Rock Discoveries

Get Shiny and Smooth Rocks: Introduction to Rock Tumblers & How to Use Them

Introduction to Rock Tumblers

Rock tumblers are machines that are used for rock polishing and rock tumbling. They help bring out the beauty of natural rocks by transforming rough stones into smooth and shiny works of art.

Rock tumbling is a popular hobby for people of all ages who love to collect rocks and minerals from their travels or local rock shops. In this article, we’ll go over the various types of rock tumblers, the types of rocks suitable for tumbling, where to find rocks for tumbling, and how rock tumblers function.

What Are Rock Tumblers Used For? Rock tumbling is a process by which rough or irregular rocks are transformed into smoother, polished rocks.

The process is usually done using a machine known as a rock tumbler. The main reason people use rock tumblers is to give their rock and mineral collections a more aesthetic appeal.

However, rock tumbling isn’t just a cosmetic process; it can also be used to identify and preserve rocks in a collection.

Types of Rock Tumblers

There are two types of rock tumblers: rotary and vibratory. Rotary rock tumblers are the most common type, and they work by rotating a barrel filled with rocks, water, and grit in a circular motion for days or weeks on end.

Vibratory rock tumblers, on the other hand, use vibration to move the rocks around a smaller container filled with the same elements. Rotary rock tumblers have a larger capacity for tumbling rocks and can also be used for metal polishing, while vibratory rock tumblers are smaller and better suited for delicate or smaller rocks.

While both types of rock tumblers get the job done, rotary tumblers are more popular due to their larger capacity.

Where to Find Rocks for Tumbling

Rock tumbling is a hobby that requires rocks for tumbling. The best place to find suitable rocks is at a rock or mineral shop.

These shops usually sell small bags of rocks that are perfect for tumbling. Alternatively, if you live near a river or stream with pebble beds, you can find rocks there that are suitable for tumbling.

However, make sure you don’t collect rocks from national parks and protected areas as it’s usually illegal.

Types of Rocks to Use for Tumbling

Not all rocks are suitable for tumbling. Rocks that are too soft or porous won’t polish well, while those that are too brittle may break during tumbling.

The best rocks for tumbling are those with a hardness rating of 7 or higher, a nonporous surface, and a smooth surface that hasn’t been weathered, chipped or fractured. Examples of rocks suitable for tumbling are jasper, agate, and quartz.

Before you start tumbling, make sure you do some research on the rocks you’re considering, and read up on the best methods to use to get the best results. What Do Rock Tumblers Do?

Rock tumblers are designed to transform rough and irregular rocks into smooth, polished works of art. The process of rock tumbling involves placing the rocks in a container with water and grit, or polishing medium, and then tumbling them for a period of days or weeks.

The tumbling process uses friction and abrasion to gradually wear down the rough surface of the rocks until they are smooth. As the rocks are tumbled, the grit or polishing medium wears down the rough outer layer of the rocks, leaving a smoother surface.

The tumbling process also shapes the rocks into more rounded shapes, giving them a more aesthetic appeal. The end result is shiny, polished rocks that can be used for display or in jewelry making.

Function of Rock Tumblers

Rock tumblers function by tumbling the rocks in a container filled with water, grit, and sometimes, a polishing compound. In rotary rock tumblers, the container rotates in a circular motion, while in vibratory rock tumblers, the container vibrates.

The pressure of the grit or polishing medium against the rocks, combined with the constant motion of the container, causes friction and abrasion which wears down the rough outer layer of the rocks. As the rocks tumble, the grit or polishing medium gradually becomes finer, eventually producing a smoother and shinier surface on the rocks.

The process of rock tumbling is long and requires patience, but the end results are worth the wait.


Rock tumbling is a fun and rewarding hobby that anyone can enjoy. With the right equipment, rocks, and grit, you can turn rough and irregular rocks into smooth and polished works of art.

Remember to do your research before starting the tumbling process, so that you can choose the right type of rock tumbler and rocks suitable for tumbling. With some patience and effort, you can create beautiful polished rocks that will last for years.


Types of Rock Tumblers

Rock tumbling is a fun hobby that enables us to transform rough and irregular rocks into smooth, polished works of art. There are two types of rock tumblers: rotary and vibratory tumblers.

Both have their own unique features and benefits. In this section, we’ll go over each type in more detail.

