broken tumble polisher
The results of a dead tumble polisher and a curious husband with a screw driver.

After years of great service, my tumble polisher issued a cloud of smoke and turned its cogs toward heaven.

I love tumble polishers. They handle most pieces of jewellery, even my intricately textured fine silver pieces, and you can fit quite a few pieces in at a time. They take the pain out of polishing as not only do you get free time to do something else while it is busy, you also don’t have to get your hands as dirty.

A motorised polish mop also does an admirable job but can be a dangerous bit of kit if not respected. Doing silly things like wearing surgical gloves anywhere near a polish mop is just asking for trouble and I know of someone losing part of their finger as a result of the latex glove being grabbed by the mop. Be careful with those machines.

Tumble polishers on the other hand are gentle workhorses that “quietly” chug away in the background, safely and cleanly.

The benefits of a Tumble Polisher:

  • Gentle polishing
  • Re-useable shot and cleaning compound
  • Polishes many pieces of jewellery at once
  • Economical to run
  • Polishes without effort on your part
  • Reasonably quiet depending on style and model

The down side to tumblers is having to find all your small pieces in amongst the shot – you’ll soon work out the best way for you: either by sieve, tray or by groping trough the shot and examining it. The process creates a bit of foam that gets in the way of you seeing your jewellery pieces so scoop that back into the polisher barrel.

The polishing solution that is loaded into the barrel can be quite hard on your hands, so be sure to put hand cream on your hands at the end of the day.

For anyone who hasn’t seen a tumble polisher, it’s got a motor unit that drives a separate cylinder (or barrel) containing thousands of little “steel shot” shapes/ pieces in an abrasive liquid. You open the barrel, pop your jewellery in and close it up again. Once the barrel is placed onto the drive unit, you set the timer and off it goes.

My new jewellery tumble polisher

I was without my barrel polisher for a couple of days, and had to contact one of my students to borrow his as I had to get a few commissions out of the workshop. The borrowed tumble polisher looked quite different to the ones I’ve used, but it did the job – for which I was most grateful!

A final word on polishing though – the tumble polisher is not a one-stop-shop for finishing; I still use a mop polisher and sometimes pure elbow grease (and metal polish) to get the best possible finish on each item.

It is definitely a machine worth having if you’re doing a lot of your own jewellery as it saves so much time and is relatively hassle free. Below is a quick video by Cooksons which should give you a good idea of how it all works.