How to Polish Polymer Clay Beads in a Rock Tumbler

Polishing Polymer Clay In A Rock TumblerVideo #363: Introducing a new polishing substrate to use in your polymer clay rock tumbler.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Small round beads can be a big pain to sand by hand, so a rock polisher can help out by  polishing your beads while you do something else… like make more beads.
  • In one of my previous tutorials about Rock Tumblers and Polymer Clay, I demonstrated how to use unpolished river rock as the substrate for polishing polymer beads. Since then I started using a new plastic material in 3 different grits.
  • The plastic substrate can be purchased at Otto Frei (coarse, medium, fine).
  • How-to tips for this new substrate with polymer clay beads.
  • Final step in the process uses small porcelain balls as a polishing/buffing substrate to get a nice soft sheen.
  • I use a Lortone 3lb capacity Rotary Rock Tumbler/Polisher.
  • Rock tumbling won’t remove larger flaws such as fingerprints or deep scratches, but it will create a smooth and lightly polished surface on your polymer clay beads.
  • The information I share in the video can be used with any shaped bead, including sculpted ones. But they must be able to handle being tumbled around for several hours. Always test first, to see how your beads will fair.
  • Don’t pack the barrel of the tumbler too tight. The beads, water and substrate need room to move around.


Question of the Day:

Do you use a rock tumbler to polish your round polymer clay beads? Or do you prefer using other methods?

I look forward to hearing from you.

By the way, if you have a polymer clay question or challenge you’d like me to address in an upcoming video vlog, do post it in the comments below. I’d love to help you find quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

Oh and don’t forget to give these videos a Thumbs Up click at YouTube if you are enjoying them. The more Likes a video gets, the higher it rises in the searches. And that means even more people will be able to join in on this polymer clay journey of a lifetime.

Also, by subscribing to our YouTube Channel directly, you will receive notifications as soon as new videos are uploaded. To subscribe, click here… Polymer Clay Rock Tumbler Tips. The Subscribe Button is right near the top of that YouTube page.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
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Comments

  1. What a great product. They really gave a lot of thought to the design of those little triangles. I remember group conversations years ago about using a rock tumbler. LOL . The group experimented with a lot of different techniques, pop corn, sand paper strips, rice, plastic pellets, etc. . I have a vibrating rock tumble I bought from Harbor Freight, it was about $55.00 and well worth the money. I looks like a black cauldron and shakes the contents, it does not spin; it is really loud so it sits on a scrap piece of carpet on the basement floor. I tumble my beads 4 hours, so I assume it would be about the same per substrate. I also make sure my beads are really smooth and finger print free before baking.

    Thanks for the tip about not putting uncooked beads in the tumbler. I love short cuts but that is one I will avoid.

    • LOL I love your humor Anna! We’re definitely on the same page. The nice thing about this plastic substrate that I forgot to mention is that it is WAY quieter than the river rock. In fact I don’t even mind it running in the studio while I’m there. Of course the kids say I am going deaf, so I can probably handle a little more noise than others but I couldn’t think when the rocks were in there before. And thinking is helpful in my line of work! :)

  2. Very interesting, Cindy… the products demonstrated AND the retailer! Otto Frei looks like one of those shops it’d be really dangerous to let me loose in! :D

    Did you try any of the other sizes or shapes of plastic grinding medium? Or any other sizes of porcelain balls? When I looked at the category page and saw all the porcelain ball sizes my initial reaction was to get a bag or two of each and mix them — I’d need a lot for my tumbler anyway — but I’d hate to have to separate them all out again if a mix of sizes wasn’t the best for polymer clay after all! LOL

    Anyway, to answer the question of the day, as some of you know I use a vibratory tumbler for sanding beads in bulk (“polishing” is a bit ambiguous, I think). Mine’s a Hornady case tumbler, for cleaning ammunition “brass” prior to reloading it. I use thoroughly-picked-over small decorative pebbles as the sanding medium and have been really happy with that (except for the noise, but some sound-proofing foam helps), although I haven’t found a good way of buffing in the vibratory tumbler to date, so I’ll definitely order some of those porcelain balls.

    I actually have been able to tumble-sand fingerprints out of beads, as long as they weren’t too heavily marked. But most frequently I just use the super-smooth rocks to tumble-sand, and spot-sand any defects by hand afterwards.

    So… off to shop online at Otto Frei now. I hope shipping to Australia isn’t too totally outrageous!

    • Sue if you have a exterior surface blasting company in the area, visit. For historical buildings and statues they use a variety of mediums in the sand blasting equipment to remove tarnish, aging, and preprep for repaint,

      The local place here has several different sizes of glass balls to blast with, as well as other types, and you might be able to find exactly the type you need. Unfortunately, most of the material is sent in huge bag lots since it is so heavy, so I used a little smiling and charm and brought a large lidded coffee can with me. They filled it to the brim, it was more than enough for the Lortone model, and it works perfectly.

      All best.

      • Thanks for the suggestion, Jocelyn! :)

        I actually have no idea whether there are any such companies in my area — I’m hopeless at that! LOL — although there’s a fair amount of construction happening so it’s a possibility. Charm is definitely not one of my strong points ;) but if I do find somewhere with such supplies maybe they’ll sell me a suitable quantity. I’ll see what I can turn up!

        • LOL!, just make it easy, google.com, or Bing. I’d try “sand blasting equipment” and give your city state country zip. It’ll pull something close to you, I stake my life on it.

          Have fun!

          • Already done. Briefly with Google and Yellow Pages, anyway. ;)

            But no, they didn’t show anything suitable in the area. I still might be able to find something through a more detailed search, but judging by a home expo I went to recently a lot of those businesses don’t actually have a web presence yet (hard to believe, especially for a computer geek like me, but true!).

    • Hi Sue, sorry to be such an enabler for your supply addiction! :) Honestly there are worse habits you could have. Personally I just love the tools and supplies I have purchased from Otto Frei. I especially love my Fretz Chasing Hammer I bought there. When I am rich (this is assuming I ever am) I will buy every Fretz hammer they have… they are simply beautifully crafted and worth every penny!

      Any who… About the porcelain balls, my guess is that you could mix sizes because I think they are all the same ‘grit’ but I would confirm that with them before buying them. I found the small ones worked great and weren’t too small to get stuck in the holes of my beads. But you never know, a variety of sizes may be even more effective? That is of course something to test.

      I think this goes without saying, but if you do try it, let us know all about it. I love hearing about your experiments!!

      • Hi Cindy!

        I love tools and gadgets too and local suppliers are few and far between with relatively limited ranges compared to North America and Europe, so you can help me feed my supply addiction any time! LOL

        I was looking at the Fretz Chasing Hammers too, although I ended up ordering a GRS because I think the shorter handle will suit me better. I *know* where I should be holding the longer handles, but I still don’t do it. ;) I’ll have to try the Fretz line next time… the whole range looks great, and I hope you can get all that you want very soon!

        On the porcelain balls, you make a good point about the really small ones possibly getting stuck in bead holes. I think I’ll try a mixture of sizes anyway — and will post a summary of the results when I’m done — although I ordered more of the 3mm size than the others since you’ve already confirmed for us all that that gives great results.

        Thanks for trying out all these new products, Cindy! It’s always interesting to hear about them, and the information is always useful and appreciated whether individual items appeal directly or not.

        Hope you’re all having a great long weekend,

        Sue

  3. YES YES YES Thank you for making this video Cindy

    Since I posted a comment in the Easter Lily Cane area about only sanding my round beads with just the 1st 2 grits of the micro-mesh pads – using Ren Wax then Dremel buffing …. well they did turn out beautiful and shiny BUT I ‘ve had this nagging feeling that I’d put the wrong message ‘out there’

    So I made 30 or so more beads with the rest of my Easter Lily cane – None of them round this time – took a couple of the coin shaped ones and gave them the same treatment as the original round ones ——– long story short—– It Didn’t Work—- I could see alot of the scratch mark after the Ren Wax and dremel buffing treatment….. so I just wanted to correct any misconceptions that I might have dropped around the blog ;)

  4. We also have a Hornady vibrating tumble

    at 1st it was mine, got it to use with the river rocks BUT never had any luck :/

    Now that DH is reloading and you have shown us this clever substraight from O F we will have to share IF you think the O F substraight will work in a vibrating machine

    Also – do you or anyone here think that one bag of each grit will be enough? Because of the larger container size

    I’d Love to be able to let a machine do my sanding while – Like Cindy said – I’m making more beads :D

    • Hi Sherry,

      I’m 100% certain that one bag of each grit WON’T be enough for a Hornady vibratory tumbler if it’s the same one as mine (model 050201; I believe the US/110V version is model 050200).