Rotary Rock Tumblers

Rotary rock tumblers are the most popular type of rock tumbler. They are designed for perfect tumbling results on any type of rocks, including hard rocks like jasper or agate.

If you’re considering buying a rotary rock tumbler, you’ll find that there is an array of options to choose from, ranging from single barrel rock tumblers to double barrel rock tumblers. If you’re a rock tumbling hobbyist, the Lortone 3A rock tumbler could be the perfect fit for you.

It is a single barrel rock tumbler that has a capacity of 3 pounds. It’s designed for small scale tumbling of rocks.

The Lortone 3A is an affordable and easy-to-use rock tumbler that offers excellent results when used appropriately. Alternatively, you can consider the double barrel rock tumbler.

This type of rock tumbler allows you to work with two barrels simultaneously. With dual barrels, you can tumble twice as many rocks, or you can have two batches of rocks going at the same time, which is perfect if you’re someone who loves getting things done efficiently.

If you’re considering getting a double barrel rock tumbler, you’ll find that the cost is higher than that of single barrel rock tumblers. However, the convenience and efficiency that they offer may make it worth the investment.

Vibratory Rock Tumblers

Vibratory rock tumblers are an alternative to rotary rock tumblers. They differ from rotary tumblers in that they use vibration to tumble the rocks.

The Chicago Pneumatic Vibratory Tumbler is a popular choice for those who are interested in vibratory rock tumbling. One of the most significant benefits of using a vibratory tumbler is that they tumble rocks faster than a rotary tumbler would.

Vibratory tumblers use less grit than rotary tumblers, and they produce less noise. Vibratory tumblers are the perfect option for those who want to bear in eco-friendly, noise-controlled solutions.

Another advantage of vibratory tumblers is that they are better suited for smaller rocks. Vibratory tumblers are more delicate than rotary tumblers, so they can polish and shape small rocks with less abrasion.

Although the Chicago Pneumatic Vibratory Tumbler is an excellent choice for vibratory tumbling, it’s best suited for hobbyists looking to tumble small rocks, since it has a limited capacity of 18 pounds. 4)

Types of Rocks to Use for Tumbling

The first step in rock tumbling is choosing the right rocks.

The best rocks for tumbling are hard rocks with a nonporous surface and a smooth surface. Examples of suitable rocks for tumbling include agate, jasper, and quartz, among others.

Rocks with a hardness rating of 7 or higher on the Mohs scale are ideal, since they will polish well. The hardness and texture of the rocks will determine how long you need to tumble them.

The harder the rock is, the longer it takes to get polished. Soft rocks like soapstone or marble should be avoided in the rock tumbling process.

These types of stones break down easily and are not suitable for polishing. As such, they should be avoided during tumbling.

Other things that you should avoid tumbling include rocks that may have air pockets, cracks, or voids that may break once in the tumbler. Not all rocks will come out perfectly polished the first time around, so you may need to try out several different rocks before achieving the desired results.


Rock tumbling is a great hobby for anyone who loves to collect and create beautiful gifts or display pieces. There are two types of rock tumblers to choose from: rotary and vibratory tumblers.

Rotary tumblers come in single and double barrel styles and are better suited for polishing larger rocks. Vibratory tumblers are better suited for smaller rocks and have a faster tumbling time.

When choosing rocks for tumbling, it’s important to select rocks that are hard, nonporous, and have a smooth surface. Avoid soft rocks, soapstone, or marble, since they will break down in the tumbler.

Now that you have the necessary information, you can start exploring the world of rock tumbling. 5.

Where to Find Rocks For Rock Tumblers

Rock tumbling enthusiasts know that you can’t just use any rock for tumbling. Rocks suitable for tumbling are generally found in certain locations, including riverbeds, streams, beaches, quarries, construction sites, and, sometimes, even roadside ditches.

Riverbeds, streams, and beaches have always been popular spots for rock collectors and tumbling enthusiasts. These locations are ideal since the water wears down rocks, making smoother and more rounded.

Rocks found near these locations are perfect for rock tumbling, providing you follow the criteria of smooth, hard, non-porous rocks. Quarries and construction sites are also a great place to look for rocks.

Since there’s machinery and digging involved, various rocks are exposed to the surface, and you can find fossils and interesting rocks that may not be found elsewhere. If you’re looking to buy bulk rocks for tumbling, there are reputable online stores like Crystal Allies Materials who provide various types of rough rocks in bulk for tumblers.

