Use a Rock Tumbler for More Professional Looking Polymer Clay Beads

Modified Planet Beads by Rob Kerfoot

Spotlight: “Using the vibratory tumbler has improved my work 10 fold.” ~Rob-K

Today’s Spotlight article is all about Rob Keftoot (and his wife who runs their Etsy shop).  Rob is an active member here at the site. He has contributed a great deal of valuable information, especially with regards to polishing polymer clay beads using a rock tumbler.

Related links for this spotlight feature include: (1) Polishing Polymer Clay Jewelry Beads; (2) Shiny Polymer Clay Beads; (3) Rock Tumbler Tutorial; (4) Rock Tumblers; (5) Cornstarch and Polymer Clay Beads

Here is What Rob Wrote…


I started playing with poly clay 3 yrs ago, and it was just a curiosity to me and my wife. Then I started researching on the internet how versatile this stuff is and how easy it is to work with. Well, my wife got the jewelry bug a few years ago, and started her own company with her friend. I am a former kitchen designer (20+ yrs in that industry and interior design, so I have a decent eye for color), and my wife always asks my opinions on color combo’s and shapes of beads and what not. I said to them, what can we do that no one else is doing? They looked at me and said, can you make a lot of beads? Well, ya sure… needless to say, alot of my beads are requested from folks she has sold jewelry to at parties and craft shows.

I found your site Cindy and got the poly clay bead making bug. I pulled out my clay, which sat for a year or 2 and experimented away. Then I joined your site and realized that I can make less mistakes and make more professional looking beads. I cannot attribute one set of video to the bead pics I am sending, but a combo of all that I have learned from your site.

Just using corn starch has cut my sanding times, and using the vibratory tumbler (that long thread that I posted a ton of stuff in on the blog…), has improved my work 10 fold. I polish every bead to a high sheen using a jewelry bench polisher with a 6″ cotton wheel, to kind of give a polished stone look.

I am currently out of work, due to my former job in the kitchen industry being tied to the housing market. My biggest problem is I am really hard on myself when it comes to this stuff, lots of people comment on how great some of it is, and I don’t like it at all. Same goes for my photography, another passion of mine.

I attribute all of my polymer clay successes to you Cindy (and a little to Donna Kato), thanks for a great video series and blog.

~Rob Kerfoot (Providence, RI  USA)

Brown Polymer Clay Beads by Rob Kerfoot Fingerprint Beads by Rob Kerfoot
Best Seller Polymer Clay Beads by Rob Kerfoot More Best Seller Polymer Clay Beads by Rob Kerfoot

I just love your story Rob. And those modified Planet Beads are out of this world! Pardon the pun…

Isn’t it so great everyone that Rob found a passion by being supportive to his wife?  Please leave a comment for Rob and let him know what you think of his beads and thank him for sharing his ideas with us. I am sure he would love to hear from you all!

** If you have been inspired by my teachings and would like to be featured in an upcoming Spotlight Article, then please do write up something creative and email it to me along with a selection of your project pics. Make sure to send me high resolution photos that I’ll be able to zoom in on to show the details of your work. If you don’t already have my email address, simply leave a comment below and I will get it to you right away.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Polyanya, 21 August, 2009

    Rob your beads are gorgeous and the colouring is very subtle, I love it! I kinda know what you mean about not likeing your own work – I get very bored of the stuff I do and when I look back at earlier canes I do say – what was I thinking!!! LOL!

    The fact that you are selling should convince you otherwise – no?

  2. Freda, 21 August, 2009

    Great beads Rob. It looks like the beads have a silver bottom. Is that the case or is it just the way they are placed?

  3. Klay Kisses, 21 August, 2009

    Way to go Rob!!!!That is so cool that you and your wife can both enjoy the same things. Great for your relationship and your sanity (having something to do). Go for it and I would like to see more of your work. Do you have a shop? Etsy or Artfire?
    Polyanya: I am with you on that. I just sold some stuff I had in a box for “What am I going to do with these ugly things.” Someone thought they were pretty. To each his own I guess. I am horrible on me too. Everyone says I am anal when it comes to my clay. I wreck more than I make. I just tell them I am still learning and Cindy has my back! They tell me there was nothing wrong with what I just smooshed!