      This kind of tumbler needs to be OVER half full for the tumbling action to occur properly. (The documentation that came with mine actually says two-thirds full, although I found that a bit over half full was fine with rocks, maybe because they’re denser than the medium you’d use to clean cases with.)

      Guesstimating the volume of one bag by how much it filled Cindy’s Lortone tumbler barrel, I think it’d take at least 3 bags of each grit, and I’d probably go for 4-5 bags of each grit myself if I end up buying these in addition to the porcelain balls. (Still poking around the Otto Frei site! ;D)

      A few other thoughts on tumble-sanding polymer clay with your vibratory tumbler which might help:

      - Only use a little bit of water. The tumbling motion is quite different to a rotary tumbler, and I know from testing mine that the amount of water Cindy used in her rotary tumble sanding tutorial (video #104, [Vol-011-4]) would be way too much to get good results from a vibratory tumbler. I set mine going dry, slowly trickle in a bit of water until I see that all my rocks and beads are dampened, and then add just a little bit more. (If I stopped the tumbler and pushed all the rocks and beads aside to expose the bottom of the tumbling basin, I’d only see a small amount of water at the very bottom.)

      - If you are tumbling with rocks, use really smooth, evenly shaped rocks. I bought 10kg of 9mm decorative pebbles (not river rocks) and picked out only the “perfect” ones (I use a bit over 3kg of rocks in my tumbler). If you have rougher rocks in the mix you won’t get as good a finish.

      - Tumble for long enough (this is where vibratory tumblers are great, because you can easily pluck beads out to check their progress and put them back in at any time while the tumbler is going). I usually tumble for about 4 hours with the rocks (I found that shorter times such as 1-2 hours didn’t give fully satisfactory results, and tumbling for much longer times such as 6-8 hours risked removing too much clay). Those times are for Kato, by the way, so softer clays might be better with slightly shorter times.

      Sue

      • Hi Sue
        Thank you for such a quick and thorough reply :)
        That Otto place is dangerous LOL Too many cool things
        but I’ll try to restrain myself :)

        btw you were right about my model number, it’s the 110 v

        For now I’ll get 2 pounds each of the 3 grits and hold off on the 3mm porcelain balls (I like using the Ren wax and dremel for buffing)

        Here’s hoping 2 pounds will do (at $9/lb x 3 grits)
        So thank you again Sue :)

      • Super product finds, Cindy!

        Just wanted to mention there are a lot of blog comments all over PCT speaking of tumblers and tumbling so be sure to hit the search category. You will get tons and tons of links to them, and learn lots and lots. LOL!

  5. Right now on my round beads I just use cornstarch to smooth the bead out before baking then add a coat of varnish but I would LOVE to use a tumbler to get that nice sheen instead of varnish. One day I will invest in one but there always seems to be some other thing to get first! Thanks for the video and where to find these polishing materials?

  6. Thanks for the info Cindy….. I have not yet used mine but I did purchase one a few months back after watching your earlier videos. I will probably use mine quite a bit as of arthritis being in my hands it will help in less stress on my joints. I love the tip on the new tumbler ingredients will have to order some as well. Will update a little later this spring and let you know how the tumbler is working when I use it. Thanks again, great video as always!!!

  7. Don’t have a tumbler. I would like one – but money is tight. So probably all those round beads (I have 3 very large jars full) will just have to sit there til someone else gets them and finishes them……LOL

  8. Cindy that was a very informative video. I have both a Hornaby vibrating tumbler and a Lortone rock tumbler. I am in question as to which one will do a better job. The Hornaby is nice when I have a very large number of beads but is so noisy I have to keep it in the lower back room on carpet with the door closed. I like the Lortone when I have a smaller number of beads. Since one vibrates and one spins and tumbles which one does the better job? Does anyone have a preference? I agree with Sue on the amount of substrate I would have to get, so should I get it for both or just go with the one that does the best job? I had previously got the Hornaby to clean bullet casings for my bracelets so didn’t pay that much attention when I cleaned it all out and did my first batch of beads. It didn’t do that good of a job on the casings and I ended up cleaning and polishing them each by hand which was very disappointing since I do 100 at a time. I love this new substrate just for the fact that it is quieter and if it does a better job than the rocks I will definitely wants some. It’s probably much lighter also and easier on running the tumbler which I do a minimum of 12 hours for each batch. So fellow clayers which tumbler do you think does the best job?

    • Hi Dixie,

      Since you have used both the type of tumblers, can you give me an estimate of the approximate no. of beads that can be tumbled in lortone 3lb vs vibratory. I need to buy accordingly..

      Thanks

  9. I will definitely be trying these, but I have a question, can you layer the drum – media, beads,media,beads etc. or does it work better if the beads are put in on top?

  10. I tried using the polybeads but they didn’t work. I’m so glad I now have a new substrate to try on my polymer clay beads. Thanks Cindy

  11. My vibrating tumbler is not the Hornady brand. Looks the same but smaller. They do sell extra bowls/cauldrons an a person could have one just for sanding and one just for polishing. Mine does warn, “do not add water” but I throw caution to the wind and add 14 cup water and a couple drops of dish soap. Heck, if you going to break a warning rule make sure it is a harmless one.

    Some of the warnings with products are ridiculous like, “Do not operate toaster while in the shower”
    Or an electric drill warning, “Not a toy for children.” Really????

    • I die, Sue F, I die. LOL!!!! Try a major wholesale building supplier, it’s a commonly used substrate. I’d offer to send you some, but the postage is killer for the weight.
      All best finding some, and thank you again and again for your wonderfully detailed and informative commentary.

      Anna, you made me run to the ladies laughing. Another wonderful benefit of this caring community…….

    • Anna you are such a funny girl! Love your wit. I used a polishing cream and crushed up corn husks to polish my empty shells but it didn’t say anything about not adding water so I cleaned it all out and added the rocks and water to it just like I did with the Lortone and tumbled my beads. It sure didn’t blow up and I’m still using it but OMG is it noisy. I am gonna love the plastic thingies.

    • On ridiculous product warnings, apparently I’m not meant to drive my car with my head sticking out of the sunroof. I wish I was tall enough to even consider that! LOL

      I shouldn’t dry clothes in my microwave oven either. Luckily they warned me, otherwise I would have had to buy a bigger model! ;D

  12. HI Cindy, I have been using plastic media to sand my beads for many years now and can verify that it does a good job. I haven’t used the porcelain balls as of yet. Instead I use torn up jeans in the tumbler that gives a similar sheen.
    I haven’t found that you need to add soap to the water. I used to use glycerin, but don’t anymore and see no difference. Also, you cannot over-tumble the beads, and the longer they run on the first grit, the better the final finish. I line my tumbler with a large yogurt container as I have a Harbor Freight tumbler that can discolor the beads . The media is also available at Rio Grande. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Hi Cindy! So glad to see this video. I have the rock tumbler already so will look into? purchasing the substrate material. You mentioned you tumble the beads for a day. Just so I’m clear, do you mean 24 hours?

    Happy Easter to you and your family.

  14. This is awesome. I always feel like I am stumbling around in the dark with my rock tumbler. Constant trial and error. Definitely going to try this out.

    • Hi Marcela, I’ve been tumbling my polymer beads with a kid’s kit for years – it was the only one available in my country (Slovenia) and it went happily with me from the toy store. But I don’t use plastic for tumbling. I buy sanding paper grits 600 and 800, stick two sheets back to back with Neostik, cut to 1x1cm pieces and “pour” the grit and the beads in the tumbler, pour water to top and a drop of liquid dishwasher (eliminates the calcium from the water). The 600 grit also removes most of my residual fingerprints (or should I say palmprints ;)
      Bye, Kitty

  15. greaT TUTORIAL,, BEEN TRYING TO GET A ROCK TUMBLER BUT A BIT $$ BUT STILL LOOKING,, KEEP UP THE GREAT TUTORIALS!! LOVE THEM ALL

    • Hi Ruth Ann,

      Tumble sanding will work on just about any shape as long as it’s OK for all the surfaces to be sanded.

      Elaborating on a point Cindy raised in the video, if you have sculptural or intricately-shaped beads you’d need to make sure they’d stand up to the rigours of tumbling for many hours, i.e. make sure the clay is cured thoroughly for maximum strength, and if the clay is thin, including mostly-thick pieces with fine edges or with significant (deliberate!) protrusions, you’d want to use a strong clay too.

      Also, if your shapes have narrow hollows, e.g. the insides of cones or trumpet shapes, the tumble sanding medium probably won’t reach all the way inside those hollow parts, but you can spot-sand those bits by hand either before or afterwards (I’d do it afterwards).

      But for most “normal”, solid shapes, no problems if all surfaces are to be sanded.

