Using A Rock Polisher To Get Shiny Polymer Clay Beads and Pendants

Polymer Clay Tumbler

Update on Using the Lortone Rock Tumbler for Polishing Clay Jewelry Beads:

On September 17 I wrote an article about tumblers that ended inconclusively. Since then, I have done some more experimenting and would like to give you a bit of an update. If you have not yet read the original article, you might want to do that first. Here’s the link: Lortone Rock Tumblers for Polymer Clay

It was actually a comment from Randee Ketzel that got me to thinking. She uses a vibratory tumbler filled with the plastic pellets used in beanie babies and a couple of cups of baking soda to polish her beads.

Since I still don’t have any of those beanie baby pellets, I decided to tumble some freshly baked beads using baking soda and pieces of 400 grit sandpaper. Randee never did say whether or not she used water, so I threw some of that in there too.

After a couple hours of tumbling, a funny thing happened… the wet baking soda got very foamy and actually pressurized the rubber tumbler barrel. I could see this had happened because the bottom of the barrel was bulging out like a balloon!

Carefully, I loosened the nut, leaving it still on the bolt. And PSSSST… the air started leaking out… like the air from a tire! Good thing I didn’t leave it going over night. Who knows what it would have done!

Any who… the beads inside felt smooth. Any little dings or finger prints were still there. But all in all, they looked pretty good. So I buffed up a couple with the Dremel and man they polished up nice! Quickly too!

We may be on to something here. Will have to find some of those beanie baby pellets now. But I’ll try it without the water next time. And maybe experiment with different grits and without. Etc. Etc.

I’m very much looking forward to finally coming up with a consistent way to get a nice finish on the beads with the least amount of manual work. In the meantime, any other suggestions are welcome.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Cindy Lietz, 05 October, 2008

    If your tumbler turns intermittently on the rollers, it’s probably a weight issue. These machines are actually designed for tumbling rocks which are much heavier than polymer clay beads. One trick I’ve learned that can help is to prop up your machine opposite to the turning roller. This way the barrel of beads leans harder against drive roller and grips better!

  2. Elle Rice, 05 October, 2008

    What an awesome idea. I can’t wait to try my tumbler with the pellets and see if it works. Thanks so much. Elle

  3. Randee M Ketzel, 06 October, 2008

    Cindy, sorry for the ambiguity–yes indeed, I tumble them dry, bcause that’s how my tumbler is designed; (there are higher end vibratory tumblers that are designed for ‘wet’ applications, but mine is not one of them).
    The plastic pellets I mentioned are avaiable at JoAnn and Hobby Lobby stores in the doll-making sections; they are called ‘poly-pellets’ and here is their website: make a great cushioning filler that distributes the baking soda and hastens the sanding of the beads;( I have not yet experimented with cornstarch as a second stage, but it does seem logical).
    In the meantime, Good luck with your beads!
    Randee Ketzel

  4. Cindy Lietz, 06 October, 2008

    @Elle: It would be so cool to find something that works well for sanding beads that wasn’t so much work, wouldn’t it! Let us know how it goes for you!

    @Randee: Thank you so much! I will head off to the fabric store and give it a try! I’ll write another post with the results! Thanks again, the more we all share, the more we all learn!

  5. Julie Anstaett, 17 October, 2008

    Hi, there…I’ve been tumbling my beads for years, and I can’t say that I’ve found any better method than the one I use. Forget the many-grit variations and hours and hours touted elsewhere. I put my beads (no more than a goodly handful) in a simple (relatively cheap) tumbler, cut up one sheet of 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper, fill the tumbler 3/4 full of water, and then let it tumble for at least 24 hours. I then either buff or coat with varathane. I only use the tumbler on smaller beads that would be a royal pain to sand…and you have to remember to leave enough room in the tumbler for the beads to tumble and make good contact with the sandpaper.

  6. Cindy Lietz, 18 October, 2008

    Thank you Julie I will give that a try! I went to your site and you really do beautiful work. It is a pleasure to have comments and suggestions from you!

  7. Rob K, 10 November, 2008

    I just bought a cheap vibrating tumbler and saw on another site to use 3/8 smooth river rocks. I am trying a small experimental batch right now, will let you know how they turn out.

  8. Rob K, 11 November, 2008

    4hrs into this noisy ordeal and I am surprised how nice they look. Beads are up to a matte finish, used the river rocks and some cut up thin foam rubber pieces and added a spritz of water to ensure all were coated. Will take pics upon completion.

  9. Julie Anstaett, 11 November, 2008

    Can’t wait to see them! However, don’t know if my ears could handle the noise…those pesky little ordinary tumblers with just sandpaper are almost more than I can handle!!

  10. Cindy Lietz, 12 November, 2008

    @Rob K: I am very encouraged by results! I bet it is a noisy process!! :-) Thank you so much for bringing your findings here.

    So, why did you add the foam? And did you spray the water on the foam, the beads, the rocks or all of them? Do you think this would work with a tumbler, or would the rocks pound the beads?

    I would love to see photos. It is great to have people like you here sharing what they are learning. Thanks again!

    @Julie: I hear ya… it probably sounds like you’re inside a cement mixer! :P Wouldn’t be bad if it works though… could always put it in the garage!

