first step in a mass-finishing process. Polishing media such as walnut shell can be loaded along with polishing compounds to produce a higher shine than can be achieved with burnishing.
Though maybe not the quickest or the most efficient way of cleaning a piece, rotary tumblers are a good, economical way to mass-process jewelry and eliminate the need to work parts and pieces with your hands. Rotary tumblers are excellent for burnishing your jewelry in hard-to-reach areas, burnishing your metal clay creations, removing tarnish from most jewelry, as well as performing abrasive cut-down and polishing processes—not to mention rock tumbling. Rotary tumblers can be a little noisy, too, but they are simple to use and create some remarkable jewelry finishes with far less effort on your part.
Here, I have four sterling silver rings straight from the casting process. First, the unfinished sterling silver ring from casting, next the ring after 10 hours in fine plastic media and gold and silver deburring compound, then after 10 hours in fine plastic media and gold and silver deburring compound, followed by stainless steel shot and Super Sunsheen burnishing compound for one hour, and finally the ring after 10 hours in fine plastic media and gold and silver deburring compound, followed by stainless steel shot and Super Sunsheen burnishing compound for one hour, and then followed by green Sunsheen media 24 hours.
From those first memories of creating smooth, polished rock to the processes I use now to produce bright, shining finishes on the jewelry pieces I make, the rotary tumbler holds a special—irreplaceable—spot in my creative processes. Mass finishing is a great way to save time while producing beautiful finishes—be sure to take a look at my magnetic finishing post from last month, then give a rotary tumbler a try and see what it can do for your jewelry.
Registration is now open for this week-long event where you can get hands-on in any number of jewelry-making classes taught by the industry’s most beloved and talented instructors, watch demonstrations of the tools and processes that will enhance your work at the bench, and tour our 180,000 square-foot solar-powered facility. What a great way to experience Rio firsthand and start 2014 with a shot of creativity and learning!...Read the Rest
Holiday shopping season is around the corner! Are you ready to show off your jewelry? I mean, really ready? It takes some assessment and house cleaning to position your beautiful line of jewelry in the best possible light. To help you get the most from your displays this season we’re sharing a helpful checklist of display and packaging details and then a great video with Mark Nelson which features even more display tips and ideas....Read the Rest
Today, on The Studio, we’re sharing three necklace projects from Rio’s Winter Fashion Trends Project page. These necklaces hearken back to the black and white style of the Roaring ’20s. In long lengths, they swing on dancers, sway in casual conversation, and accentuate the neck of the wearer, already fashionably exposed by the short, sassy bob hairstyle of the era. Be inspired by these and ALL the projects on our Fashion Trends webpage and see where they take your own designs!...Read the Rest
We’d like to invite you to our new Fashion Trends page for some inspiration this holiday season, and introduce a couple of our hottest new projects on The Studio today. We’re thinking crystals, swank, sophisticated fun, and jazz that drapes around your neck and dangles from your ears. We hope that you and your customers enjoy them, and that you can use them as a creative springboard for your own line....Read the Rest
Until now, jewelers sometimes found working with rhodium plating solutions to be challenging because of the fairly precise settings needed to ensure a crisp, bright-white, professional result. But, have you heard? Legor® and MIDAS® have combined their expertise in metals and plating, respectively, to create a rhodium plating solution that makes the plating process far easier while delivering results that are brighter, whiter and more dependable....Read the Rest
What inspires you these days? What materials have you been experimenting with? Nearly every month we present you with another “What are You Working on Now?” contest, in which we invite readers to submit a picture or two and a description of what’s on their bench right now. Well, this month’s winner, Denise Harrison, has won a $10 Rio credit, and November’s contest has officially begun – show us your stuff for a chance to win!...Read the Rest
Here at Rio Grande, on November 14 and 15, Bill Seeley will teach the class, Anodizing Reactive Metals: Niobium and Titanium. Consider yourself warned: you may fall in love with expressing yourself through coloration of lightweight, low-cost niobium and titanium. And in today’s post watch a video, with Bill Seeley himself, that features a demonstration of the amazing anodizing process....Read the Rest
New fashion-forward, statement-making ear cuffs are overtaking the real estate north of the lobe. From the runways of Paris to the red carpets of Hollywood to the benches of jewelers across the country, they have been everywhere this fall. Etsy designers have been hard at work creating their own take on the look and, today on The Studio, we’ve featured a few of our favorite Etsy ear cuffs....Read the Rest
Rio Grande is here after the holidays with an exciting array of new and returning classes for you in the 2014 Winter Workshop series. Make a day or two of it, or plan to take a whole week! The classes, demonstrations and tours lined up for the week of Winter Workshop give you lots to choose from. Gain a new skill—or hone a skill you’ve already got. Browse through today’s post to find out more, and reserve your seat early!...Read the Rest