      I hope that helps,

      Sue

      • Kitty, excellent point!

        Also the substrate and TIME in the machine must be monitored religiously at first, just like the temp in a toaster oven. Always check a new method with scraps, not your prized art work.

        Thinly applied cane overlays/veneers erase, Natasha beads corrupt if the mirror image is scraped off, mica shift shifts, and “ghosting” canes well, ghost. Mokume gane can completely change if over tumbled. The only one of these accidents that stunned me was a gorgeous design from a mokame gane laid to view by the excess tumbling.

  16. OT- Is anyone else wondering to the point of distraction !!! What our April tutorial will be about???? Not even a little bitty clue this time :)
    And Then our teasing duo puts up a new SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT green banner — to be revealed on April Fools Day—- aaaaarrrrrrgh
    Well you guys have my attention ;) lol

      • You’ve got us guessing Doug my dear
        Can’t wait for April, that is clear
        What can it be? our mind’s a blank
        But we know it could be an April prank

        With Cindy up to her knees in clay
        Doug’s juggling words to make our day
        A mirror? A pen? we just can’t think
        Could be a piggy bank in shocking pink!

        No, it’s no good we’ll just have to wait
        Whatever it is will be just great
        Whatever it is will be just fine
        And on that note I will end this line
        ………..cheers xx………..

      • The question is not how but why
        I’ve thought so hard it’s made me cry……
        “ahoy me hearties”, me minds a blank
        Might make you go and walk the plank

        So I give up, you are such a tease
        So tell me, tell me, tell me please
        A few more clues is all I need
        Can I wear it? Hang it? or give it a squeeze?

        Just two more days that’s all it takes
        Think I’ll just wait here with all of me mates.
        ……….cheers xx………..

      • OK here’s clue two,
        It starts with a B_______.

        That’s the name of the project,
        You get to make on FriD (stretching).

        And the word before B_______,
        is the name of a country.

        Good thing we don’t have to,
        contrive these rhymes monthly.

        Oh by the way,
        That country begins with an F_______.

        Their language is romantic,
        Spoken by many a F________ Chef.

        I hope that by now you are partially clued,
        I’ll stop before things become more unglued

        • Doug, I love this! It’s great to have you participate like this, and you should do it more often in the future!

      • What’s that you say,
        Clue two wasn’t enough?

        Hmmm… let me see…
        Let’s make more of a fuss.

        You already know,
        ’bout the F___ B___ blanks

        But H___ C___ works too,
        No, I’m not dishing more pranks.

        What I’ve said above, it’s really all true,
        Even that tid bit, I said about the glue.

        Think hard and you’ll get it, I know you’ll succeed,
        Ponder eyelets and rivets, and less about the bead.

        • OMW * I know I know*
          I’ve never been good at riddles and rhymes
          But I’m 99.9% sure
          The F___ B__ did not do it
          But the H___ C___ ‘secured’ it
          Should I say? or just keep it ‘contained’
          ….sure could have used it today…
          with the wind blowing every which way

      • Awesome Sherry! Why don’t you keep it under wraps for just a few more days to see if any other sleuths are able to figure it out.

        I do have one last clue to post, which should make it very easy for everyone to get the answer. I’ll share that one on Wednesday so that you’ll have the chance to add your answer before the teaser video gets published on Thursday.

        Thanks for playing

        PS: I like your use of the words ‘secured’ and ‘contained’ and your reference to the wind blowing. Very good! More clues for everyone ;-)
        .

        • OK, I know too. Not the sort of thing I’m into personally… although anybody who’s seen me would probably think I really should be!

      • Well it’s come to Clue Three,
        So I’ll make this one simple.

        Cause it’s time to see,
        You’all smile with that dimple.

        You’ll clip back your hair,
        With this polymer pretty.

        Need I say more,
        For this extended diddy?

        If you know the answer,
        Then post below.

        Cause I’ve run out of steam now,
        … all out of info.
        .

  17. I bought a kids tumbler from Hobby lobby with a coupon and it works great on polymer clay. I have my big one for rocks and such but found the small one is just fine for PC, sometimes I have 3 of them running at once!

  18. Thanks for the info. Cindy. I just made some really pretty round beads the other day, and now I just look at them knowing that sandin’ day’s a comin’ and I don’t have a tumbler, lol. I’ve been waiting until I have the extra money to invest in a double barrel one. Anyway, can’t wait to see what’s up your sleeve for Monday, and to get the April tutorial. I wish everyone a blessed Resurrection Day Sunday.

  19. Thanks Cindy! I use my rock tumbler to sand round beads and have been using the river rocks. Really looking forward to trying this new substrate! Off to the Otto Frei site. Hope it hasn’t blown up yet with all us clayers surfing.

    Can’t help but ponder the Special Tut… “… something that often tends to break”
    Hmm, being that time of year, and that its on my mind since at my last clay play day we were working on coverables and our guild leader showed us one that Carol Simmons (a local polymer clay artist) told her was “hideous.” LOL And, “… just maybe it’ll make you smile with a dimple”… the only one I ever covered with clay had plenty of dimples.

    Eggs?

  20. DawnB I would have guessed eggs too but ya never know what our Cindy is up to. By the way on the plastic substrate for the tumblers, if you have a Harbor Freight in your area they have the 5 lb. course for $19.99 in a dark green but Rio Grande actually has the best price per pound if you need more than 1 lb. Their price figures out to be about $3.70 a lb. if you buy the 5 lb. package compared to Otto Frei at $11.50 per lb. Rio Grande does not sell it in the one pound packages so I guess depending on the size of your tumbler and your wallet, those are your options. The same goes for the Porcelain polishing beads also.

  21. Like this family isn’t talented enough, now they are adding poetry !!! Maybe it is a clay technique book. Sure hope Doug hasn’t written the directions his new poetic style.
    We have already seen Doug hop and prance in front of the Christmas video.

    I am guess they have developed a new line of polymer clay. That would mean Cindy has to get a whole new set of plastic storage boxes.

    Eggs? Maybe using plastic easter eggs in some way?

    Is it really April 1st on Monday?

  22. My husband owns a machine shop, and I asked him recently if he had a rock tumbler. He said he had a tumbler (at the time I did not know why he left off “rock”) and that he would bring it to me. When I saw it, I knew why. It holds up to ten pounds and is intended to tumble metal pieces (newly machined gears and such).

    Cindy, have you had any experience with anything THIS big? You said you were leaving things in for a day, but I wonder if bigger means less time.

    Here is a link for a similar one.

    • Hi Gina, I chuckled when I saw your photo because that is almost identical to mine. This is a vibrating tumbler used a lot for polishing bullet shells besides what your husband uses it for. You can certainly use it for beads as I do when I have a lot and it does a great job. You do have to run it for many hours like Cindy suggested and with the new tumbler media it should be quieter especially if you set it on carpeting. I just bought 5 lbs. of the course plastic triangles and it takes almost 4 lbs. to fill it up enough to run a load of beads. These things are built to run day after day if you can stand the noise. I would be sure that the barrel is nice and clean before starting with the beads though. You don’t want any sharp metal pieces or splinters left in it. Once you put in your tumbling media, your beads go in next, then just enough water to cover the bottom and a few drops of Ivory liquid. Turn it on and let it run for 24 hrs.
      It doesn’t matter the size of the tumbler, it’s really the length of time it takes to complete a cycle.
      If you only have a few beads at a time, you might want to think about investing in a small rotary tumbler. They are so quiet and take a lot less tumbling media. I hope this helps, maybe Cindy can guide you more.

      • My my, that is the exact brand and make of the one sitting for years in my storage facility, covered by other boxes. I cannot wait to get that baby set up and rolling some clay, lol! Volume is bliss. And dry hands… Got mine at a tag sale, still in the box, untouched, and called manufacturer to get brochure (now, all on internet). Snagging sweet equipment, nothing like that high.

    • Sandra F, if you live by a Harbor Freight store you can get one for $39.95. I don’t know about their online store.

  23. Hi Cindy, Your recent rock tumbler video was very interesting. I want to buy a rotary rock tumbler or a vibratory tumbler. I am worried that my type of beads/pendants would be unsuitable for the rotary rock tumbler because of their shape. I make them using the bought clay cutter shapes of squares, rectangles, half circles etc. My pieces are pretty thick – about a quarter of an inch, & they are flat bottomed with only a slightly domed top, size is the same as the shape cutters (about 1 inch). Would this shapes be OK in the rotary rock tumbler? Have you tried it in yours? I just don’t want to buy one & then find it’s unsuitable for the shape, as I have read that the rotary one will
    round out beads while smoothing them. Where as the vibratory one only smooths, but doesn’t change the shape. I hate to do the sanding of my pieces by hand. Please give me some advice. I have only been using polymer clay for 5 months. Thank you, Cynthia Ryan

    • Hi Cynthia, Thanks for coming to the blog to ask your question! Although I can’t see the tumbler harming the shape of the bead that you’re talking about, I really don’t think it will do as well of a job as sanding would. I guess what I am picturing is more like a flat pendant. For something that is large and flat, you just can’t get a more beautiful finish, than by sanding.

