Rock Discoveries

Rock Tumbling 101: Tips Tricks and FAQs for Beginners

Rock tumbling is an exciting hobby that allows one to turn rough rocks and stones into smooth and polished gems. But before you start, it’s essential to know how to load your rock tumbler properly.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about loading your rock tumbler with rocks, grit, and other materials. Part One: Loading Your Rock Tumbler with Rocks and Grit

Amount of Rocks to Put in Rock Tumbler

The amount of rocks you can put in your rock tumbler depends on the size of your barrel. Before loading your tumbler, consider the barrel size, weight allowance, and rock size.

If you put too many rocks in your barrel, you may overload it, damaging the motor or causing the rocks to jam in the barrel. To avoid this, follow the weight allowance and put a reasonable number of rocks in the tumbler.

It is best to fill the barrel with at least 50% of its capacity to ensure efficient tumbling.

Amount of Grit to Put in Rock Tumbler

Grit is the primary agent that smoothens and polishes the rocks in the tumbler. There are different types of grit, including coarse, medium fine, and pre-polish or polish aluminum oxide grit.

When selecting your grit, consider the abrasiveness and the intended result. You can use a grit chart or follow the rule of thumb, where you start with a coarse grit and progressively move to finer grits.

The amount of grit to use depends on the size of the barrel and the amount of rocks you put in it. Generally, a tablespoon per pound of rocks is the recommended amount.

Other Materials Used in Rock Tumbling

Apart from grit and rocks, other materials can be used in rock tumbling. These include plastic pellets, polishing compounds, and water.

Plastic pellets are added to fill the remaining space in the barrel, cushion the rocks, and add wear resistance to the barrel lining. Polishing compounds enhance the luster on the rocks, while water lubricates the barrel preventing overheating and acts as a carrier for the grit.

Part Two: Rock Tumbler Loading

Importance of Cleaning Tumbler Barrel

Contamination is one of the most significant concerns when tumbling rocks. Dirt, oil, or any other foreign material can contaminate your barrel, affecting the polishing quality.

Therefore, always clean your tumbler barrel before starting a new batch. You can clean it using dishwashing soap and a soft-bristled brush.

It’s crucial to rinse all soap residue before adding the rocks to the barrel.

Types of Grit

The type of grit you use depends on the intended result. Coarse grit is used to remove rough edges and shape your rocks.

Medium-fine grit is used to refine the shapes and remove the scratches caused by the coarse grit. Pre-polish aluminum oxide grit is used to prepare the rocks for polishing, while the polish grits enhance the luster of the stones.

It’s essential to use grits in a sequence starting from coarse to fine to achieve the desired results.

Types of Tumblers

There are two types of rock tumblers: rotary tumblers and vibratory tumblers. Rotary tumblers are the most common and consist of a barrel that rotates rock and grit in a circular motion.

They’re known for producing uniformly smooth and polished stones but require a more extended period. On the other hand, vibratory tumblers vibrate the rocks and grit in a back-and-forth motion, producing polished rocks in a shorter period.


In conclusion, loading your rock tumbler with rocks, grit, and other materials is crucial to achieve the desired results. Always consider the type and amount of grit to use, the size of your barrel, and the correct weight allowance.

In addition, always clean your tumbler barrel to avoid contamination and consider the type of tumbler to use for your needs. With these tips, you’re now set to start your rock tumbling journey and transform your rough rocks into beautiful gems.

Rock tumbling is a fascinating hobby that requires patience and effort. It involves turning rough stones into smooth and polished gems that can be used for various purposes.

However, to achieve the best results, it’s essential to understand the various aspects of rock tumbling, including grits. In this article, we’ll explore some frequently asked questions about rock tumbling grits.

Part Three: Frequently Asked Questions about Rock Tumbling Grits

Reusing Grit

Can grit be reused after a tumbling cycle? The answer depends on the effectiveness of the grit.

If the grit has lost its abrasiveness, reusing it may not yield the desired results. However, you can reuse grit by cleaning and then reusing it.

To clean grit, rinse it under running water and then dry it completely. Once the grit is dry, you can use it again in another cycle.

However, it’s essential to note that the effectiveness of the grit will decrease after each cycle.

Making Your Own Grit

Is it possible to make your own grit? Yes, it’s possible to make your own grit.

However, it’s challenging to create the exact abrasive grits used in commercial rock tumbling. You can make grit by crushing stones like quartz, emery, or sandstone and then sifting it to obtain particles of the desired size.

Another option is to mix polishing compound powders with silica sand.

Tumbling Rocks without Grit

Can rocks be tumbled without grit? Yes, rocks can be tumbled without grit, but the process will take longer.

Without grit, the stones will not be smoothed or polished and will remain rough. To achieve a polished finish, rocks need to be tumbled with grit.

However, if you want to shape the rocks without adding grit, it’s possible to use alternatives such as beach sand or powdered soft minerals like talc or soapstone. While these alternatives may not result in a polished finish, they can be used to shape the rocks.

Part Four: Final Thoughts

Importance of Experience in Rock Tumbling

Experience is crucial when it comes to rock tumbling. With experience, you learn how to identify the right types of rocks to tumble, the correct grit types and quantities to use, and the ideal tumbling duration for different stones and grits.

Additionally, experienced rock tumblers know how to identify and troubleshoot any issues that may arise during the tumbling process. Keeping a record of your tumbling experiments and observations is an excellent way of learning and gaining experience.

Cost of Rock Tumbling

Rock tumbling can be expensive, especially concerning electricity bills. The tumbling process requires continuous use of electricity, which can be expensive in the long run.

Other factors influencing the cost of tumbling include the cost of acquiring quality rocks, grit, and other materials needed for the process. It’s essential to set up a budget and choose appropriate equipment that is energy efficient, to minimize the cost of tumbling.

Purchasing Polished Rocks

If you’re not interested in tumbling rocks yourself, you can always buy polished rocks. The advantages of this option include having access to a variety of beautiful stones and not having to invest time or money in the tumbling process.

However, it’s essential to note that the cost of polished rocks is often higher than the cost of raw rocks, and you might not achieve the same level of personal satisfaction as when you tumble rocks yourself.


Rock tumbling is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby that requires effort and patience. By understanding the different aspects of rock tumbling, such as grits, you can achieve exceptional results.

Whether you’re reusing grit, making your own grit, or tumbling rocks without grit, it’s important to experiment and learn from your experiences. Additionally, it’s essential to consider the cost implications of rock tumbling and the option of purchasing polished rocks as an alternative.

In conclusion, rock tumbling can be a fascinating and rewarding hobby that requires attention to detail and experimentation. The effectiveness of different grits, barrel capacity, and the type of stones used contributes significantly to the overall outcome.

Proper maintenance, record-keeping, budgeting, and exploring alternatives such as purchasing polished rocks can lead to an enjoyable rock tumbling experience. As a final thought, remember to prioritize safety when operating the rock tumbler and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using the equipment.

Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers to help you as you begin your rock tumbling adventure:


– Can grit be reused after a tumbling cycle? – Is it possible to make your own grit?

– Can rocks be tumbled without grit? – What are some alternatives for polishing rocks without grit?

– How important is experience in rock tumbling? – What are some common cost considerations for those interested in rock tumbling?

– What are the benefits of purchasing polished rocks instead of tumbling rocks yourself?

Popular Posts