  4. Jocelyn, 21 August, 2009

    You and your wife do beautiful work, Rob. It’s great to find a hobby that relaxes you and the turn it into a combined business for the both of you.

    I see you are in Providence, used to live on the East side while attending school in Boston and teaching at the Sargent Center for Communicatively Impaired when it was still part of the United Way building. Loved the Fox Point neighborhood, especially that fresh out of the bakery Portugese Sweet Bread.

    The work on your etsy site is gorgeous, as are your pics! Best of luck to both of you, and most of all, thanks for sharing all that information on using a tumbler to maximize fine sanding. So appreciated!

  5. Joyce, 21 August, 2009

    Rob, the modified planet beads are my favorite, the others are beautiful too. Thanks so much for sharing and the best to you and your wife. It is wonderful to find that there are husband and wife teams out there in the poly craft world. My husband is supportive but I wish he would join me. Maybe after his eye surgery I can intice him though I think I may have to move my craft table to the baseball diamond or the football grid. At least the den and the craft room are adjoining.
    Hope to see more of your work.

  6. Ken H., 21 August, 2009

    Great work Rob, I like the Fingerprint beads. It sure is nice when a hobby becomes self sufficient. Keep up the great work, and I know other folks would like it but I especially want to see more.

  7. Cindy Lietz, 21 August, 2009


    I’ve always wanted to say that… LOL. If I could add that late breaking news soundtrack they play on television when regular programming is suddenly interrupted… I would :-)

    This message is not intended to take away from Rob’s spotlight in anyway!!! But these Friday spotlight articles do receive a lot of visitors from all over the web, and I wanted to do whatever I can to help get the word out about an event that is currently being planned for clayers in the UK.

    Click the “Polymer Clay in the UK” link by my name above for more info.


  8. Arlene Harrison, 21 August, 2009

    Cindy – I love your Interrupted Broadcast message!!! Fun!

    Rob – I’ve been told that I am my own worst critic so I know where you are coming from. From the pictures here, I’d say you need to stop doubting and keep those beads a-coming! And I so love the fact that you and your wife do this together. That makes for a very special relationship. People laugh at me when I tell them my favorite tools are my drill press and flatbed sander. Both were gifts from my husband who also taught me how to use them. He has since passed away, but I treasure the memories of the work we did together.

  9. Deanna, 21 August, 2009

    What a great blog! I haven’t used polymer clay in many years, but am thinking of getting into it again. So many great ideas here, I have a lot of reading to do. Thanks for all the creativity and ideas!

  10. Marsha, 21 August, 2009

    Rob, Your beads are beautiful! I love the colors, especially the blues! But your modified planet beads are outstanding! I totally understand being your own worst critic… I constantly have to work on my confidence – even after all the encouragement I’ve received here at the Polymer Clay Tutor!! I can relate to your story about working with your wife. My husband and I are a team as well in that he is my photographer and power tools expert! :) Be confident and have fun!

  11. lynn watts, 21 August, 2009

    Hey Rob, Just let me say BOOM BOOM POW, Gorgeous beads. The Modified planet beads are my Fav!!!!!!!! Keep up the great work and it is so nice to here a husband and wife can be a great Team. Thanks for sharing your work. Lynn

  12. Elizabeth, 21 August, 2009


    You have certainly carried your eye for color and design into the world of polymer clay. I just visited your store to see first hand how you and your wife would incorporate your beads into jewelry. All of the designs are absolutely lovely, but the ones which include polymer beads are so unique that they are probably my favorites. (Guess anyone connected with this site is going to have a bit of a bias when it comes to pc., right? Anyway, thanks for sharing. Your work is really beautiful.