      If on the other hand, what you are talking about is much smaller than a pendant, more in the range of my round beads in the video, than I could see the advantage of using a tumbler over having to sand something so small.

      I wouldn’t worry about the edges rounding off that much in the tumbler though. When a bead is baked properly for one hour, it should be plenty hard enough to not have its edges ‘ground off’ either from the substrate or the other beads. I suppose there could be a slight rounding of the edges, but I’ve never seen it in my experience.

      Hope that helps to answer your question. Maybe another member or reader will pop in with more to add on the subject?

      Good luck!

    • Hi Cynthia, I have both tumblers and have used both of them on similar shapes as yours. Most everything I make including Mold pieces go into the tumbler. I have never had problems with either one rounding off corners or changing the structure of the piece. If your pieces are slightly domed and flat on the bottom but are only 1″ or so in size and you do small batches, a rotary tumbler would probably be ideal. However, if you want to mass produce these pieces and have a lot of them at one time, A large vibratory tumbler would probably better suit your needs. For flat pieces any larger I always sand them by hand with the micro abrasive pads, then buff, rub with Ren wax and buff again. Cindy is right, the results are the best doing them this way. I just did a batch of beads in the rotary with my first load of the course plastic tumbling media and after 24 hrs. they came out so smooth and buffed up to a nice shine before going through the medium and fine grits so you can imagine how silky smooth they will be when they are finally done. Both tumblers will give you the same results, neither one changes the “shape” it’s the length of time tumbling that gives you the best results. Your question should be which one would benefit you better as far as load size. I started out with the large vibratory Hornady tumbler and loved it but soon realized I didn’t need such a big one for small batches of beads, pendants and other odd shaped pieces. Thats when I got a Lortone rotary and that’s the one I use more often. Good Luck and have fun with whatever you choose. ;)

      • Dixie Ann, Thank you for answering my question. I only make about 15 polymer clay pieces a day, so I think the size of the Lortone rotary would best suit me. Thanks, Cynthia Ryan

  24. Thanks Cindy. this video has come at the right time. I’m going to buy this – I had a hard time with the pain from my old injury and now it’s even worse. So this will be a huge help. At the moment I can’t do much with my hands; not allowed to lift anything either. It’s just a month since my accident but the doctors say it will take another month to heal and I will still have pain and need physio etc. I’m leaving for India on the 30th – going home to viist my parents after over 13 years and I’m not looking forward to the 18 hour flight.

    • So sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your hands Cherie. Hope that they heal quickly and that the strength in them returns, so you can get back to claying. Have a wonderful trip to India. Enjoy the time with your friends and family!

      On a side note: Every morning I walk with my friend around the track at a local park. Most mornings we are greeted by a group of older Indian woman. One woman in particular is super sweet and friendly but since she only speaks Punjabi and no English, we mostly just smile at one another.

      Each morning I say “Good Morning” and she would say “Sat Sri Akal”. One of her friends does speak a little English and said it means Hello. So since then I would say Sat Sri Akal to her and she would say Good Morning to me. Over the last year she has brought me many Indian Sweets and at Christmas, some hot Chai tea. I brought her some of my own baking as well.

      For a few months she had been away to India visiting family. (Her friend told me that.) And today she brought me a gift of glass, glittered bangles from her trip. They are so pretty! My Caucasian hands are quite large though, and I broke one trying to put it on. They giggled and said I needed some lotion. Good thing there were eleven more so I will try again later. Just thought you would enjoy hearing about that. :)

      • I love the glass bangles. I also had mirror work bangles. You get a lot of jewelry in India, some not very good quality. I wish I could bring back some semi preccious stones. My mother used to teach this gentleman who owned a store in the tourist are – he sold silk scarves, wood carvings and semi precious stones etc. At one point I thought of importing it here but his son committed suicide and I think he sold the shop. i will miss going there. When we came to Canada he gave us rose quartz hearts, semi precious necklaces and some carved animals for key chains to my son – also semi precious.

        I don’t think I mentioned – I slipped coming down to breakfast on the 1st and broke my back. I’m still on pain killers. i can’t have them thru the day as I have to teach and if I only take them at night , not enough in my system so I don’t sleep well. Also have whiplash as I hit my head and neck and tailbone too. I was just so lucky I did not get paralyzed. the problem I had before with my back and the muscle spasms in my shoulders (from a fall I had when I was 18) has got so much worse now. Still find it hard to turn or sit and not allowed to lift anything. I get a tearing pain in my spine if I raise my hands- even to type or lift even a book. I’m missing doing my jewelry specially polymer clay, and chainmaille and can’t practice the piano much either. Drives me nuts doing nothing! I hope I’m better – they said 4-8 weeks and it will be about 8 wks then but I’m still going to have the pain and will have to do physio and massage.

        • Bless your heart Cherie, will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you go down the path
          to better health -Sherry

          • Thank you for you thoughts and prayers. I tried doing some wire shapes yesterday – just a little shape and was in so much pain from working with the pliers. It’s going to take a while but I’m trying to be positive. It could have been worse.

      • Cherie, Lord have mercy, you have been through the mill. I am so sorry, and hope that all the thoughts and prayers I send to you help a little. Constant pain is an horrific burden. Drives me nuts. Figure if we could figure out how to put men on the moon, we sure should be better at assisting folks here who deal with it constantly. Hugs.

  25. Do the pyramids keep black smudge from getting on the? beads? Seems when I tumble in a “naked” tumbler, i get smudges from the tumbler container–it is a Lortone tumbler.

    • Hi Sarah, I don’t have a problem with black marks on my beads from a naked tumbler. I have heard of that though. Do you also use the tumbler for work hardening or polishing metal, by tumbling with steel shot? There may be some residue from the metal causing the black marks. I clean my drum with some soap and water before adding beads and the pyramids plus a drop of dish soap in with the water. Maybe you could try that? Let us know if that helps and if you’re still having problems. Maybe we can figure it out.

      • Hi Sarah!

        When I first started tumbling, I had the same problem, marks on the beads. My Dad watched, and commented that because I chose smooth little beach rocks of all compositions, that I needed to remove any of the rocks that reacted to water, like the iron-based ones, or dark stones, that marked softer plastci darkly.

        Once I did that, no further problems. Now that Cindy has explored and tested the new mediums outlined above, we never have to worry again.

        I use a Lortone with a black rubber lining which never marked my objects. After removing the offending minerals and colors of the tumbling media, I have been good to go since. I also have a large vibratory model, which I will be setting up soon, and thanks to Anna (bless you), I am going to give into my original temptation to add water to it as well.

        Hope this helps. All best.

  26. Hi, I don’t want to sound stupid, but is the plastic pyramids substrate re-useable? I just bought a tumbler and am waiting for my order from O.F. I am very excited to try this. Also I made some beads before I discovered Cindy:) and I glazed them with Sculpey glaze, do you think I could tumble them with other beads? I think sanding and polishing looks so much better then glazing.

    Thanks

    • Hi Ginny,
      yes you can use the tumbling media over and over again. 1 lb. will last you a very long time. It is designed to work that way. I wouldn’t tumble beads that have been glazed with other unglazed beads. Why don’t you try tumbling them by themselves. Whatever the tumbling process doesn’t remove, than I’m sure you can finish up using some alcohol to remove any thats left on them. Let’s see if Cindy has any other advice for you.

  27. Cindy,

    Thanks for this great tutorial. Thanks for telling where to get the “grits”.

    There are a few things that I wish you had said:

    1.) A new Lortone rubber tumbler chamber leaves a yellow/black residue on pale beads. I tumbled a pure yellow bead and it came out much darker. Translucent clay seems to be a sponge for the yellowyblack. I put in some pale aqua translucent clay beads and they came out pale green. Maybe once the tumbler is broken in this will stop. Some pale pink “opal” beads came out an indescribable color.

    2.) I wish you had warned me that the porcelain beads would go right through my colander into the wire basket covering my drain. Some escaped down the drain. :(

    3.) I wish you had said that large holed beads would grab the porcelain balls and that the whole pierced hole would fill up with beads which would be VERY hard to remove. HINT: use tempered steel carving tools to push them out, not your aluminum bead piercer. I make beads for kids with cancer through Beads of Courage and they require huge holes in the beads. HINT: I have ordered some 6 mm porcelain balls from Otto Frei and I am sure that this will solve the problem.