  11. Rob_k, 12 November, 2008

    I wanted to add another material in the mix to speed up the process, and I read somewhere a person used a car shammy and water for similar results. The beads are not handsanded quality, I would say, the result is somewhere in the 600-800 grit wet/dry paper result. I recently was giving a lesson to a friend, and she got some nail marks in the beads, so a beginning sand with 320 would have gotten rid if them, oh well….live and learn. I have buffed most of them to a glassy shine. This technique is certainly a wrist a time saver. As stated earlier, i will post some pics on my site for before and after shots.

  12. Rob_k, 13 November, 2008

    Here are pics to what I have been describing [Click on my name above for the link to my photo site] follow the links to my site….the first pic is the actual machine… the second is the medium used to sand (river rocks 3/8″, and some foam, the 3rd pic is the result of 4rs in the vibrating tumbler, and the last is the result after a final polish. I encourage you all to try this on large batches of beads, not on center pieces such as pendents. On those particular pieces you should hand sand and polish, as those results are hard to beat.
    Hope this helps you all,
    Comments are encouraged.

  13. Cindy Lietz, 13 November, 2008

    Rob thanks so much for the photos! That is great! Yeah I know what you mean about them not coming out hand sanded quality…. I haven’t been able to get that with my tumbler methods either. But for the small beads, if you make them as perfectly as you can before baking, this is an excellent way to get them done!

    Was looking around at some of your jewelry and you do beautiful work! It is a pleasure having you here, sharing what you have learned… Thank You!

  14. Rob_k, 13 November, 2008

    Well, thanks for having such a great site and a friendly community. Actually my wife is the is the jewler, I make the clay beads and photograph the work for sale on her site. Thanks for the compliments

  15. Rob_k, 17 November, 2008

    UPDATE: I have processed another batch, and we sanded them first with 320 wet/dry. This batch finished much better than my first one. No nail marks, slight sheen to them already. Will post pics again for your info.

  16. Cindy Lietz, 18 November, 2008

    Sounds great Rob! Can’t wait to see them! When you sanded them was it by hand first, or did you do that in the tumbler too?

  17. Rob_k, 19 November, 2008

    I first sanded with the 320 grit paper, then into the machine for 4hrs, and then polished to a glass like finish.

  18. Julie Anstaett, 19 November, 2008

    Rob, Rob…you’re a stronger person than I Gunga Din!!!
    And much more patient…the beads look great, but I think I’ll just take the pedestrian road and stick with my little “play” tumbler with water and sandpaper. You’ll probably be featured as the new innovative clayer, though!! You go, boy!!!!

  19. Cindy Lietz, 20 November, 2008

    @Rob: Thank you so much for the info and your results! Will have to look into getting some of those rocks and try it out!

    @Julie: Yeah it’s impressive aint it?! Thank you very much for your fun comments!

  20. Rob_k, 23 November, 2008

    I finally got around to shooting the beads we have been discussing. These were right out of the vibratory tumbler, and just “dusted off” with an old tee shirt. The center of the pic (below) has a red bead, and there is a sheen to it, albeit matte, but a few min on the polishing wheel and I can obtain a glass like shine. My wife and I are very impressed with the results, no finger prints or nail marks, and only a 1/4 of the work. Rob

    Rob's Beads

  21. Cindy Lietz, 24 November, 2008

    That is very exciting Rob! Where did you get the rocks you used?

    Also, I was wondering, if you threw in some baking soda with the mix, it might just get rid of that ‘dust’, without having to clean them with a T-shirt first. I have noticed when I’ve used it, it cut that powder down remarkably and they buffed up even easier.

  22. Rob_k, 24 November, 2008

    The rocks were purchased at Joanne Fabric craft store, they are 3/8″ river rocks (round and semi shinny) and were $3.00 for a pound and 1/2. I have also seen the same exact rocks in Michael’s and A/C Moore, they are typically used in vases at the base. Cindy, I have also considered the baking soda or corn starch, going to give that a whirl next batch. Again, I would be happy to post my results.

  23. Rob_k, 24 November, 2008

    TO ADD: I always forget stuff…I feel the key to using this piece of equipment is this: After baking,drop beads in an ice bath, when cooled after a few hours, hit the beads with a light sanding with 320 grit wet/dry sandpaper to get rid of any finger prints. The red beads were made using Fimo classic and some Fimo effect, and the greens and blues were Sculpey III.

  24. Cindy Lietz, 24 November, 2008

    Thanks for the details Rob!

  25. Rob_k, 02 December, 2008

    UPDATE: (again)
    I am polishing a new batch ‘o beads, this time I added baking soda to the mix, instead of water. Will let you know how they work out.

  26. Rob_k, 05 December, 2008

    Well…I learned not to mix ANY water with the baking soda, makes a nice messy paste and is a pain to get off the beads. I am sticking to the river rock and a small amount of water, this seems to work the best for me.

  27. Cindy Lietz, 05 December, 2008

    Yeah I’ve found the baking soda had to be completely dry, too. Thanks for the update Rob… sometimes you’ve got to try a few different things before you find the best way of doing it. Your experiments have been fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing them with us!