  13. Claycass, 22 August, 2009

    I just purchased a vibratory tumbler. While crusing the web I stumbled upon some comments about the tumblers. One source sent me to a gun shop. Well the gun shops in the big city were very scary even on the web. Well my search sent me to a store 200 miles away, but less then 10 miles from my sister’s house. Wow, I could visit my sister and the sporting good store. So on Monday that is exactly what I did. I was surprise at how large the tumbler was. I purchased a Lyman Turbo Tumbler. The label on the box says “gives facoty brass finish; twice as as as other tumblers; heavy-duty, thermally protected motor; quiet running; wide stable base w/protecive motor shield; includes 1200 pro plus 600 pop top bowl and lid. This is a turbo twin pack. It was the last one on the shelf and it had been opened, so there was no papers inside the box. So I am looking for all the advice I can find about using the tumbler with polymer clay. I purchased some plastic “beanie baby” pellets to try. I haven’t returned home yet, so I haven’t been able to try them. Last night while I was reading I read about two other mehods 1. pea gravel from Home Depot, 2. Bon Aime pot cleanser. Well I might have to experiment to see which is the best. Wish me luck.

  14. Jocelyn, 22 August, 2009

    ClayCass, as luck would have it, those tumblers are made right around the corner from me. Not sure how you should work them for polymer beads, but here is the site link and a link to the PDF that explains the products and accessories.

    Am sure you if contacted them, they would send you all the missing materials and instructions.

    Hope you have fun experimenting. These tumblers make a lot less noise than the Lortone type and sure process a lot more at one time.

  15. Sue Werner, 22 August, 2009

    I think these beads look great Rob! Thanks for sharing. As far as using different media for tumbling, I just got a big lesson in using the polymer “beannie baby” beads for tumbling. They work great for small hole beads, but be careful when you use them to tumble large hole beads because they can get stuck or work their way into the holes and are impossible to get out. I lost some beautiful beads that way just last week :-( Haven’t tried gravel yet. Can anyone tell me if the polished gravel that they sell in packs for aquariums work (the natural ones…not the dyed ones.)?

  16. Jocelyn, 22 August, 2009

    Sue, think those aquarium river rocks, providing you pick out the smooth light ones, are workable. Just to be sure, I searched this site using the search facility in the upper left corner of the blog, and found two pages of information of info that might help.

    Used “river rocks” for the search and a bunch of articles came up. Hope this help you determine the answer that will work for you. Good luck!

  17. Claycass, 22 August, 2009

    Sue I hope you still have those beads. Try using a drill bit and see if you can drill the plastic beads out. – What else did you use with the beanie baby beads? I heard of including baking soda with them.

  18. Cindy Lietz, 22 August, 2009

    Good tip about the Beanie baby pellets Sue! I am curious, have you not tried the River Rock? It really is the easiest and best technique I have tried so far. A lot easier than messing around with most other things.

    Click the link by my name to take you to the tutorial that’s now in the back issues, that will show you exactly how to polish your beads with a rock tumbler.

    Back to the scheduled post…

    I am so proud of Rob and all he has shared with us here at the blog. It is because of people like him, that this site is turning into such an excellent resource!

    @Rob: You must be feeling pretty good with all these great comments about you. Hopefully any doubt is quickly melting away!

  19. Sue Werner, 23 August, 2009

    Claycass, I used baking soda with them. I’ll try drilling those holes out. And thanks for the tips Joceyln. Cindy, I bought the beanie pellets because I read about those before the rocks. I plan to use them next. But really, it does work well for small holed beads.

    Rob, sorry we got OT on this, but looking at beautifully polished beads always sparks my own process successes and failures. We just all want are work to look as good as yours!

  20. Cindy Lietz, 24 August, 2009

    Great comment Sue! I would like to try the pellets the next time I see them in a store. So good know about them getting stuck in big holes. That sure would be a pain. Rob did do a nice job, I can see why you want yours to look good too! :-)

  21. Rob Kerfoot, 25 August, 2009

    Thanks all for the kind comments folks, it is really appreciated. Most of all, thanks to Cindy for a great website, inspiration and for this spotlight feature. I look forward to showing off more of my work and the techniques I have learned here.

