one man and his tumbler


Prior to becoming immersed into the extended world of stone polishing and lapidary I’m afraid I was guilty of a little snigger when I heard of folk spending weeks tumble polishing stones.
Not a complete novice to the tumbler having left many items of jewellery to rotate overnight but stones are a different matter.

rockngem magazine issue 65
rockngem magazine issue 65

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rough blue fluorite
rough blue fluorite

After seeing a 2nd hand tumbler for sale, a rare thing being of the two barrel variety and not a common educational aimed device that can appear a little work shy. My tumbler had also hardly been used, perhaps the realisation of how long the process can take or a room not far enough away as the incessant tumble sounds began to fray nerves.

Having the tumbler and all the grits and powders in one go is just too much temptation to not start immediately. Barely able to read the instructions consecutively I was suddenly on my knees scrambling around looking for rough, I was not going to make that newbie mistake of tossing a handful of rough in just to get going, only realising later they had a mixture of harnesses and there seemed only to be a couple of stones left and a lot of grit!

No I was just going to get the nearest rough I could find, that turned out to be fluorite, predominately blue, put by sometime ago when I thought I could sell it to proper lapidarists, assured that it was from a batch used by overseas cutters. Selling to local lapidarists is a tricky art but? I digress… In went the stone, oh yes not too full, cover in water not less than 2/3 not more than 3/4 (why isn’t there a line!) and how much 80 grit, I don’t had a tablespoon to measure, I could get one but that would take valuable minutes rushing to the kitchen, time I could ill afford to spare. Yes that looks enough, perhaps just a little more oops..

How did I unfasten the end of the barrel, where did the rubber ring go and locking nut, having several barrels helped here. Then switch it on, oh that’s a bit loud, out into the garage, well that’s it I’ll check later, hmm I’m sure it’s ok to leave on unattended, a few hours later I peeked through the window – all looked good.
First thing in the morning, no change, after a visit to the office, yep that sounds like its doing it, this went on for a few days, after 4 I was supposed to examine and recharge with grit unless the stones looked in good shape, which they did.

tumble polisher
tumble polisher


Out into the garden hose , plastic tubs wash then off hold up to the light, wow I may have potential here, off to get a rag, taking a second glance at the stones (now sun dried) they looked like more work was need. Onto stage 2, get everything clean, stones water, 220 grit this time, not another week well here goes.

A week later, the next stage was to repeat the last one arggh… but I did check them before time, knowing that disturbing the ‘rotating’ could delay tumbling for a few hours whilst the contents find the optimum position within.
Finally the polish, and a smaller barrel because somewhere along the line they’d all shrunk, what I’ve yet to mention is that I had chosen or the first rough I had found was fluorite and I looked it up for some advice, well I did have a few weeks to wait.

Everyone mentioned how tricky fluorite was and had different even bizarre methods or tips for tumble polishing it. Here’s an appropriate time to mention that whilst the internet is a wonderful resource for some many reasons, very little information is edited, checked for authenticity and outright truth. Luckily (ahem) I just went with intuition. After a couple of checks I felt a certain apprehension, convinced that the stones were reducing in size but the actual appearance wasn’t improving I decided to stop!

Not sure whether to be pleased with my initial efforts, no fanfare sounded as I held up the freshly washed stones to the light, but I think they looked good. So did the wealth of folk I tried to thrust them in front of at any opportunity. Always having some stones in my pocket I spent several days feeling like a tumbler myself. Finally after compliments from the actual supplier of said stones who also commented on the difficulty of polishing said fluorite I accepted that I’d done a good job or was that just beginners luck!

tumble barrel mid polish
blue fluorite tumblestones
blue fluorite tumblestones
tumble barrel mid polish


Now what other rough do I have?

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