  28. Diana, 16 January, 2009

    This is the first I have heard of polishing polymer clay beads in a tumbler. Is there a special brand you use that works best? This technique sounds wonderful for smaller beads. It gets very tiring to sand them by hand.

  29. Cindy Lietz, 17 January, 2009

    There really aren’t too many companies making rock tumblers Diana. The most common brand (the one I have) is Lortone. They are a well made machine which will give you great service for years to come. Mine is actually from the 70’s and shows no sign of wear!

    Tumbling is great for doing small beads like you said, but for bigger focal beads, nothing beats the look of hand sanding.

  30. Julie Anstaett, 17 January, 2009

    Both of my tumblers are from Jo Ann’s…the inexpensive kiddie-hobby type that cost about $30…I’ve had them for about 4 years now and they’re going strong. Every time I tell myself I’m going to get a “better” one, I look at the prices and kick some sense into myself!
    Oh, and a great way to get rid of stray finger prints is to wipe the piece with straight acetone. I keep a can of it on my table and use it constantly. It also helps get rid of the shine on the underside of flat pieces if you’ve baked right on the tile or glass. Don’t get too vigorous with it, though, or you’ll melt the clay…just some light swipes with a paper towel and acetone.

  31. Cindy Lietz, 18 January, 2009

    That’s a cool tip for getting rid of the fingerprints Julie! I take it you’re wiping them after they’re baked? Also where are you buying acetone? I know they used to put it in nail polish remover but I’m not sure if they still do.

  32. Julie Anstaett, 18 January, 2009

    Yes, after baked and completely cool. Just go to Lowe’s or Home Depot for the acetone. I think it will be with paint and paint thinners? Nail polish doesn’t work, though…not strong enough.

  33. Cindy Lietz, 19 January, 2009

    Cool thanks Julie I’ll give that a try!

  34. Ken H., 11 February, 2009

    I think I read on one of the many sites on PC that someone made a tube and disks out of the wet/dry sandpaper and slid/placed it in the chamber and on the ends, I was reading VERY late and don’t remember much more than this and have never been able to find the site again.

  35. Cindy Lietz, 11 February, 2009

    Yes I’ve done that before Ken and it works pretty good. Still a bit of a pain and the quality is just so so. Though it definitely can do a bulk of the work for you!

    (I know what you mean about reading something online and not being able to remember where you saw it so you could go back again.

    That is why installing an RSS reader like Google Reader is so handy. You can subscribe to a blog (like mine) and then never lose it again! Something you’ll definitely want to do with this site so you don’t miss out on anything!

    Click the Orange Subscribe button at the very top right hand corner of this page to subscribe to this blog.

  36. Ms Rock Polisher, 25 February, 2009

    I really enjoyed this article. My husband and I have experimented with various beads in our rock polisher but have yet to get in right!

  37. Cindy Lietz, 26 February, 2009

    I know Ms Rock Polisher, I’ve had a little trouble getting it perfect too. But if you try some of the ideas in the comments that should help. Also, it is a great way to get the bulk of the work done so that you don’t have to do as much by hand.

    Since you are a person who works with rock polishers, maybe you know of a substrate that would work well with the softer plastics like polymer clay? Any creative idea you have would be wonderful to hear!

  38. Rob_k, 28 February, 2009

    UPDATE: Had to return the polisher due to it failing. I suggest if you can get an extended replacement plan with the cheaper models from What happened was the top rubber washer which holds the cover in place vibrated (I know, vibraby tumbler) wore, which in turn, put small shavings of black rubber gasket on my river rocks, and tainted my beads with black hard rubber residue. Needless to say, that batch was tossed.

  39. Cindy Lietz, 03 March, 2009

    That is too bad Rob! If you haven’t taken your trash to the curb yet, maybe you can salvage those beads. Rubbing alcohol may remove that black rubber residue. If it doesn’t, then acetone will since it will even remove fingerprints on baked polymer clay beads! (See Julie’s comment above. I tried it, it works!)

  40. Julie Anstaett, 03 March, 2009

    Oh, Rob, Rob…I KNOW how blood curdling it is to throw away beads you have a vested interest in!!!! Please, please go spend a few dollars on a cheap toy tumbler at JoAnn’s and cut up some 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper…throw the sandpaper in the tumbler with some water and leave for 24 hours…I promise you’ll get some smooth beads with no fuss no muss. Forget the trying to make a tube to fit the tumbler…did it long ago…tube just curled up and didn’t work. I believe in the least amount of work for the most benefit!!!

  41. Rob_k, 03 March, 2009

    Thanks for the suggestions Cindy, and Julie, I salvaged the beads, just started the sanding process by hand, I replaced the tumbler with the same model, I have the extended warranty, will modify this black rubber washer, by replacing with steel. And put it on the floor this time, instead of a table.

  42. Cindy Lietz, 05 March, 2009

    @Julie: Thanks for your comment! I don’t find the strips of paper in a tumble do a good enough job for me. Are your beads pretty smooth to start with?

    @Rob: Glad to hear you salvaged your beads! Sounds like you may just have a solution. Let us know how it goes from here.

  43. Lisa Whitham, 31 March, 2009

    Well, I’m off to JoAnn’s tomorrow… :) I can’t wait to tumble my first batch of little beads!
    Thanks Cindy, Thanks everyone who posted.!