    To those of you using different polishing mediums in the tumblers, I still have yet to find something better than small river rocks / peas stones. I have tried various powders (ie: bon ami, comet, fine sand, etc.) and I have found that the river rocks is by far the easiest and the best. The powders make more of a mess and can be a huge pain to clean up. I ask that if you obtain good results, please post your recipe here to help us out.
    Thank you all again,

  22. Peggy, 04 November, 2009

    @Rob Kerfoot: Rob I too love your work. Great color in the brown beads and the fingerprint beads are fantastic.

    I hope you don’t mind if I ask for some advice on rock tumblers. I just purchased a Raytech Tumbler which is a vibrating tumbler. I had read so much about the vibrating tumblers being better for keeping a true shape to your items and not rounding the corners off so much like the rotary. May I ask what you use in your tumbler. Do you use the river rock like Cindy or something else. Also I was amazed at the instructions when it said how little amount of water it takes. Any suggestions from someone like you who makes such beautiful beads I would be honored to get. Also have you ever tried to put any odd shaped vocal beads or pendants in you tumbler or just mostly round beads?

    Looking forward to hearing from you, Peggy at Fort Madison, Iowa USA

  23. Rob_k, 06 November, 2009

    I use the small river rocks which I purchased at a local big box craft store. I vibrate the beads for 4-6 hours, clean the beads and then put them on my jewelers buffing wheel, which is fit with a cotton wheel.
    Hope this helps,

  24. Peggy, 06 November, 2009

    @Rob_k: Yes it does Rob, Thank you so much for getting back with me. I appreciate any and all help I can get. I am a fan of your beadwork and hope you continue for a long time.
    Thank you again, Peggy

  25. Claycass, 25 August, 2009

    I am in the process of tumbling right now. I did not thing to wash my river rocks. With in the first 10 minutes some lite colored beads showed signs of discoloring marks. Also the rocks were noisy when I started. Once I screwed the lid down the noise soften. It is a good thing I live on the first floor. (I placed my tumbler on the floor, to make sure it didn’t walk off a table top.) I was a little lazy – I had a set of color sample beads that were already strung together. Well I left them on their string. It seems like a nice way to keep them together. I will keep everyone posted.

  26. Claycass, 27 August, 2009

    I have been experimenting on sanding and buffing. Just today I blogged about my experience.

    I used a vibratory tumbler to sand the beads. Also to keep my small beads from becoming flying projectiles, I strung the beads together before buffing.

  27. Jocelyn, 27 August, 2009

    Claycass, what an excellent idea to string beads first, I am sure it helps keep the bead holes cleaner and less full of debri. Love the finish you got tumbling and buffing on the beads, they have a great organic look, like they’ve been tumbled in the ocean. Sometimes,in my opinion,a high shine isn’t the most desirable, as the surface texture remaining causes you to focus more on the color and shape of the beads, which are wonderful.

    Still absolutely adore those faux malachite beads on your site (and everything else, lol), and sure hope you will share the process here someday.

  28. Claycass, 27 August, 2009

    Jocelyn I am going to work on that recipe again. I forgot it. Shame on me.

  29. Shelly, 30 August, 2009

    Keep up the great work! I personally love your brown beads!

  30. Susan, 20 September, 2009

    Rob your creations are fabulous! Many of your comments I found interesting.

    When I was searching the Internet for a new adventure Cindy’s website was coming up again and again. I believe it was Cindy who inspired me to open my ETSY store I have learned so much from this website… The cornstarch was a beautiful thing.

    I wish you and your wife the best of luck and success. Your work is beautiful. Love the rock tumbler too. Will purchase one soon.

  31. Cindy Lietz, 02 October, 2009

    Looks like everyone is loving your work Rob! Way to go!

    Great idea Claycass to string the beads before tumbling. Like Jocelyn said, bet it keeps the holes nice and clean. Do you find they the ends get polished just as well as when they are rolling separately on their own?

  32. Susan, 03 October, 2009

    I am still investigating the rock tumbler thing. I glaze my beads now and I am not satisfied with the out-come. I have been learning and window shopping. These tips were extremely helpful. Thanks a bunch!

