Use Gravity to Help Your Lortone Tumbler Perform Better with Beads

Lortone Rock Tumbler

“I tend to save my baked beads now until I have a tumbler full and then tumble sand it.” ~Tina-H

Many of you have started to use a rock tumbler for polishing your polymer clay beads. This is great time saver that will help to minimize the amount of hand sanding required to get professional looking polymer clay beads.

Today I wanted to share a little tip for using gravity to help your rock tumbler perform better when working with relatively light weight beads made from polymer clay.

Rock polishers such as the Lortone Rock Tumbler in the photo above, are designed to tumble polish rocks and stones. With a full load of rocks, polishing grit and water, the weight can be quite heavy. In fact, my small Lortone tumbler is made to hold up to 3 lbs of weight.

The way the machine turns the barrel, is by the barrel sitting on a rotating rod. With the weight of the rocks and substrate, the rubber barrel sits snuggly on the rods and it rotates nicely.

However, when using a tumbler for polishing polymer clay beads, the weight of the beads is often too light to get the rod to grip the rubber barrel and it doesn’t turn very well. Even when you add river rock as your polishing substrate as I do, the weight may still not be heavy enough.

To compensate for the lack of weight, gravity can come to your assistance. Prop one side of your tumbler up on a book or two until the drum rotates easily (like in the picture above). Make sure that the motor driven rod is the one positioned lower than the free spinning rod. Tilting your machine the other way will likely cause your barrel to stop spinning altogether.

If you make a lot of small polymer clay beads and find hand sanding them too much of a chore, look into getting a rock tumbler for yourself. I think you’ll like it!

Other Related Relate Rock Tumbler Articles:

Got any other rock tumbler tips or questions? Please do share them below. There are lots of very supportive people in the community here that can help you out.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Debi, 23 August, 2009

    Heads up all~ Micheals is running their 4 for $5.00 blocks of clay this week. All 3 brands, fimo, sculpey III and Premo.

    Just wanted to share some goodies.

  2. Lawrence, 24 August, 2009

    Time to head south (1/2 stock up. Most of my artist friends and our PC Guild have written Michael’s Canada off for clay. On sale here 4 for $8 ;-(

  3. Lynda Gould, 26 August, 2009

    Thanks for the information – I will tilt my tumbler the next time.

  4. Sandra, 27 August, 2009

    I love working with polymer clay and just wanted to say that you show easy ways to do beautiful work. Thank you.

  5. aims, 31 August, 2009

    Just finished polishing my first set of beads Cindy and I’m wearing bandages on my fingers. I managed to sand off my skin and my groaning has my hubby looking into a tumbler for me – already!

  6. Cheryl Hodges, 24 September, 2009

    Hello Cindy,

    I am just about to purchase a Lortone tumbler. Is the 3lb capacity a good size?


  7. Cindy Lietz, 02 October, 2009

    Thanks for the comments guys!

    @Cheryl: The answer to your question is answered in the article above. The 3lb machine is the one pictured above and is more than adequate for tumbling beads unless you are going into high production. Hope you enjoy using it when you get yours. It sure has been handy for me!

  8. Sandra J, 14 March, 2012

    I have been using my lortone for a while now for polishing beads, but i wasn’t happy with the results. It wasn’t till I read here about Tina polishing a tumbler full, that i realised what my problem could have been… not enough beads in the tumbler. So i gave it a whirl with a larger amount of beads and i can honestly say it made a huge difference. So thank you Tina and Cindy. Cindy if you hadn’t put Tina’s statement up I wouldn’t have considered it. And thank you Tina, for saying what you did.

  9. Cindy Lietz, 19 March, 2012

    Thanks Sandra for sharing your tumbler results! I am glad that Tina and I were able to help!

Copyright © Polymer Clay Tutor Bead and Jewelry Making Tutorials