How to Tumble Beads
I have received several emails lately about tumbling, so, I thought I might as well do a little “tutorial”, although in reality there is not much to say. All my info by the way is from Jim Smircich and Marge Dillon…so, if it doesn’t work, blame THEM!
First of all you need a rock tumbler. You might find one at a garage sale, or used on eBay, but unlike most of the machines we need for coldworking beads, this one is CHEAP. I bought mine from Dads Rockshop, it was a little over $ 60, but I think you can also get it at Rio Grande. Here is a picture of the cheapest and simplest model (it doesn’t have a switch, you just plug it into an outlet and it will start moving).
Stephanie just sent me a link to an even cheaper source: Harbor Freight – they also have one with two canisters
The next thing you will need is a “tumbling media” – I am using 3 bags of “GLASS Pony Beads” from Michaels (again, thanks Marge!). Then you need some “grinding stuff” – Marge sent me a little, because they sell it in big bags and you need only ONE TABLESPOON, so, a big bag will last you a lifetime, maybe you can team up with some buddies and share a bag. What you need is SILICONE CARBIDE – a very fine grid, like 1000 or 1200. (note from Marge: Any lapidary supply co. has this tumbling grit……but for a specific site Kingsley North Inc. 1-800-338-9280 has this grit as well as lots of lapidary tools. )
So, add your Pony beads, fill the tumbler halfway with water, add the spoon full of Silicone Carbide, a DROP of dishwashing soap, your beads – and tumble for about 45-60 minutes, depending on the look you want to achieve…. very important hint from Jim: COUNT your beads before putting them in, they tend to get lost between the Pony beads, and man, was he ever right!!!!
Happy Tumbling!! (and the questions might be – what is the difference between tumbling and etching? You have to try it – it’s a totally different deal, the etching produces a slightly grainy feel – while the tumbling makes the beads even smoother, but it “knocks the shine off”…I would always make a test tumble first, because some beads look great tumbled, others don’t, and you don’t want to ruin an entire set…