  33. Peggy, 29 October, 2009

    Rob your beads are beautiful and Susan I love your Etsy store. Cindy you just bring out the best in all of us.

    WOW Thanks for all the information everybody. I have decided to get a rock tumbler just can’t decide what kind. I was wondering if anyone who has a vibrating tumbler if they have tried putting any odd shaped beads or even pendants in their tumbler. I read where the rotary tumblers are better for round rocks and the vibrating tumblers are better for keeping odd shape rocks true to there shape. It just got me to wondering if it would be better or even possible to use for pendants or odd shaped focal beads. Anyone tried this to see if it works. Also those of you that have the vibrating tumblers any ideas on a good value place to shop for one?? I have to watch my penny’s like a lot of people so any suggestions on where to get a good price but still nice quality tumbler I would be most grateful.
    Thanks again everyone with all your valued information!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. Cindy Lietz, 30 October, 2009

    @Susan: Thanks for your comments! Rock tumbling is a great option for getting a nice finish especially for small round beads that are tricky to sand. It is important to have a nicely sanded finish on your beads as opposed to just glazing them, if you want to get a professional look. There are lots of posts about sanding an polishing your beads on this blog that will help. I also have a Polymer Clay Bead Making Course that covers how to get a beautiful finish on your polymer clay beads, that may interest you. Click the link by my name for more info. Glad to be of help and happy to have you as part of our claying community!

    @Peggy: I like the Lortone Tumbler with the 3lb barrel but others prefer to use a vibratory tumbler. Just do a Google search and see what you come up with as far as pricing. I don’t have a resource for you but someone else here may pipe up and let you know about one, so make sure you subscribe to this thread and see if someone does.

  35. Claycass, 30 October, 2009

    If you pay electricity – like I do – the vibratory tumbler works much faster. With three hours of tumbling I get a very nice shine with a muslin buffing wheel.

  36. Peggy, 04 November, 2009

    @Claycass: Clayclass I would love some more advice on the vibratory tumbler. Any information as far as what materials you use in it and do you line the bowl with anything for the polishing cycle?? I would be most greatful if you would tug my ear and throw me some tips on how you accompish your beautiful beads with this type of tumbler. I just finally purchased a Raytech Tumble – Vibe. I am looking so forward to using it. I will have to admit I am leaning on you and Rob for anymore information you are willing to share with me.
    Keep tumbling, Peggy

  37. Claycass, 05 November, 2009

    Hi Peggy, I use the river rocks to smooth my beads and pendants. I have not mastered the polishing phase yet. I still use the buffing wheel to shine my finished pieces. But the river rocks were great for smoothing out my items.
    I was thinking about covering some river rocks with pieces of denim held on with a rubberband to create a buffiing stone, but it has only been a thought. I have some plastic pellets but I have not really tried them yet.
    Good luck.

  38. Peggy, 05 November, 2009

    @Claycass: Thank you so much for the information. I hope you do not mind my asking you a couple of more questions. My vibe tumbler only requires 4t added water. I know the rotary tumblers you cover the rocks with water. Is your tumbler like mine? Also do you add the dawn dish soap to your tumbler?
    About the polishing I am going to try what Cindy does in her Vol 11-4 video and line my bowl with felt and see how that works on polishing items. If you didn’t see the video you might want to go back and watch it or rewatch like I did earlier. I will be trying my tumbler out this weekend so I will try to let everyone know how it worked out for me. Anyone else with advise before then I will be very happy to receive it.
    Thank you again Clayclass for your very valued information.
    Getting ready to tumble, Peggy

  39. Claycass, 05 November, 2009

    @Peggy: Peggy, I have a Lyman tumbler and it came with two bowls. I have used the larger bowl only (so far). I used a bit more water than you. I did not cover the rock; if there is too much water it will splash around. I sit my tumbler on the floor so that it never has an opportunity to fall off of anything. LOL! Some wrote about theirs walking off the table. I don’t know how you would line the bowl? Let us know how it works.