    Anyway, thanks for the tutorial.

    • Hi Susan, glad to hear you enjoyed the tutorial. I’m sorry that you had some problems though.

      As far as the yellowing on your beads, I don’t have a problem with my rubber barrel discoloring the beads, so didn’t think to mention that. As far as the reasons, it could be that my older barrel has been ‘seasoned’ over time… the rubber could be different… or it could be that since I use a drop of dish soap in every fresh batch, that it is cleaning the barrel. To solve that issue, I have heard of people lining their barrel with a plastic yogurt tub cut to size, or one of those plastic ready made frosting tubs. You might want to try that and see if that helps you.

      As far as you pouring your small porcelain balls down your sink strainer, well I couldn’t have anticipated that. I usually rinse my substrates in a wire strainer and not directly in my sink, so going down the drain, hasn’t been a problem for me.

      And with the 3mm size balls getting stuck in your bead holes, I guess that could be a problem if you had large bead holes. We did have a discussion along that lines further up in this thread. It sounds like you solved that issue with buying the larger 6mm ones.

      Good luck with your bead finishing. I think you will find it saves you a lot of time in the long run. Thanks for your feedback!

  28. Hi everyone- I’ll come back soon and make a full report on my time with the new substrate :)
    BUT for now can anyone tell me if I need to add a bit of water to my vibrating tumbler for the porcelain balls – they should be here by end of day tomorrow -yay
    thanks bunches -sherry

    • Hi Sherry, I just finished going through all grits including the polishing balls. I added enough water in my vibrating tumbler to just cover the bottom. It turned out just fine. I also used my rotating tumbler but filled that one up with water and a few drops of Ivory liquid. Both tumblers did an excellent job and the difference is so much better than using small river rocks. The first time you use the substrate it leaves some filmy water but a good rinse and dry is all it needs as you probably found out. I really like the new substrate, won’t ever go back to rocks.

      • Thanks Dixie Ann :)
        looking forward to that big brown truck pulling up the driveway today
        had to do my order in 2 parts – I know dbl shipping but
        yada yada ;/

        OT – yesterday I took a Shaded Rose bead and an Easter Lily bead to town to find some accent beads to make my mom and mom in law each a necklace for Mothers Day-
        I love the idea that they will be made with love and thoughts of them <3

        • What a lovely gift for your Mothers. I’m sure they will love them. You are so fortunate to still have them with you.
          OT- have fun tumbling.

  29. I have just bought a tumbler & the plastic cones & porcelain balls. After putting my beads through all 4 mediums, I have found that the roundish beads came out beautifully smooth, like silk. But the flat beads made with bought cutter shapes only smoothed out the edges, leaving the front & back flat surfaces still rough. So I am not so happy with the tumbler, but I guess I’ll need to use some wet dry paper on the flat areas. I had hoped to avoid hand sanding, as I hate it.

    • Did you get a rotary tumbler or a vibratory tumbler, Cynthia? The different actions would move the tumbling media against the tumbled items differently.

      I only have a vibratory tumbler* and I haven’t tried it with the plastic tumbling media yet, but I’ve been happy with how it sands flat pieces when using the carefully picked-over smooth pebbles I’ve tumbled with in the past. The flat pieces I’m talking about here include disc beads and flat “tiles” up to about 3-4cm square (pieces larger than that are invariably “feature” pieces for me, and I prefer to hand sand those).

      * A rotary tumbler is on my wish list, but for wirework and metalwork rather than for polymer clay. Not enough hours in the day…

      • I used a rotary tumbler. The pieces I am talking about are (quote) “flat “tiles” up to about 3-4cm square”. They kept their rectangle or square shape, just smoothed the edges nicely, but still maintaining the shape. But the front & back, which was flat, were still pretty rough to the touch. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks

        • Hi Cynthia,

          I don’t have that type of tumbler so I can’t check this for myself, but perhaps you could try tumbling the flat pieces for longer… maybe that kind of shape requires a longer rotary tumbling time than symmetrically shaped beads. (If you try that with one of your partially tumble-sanded flat pieces you’d be able to compare it to the remaining pieces at the end of the extra time, to see what kind of difference the extra tumbling time made to the flat sides.)

          Otherwise, for the flat pieces only, it might be worthwhile trying tumbling them with the good old “carefully picked over smooth small pebbles”. They’re convex in shape, compared to the combination of flat and concave surfaces that the plastic tumbling media have, so maybe that will help. It would only cost a couple of dollars to try. (And if works, it’s still much easier than hand sanding. Just noisier!)

          I know that my vibratory tumbler is much more effective with only a very small amount of water in it than it is with more water, but I believe that’s not the case for rotary tumblers, judging by Dixie Ann’s post above and others I’ve seen on other threads here discussing tumble sanding.

          Hopefully someone with a rotary tumbler will have some first hand knowledge they can share with you. (And the rest of us! :D)

          Good luck! :)

        • Cynthia, I hate sanding too but I do know from experience that the only way to really get a nice finish on a flat piece is to hand sand it. I’ve tried them in both tumblers and it still leaves a better part of the flat sides rough. It does go quite fast if you set it up right. I can go through 6 grits of the wet sanding sponges in about a minute per piece. Since they have already gone through the tumbler all I have to concentrate on is the flattest part. Another thing you might consider is the Jool Tool once Cindy gets a package set up for Polymer Clay and a way to hold the flat pieces. Until then you will probably get the best finish with hand sanding. Good Luck doll.

  30. @ Sue Delaney

    Hi Sue! A tip from the rock tumbling polishing world. They tell you over and over again, never ever ever dump residue from a tumbler into a drain. Did I listen? Nah!

    The residue accumulates and builds up in the trap, solidifying like concrete and stopping up the works. Sometimes (experience talking….) it even seals the joint so tight that when you try to wrench it open (lefty loosen, lol) you need the strength of a gorilla.

    It costs a lot to fix, trust. Especially when you do it to your parents’ first floor bathroom sink. With a septic tank. Lots of bad pipe, too, thanks to me and my stupid. Never will hear the end of it, either.

    From that point on, just dumped the contents (sans poly clay art) into an old pillow case, and rinsed it clean with the hose outside. Probably could use a 5 gallon bucket set up outside with rainwater that you just dunk the pillowcase in a couple of times, it settles, then you can pour off the water and use it again.

    Anytime I do anything in the sink after that, the rule was it’s over a metal mesh colander. And never the leftovers from the Lortone barrel.

  31. Hi everyone,
    …..just one question. I have gone thru the 3 different grits in the tumbler. Now its time for the ceramic balls. My question is………do I have to add water to this also, or do I dry tumble with the ceramic balls?
    Cheers
    Veronica

    • well I think it depends on what type of tumbler you are using
      with my vibratory one I used only 1/4 cup of water

      if you have a rotary one wait till someone pops in with their info
      cuz I’m not sure about that one :)

      didn’t you love the sanding substrate? I sure did – thanks again Cindy for testing this out for us !!

    • Hi Veronica,
      If using a rotary tumbler, always use water and fill it just above the beads and grit and always add a couple of drops of soap, but leave enough room for the beads to tumble. I never fill mine more than 2/3rds full. If using a Vibrating tumbler, always add just enough water to fill the bottom, about 1/2 C water and a couple of drops of liquid soap. This includes all grits including the polishing balls. Hope that helps. Have fun, :)

      • Thanks for that info Dixie Ann. Can’t wait to try the ceramic balls!…….Just had to buy more……didn’t buy enough in the first place! And I am surprised how quiet the whole process is. I have mine running in the kitchen so I can keep an eye on things.
        Cheers everyone

  32. Hi everyone
    Well I wound up getting 3 pounds of each of the 3 grits (thanks Sue F :))
    This was enough because I had 889 beads to sand

    Phase I
    In my Hornady vibratory tumbler every thing came to within an inch and a half of the top of the inside center cone
    I might have to buy more of each substrate in the future because those 889 beads represent at least 2 years of claying
    With help from this community I knew to add a 1/4 cup of water and a bit of liquid Ivory dish soap ( btw did you guys know that Dawn has an abrasive in it? heard that at the eye doctors office)
    Every hour my timer would go off and I’d go check on the beads – I was really only concerned about the Shaded Rose cane beads because I’d used such thin slices to cover their base – Bottom Line – they really did not need me hovering and being such a mother hen, they did fine :)
    After rinsing I found that there was gunk in the bead holes — so with tooth brush, needle tool and piercing pin in hand I spent about 5 hours cleaning the holes out
    Note to Self: Do Not drill holes till completely finished with tumbler! ;/