  44. Cindy Lietz, 02 April, 2009

    Let us know how it goes Lisa!

  45. Lisa Whitham, 03 April, 2009

    Hi Cindy,
    I got a tumbler at Michael’s – normally retails for $30 – I had a 50% off coupon… Yay! I’m going to try it out Sunday, I should have enough small beads made by then. I’ll be using 800 grit wet/dry sand paper cut into 1/2 – 1 inch squares. I have one concern tho… will it work ok with such a light load. Ah well, I’ll find out by Monday morning. :)
    I’ll be sure to let ya’ll know how it goes…

  46. Cindy Lietz, 04 April, 2009

    Sounds exciting Lisa! I have found that using the river rock like Rob suggested works really well and there is definitely no issue of not having enough weight with them.

    I found a bag of the unpolished river rock at the local dollar store where I shop. So not only are they super cheap, they don’t have to be cut into squares like the sandpaper, and they never wear out!

    You may want to try them as well and see which method you like best.

  47. Lisa Whitham, 05 April, 2009

    Well I’ve got some beads tumbling, but I’m having a problem with the water leaking a very little bit Every so often I have to wipe the tumbler and the machine off. I wonder if I should have put vaseline around the rim of the lid like the instructions said… Cindy, are you using a spinning tumbler with those river rocks? Some of my beads are tiny and I wonder if the river rocks would chip or break my beads? And how much of the river rock do you use? Like a 1/4 cup? A couple tablespoons?
    Thanks again for your help!

  48. Lisa Whitham, 06 April, 2009

    Well, it didn’t work. All my little squares of sand paper curled up and stuck together! Dang… I suppose I’ll experiment with the river rocks and if that doesn’t work I’ll just tumble the rocks that came with my tumbler. *shrug*
    Ah well – experiment and learn… I’m just glad I didn’t have to spend much on my tumbler! :|

  49. Ken H., 06 April, 2009

    Try making a cylinder and circles for the ends of the chamber out of the sandpaper, I read it somewhere else on the internet. I don’t have a tumbler yet, I’m waiting to see someone have sucess with one before I go and buy one.

    Good luck,
    Ken H.

  50. Rob_k, 06 April, 2009

    Ken, I read the same somewhere about lining the tumbler with wet/dry.
    Lisa, I would not use any liquid at all with the river rocks. I have had great success with just the rocks in my vibrating tumbler, I would imagine it would work the same in a rotating tumbler. Your beads will have a slight gloss to them, for really glossy beads (if that is the look you are after) then use some future acrylic floor polish or do as I do and buff on a jewelers wheel with a muslin or cotton wheel.
    Hope this helps,

  51. Lisa Whitham, 06 April, 2009

    Thanks guys, I’ll try both your suggestions and post you on my results.
    Rob, I already use the future on my large pieces that I hand sand. I was just looking for something easier for my bitty beads…
    Thanks for the help!

  52. Lisa Whitham, 06 April, 2009

    P.S. I think it’s great that you’re both “crafty” guys!

  53. Cindy Lietz, 06 April, 2009

    First of all, Thank you Ken and Rob for piping up and helping Lisa! That is what I love to see!! You guys rock!

    Lisa, you can still use your little squares of sandpaper if you want. Sounds like they were either not wet/dry sandpaper or they were a low quality brand and that is why they curled up.

    To fix that, you can glue them back to back with a waterproof adhesive. Click the link by my name for info on glues. I’d use Weldbond or one of the silicone glues.

    Lining your drum with sandpaper will also help.

    As far as using the river rock, I have used them with water with good success. Will try Rob’s suggestion to try them dry and see which one I prefer, but you can do whatever you want.

    I fill the drum 1/4 full of river rock and 1/2 beads. Add enough water to cover plus a drop of dish soap. Tumble for 4-5 hours then check. Repeat if necessary.

    Oh by the way, the Vaseline might be a good idea if that’s what your manufacturer suggests for preventing leaks. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  54. Anna Sabina, 07 April, 2009

    I absolutely love, Love, LOVE this site. I sat here giggling through all these posts becasue it was kind of like reading directions for making Meatloaf; no breadcrumbs, hell just throw in some quick oats. We started with beanie baby pellets and ended with river rock !!! Sounds like tumbling beads is kind of like me making meatloaf, I never follow a recipe and never make it the same twice but it always tastes great.
    The tumbler expansion from baking soda so funny, lucky it didn’t explode. And, if all else fails follow the directions and put vaseline on the rubber gasket. I think we are all adventurous and wiling to give lots of things a try and nobody has been injured yet. I am going to find my kids old rock tumbler and give it a whirl and will see if I can find some strange untried product in with the beads. Who knows, maybe it will be saurkraut.
    Thanks for brightening my day.

  55. Cindy Lietz, 09 April, 2009

    Anna you made my day! Your comment makes all the hard work, worth it! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    Just so you know, I just read today about someone using uncooked rice in their tumbler to harden their wire wrapped pendants without damaging the crystals they had used! Who knows, might work for clay too! :-)

    BTW, sounds like you make meatloaf, like I make meatloaf. I’m a ‘make do with what you have’ kinda girl… In the studio, my home and the kitchen too!