  40. Sue Werner, 06 November, 2009

    Just a tip I found helps with keeping my tumbler(s) in place when it is working. When I use my vibrating tumbler,it will “walk” on smooth surfaces, so I bought a cheap black rubber floor mat, the kind used for standing on (I think). It has a textured, short finger like nap to it. I use my rotary tumbler and my vibratory tumbler on it and they both stay put. I place the tumblers on the floor just in case. It’s made a big difference in keeping them in place, and also it seems to keep the vibe tumbler a little cooler when it’s working.

  41. Peggy, 07 November, 2009

    Great idea Sue. I have read where some of you cover your machines to help cut down on noise. My instruction book specifically says not to cover with anything due to hazard of overheating and possible fire hazard. Has anyone noticed when they cover there machine if it tends to overheat at all. Just want everyone to stay safe. Won’t get chance to use mine until next week so I am not talking from experience at all.

  42. Cindy Lietz, 07 November, 2009

    Sorry I haven’t added any advice of my own Peggy. I haven’t worked with a vibratory so I can only go on what Rob, Sue and Claycass have to say, which BTW guys thank you for passing on your knowledge! I love how you guys help each other out. You’re the best!

  43. Susan, 14 November, 2009

    @Cindy Lietz from Buffing Beads:

    Cindy you work with a rotary? Do you use just the small river rocks and water to smooth the beads? or bb’s? Buffing use the felt linned around barrel and do you add water for friction reseasons or no?

  44. Susan, 13 November, 2009

    I bought my rock tumbler this week. Yah!! I am so excited. I have begun my expirementing. I do have a guestion or two. :) I used the powder steps the machine came with some results but, I think the plastic pelets that were mesioned will be my next thing. Those are just BB pelets correct? And I need to get a better buff. So I am going with the felt idea around the barrel. But, no water is used in this process correct?

  45. Sue Werner, 13 November, 2009

    Susan, if you mean Beanie Baby Pellets by BB, then yes. Did you get a vibe or a rotary tumbler? If you have a vibe, then there is no water used. I put a cup of baking soda in with my pellets. I’ve never used the pellets in my rotary tumbler. I just use that for polishing metal work. But maybe someone else can tell you how to set that up. Good luck!

  46. Susan, 14 November, 2009

    Thanks Sue. I bought a rotary tumbler. Maybe I should use small river rocks instead? Looking over the comments looks like most use the vibrater. Did I purchase the wrong machine?

  47. Cindy Lietz, 14 November, 2009

    Hi Susan! Not to worry… the tumbler you bought should work just fine. I have a rotary rock tumbler as well, and it works beautifully. To learn how to use it effectively using river rocks and water, I would encourage you to watch the Vol-011-4 video in the Polymer Clay Library. The link by my name will take you to a post with more information and a short preview clip of the tutorial.

    There is also tons of free information on rotary tumbling on this site as well. Type words like: rock tumbler, rock polisher, polishing, lortone, sanding, etc…. into the search box at the top of the page, and a list of articles will come up. Make sure to read all the comments as well, because they contain as much or more information than the articles themselves.

    I’m sure you’re going to love your tumbler once you learn how to use it properly.

  48. pattw, 24 July, 2010

    Claycass -Boy I am confused ! What kind of beany baby pellets do you use ? I googled the pellets and came up with all sorts of stuff. I want a vibe tumbler and am trying to get ready to use it.LOL Sure would appreciate some help…..thanks

  49. Claycass, 25 July, 2010

    Beans for beanies….. try Polly Pellets for Crafts with Character I found it at Michaels Craft Store.
    Here is a question to everyone with vibratory tumblers. How has it been going and what have you experienced? I use the river rocks with water and I make sure my beads are strung on fishing line while tumbling. I was please with applying Johnson’s Wax to my beads after tumbling. I applied the wax twice and buffed with a soft microfiber cloth from the Dollar Store. They had a nice shine on them when finished.