    Phase II
    Not being as worried about my rose beads I only checked them every 4 hours
    After 24 hours the beads (and I) went through the same rinsing – brushing – poking routine

    Phase III
    I just let them run for 24 hours – so nice not to worry about any damage
    But I should mention that some of my scrap lentil beads were damaged – I’m just not sure at what phase – I assume that was due to the clay being drawn up and away there by thinning the clay with the plexi glass motion
    I also put two Mobius beads and one 3-D Calla Lily bead from Video 016-1 and they went through all phases beautifuly
    My Faux Jasper (videos 054) carved Leaf mold did fine too – I can still see the little leaf vane marks
    More rinsing – brushing and poking of gunk

    Phase IV
    While I was waiting for my porcelain balls (2 pounds of the 3mm and one pound of 4mm) to be delivered I put only the beads in and just covered them with water and half a squirt of soap for more rinsing because the day before while counting and sorting I noticed that some beads had a residue of some sort on them from the sanding process – I did change the rinse water about 10 hours in and only used plain water for about 6 more hours, by that time the water was still clear
    Not much to say about the porcelain balls but OMW and WOW – almost every one of them is shiney and perfect :)

    My flat tile beads did not turn out as well as I’d hoped but from reading previous comments I’d kind of figured that would be the case – although I will still put the tiles through all the steps because I like the way sides and backs turned out

    Again note to self – had I not pre drilled my beads and only kept the small piercing pin holes I’d not have poked holes in my finger trying to get the balls out
    Lesson Learned and finger tip healed :)

    I have not been this excited about Any polymer clay tool since my DREAM machine!!

    Thank you Cindy for finding and testing out this wonderful product :)

    • Wow, thanks for the great report, Sherry!

      And… 889 beads? Whoa! :o
      (You actually counted them? Double whoa! LOL)

      I remember spending absolutely ages cleaning tumble-sanding residue from the cracks in some rustic faux turquoise beads one time — and in fact I never did finish cleaning all of them fully — so your post made me really glad I drill my bead holes right at the end for other reasons.

      What was the noise level like? (It’ll be a while before I get to try the plastic media properly myself, I think. Not enough hours in the day to clay at the moment!)

      • The plastic medium in the rotary tumbler is super quiet. It’s amazing how Cindy’s video has encouraged so many people to get out their old tumblers or buy new ones. I am really happy not to have to sand for hours.

      • I found the noise not too bad at all
        the tumbler was in the next room about 25 feet away
        sat on a tile floor and the kitties did not seem to object as it was close to their litter box ;)

        I posted a picture on the pct facebook page of all the beads after the 3 grit rounds, sorted in little plastic dishes

        Making the written re-cap helped me gather my scattered notes into a bit of since – it’s so nice to have this place to come and do just that

    • Yes Thank You Sherry for coming back and letting us know about your testing! So glad that you were able to get that backlog of beads all polished up. Can’t wait to see what you make with them!

      That reminds me… I need to put some beads in the tumbler right now, I have years worth that haven’t been finished yet… thanks for the inspiration to get going on those! Can’t use them if they’re not finished!

  33. Hi everyone
    almost done with my second go with this Wonderful product
    learned a few things – well one that I hope helps

    from my grumps & groans above about the gunk in the bead holes
    figured there had to be something to make it easier

    so I got out all the mirror beads I’d made years ago (at least 900) -that’s beads not years;/

    after each grit I’d rinse and sort out the substrate then
    just covering the beads with water and 2 drops soap
    let tumbler run at least 4 hours

    and almost No gunk at all :D
    with so many beads this saved my about 3 hours

    btw this is not the kind of tumbler Cindy has
    it’s a vibratory one:)

  34. Thanks for the tutorial. I just got a new rock tumbler and I set up my tumbler and tried a batch of beads with these substrates. I checked for discoloration with each step and had no problems until the final tumble with the porcelain beads. They lightened and dulled the color of my beads considerably. Here is a photo of the results. The top set are unsanded beads from the original batch the second set came from, and the bottom set are the ones from the tumbler. Even in a photo taken with my low-res iPad camera, one can see that the tumbled set are a pale imitation of the originals.

    I plan to try another run stopping at the last of the plastic pellets and using something else for buffing and see how that turns out.

    • Hi Susan, the beads look gorgeous if you are going for the lighter shade. I was wondering if this was the first time you used the plastic media? The ones I purchased recommended that you run them through the tumbler without the beads first because they give off a coating. The porcelain beads are doing just what they are suppose to in terms of polishing. You might have to back off on some of the steps in order to retain the darker color of the beads if this is the look you want but I would think you would still have some hand sanding for a polished look with a lot of buffing. You might have to do some experimenting. Hopefully someone else can hop in here and offer further suggestions. Good Luck and please do let us know how you make out with other beads.

    • That is very curious Susan… I am not sure why that happened, though it does look like they buffed up to a beautiful shine. Is it really a problem that the color lightened? I really like how they look. Of course it would be good to get to the bottom of the mystery as to why they are lightening, but I am wondering if it really matters that much, since they are coming out nicely finished with little to no effort.

      I did have some beads look lighter after tumbling but that seemed to go away after they were out of the tumbler for a few days and dried out. I thought maybe it was the water that was making them lighter in color but that is not for sure. Do let us know if you figure it out and I will will see if I can solve it from my end as well.

    • Hi Susan, I have found that most of my bead’s colors stayed the same after tumbling. But I did discover that the beads made with alcohol ink as the only coloring did definitely lighten in color. The red turned to light pink & the blue also lightened.

      • Cynthia, that is remarkable news, never heard it reported before, but can sure see the evidence in the pics. Wonder if the inks are worn off by too much time in the tumbler, and the lighter base shade of the clay comes through, or if the water/detergent sauce dulls the color. Appreciate your post on this topic.

      • Cynthia, that’s nice to know, but I didn’t use alcohol inks with my beads.

        Those were only a sample of the beads I worked with. The pale green ones are OK as they turned out, but I also had black and white beads that turned into medium grey and white beads and red and gold beads turn into pink and light yellow. Neither were the effects I wanted.

        To follow up with a little more information, I could scratch off a light coating with my fingernails from the beads and get back some or all of the original color. If I went back to a 220-grit sandpaper, I could sand the coating off (although that defeats the purpose of using the tumbler). I could also restore some of the color by rubbing the beads with a gritty toothpaste.

        The color stayed true through the three rounds of plastic pellets, but only changed with the porcelain beads. I’m hoping that there was something on the porcelain beads that have now worn off and will try using them again with some of my not-so-good beads as a test.

        Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions!

        • Susan, Did you tumble your porcelain by it’s self for a few days before you added the beads? The shop that I bought my porcelain from said I needed to tumble the porcelain, with water & a little liquid soap, for 3 days without any beads. He said it was very important. If you didn’t do this, maybe that is what’s happening to your beads. When I did it for 3 days, the tumbler’s water was very dirty looking. If it was me, I would try the separate tumbling of the porcelain for 3 days & then put it with some older colourful beads to see if this fixes the problem. Hope it helps.

          • Ah, that may have been it. I wish I had that information before I started. My bag of porcelain beads had no instructions. I’ll try “washing” the porcelain beads like that and trying again.

            Thanks!

  35. Maybe, Sue, it’s as a result of the water source? If me, next time I’d grab a bottle of distilled water and try with that to see if it reduces interaction with the surface.

  36. just went to get some of this and the shipping is going to be $64.00 for $34. worth of goods,. I searched and came up with the rock shed, but they didn’t have the coarse or ceramic balls. being international can be very expensive!

    • What country are you in? I can tell you where to buy from in Australia. I bought mine and they work great, no more hand sanding. I love it.

      • Hi Cynthia,

        Where did you get yours from in Australia?

        I’ve already received mine from Otto Frei — not that I’ve had a chance to try them out yet! — but I’m always interested in finding suppliers with interesting goodies. :D

        Sue

        • I bought mine from AussieSapphire but I have just checked their website & they don’t seem to carry them any more. I bought plastic tumbling cones in 3 grades- fast cut, fine cut & medium cut. I also bought the porcelain polishing spheres.

    • Hi Sandra,

      You may be able to juggle the items in your order, or possibly split it into multiple orders, to get the total postage down. Alternatively, since I know they use flat rate boxes, if there are other items on your wish list that they have maybe you can add to your order without increasing the absolute postage cost, so that the relative postage per item is less.

      I’m in Australia, and when I first went to order these I noticed that there seemed to be an initial threshold at which Priority Mail International was no longer offered and only a much more expensive choice available, plus a second threshold where that expensive choice stopped incrementing by little bits and zoomed up from around $150 to $250 in one fell swoop.