  56. Cindy Lietz, 11 April, 2009

    To Anna and all those who are interested in trying rice in the tumbler, use converted white rice raw and dry in the tumbler. No water or soap!

  57. Lisa Whitham, 12 April, 2009

    Tomorrow/today, (it’s after 1:30am here) afternoon I try the river rock. And now I know if that doesn’t work I can try rice. *chuckles* This gets more and more interesting… I have yet to go to the auto parts store for a chamois to buff with – maybe I’ll make a run while my beads tumble.

  58. Lisa Whitham, 13 April, 2009

    Ok, my river rock is making dark marks on my light colored beads, so I’m trying regular long grain white rice. I put in about a 1/3 of a cup of the rice. I’ll post my results later this evening…

  59. Lisa Whitham, 13 April, 2009

    Yay, the rice has taken the dark marks off my beads..! I’m going to tumble until late morning. So far, so good…

  60. Rob_k, 14 April, 2009

    Lisa, that is great to hear. Are your river rocks the polished ones? I found that removing all the darker color stones makes a difference. Sorting is a pain, but in the end, saves you some work. I will try a rice mix on my next batch. Been on a clay hiatus of late.

  61. Cindy Lietz, 14 April, 2009

    @Lisa: Sorry to take so long to get back to you. The questions are starting to get piled up. I was thinking that the black rubber drum of the tumbler could be causing your black marks, since that can happen. But Rub could be right in saying it could be the dark stones. I didn’t have any dark stones in my batch, so I didn’t think of that. Glad to hear the rice worked for scrubbing them clean though!

    @Rob: Great suggestion! Would not have thought of that since my river rocks were all light colored. (Different river?) Sorry to hear you’ve been away from your clay. Hope you’re back now!

  62. Lisa Whitham, 16 April, 2009

    Well the rice worked nicely. It left a nice sheen on the beads, after I wiped the rice dust off them.
    Rob – great suggestion. All my polished river rock is dark. I’ll have to look for a batch of light ones.
    Next I’m going to get a chamois and try tumbling with that instead of hand buffing. I’ll let you all know how that goes..
    Thanks for everyone’s help!!

  63. Rob_k, 16 April, 2009

    Lisa, instead of a shammy, may I suggest a small bench polisher. I have one from harbor freight, cost me $30.00 and is a 3″ wheel. Makes for a very glossy shine, and is easier than hand polishing. Here is a link to the tool, be careful with it, beads become projectiles very easily. I suggest using a small mandrill for holding smaller objects.

  64. Ken H., 16 April, 2009

    Lisa, a question, did you sand the beads with the tumbler or go from creating the beads right to the rice? I’m going to get a tumbler from one of the craft stores and am really interested in how things came out. It sound like the rice may be the answer. I was looking at polishing materials from Rio Grande and wasn’t sure on what might work since most of their items are for polishing metals jewelry, but there were a few things I thought “might” work.


  65. Lisa Whitham, 17 April, 2009

    Rob – Actually hand polishing is not so bad with the Kato Clay. I put Future on them afterward and they shine like glass. I just figure chamois is something to try with my little bitty beads in the tumbler… and cheaper than a bench polisher!

    Ken – The rice will not take out finger prints. So sand out any finger prints then tumble with the rice. I’m going to try the river rock again, with light rocks this next time. I would think the river rock would get rid of finger prints, but I won’t know until after I get to the craft store again.


  66. Cindy Lietz, 20 April, 2009

    Hey guys I just read something interesting about someone using popcorn and walnut shells (not together) for work hardening her wire jewelry without scratching the crystals. I think they would be worth a try for polymer clay. Hey why not… we’re trying everything else!

    Keep up the great conversation!

  67. Sunny, 30 April, 2009

    while surfing around in Harbor Freight looking for the tweezers coupon that I lost I stumbled on this site!
    Now I am reminded of the rotary tumbler I bought there years ago; it has never been out of the box! I originally bought it intending to try it out on broken glass but now I am wondering if the glass won’t cut up the rubber on the inside?

  68. Sunny, 30 April, 2009

    …… again. one more thing, I see a coupon for 10 pack aluminum oxide sanding sponges at $2.59. Am wondering if I just can’t cut them up and use in place of the grit that came with the rotary tumbler?

  69. Anna Sabina, 30 April, 2009

    I have been unable to find any rock tumblers in my area other than the kids ones with the tiny red barrel. I found the Lortone Rock Tumblers on the internet but they range in price from $67.00 to over a $150.00. I have found a 10 pound vibrating rock tumbler at Harbor Freight ( internet and store price) for $44.00 after using a 20% off coupon.
    Information I found indicates the rotary takes longer and is better to actually change shapes where the vibrating tumbler does more smoothing and fine finish.

    Any thoughts out there.

  70. Cindy Lietz, 01 May, 2009

    @Sunny: Definitely get the tumbler out of the box! If you want to use it for beach glass I can’t see why not. It probably won’t hurt it, but if you’re worried, try lining the barrel with sandpaper. As far as the sanding sponges, you could try it if you want to. Everyone else is trying all kinds of things. Let us know if it works for you. BTW I just made a video on using your rock tumbler for polishing polymer clay beads. If you’re interested, click the link by my name for more info.

