Hi guys! I recently started making jewelry again after taking a break due to maternity leave (baby is almost 3 yo, lol! ;D) and I'm embarrassed to admit I even forgot how to turn my torch on! That also applies to my tumbler, I think I heard you can leave your sterling silver for a day so it gets really sturdy and shiny ?? After 3 hours my tumbler was kinda warm (again, I forgot how long I used to leave mine) so I decided to remove my findings (ear wires). They are nice but not as sturdy as I expected. Should I leave it longer than a day? what would be the minimum/maximum?
I think somebody on the old forum said several days but for tumbling rocks! I mean, my concern is the tumbler's little motor/engine. Also, could I put finished pieces (with topaz, quartz, rubies, etc) for hours too?? I'm sorry I have so many questions! Thanks in advance for your time
When I tumble silver, I do about 45 minutes to an hour. Rock tumbling does take longer---weeks even, depending on the rock--and uses different media.
To harden ear wires, I use a plastic or rawhide mallet on a plastic/Delrin surface. You can also use a hand burnisher (which does what the steel shot does in the tumbler, but faster). If you're not getting good enough results and the wires don't need any heat treatment like balling the ends or soldering a component, you might want to try using half- or full-hard sterling instead of dead soft.
Some people do tumble finished pieces with stones. I never put stones in a tumbler. Once I've set a stone, the only other work I do on a piece is by hand.
I often leave my pieces in the tumbler overnight (10-ish hours), but if I'm working during the day, 3-4 hrs is good. Depending on the Mohs hardness of whatever stone is involved, I'll go ahead and put them in, too. I learned the hard way with gaspeite I've never lost a stone completely, but some take tumbling better than others. If it's a wire-wrapped pendant, for instance, if you can pop the stone out and put it back in without damaging the frame, go ahead and leave the stone out and put it back in after tumbling.
I'm sort of afraid to leave my tumbler going, unattended. The motor gets really warm and I'd sure hate to start a fire. I try to tumble 1-3 hours (as I said earlier). My pieces come out clean, shiny and well hardened. I use sterling silver, exclusively, in my pieces. I also tumble Swarovski, lampwork (non-bumpy), and some stones-semi precious or otherwise. The only time I've had a "problem" is when some Red Creek Jasper lost it's gloss. Not sure why that happened.
'Red' coral looses it's gloss too... I've lost colour from seed beads too... I made a chainmaille bracelet using pink size 8 seed beads really didn't like it.... threw it in the tumbler one day and the ugly pink beads became clear... bracelet looks great now!
Thank you ladies! This is certainly really great info! As a side note, I have tumbled finished earrings (prenhite, pearl, rubies, tourmaline and sapphires) and the only gem dull was the ruby. It still looks pretty but it kinda lost its gloss. Thanks for the suggestion on trying different wire. I love working with fine silver so I tend to ball the ends for my earwires but my "clients" (family= gift) complain about the softness (even after I hammer them and leave them on the tumbler for several hours) so I guess I will go ahead and get half hard wire. The curious thing is that I never have problems with my earwires; they always keep their shape...