      With a bit of juggling I managed to sneak under the Priority Mail International large flat rate box threshold with 4 lots of each of the three types of plastic pyramids (I have a largish vibratory tumbler and need a whole heap to make it work properly!), plus 6lb in total of various size porcelain balls, as well as a few hand tools, for US$77.95 shipping to Australia. I was happy with that because I doubt I could have had the same weight shipped interstate within Australia for that price.

      (If you know of anyone else in your area who wants them and something like that large flat rate box is most cost effective, perhaps you could combine orders?)

      Sue

  37. I’m back and I think I know know what happened with my beads. I’ve conducted two further test runs. I took Cynthia Ryan’s advice and ran the porcelain beads in plain water with a drop of dish soap for several days and then ran a second batch of beads.

    First of all, I was wrong about when the color change occurred. It happened after the first round with the pyramidal pellets. I didn’t realize it with the first batch because the color change showed up when the beads were thoroughly dry and I transferred the beads from grit to grit while they were still wet.

    With the second batch, after tumbling with the coarse grit pellets, I dried the beads and found I had the same color lightening as before. I was able to restore some of the color by rubbing the beads with a gritty toothpaste, but I still had considerable lightening as before *except with two beads*. Those two beads were made with Premo and the others were all made with Fimo, as were nearly all of the beads from my first test batch.

    Could the brand of clay make a difference? I made a third batch of Premo beads of various colors and tested them. I made two beads of each color combination and held one of each back for comparison. The Premo beads came out with little or no color change — they looked great. In this third batch, I also threw in a couple of Kato clay beads. The Kato beads also got noticeably lighter, but not as much as the Fimo beads did. I don’t know why the brand of clay makes a difference, but it appears that it does.

    I know that Cindy works mostly with Premo and probably most of you who comment here do as well. It seems that if you use this substrate with with Premo, you will probably have good results, but if you use Fimo or Kato, you may find that the results are not what you expect.

    I will try using another method with my Fimo and Kato beads and see how that works out and will continue to use the pyramidal pellets with my Premo beads.

    Again, thanks everyone for your help and suggestions!

    • Hi Susan,

      Very interesting!

      I haven’t tested my pyramidal pellets and porcelain balls yet — they’re sitting forlornly in their packages on my workbench, waiting for me to get my act together — but I had planned a comprehensive test using several clay brands (my usual Kato, plus Premo, Fimo Soft, Fimo Classic, and Pardo Professional Art Clay).

      I’d intended those upcoming tests mostly to calibrate tumbling times and the effectiveness of the new media on beads of various shapes, by making a stack of identical beads in each clay-and-shape combination, then removing one of each clay-and-shape combination from the tumbler regularly every few hours for every grit until finished, then comparing the finish on them all. There are noticeable differences in hardness across those clay brands that may have an effect, and I have a vibratory tumbler instead of a rotary tumbler like Cindy uses and tumbling times are often different with those anyway. But I’ll include some colour testing as well (when I get around to it! LOL) and will let you know what I find.

      If you do any further testing in the meantime it would be great to hear those results too.

      Happy claying :)

      Sue

      • Very intriguing results Susan! I had a couple of beads I thought were a translucent Jade when I put them in, come out a marbled green and white, which confused me a little. Now I am guessing I had used some Fimo Translucent in those jade beads rather than the Premo I usually use.

        It never occurred to me that the brands would tumble different, since they sand up in such a similar way. Lately I have been thinking that Fimo may have some water in the formula, which could be the reason it behaves so differently than the Premo does when it sits in water for an extended period of time.

        The reason I’ve been thinking this way is that I saw a video on you tube where someone used water to thin out their Fimo clay to make frosting for their polymer clay cupcakes. It seemed strange to me and was meaning to test it to see if it worked and if it did for other brands as well. I also remembered that any moisture on my hands would cause my Fimo Translucent to plaque (make little moons) really badly, but hadn’t noticed it so much with Premo Translucent.

        This would make such an interesting PcT Test Lab! I will have to do some tests on it in the future.

        Sue F, what do you think of my theory about Fimo? Is it something you have ever considered? Just curious… always love the input from our resident mad scientist!

  38. Hi
    I bought my plastic substrate from Otto Frei thank you I love it!!

    Just wondering how long the substrate lasts for? Like how many batches of beads could I do assuming I did each batch for 24 hrs before id have to purchase new substrate?

    Also same question but the porcelain beads?

    I couldn’t see this question answered anywhere so sorry if this has been asked before.

    Thanks
    Kelly

    • Hi Kelly, I don’t really know the lifespan of the substrate but I don’t see why it wouldn’t conceivably last for years and years. From looking at how the pellets are made, my thought is that the ‘grit’ is mixed into the plastic itself rather than just on the surface. If that is the case, then the pellets should last until they have worn down to nothing. Since the polymer clay is a softer material than the pellets are, I would think wearing them down would take a very long time. The only way to really know would be to ask the manufacturers. If you do end up finding out, then do come back and let us know. I am sure others would appreciate the information!

      (Oh, as far as the porcelain balls go, those may wear out sooner, since they are a lot smaller and don’t seem quite as hard as the plastic substrate does, but I also they they will last for a very, very long time.)

  39. One more question… I have a lortone rotary tumbler (like the one in the video) ive been paranoid about leaving it to run for long periods as it gets quite hot. How long do you leave your tumbler running? Is it safe for me to leave it running over night?

    Thanks
    Kelly

    • Hi, Kelly. The central rod may be slightly bent. That heats it up, and if it’s severe, makes the piece walk. I haven’t heard of that happening with Lortone, but it happens with the Chicago brand a *lot*. Cindy’s right – that would be a defect and you should either return it or get in touch with the manufacturer, even if you’ve had it for a while. Who knows – it’s a good brand – they might stand by it! :-)

  40. I have a 3 lb. rock tumbler made by Chicago that I bought from Harbor Freight and have never had my beads discolor or lighten after tumbling. This tumbler only has one speed and does not vibrate. I purposely chose this style of rock tumbler after some information I received from Desiree McCrory and her website on polymer clay. Desiree advised using small river pebbles that you can buy from Michael’s in the floral department. Sort thru the pebbles and remove any pebbles that are still rough, or cracked, discarding those pebbles. I had to buy 2 packages to get the amount needed to fill the tumbler 3/4th’s of the way full without the water in it. The river pebbles provide the needed abrasiveness you need to sand the beads smooth, without the need to change to various amounts and types of substrait or grit. You still use the water/detergent mix with the pebbles inside the rotating drum. Her advice suggested to fill the drum half-full with the river pebbles and beads before adding the water to about 1/2 inch or so above the level of the pebbles/beads. With the pebbles, it only takes between 3 to 6 hours of tumbling before they are sanded smooth enough to put the chosen finish on them. My chosen finish is to put between 3 to 5 coats of the Pledge with Future Floor Finish on them. Just thought I would pass this information along.

  41. Cindy,

    Thanks so much for the tutorials, I am just starting to play with polymer clay and its great to tap into your experience and knowledge.

    I watched your video above, on polishing polymer clay beads with the plastic substrate. My beads were made using the 3 shape roller thing, so they aren’t round balls, oval and kinda diamond. I bought the substrate and started tumbling. I followed your instructions, I think. I filled the tumbler with the substrate, added the beads, maybe 10 or 15, and some soapy water just to cover them. After the 2nd substrate, the water was black. So before doing the third round, I rinsed the plastic pellets. I let it tumble for a day, when I took it out, my beads were black. I rinsed them, wiped them and still black. So I said “what the hay” and went ahead and tumbled them with the porcelain beads. Once again the water was black, but the beads were clean.

    Is this all normal? What did I do wrong? Also, my beads don’t look at all shiny.
    If anything, they actually look like they have a milky coloring. What the heck did I do wrong? Do you think it is because they aren’t balls? Any insight you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    Cindy Rodina

    • Hi Cindy Rodina, Did you tumble your porcelain by it’s self for 3 days before you added the beads? The shop that I bought my porcelain from said I needed to tumble the porcelain, with water & a little liquid soap, for 3 days without any beads added. He said it was very important. If you didn’t do this, maybe that is why your beads finish looking milky. When I did it for 3 days, the tumbler’s water was very dirty looking. If it was me, I would try the separate tumbling of the porcelain for 3 days, this should fix the milky look problem. For the black dirty beads & water problem, I always pour my tumbler contents (beads & water), into a strainer & rinse them under running water after every tumbling stage. Then add fresh water, liquid dish detergent, next stage of medium & the beads. I never have any dirty beads doing it this way. Hope it helps.