    @Anna: I have heard good things about the vibratory polishers too. I haven’t tried one yet, since I already have a rotary tumbler, but I hear you can use them the same way. If you can find one cheaper, I would go for it. Do let us know how it works for you!

  71. Jackie, 22 May, 2009

    Well after reading about the rock polishers I decided to give it a try. I tried all the suggestions everyone gave. I had very good results with the rocks and water. With my tumbler came the powdered sandpaper. So I decided to throw a couple of tsps in with the rocks and water and let them tumble about 6 hours. I liked the results so much, that I cleaned out the tumbler and put the rocks, beads and a few tsps of the polishing powder and tumbled for another 3 hours. I took them out dried and buffed them. The shine was incredible. Thanks for all the wonderful tips.

  72. Ken H., 22 May, 2009

    How did you buff, by hand or by dremel after the polishing powder?

  73. Rob_k, 22 May, 2009

    I use a jewelry polisher with a 4″ cotton wheel on it (bought it at harbour freight tool for $29 USD) It is a small unit, not too powerful, but achieves a high gloss shine with no use of varnish or UTEE.

  74. Anna Sabina, 22 May, 2009

    Wanted to give an update on the Vibrating tumbler. Used it twice with rocks suggested by Cindy and did not put in any water. Beads came out smooth with almost an oily finished that buffed well except light beads still had a slight film that did not buff off with the felt wheel; the thin film was really difficult to see but the white looked a little dingy and on white and I could scrap it off with my finger nail.
    Yesterday i used the vibrating tumbler again but I put in about 1/4 cup of water and a couple drops of Dawn dish liquid; the tumbler specifically says …DO NOT ADD LIQUIDS but I had to try to get rid of the film. The beads came out absolutely beautiful and after buffing the shine was amazing.

  75. Jackie, 22 May, 2009

    Hi Ken,
    I used my buffing wheel on half and the other half I just wiped with a clean white t-shirt. Both worked very well.

  76. Cindy Lietz, 25 May, 2009

    Wow exciting updates guys! Keep em coming! Will have to see if I can find some of that powdered sandpaper!

  77. Rob_k, 26 May, 2009

    Beach sand is powdered sandpaper if about it…and I live near the ocean, have to grab some sand and see what happens. Hmmm….got me thinking now

  78. Cindy Lietz, 29 May, 2009

    I’ve got some sand too Rob from making the faux pebble beads. Will have to try tossing some in with the river rock as well!

  79. Debbie Bodinger, 30 May, 2009

    I’m trying to decide whether to get a vibratory or rotary tumbler. If you use the rotary tumbler, does it round out bicone or tube beads too much?

  80. Cindy Lietz, 02 June, 2009

    I don’t find there is any issue with beads rounding out too much in the tumble Debbie, but I suppose that would depend on the coarseness of what you were using to polish with and for how long you let it run. If you left your beads in long enough, you could possibly wear them down to seed bead size! :-)

  81. Ken H., 15 July, 2009

    Cindy, I FINALLY got a tumbler from Michaels, the one for children with the tiny (and I do mean tiny)red drum. I plan on using different grades of sand (builders,play and whatever the next finest would be) how much sand to I use in this little red drum with say thirty or so of the round bead that are made from the tri bead roller, it doesn’t say what millimeter the round is, I think it’s nine since I have some Swarovski crystal pearls that are 8mm, and how long does it seem to take for the PC beads, the directions for the rocks takes weeks for completion, I don’t think it would take as long as rocks. Also has anybody tried the popcorn idea yet?

  82. Rob_k, 16 July, 2009

    Ken,in my experience with my vibrating tumbler, it takes a good 4-6 hrs in it. I would use 6hrs as a starting point, as the rotating tumbler you purchased is not as aggressive as the vibratory type. I am also trying the different grades of sand technique, gonna give it go this weekend after my trip to the beach. I use polished, small river rocks (available at all the craft stores in 2lb mesh bags.) I have heard long grain white rice works as well, may wanna try that. The beads come out of the tumbler looking like an 800 grit sandpaper hand sanding, not a glossy shine, but a matte shine. Good luck,let us all know how you make out, and please post some pics for us.

  83. Ken H., 16 July, 2009

    I’m going to get the bag of marble chips from the dollar store, a bag of light color aquarium(sp) gravel, builders sand (I think it’s also called sharp sand), playbox sand, and then something finer not sure yet what though. Trying to follow the same types of materials that are used in the tumbler when doing the rocks, but adding the stone chips and the gravel to the process. Thanks a million for the info and I’ll surely post photos when the tests begin (hopefully this weekend).

  84. Cindy Lietz, 18 July, 2009

    Sound great guys!

  85. Cindy Lietz, 21 August, 2009

    **PHOTOS ADDED: Some project pictures have just been added to a Spotlight Feature showcasing Rob Kerfoot, a member who is very much appreciated here at this supportive polymer clay community. Click on the “Rock Tumbler Polymer Clay Beads” link by my name above to have a look.

  86. aims, 21 September, 2009

    Went and got my Lortone Cindy – and watched your video – and set it going. After 5 hours I checked my batch and they were covered in white so I let it run overnight. Some came out not so bad – all are very smooth.

