Shiny Beads – Rock Polisher vs Sanding by Hand:
Lately there has been lots of talk about how to use a tumbler to sand and polish polymer clay beads. By the way, the reference to ‘Lortone’ in this article is for a company that for many years has been making a professional line of tumbler products for lapidary and jewelry artists. And below are some comments about tumblers that were originally posted on July 5 in the comments section of this buffing beads article.
I have found that I can use my tumbler to sand and buff my polymer clay beads. To buff my beads with the tumbler I have cut up a shammy that I found in the automotive section of Canadian Tire. I put the beads in the tumbler with the cut up shammy and tumble over night. In the morning I have shinny beads! I still hand sand and use my rotary tool for larger pendants and focal beads as they don’t tumble as well. ~Vanessa
This is probably a dumb question, but do you tumble dry with the shammy pieces or add water like regular tumbling? ~Karen
Do the little tumblers work well that you can buy in Hobby Lobby? ~Raye
Cindy. I am wondering if a cheap kids tumbler would work for small beads too. I see that there are some really expensive ones out there, and then there are some more inexpensive ones that are about $25.00 each. What do you think and would the cut up shammy work in one of the less expensive ones? ~Cindy Erickson
I wanted to know from Vanessa what she uses in her tumbler for the sanding and if she uses anything else with the shamies (such as another material) or just that alone? Cut up shamies don’t seem to take up as much room is why I ask. ~Lani King
Ok, so what is a rock tumbler? I had visions of beads going round & round my tumble dryer [only joking] ~Andrea
I don’t want to exhaust the subject but I do want some additional info on the tumbler use.
- 1. What grade medium is used for sanding?
- 2. Has anyone ever used fine sand? baking soda? salt? other_____?
- 3. What works on beads with sharp corners without knocking them off?
I have friends that use polymer too and I ask them this question and report back what I find. ~Lani King
The reason why I haven’t put too much on this site about using rock polishers to sand and buff polymer clay beads is that I have not yet found a method that I am truly satisfied with.
I do have a Lortone Rotary Tumbler. It was my husband’s from when he was a little boy so that says something about the quality of these machines and how long they actually last.
Knowing that the sand substrates used for polishing rocks would be too harsh for using on the soft clay beads, I started doing research on what method would be best for polymer beads.
So far, this is what I have tried… with limited success.
- Glued 2 sheets sand paper back to back and cut into 1 inch squares. Did this for each grit starting with 320, 400, 600, 800, 1200 and 1500.
- Learned that the black rubber tumbler barrel leaves marks on the beads, so I bought 6 tubs of canned frosting in the white plastic containers. They fit nicely inside of the rubber barrel. Made cakes to go with frosting. Ate cakes. Negative result for butt and thighs! :O
- Placed a handful of the lowest grit sandpaper with a handful of beads. Topped with water and a drop of dish soap according to the advice I read in some forums and on web sites.
- Ran machine overnight on each grit, rinsing in between.
- Made a small bag and some small squares out of canvas to use for the buffing step. Ran for 24 hrs.
Now maybe I’m just picky or maybe I’m doing something wrong. But the beads I put through the process outline above, did not turn out nearly as smooth as hand sanded beads. They seem fairly smooth but not glassy. Definitely not as nice in my opinion.
Someone told me that I should start with 400 grit instead of 320 and use less water. Some people suggest using denim instead of canvas. Some people use dry sand.
Frankly I think there must be a better way. Desiree from Desiree Creations uses river stones to sand her beads. That sounds promising. But I can’t honestly recommend this method until I find the right stones to test out.
I guess I see myself as a guinea pig to make sure you only receive information from me, that I’m confident is going to give you great results. That means I have to experiment first and make the mistakes…. so that you don’t have to :)
And so far I have yet to nail down a satisfying technique for using my Lortone Rock Tumbler to polish polymer clay jewelry beads. If you have had success with rock polishers, please share what you know. Myself and many others would like to save our poor little fingers from having to work so hard… meticulously sanding by hand!!