They offer quality and at affordable prices, which make it easy to buy rocks for rock tumblers without venturing out to look for them. 6.

How to Use a Rock Tumbler

Rock tumbling can be an enjoyable and satisfying experience, but it requires patience and effort to get the desired results. In this section, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to use a rock tumbler effectively.

Step 1: Shaping

Before you start the tumbling process, you need to shape the rocks to ensure they fit nicely in the barrel. You can do this by grinding down the sharp edges using a rotary tool or a diamond drill bit.

Step 2: Medium/Fine Grit

The next step is to add coarse grit or abrasive to the tumbler to grind down the rough ends. After three to five days of tumbling with the coarse grit in the barrel, switch to medium/fine grit to continue grinding.

Refrain from overloading the barrel; the right ratio of rocks and grit is important for optimal results. Step 3: Pre-Polish

Once the rocks are smooth, continue tumbling with pre-polishing grit for three to five days.

This phase prepares rocks for the final stage of polishing by removing any coarse grit remaining on the stones. Step 4: Polishing/Burnishing

Finally, it’s time for the polishing stage.

Add the polish grit in the barrel and tumble for five to seven days, adding burnishing or plastic tumbling pellets during the last 24 hours to increase the shine and smoothness of the rocks. After that, remove the rocks from the barrel and rinse them with clear water.

Step 5: Barrel Cleaning

One crucial step in the rock tumbling process is cleaning the barrel between stages. The barrel must be clean and free of grit particles before you begin the next stage, and it should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent contamination and abrasion.

The best way to clean a rock tumbler barrel is by using warm water and mild soap. Fill the barrel halfway with warm water and a few drops of soap, then run the tumbler for thirty minutes.

Dump out the soapy water, rinse the barrel thoroughly with clean water, and let it dry before adding the next phase of grit.


Rock tumbling is an enjoyable and rewarding activity that can give you unique polished rocks for display or jewelry making. When choosing rocks for tumbling, keep in mind the location of where to find them, exclusively smooth, hard, and nonporous rocks.

Once you have the right rocks, using a rock tumbler requires attention and patience, starting with shaping the rocks, adding coarse and fine grit, pre-polishing, polishing, and burnishing while cleaning the barrel between stages to get a smooth and shiny finish. Happy rock tumbling!


A Look Back at the History of Rock Tumblers

Rock tumbling has been used for centuries to give gemstones and rocks a smooth, polished finish. The process of rock tumbling has evolved over time, from the use of manual methods to the invention of mechanical rock tumblers.

In the past, rock polishing was done manually by rubbing the rocks against each other or by using sandpaper. The introduction of man-made rock tumblers in the rock industry revolutionized the process.

In the beginning, some hobbyists used paint cans with rubber or plastic liners that allowed for the rocks to tumble around while in the container. As the demand for rock tumblers increased, manufacturers began providing better and more efficient tools like the Lorton and Thumler’s rock tumblers.

Nowadays, the industry standards are high-quality rock tumblers that offer durability, improved performance, and reliability. Reputable companies support their products with warranties to ensure the durability of their rock tumblers.

8. Tips and Tricks for Rock Tumbling

Rock tumbling is a fun hobby, and like any hobby, there are some tips and tricks that can help make it more enjoyable.

Below are a few essential tips to keep in mind when tumbling rocks.

Thoroughly Rinsing the Barrel after Each Stage

After every stage of rock tumbling, ensure you rinse the barrel thoroughly to remove any grit particles. This ensures that you avoid etching or scratching your rocks from residual grit.

Extra effort is necessary if you would like to get optimal results in the final stages. The same can be said for the rough stages where you want to prevent coarser grit from remaining in the barrel for the next stage.

Reducing the Noise Level with a Soundproofing Box

Rock tumbling is a noisy process due to the motor’s noise. To avoid disturbances, you can place the rock tumbler in a soundproofing box, which reduces the noise level significantly.

This box also acts as a safety mechanism as it keeps animals, children, and dust out.

If a soundproof box isn’t feasible, consider purchasing a model with an air-cooled motor to reduce noise.

Examples of Before and After Tumbled Rocks

Before starting the rock tumbling process, it’s essential to have a clear idea of what you’re working with. For example, if you have rocks from New Mexico, you can compare the before-and-after effects of the rocks.

Additionally, you can check for sparkling rocks to ensure you tumbled them long enough.

It’s important to

Popular Posts