(Topic ID: 174115)

How do I improve my polishing results using a Harbor Freight tumbler?


By BlackCatBone

2 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 15 posts
  • 12 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 2 years ago by NYP
  • Topic is favorited by 4 Pinsiders

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    #1 2 years ago

    I was a long-time hand-polisher of the metal bits on my games. I've used Mother's Mag and Aluminum polish, as I know many in these forums do, and I consider it to be the gold standard. I thought I was giving in to progress when I recently bought my first vibratory tumbler, the Harbor Freight 5 lb. model.

    On my first go, I took 34 playfield slotted screws (from the 1950s) and polished them in a batch with finely ground walnut media. After 40 hours of tumbling I've got 34 screws that look like bright brushed aluminum. The look I'm going for is a mirror shine chrome, not brushed aluminum. I added Flitz at about the 12 hour mark, in the strength recommended on the label (1 oz. per lb. of media).

    Has anyone been able to achieve a Mother's shine straight out of the tumbler? I wound up having to hand polish the screw heads after 40 hours of tumbling. Should I throw a chunk of Mother's into the walnut media instead of the Flitz? This is my first tumble, so I wanted to ask others with more experience.

    Thanks.

    #2 2 years ago

    I gave up on flitz, never seemed to do much. I dunk all my parks in a tub of blue magic, which is in my experience about 90% as good as mothers (I'll use mothers once I run out, but I agree picking up the blue magic to compare I need to use it up somehow, and I doubt the 10% will matter much for tumbling compared to hand polishing). After even 24 hours most of my screw heads have a nice deep mirror/shiny finish, not brushed looking at all. It can also depend on how many parts you put in though. Too many and they scratch each other and I end up with lots of tiny parallel scratches in my finish. I've got a rotary tumbler though, so maybe it's different

    #3 2 years ago

    Switch to corn cob media next after walnut.
    You will be hard pressed to get a perfect chrome finish with a vibrating tumbler, even with Flitz.
    Ultrasonic improves results, but it depends on part plating as well.
    Starting buffing on a grinder with a cotton wheel, if you want "perfection" and better control of the quality.
    Works for most parts.

    #4 2 years ago

    I use Flitz tumble media additive. About 85 bucks a gallon on amazon. A gallon goes a long way and I get the polished look with walnut media.

    #5 2 years ago

    You're not alone. I have tried fine, course, medium, walnut, corn cob. I have used flitz and novus. I bought another, different tumbler thinking it was that. I ran them for a week straight, with varying loads. I never got a polished finish. Ever. I stick to buying new hardware, hand buffing or powder coating depending on my need/desire. I have long ago given up on tumblers.

    #6 2 years ago

    I gave up on the tumbler... Put each one on a buffing wheel

    #7 2 years ago

    For reference, this is what I get in my small rotary tumbler after 24 hours with a dash of blue magic:IMG_20161105_232320.jpg
    (original on right)

    It doesn't look quite as good in the picture, but the left one is clean, shiny, and fairly reflective. Looks better than new hardware. Originally these were both from a flooded machine

    #8 2 years ago
    Quoted from zacaj:

    For reference, this is what I get in my small rotary tumbler after 24 hours with a dash of blue magic:
    (original on right)
    It doesn't look quite as good in the picture, but the left one is clean, shiny, and fairly reflective. Looks better than new hardware. Originally these were both from a flooded machine

    Those are the results I end up with using Flitz and walnut. Maybe OP needs to tumble less parts or something.

    #9 2 years ago

    I might recommend cleaning your fasteners in an ultrasonic before tumbling. I get great results by tumbling with walnut and Flitz. Needless to say, if the plating on the fastener is bad, there's not much you can do to make it shine again.

    What I have found, however, is once in awhile, an entire batch would come out looking clean but like the brushed aluminum look you're talking about. Nothing shined. The media also had a greyish look to it. Not brown like it should. All I could think was the media was contaminated with something. Not sure what. I dumped the media out and started all over again with new and the parts came out looking perfect. After having this happen a handful of times, I started cleaning the parts first and I haven't had anymore issues.

    #10 2 years ago

    I agree with the try less parts. I've never had anything but stellar results unless I use too many pieces in at once or the media is well spent. I use 2-3 oz. of Flitz or Novus #2 for each load run.

    #11 2 years ago

    The second pic shows the contaminated media. The first is what it should look like.

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    #12 2 years ago

    top pic (brown) is the good media in Bryans pic.

    I agree that ultrasonic prior to tumbling is the way to go. It keeps media clean for longer and allows better cut it seems.
    I also like ultra after for smaller stuff to help remove walnut media form tight spots.

    #13 2 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    top pic (brown) is the good media in Bryans pic.
    I agree that ultrasonic prior to tumbling is the way to go. It keeps media clean for longer and allows better cut it seems.
    I also like ultra after for smaller stuff to help remove walnut media form tight spots.

    Fixed.

    #14 2 years ago

    The time comes, too, where we must throw some fasteners away, or replate them. You can get very nice, mirror like results, with a tumbler, clean media, and clean parts. I think some good hints are here of things to try.

    #15 2 years ago

    I like to add the flitz and let it run for a while before I add the parts. I've had clumps of flitz stick to parts when I ad it after the parts.

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