    I thought I’d try a new batch with less beads and less water. They still are covered in white after 5 hours.

    This time around I put in a different soap and filtered our water.

    Has anyone else had this problem with their water being the culprit?

  87. aims, 21 September, 2009

    Let me restate this.

    The first batch only had a very few that weren’t covered in white after about 15 hours of tumbling.

    The second batch is completely covered in white after 5 hours. I have rinsed this batch thoroughly and cleaned everything else – then filtered the water and added a different dish detergent.

    Same question still applies. Is water sometimes a problem?

  88. Anna Sabina, 21 September, 2009

    15 hours, oh my.!!! That is a looooong time. Does the white come off after you buff them with a high speed buffer? Maybe the rock is coated thing something. My first batch came out with a dingy film on them so I switched to untreated rocks and there has not been a problem.

  89. Natalie Herbin, 31 October, 2013

    I am finally going to order my lortone… What do you mean by intretd rocks…. I was going to but a bag of rivr rocks at the Dollar Store… Is there any color I should get or stay away from? I have to watch Cindy video again … It’s been a long time since I watched it …any suggestion on what I should concentrate on with its use

  90. Natalie Herbin, 31 October, 2013

    Did. It get to finish what I was saying.. Hit the wrong key on my phone…do you find better results with the pure I grits than with the River rocks… How do I order items so you get credit… My hubby is going to help me place my order on Sunday

  91. Cindy Lietz, 01 November, 2013

    Hi Nathalie, I recommend using the tumbling substrate from this video…
    How to Polish Polymer Clay Beads in a Rock Tumbler

    As far as giving credit, it would be great if you mentioned that I referred you so they know I am sending customers their way… but at this stage we are just doing them a favor.

  92. aims, 22 September, 2009

    Have tried to buff it off and it doesn’t come off. Turned a lovely matt black into something indescribable.

    On a more positive note – the batch that was done with the filtered water and different soap came out much better.

  93. Debbie Bodinger, 22 September, 2009

    I had great success with my first couple batches of beads: first did with river rock & water, then buffed with scraps of old jeans. My most recent batch, however, came out smooth but mottled. I’m wondering if this has to do with the brand of clay. The first batches (I think) were Fimo, but the last was Premo. Anybody have any experience trying different brands and comparing results? When I get around to experimenting, I’ll post the results, but it won’t be for a LONG while before I have time.

  94. Cindy Lietz, 22 September, 2009

    Hi guys. The white powder is just fine particles of clay stuck in the very fine crevices of the bead. Use the river rock and tumble with water and a tiny drop of soap for a couple of hours. Rinse and tumble again. Keep rinsing and tumbling until there is no white powder showing on your beads when they dry.

    Buffing them when they have this powder will just give them a shiny gray look. The second batch may not have been as smooth as the first batch was to start with and it may just take awhile longer. Or there were more beads in the second batch and they didn’t get rubbed by the rocks as well as the first batch.

    Debbie, as far as the mottling, I’m not sure what you mean. Do you pitted or blotchy with white spots?

    You can always try wiping with rubbing alcohol or acetone to see if that helps to remove the white.

    Let me know if any of this helps.

  95. aims, 24 September, 2009

    Cindy – I had to hand sand the first batch of beads starting with a large grit to get whatever it was off of my beads. I think it was a coating that was on the beads because The Man brought home beads from a dollar store that were called ‘Red Rock from Sedona’ and had a reddish tint to them and were very shiny.

    I have since tumbled the rocks with a comet slurry for a day and they no longer have a reddish glaze to them.

    Thankfully the hand sanding got rid of that coating. It wasn’t even powdery or I would have known it was just that from your video.

    So – onwards and upwards with less hand sanding on my part. My wrists are burning!

  96. aims, 24 September, 2009

    Sorry – that should have been ‘rocks’ from the dollar store – not ‘beads’.

    And let me go over this once more to make it more understandable.

    The first batch of beads I put into my tumbler went in with ‘red river rock from Sedona’. They had a coating that didn’t come off with any rubbing at all.

    I hand sanded those starting with large grit down to small.

    I used a comet slurry on the ‘red river rocks from Sedona’ and seem to have gotten rid of the glaze on them.

    Wrists still ache. :0)

  97. Ken H., 24 September, 2009

    I have white marble chips from the dollar store that have no coating. They came in a net bag sorta like an onion bag. These may be safer.

  98. Cindy Lietz, 02 October, 2009

    That sound weird aims but it makes sense. My stones weren’t polished at all so I didn’t run into any problems. Ken may be onto something, buying the white marble chips, as long as they aren’t too pointy and may scratch the beads.

  99. Vladadeska, 05 January, 2010

    I just got my Lortone this evening. I popped my beads in with the smallest river rock I could find at the store (sorted for light color and smoothness), threw in a few squares of wet/dry sandpaper, and maybe like 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water for about 4 hours. I know you guys keep saying nothing beats a hand-sanding but I know MY hand-sanded beads never looked half this amazing. 20 seconds of polishing with my dremel and I have the nicest looking bead I’ve ever created. I used to spend 15 minutes to a half hour on a focal bead. I just cut that time down to 30 seconds of hands-on work. THANK YOU LORTONE and thank all you guys for your excellent tips and suggestions.