      • Cindy,
        Thanks, I will try tumbling the porcelain and retumble the beads. I did rinse and change the water after each stage, I’m hoping the substrate just needed to be rinsed better before the first use. I may try tumbling the plastic pyramids separately also just to be sure before doing my next batch.
        Thanks, I appreciate the quick response

    • Hi Cindy, is your tumbler brand new? A new barrel needs to be seasoned a bit (tumble several days with substrate and soapy water and no beads) so that the rubber isn’t coming off into the water anymore. Make sure to wipe out the barrel well afterwards to make sure there is no residue left behind. Also, were your beads made with Fimo by chance? I have noticed that Fimo tends to absorb water differently than Premo, Sculpey and Kato clay beads. (I had a batch of beads with Fimo translucent turn white after tumbling.) These things, along with Cynthia Ryan’s advice should help. DO make sure and come back here to let us know how it goes. It is always best to share your findings, because it helps everyone here. Thanks for commenting!

  42. Just wondering if anyone has tried buffing/polishing cabochons with this type of substrate? I don’t care to gloss coat my beads or cabs and really like the results I get with just lots and lots and lots of buffing and polishing, but wow, my arm muscles can really hurt after a dozen pieces. I don’t mind if the flat backs aren’t buffed because they don’t show in the settings I use, just the front of the cab is visible. I’m really interested in the substrates and buffing beads and how well they would work with a vibratory tumbler on cabochons. Thanks for any opinions or advise.

    • Hi Diana, any shaped bead, or cabochon buffs up quite well after going through the different grits of this substrate. I find a nice coating of Renaissance Wax will bring it up even further, and give it a lovely hand feel. I don’t care much for glazes either, but do love the look of the ren wax after coming out of the tumbler. Way less work then doing it all by hand as well. To learn more about Renaissance wax, just type it into the search box at the top of the page and some info will pop up. Have fun!

      • Hi Cindy,

        Sorry, I think I’m misunderstanding! Do you mean that you coat the beads with Ren Wax first, then put them into the tumbler to shine them up, or you put on the Ren Wax after they come out of the tumbler the last time?

        Thanks!

        • Good Morning DeShawn, I use the Ren Wax after all the tumbler steps:) But Cindy is really great about reading each question and comments – that way she can pop in and fix any ‘wrong advice’ before it gets “out there” :)
          Have you tried out the search box at the top right of each page yet? It will lead you to some good advice too

  43. I have been using my rock polisher with the little plastic triangles and it has worked great. Here is the question, when using the porcaline (sp?) beads was I supposed to use water and a drop of soap too? I did, and I am having a heck of a time dealing with them after the process….they are flying everywhere after I strained them out. I am guess maybe water was a mistake. Everything is drying out now as I head to work.

    Thanks for any advice.

    • Hi Lisa, I use a small amount of water with the porcelain balls as well as a small drop of soap. Strain them through a large sized, fine screen sifter/strainer and then dump every thing into a shallow container. If you kind of shake the container the beads rise to the top and are easy to pick out. That way the balls aren’t flying all over the place!

  44. Hi Cindy..

    What is your experience on vibratory tumbler..I hear that it is faster and quieter too..will the same plastic substrate work over there? I am more looking for sanding round beads and flat pendants

    • Hi Suguna, I haven’t personally used a vibratory tumbler, but many others on this blog have. If you type ‘vibratory tumbler’ into the search box at the top of the page, you should be able to find the comments where they have been discussed. I do know a lot of people really love them!

    • Hi Suguna, regardless of what tumbler I am using, I use the following formula for both.
      1/3 substrate (little triangles) 1/3 beads (any size) fill tumbler with water up to just the top of the beads. You should have approximately 1/3 space left for the tumbler to work with. I ran all my substrates and polishing beads each through their own tumbling first to get rid of the coating they come in. Fill your container 3/4 full of substrate and fill in water just up to the top of the substrate. don’t forget to add a drop of liquid soap. Let the substrate tumble for a good 12 hrs. Rinse and clean, lay it out on a nice old bath towel and when it’s dry you can then store it in a plastic container.
      I’ve used Premo, Fimo and Pardo beads and all turned out fine. I have not used Kato or any other brands. I hope this helps. Happy Claying.

      • Dixie Ann, I just noticed this post, and I am thinking you may have solved a mystery for me. I have a good sized tumbler, and I have used it without a lot of success. After reading this, I am thinking my ratio (beads to substrate) is off. Will have to try that and report back.

        THANKS!

  45. Hi Cindy -
    I bought the Otto Frei substrates – - all 4 of ‘em – coarse, med, fine and porcelain balls and tumbled my oval (lozenge) beads in my rotary tumbler (Bulldog from Rio Grande). I did each substrate, starting with the coarse and worked down to the porcelain balls for approx 8 hours – I used a drop or so of liquid dish detergent each time with the substrate and water. When I took my beads out of the porcelain bead tumble, rinsed and dried them, they were completely scratched and cloudy – - totally unusable. Any ideas?
    Thanks!
    Rose

    • Hi Rose, since you can see scratches after tumbling, it sounds like you needed to run your medium grit and fine grits for longer before going to the porcelain balls. I would toss them in again and start with the medium grit… run it for 24 hours to see if you can remove the scratches. Then go to the fine grit for another day. Then if all the scratches are gone, then move on to the porcelain balls.

      Abrasives generally work by scratching off little bits of material and smooth the surface. The course grits remove more material so the scratches are deeper. The medium grits take out the scratches of the coarser grits but still leave scratches only a little finer this time. Then the fine grits remove the scratches of the medium grit but leave such fine scratches that they become hardly noticeable. The finer the scratches get, the less grooves that the light can get stuck in… so the light bounces off, making it look more shiny. Buffing and waxing help to fill those micro-scratches even more and that is why they make the pieces even shinier.

      Whenever there are scratches at the end, it means that one of the steps wasn’t doing it’s job. Hopefully that makes sense.

      This is a good product that works very well… it just needs to be used correctly. Let us know if you get it figured out. Good luck!

  46. Hi Cindi,

    Concerning the porcelain polishing balls from Otto Frei, how many 1 lb. bags do you use in the rocktumbler? I got one bag thinking it looked like a larger quantity.
    but it seems like more is needed.

    Hope all is well with you and yours. Liz

    • Hi Liz, for my tumbler (I believe it is the 3lb barrel size) 1 bag of porcelain balls was just fine. If you read some of the comments above you will see that there have been a few people with larger vibratory tumblers, that needed more substrate than what my tumbler used. What you will need will depend on what size tumbler you have. You should not have more than about 2/3 to 3/4 of your tumbler filled with substrate… you still need room for the actual beads, a little water and some space to move around. Hope that helps!

  47. I shared this video with Brenda Sue’s Creative group on FB which is a closed group. I think as they are now getting into Polymer cay and working with Christie Friesen too., that you should join the party too. You have all kinds of tips they can apply to jewelry making which is the main focus of the group. Contact Brenda. Love you a lot and all that you do. Paula Gaskill and I are still spreading the word. Paula made your Owls and they and feel like your. She used the tumbler with them. Talk to you again. Oh! and by the way the Ocean technique is a hit as people think I painted them, LOL

    The other Cindy

    • Thank you so much Cindy P! I saw that Brenda was dabbling a little more with polymer clay. Have had a little contact with her, but not too much yet. Don’t know if we’ll be able to work together the same way that Christie did (Not as easy for us to visit each other’s studios.) But maybe? It is always good when artists and business people can collaborate. I might be able to demo some of her products on our channel though. If you talk with her, you can offer that suggestion. Happy to see you doing so well with the Shoreline tutorial. Keep up the great work!

  48. Hi, Cindy, I use your rock tumbler with little pyramid shapes tumbler medium etc. works great but I think promolive soap bleaches the clay. What soap do you recommend?

    • Hi Elizabeth, I use Dawn dish soap. Are you using Fimo by any chance? I had some of my Fimo beads turn white in the tumbler. I think perhaps it was an issue with the water rather than the soap, but you could be right.

      • I was about to ask whether the beads were Fimo or not, since I reported this problem earlier in the thread.

        I have been using the plastic substrate and porcelain beads a lot (with Premo beads, Palmolive soap and filtered water,) so the plastic and porcelain are quite clean by now, I threw in a few Fimo beads recently to see if the problem remained and they still turned considerably lighter, while my Premo beads were fine.

        But other people’s mileage may vary.

  49. Hi Elizabeth, I don’t know what kind of soap Cindy uses but I use Ivory liquid and have had no problems. I do however run all of my triangles through several hours of tumbling before doing my beads the first time. Hope that helps.

    • Thanks for passing that tip along Dixie Ann. This was something I did not know about when I did this video, but something that was suggested by the company that sells the substrate. Perhaps it is something with the plastic manufacturing process that causes this? Who knows? Having ‘clean’ triangle to start with could never hurt though!

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