  50. Sue F, 26 July, 2010

    @Claycass: My vibratory tumbler works brilliantly. I use it with river rocks — a large amount, thoroughly picked over, not straight out of the bag — and a little water, and you can’t differentiate visually between tumbled and hand-sanded beads. I don’t use any wax or varnish or finish (I personally dislike such treatments, and few stand up to my stress tests anyway). I just buff them by Dremel or by hand depending on whether I want a glassy or satin finish. (I did experiment with Pledge One-Go, the Australian equivalent of Future Floor Polish, to see for myself what the hoo-ha about that product was, but the glassy-buffed ones are actually less glossy with Pledge One-Go on them than they were just buffed.)

    I wrote quite a bit about how I use my vibratory tumbler in the Polymer Clay Tutorial | Polished Beads | Lortone Rock Tumbler thread from 30 April 2009. The link above will take you to the first of several comments I made in that thread.

    I also had a few comments in the Rock Tumblers | Polymer Clay Beads | Cleanser Method vs River Rocks thread from 25 June 2009:

    I personally wouldn’t have my beads strung on anything while they’re tumbling because it would inhibit their movement and the ability of the rocks to cover every single bit of the surface of every bead. I’ve never had any trouble picking my beads out from the rocks, but I guess all of that depends on the type and size of beads you make.

    Each to their own! ;D

  51. Linda K., 26 July, 2010

    @Sue F: I agree that the fishing line could be a problem if you make it too short and the beads are too close together…but if you have it long enough so that the beads can separate and the gravel can reach all the surfaces, I think it would work.

  52. Linda K., 25 July, 2010

    What a great idea you had about the fishing line! Then you don’t have to sort the beads from the rocks when you’re done. Thanks for sharing that!

  53. pattw, 26 July, 2010

    Claycass -thanks for the info, it really helped

  54. Sue F, 26 July, 2010

    Oh, and I’ve tried poly pellets with bicarbonate of soda several times now, and on the whole the result was somewhat worse than just bicarbonate of soda, which isn’t even in the same league as my picked-over river rocks.

    I now have two bag of poly pellets and about 3kg of bicarbonate of soda sitting in my garage… I don’t like just throwing them away, so hopefully I’ll think of a use for them some day!

  55. Jocelyn, 21 August, 2010

    @Sue F: Sue, read this and laughed. Time for a big old clean out your pipes…just grab a gallon of vinegar and pile some soda around and into your drain. Slowly add the vinegar. The gentle foaming action does a great job of cleaning out craft house drains. Follow with teakettle of boiling water.

  56. Linda K., 26 July, 2010

    I have no idea why I said gravel when I meant river rocks. Too many things on my mind today, LOL.

  57. Claycass, 26 July, 2010

    YES I do thread the beads loosey so that the rocks can fit in the space. Some one stated that their holes enlarged during tumbling when not strung, so that is why I string the beads.

  58. Sue F, 26 July, 2010

    @Linda K.: From watching how the beads move as they’re tumbling I think it’s pretty important that the beads are able to move completely independently. That wouldn’t be possible if they were strung, even if it was loosely. I also know that the way I tumble-sand gets rids of fingerprints and all but the worst surface flaws, while many people say that tumble-sanding doesn’t remove fingerprints so they have to hand-sand a bit first, so I’m sticking with the way I do it! ;)

    @Claycass: That’s interesting. Offhand I’d have thought that if anything it would be the other way around — if the beads are strung, you’ll have the stringing material applying tension and friction to the bead holes in all directions during tumbling which could quite reasonably enlarge them, but if they’re not strung, nothing would be “working” the holes as the rocks at 9mm are much too large — but I haven’t heard of that effect either way before. For what it’s worth, however, my bead holes definitely don’t enlarge during tumbling unstrung.

  59. Kathy G, 19 August, 2010

    I’ve got it!!!!!! I wanted to make sure that my process worked b/f posting. I have run two separate batches of beads (various shapes) in my tumbler and am so happy with the polished, smooth, shiny results. I have a single barrel tumbler. I don’t line it with anything. All I do is cut my sandpaper in thin, long strips, add two squirts of dishsoap, a handfull of small river rocks, the beads and filtered water. I start with 400 grit for 24 hrs; 600 for 12; 800 for 6; 1000 for 6; polishing powder made to a slury for 4; 2-3 hours of just water, bead and dishsoap, and finally a dry tumble with cut up denim and beads for about 3-4 hours. The beads have come out AMAZING! smooth and shiny……love, love, love it!!!!!