  100. Cindy Lietz, 06 January, 2010

    That is wonderful news Vladadeska! I love hearing success stories like yours!

  101. Lonny, 14 September, 2010

    Amazing site and so many comments you got me all confused! :)
    I ordered my rock tumbler a while a go, paid A LOT for postage and I just finished my first bach. I used wet/dry sandpaper and buffed them with old jeans but they have this white powder as some of you said. So next batch I’m trying wet/dry sandpaper grit 600 or so, river rock and jeans for buffing. You think it sounds promising? :)
    I’ll report anyway :)

  102. Phaedrakat, 17 September, 2010

    @Lonny: Hi Lonny, I still haven’t bought myself a tumbler yet, although I can’t wait to get the kind of results everyone’s talking about! There are several threads about using the tumblers…I know you said all the comments have been confusing, and there certainly are a lot of them, LOL! Cindy has a video on how to do this, but if you’re not planning to buy that, the best way is to read these threads and get tips from them. But just so you know, the method that Cindy finally chose for tumble-sanding her beads is smooth river rock. If you decide you want to read the other threads, try using the search box at the top of the page. Type in “rock tumbler” or “white powder on sanded beads” or whatever kind of information you’d like to find. I’d at least recommend reading the article for Cindy’s Lortone Rock Tumbler Tutorial and seeing video intro to that tute.

    I purchased this video a few months ago, determined to get my tumbler right away, but then car troubles hit…bummer!

    Anyway, Cindy addresses this “white powder” issue in the video, as well as in the comments above (on Sept. 22, 2009.) She mentions it in the first paragraph — that the white powder is just the polymer clay being “sanded” from the beads, and what to do about it. You said you were going to try using 600 grit sandpaper next, and then “river rock and jeans for buffing…” I’m not sure if I read that wrong, or what, but just to be clear, the river rock is used for sanding the beads. For buffing, the talk in these threads is about using things like microfiber, felt, chamois, things like that… Hope that helps! ~Kat

  103. Lonny, 17 September, 2010

    Ah yes you read correctly but I didn’t put comma in between. I meant river rocks after wet/dry sandpaper, alone, and in the end I would use jeans for buffing, separately :)
    Thank you for so much useful info though. It bothers me cause the country I live in .. well it’s just so hard to get the right materials. Imagine no one knew what a rock tumbler is so I had to order it from USA (I’m from Europe). The same thing with river rocks. Just can’t buy them. Is it the same if you find them at the river? Anyone knows?
    So nice to finally find some great infos.

  104. Phaedrakat, 23 September, 2010

    Hi Lonnie — I could’ve sworn I replied to you again, but there’s nothing here so…maybe I’ve finally gone cuckoo? LOL Sorry about that…not sure what happened there. Anyway…river rock IS just river rock…just different rivers! If you have a river close by that naturally smoothes stones…perfect! You want small (approx. 1/4″,) rounded, smooth, light-colored, un-polished rocks (no coatings on them, not buffed silky smooth — obviously, if you get them at the river, this wouldn’t be an issue.) Here in the US, if we do not have our own river [;~D] we can find river rock at craft, home improvement, or even dollar stores. Those are just a few ideas…there are lots of places to find them, actually.

    Where are you in Europe? Maybe someone from your country can pop in & tell you where they got their rocks, or other supplies you’ve been unable to find. Once again, I’m sorry it took awhile to get back to you. I hope you’re able to find some rocks easily, and that you solved your “white powder coating” problem!
    Best of luck, Kat

  105. Lonny, 23 September, 2010

    I must be totally out of luck cause my rock tumbler broke down so I had to take it to some guy that would fix it and he luckily did :/
    When I get my hands on my tumbler again, I’ll report :)

  106. Phaedrakat, 24 September, 2010

    @Lonny: Sorry about your misfortune…that’s messed up! Hope you get it back soon, and that you find the perfect stones, too. Wishing you luck…and more fun claying!

  107. Loretta Carstensen, 24 September, 2010

    I bought my river rocks at Michaels.

  108. Donna G, 12 February, 2012

    I have a tumbler purpose built far cheaper than I could have bought one for Yay for the men behind the scenes. The information on building the tumbler is from
    I use a plastic barrel from a lapidary supplier, and have room for 3 barrels.
    Using various size rocks and a small amount of water, the beads tumble around for 2 to 3 days, I work with kato, so its a bit harder and needs a longer time in the tumbler. I do however check the beads daily and change water. Works beautifully.

  109. Cindy Lietz, 16 February, 2012

    That is so cool Donna! I didn’t know you could make your own tumbler. Your ‘man behind the scenes’ must be pretty handy! Glad to hear you are having success tumbling your polymer clay beads. Anything that can make the process easier, is a good thing in my books. Thank you for your comment!

  110. Toni H, 10 July, 2012

    I also have a “kiddie” tumbler, and tried to sand my beads with the powder that it came with. The directions were for polishing rocks and said to leave it running for 2-4 days. I did for 2 and ended up with gray beads that were once pink. I tried washing them, and they were still gray. I buffed a few, and the discoloration disappeared then. I’m going to try the river rock idea, because the tumbler is just sitting in the closet now collecting dust. Thanks!

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