  60. Claycass, 20 August, 2010

    @Kathy G: That is nice. I have a vibratory tumbler and now I need a recipe like yours. I tried denim in the vibratory and the beads did not roll through the denim.

  61. Kathy G, 21 August, 2010

    @Claycass: My tumbler is not a vibratory. If you are interested in getting one like mine I just saw them on the Habor Freight website for like $30. I cut the denim into squares about 2inches.

  62. Claycass, 25 August, 2010

    @Kathy G: Kathy G – thanks but no thanks – I have a vibratory tumbler because they do their job in less time – I am just going to continue to work at perfectiing my shine. I get a very good smooth surface and a glossy shine with my buffing wheel.

  63. Jocelyn, 21 August, 2010

    @Kathy G: Kathy, thanks for the share. Sounds like a great method! How are you cutting up your denim, into patches or thin long strips?

  64. Kathy G, 21 August, 2010

    @Jocelyn: I cut the denim using my fabric shears and cut them in 2 inch squares.

  65. Jill V., 21 August, 2010

    @Kathy G: What is polishing powder?

  66. Kathy G, 21 August, 2010

    @Jill V.: The polishing powder is a powder technically used for tumbling actual rocks used in the very final stages. I haven’t tried this but I bet you could skip the powder and just julienne some 1500 grit sandpaper. Maybe I’ll try that next round and let you all know. I got the powder from a store called The Little Red Store ( The powder is called levigated aluminum oxide.

  67. Phaedrakat, 21 August, 2010

    @Kathy G: Oooh, I’ve been wondering about that powder — I’ve heard of people using “the little packets of powder that came with their rock tumblers.” This is the first time I’ve heard of a name for it. But I’m curious now about your other comment — doesn’t the green Scotch pad scratch your beads? Those are pretty abrasive… Oh, yeah, I have one more question: is your tumbler from Harbor Freight, as well? I was trying to weigh the pros & cons of buying the name brand Lortone vs. the (much cheaper! – yay) Harbor Freight tumbler. If that’s where you got yours and it’s working so well, it’ll probably tip the scales that way… Thanks for your help! ~Kat

  68. Kathy G, 26 August, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: My tumbler is a Harbor Freight one. I actually got in on ebay but I wish i got it direct from Harbor Freight b/c I paid more.

  69. Kathy G, 21 August, 2010

    One step I forgot to mention is that sometimes the beads will come out slightly cloudy after all the abrasives and b/f the “water and dishsoap” tumble. Don’t worry about it too much just take a green Scotch abrasive pad and it rubs right off. This actually happened to me this last time even after the final “denim” tumble and I did the Scotch thing after everything and they are still awesome.

  70. Phaedrakat, 27 August, 2010

    @Kathy: Thanks for the info, Kathy…such a huge help! Too bad about the eBay overpricing, but it’s great to hear you’re getting great results with your tumbler. Have you had it awhile, with no problems? (I’m just about ready to say, “SOLD!”) Thanks again! ;D

  71. Kathy G, 28 August, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: you know, I’ve only had it for a couple of months but it works great. I’ve read all about the problems folks have had with them and the gasket or the belt. No problems here…..knock on wood.

    Just A Quick FYI…
    there is currently a technical bug happening with the “Reply” function here at the blog. When you use it, your comments are temporarily held in the moderation queue, pending approval. This is not supposed to happen, and it will be fixed soon. But for now, it would be helpful if everyone could refrain from clicking on that little “Reply” link. Instead, you can simply reference others by manually typing their name… like @Phaedrakat [or] @Kathy G [or] @Cindy: [etc, etc.]. This way your comments will post in real time, without any delay. Thank you all. ~Doug

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