Rock tumbler or virbrating polisher for cleaning metal parts?

(Topic ID: 71115)

Rock tumbler or virbrating polisher for cleaning metal parts?


By Dommer

4 years ago



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  • 31 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 months ago by cmack750
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    There are 55 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.
    #1 4 years ago

    i'm getting a filthy TZ that needs a lot of love. i'll need to get something to polish the screws and other small metal parts. my options are either a rock tumbler or vibrating polisher from harbor freight. which one would be better?
    http://www.harborfreight.com/5-lb-metal-vibrator-tumbler-67617.html
    or
    http://www.harborfreight.com/3-lb-rotary-rock-tumbler-67631.html

    i also wanted to check on what type of medium to use and how to use it. HF also has these. figure one of the rust cutting ones would be best, but heard of people using ground walnut and corn cobs:
    http://www.harborfreight.com/catalogsearch/result?q=tumbler+medium

    #2 4 years ago

    Use the Vibration-tumbler. Both work, but it will handle most parts better.

    I own the exact unit. Use Walnut medium they sale at HF. Add a little metal polish, works well.

    Now, you might want to check the ultrasonic cleaner they have at HF. For cleaning dirty parts, its incredible.
    It will clean in minutes, what takes 8 hours to do in the tumbler. Mind you it wont polish, but it will remove dirt, some rust, and grease in record time.....

    #3 4 years ago

    thanks for the info. i'll probably get the vibro-tumbler as it looks like it can fit more and since it taking longer than the ultrasonic cleaner isn't a big deal. i just found a 20% off coupon for HF so that makes it a lot easier on the pocket book.

    do you know where i could get the walnut medium in a smaller amount than 25lb shown on the HF webpage? or is it likely i'd need 25lb? also, would you recommend course or fine?

    #4 4 years ago

    I use a vibratory tumbler with crushed walnut media and FLITZ. The results are nothing less than spectacular.

    I can't speak for the rock tumblers as I have only used the vibratory, but I don't see how a rock tumbler could be any better, based on the results I've gotten with my vibratory tumbler.

    #5 4 years ago
    Quoted from Triumvirat73:

    I use a vibratory tumbler with crushed walnut media and FLITZ. The results are nothing less than spectacular.

    do you remember what grit of walnut you used? course? medium? fine? did it get rid of rust and corrosion?

    #6 4 years ago

    i bought the medium at HF. I have medium if i recall. I bought big box.. At least it will last a while.

    Mine is going right now...Cleaning up some parts to JP.....

    #7 4 years ago

    Lizard Bedding from Petco works wonders and is cheap... It's made out of crushed walnut.

    #8 4 years ago

    Don't buy this: amazon.com link »

    Jesse

    #9 4 years ago

    That is the one I got because of the terrible reviews of the HF one. I like it so far. I love the clear top and how large the top is. I can put larger objects in it than the kind like HF where the top is smaller than the bowl. I haven't had it long enough to fail but I was impressed that it wasn't too noisy.

    As for medium, go to a pet store and get the Izzy brand desert sand lizard bedding. It is crushed walnuts. There is numerous threads on hear recommending it. I used it with some novus 3 because I already owned it. I hear the polish mentioned above might even be better but why not use what you got if it is good as well.

    #10 4 years ago

    just got myself a lyman turbo 1200 have yet to use it as still awaiting my latest project :0(

    2 months later
    #11 4 years ago

    revisiting this topic as I am looking into a tumbler.

    Anyone have any experience with this Lyman model?

    amazon.com link »

    This seems good because of the dual bowl capability. I like that it is made in the USA as well.

    Thanks for any input!

    Chris

    #12 4 years ago
    Quoted from SilverUnicorn:

    revisiting this topic as I am looking into a tumbler.
    Anyone have any experience with this Lyman model?
    amazon.com link »
    This seems good because of the dual bowl capability. I like that it is made in the USA as well.
    Thanks for any input!
    Chris

    I'd like to here about this one as well - I am not sure how big the big bowl is and would want to know first. I bought the HF one and it didn't last through one project.

    #13 4 years ago

    I have this one. Seems to work pretty well. Not sure how long it will last. I had to epoxy a hole that was caused from me over filling it and a big piece got lodged and vibrated right through the plastic tub. But it's been holding up fine since the fix.

    http://www.harborfreight.com/5-lb-metal-vibrator-tumbler-67617.html

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    #14 4 years ago

    I've run my HF 5lb for 3 or 4 projects now. It’s been great running 48 hours at a time when run. I’ve had it about 2 years now. Walnut shell and Novus 2 here. Great investment for any pinhead.

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    #15 4 years ago
    Quoted from SilverUnicorn:

    revisiting this topic as I am looking into a tumbler.
    Anyone have any experience with this Lyman model?
    amazon.com link »
    This seems good because of the dual bowl capability. I like that it is made in the USA as well.
    Thanks for any input!
    Chris

    i dont know about here and now but some time back i had one, did some brass 41 and 44 cases and it did ok, but went to the small bowl and did some rocks and the thing was trash within 2 weeks......

    #16 4 years ago

    Do you use the walnut shells to polish plastics or for metal only?

    #17 4 years ago

    I got this Model 400 from Cabella's that someone recommended in another thread. $50+

    http://www.cabelas.com/product/Shooting/Reloading/Tumblers-Sonic-Cleaners-Scales%7C/pc/104792580/c/104761080/sc/104661180/Cabelas-Model-400-Vibratory-Case-Tumbler/731767.uts?destination=%2Fcatalog%2Fbrowse.cmd%3FN%3D1100197%26WTz_l%3DSBC%253BBRprd731767&WTz_l=SBC%3BBRprd731767%3Bcat104661180

    It ran for almost 2 weeks straight when I did 3 restores and did great. It isn't huge but you can get flipper plates into it. That is about the biggest thing I would put in anyway.

    #18 4 years ago
    Quoted from t2:

    Do you use the walnut shells to polish plastics or for metal only?

    Ultrasonic cleaner for plastics.

    For really tough metal jobs (rusted) I add in some granite dust. It cleans the parts and leaves a satin finish.

    #19 4 years ago

    a couple of tips with the HF vibratory tumbler (based on my experience)

    - pay the $10 and get the 2 year replacement plan (I've already cashed in on this so it was well worth the purchase price)

    - the wing nut that holds the top on will vibrate straight off (no matter how tight you appear to tighten it). after it flies off, the top will then vibrate like crazy and inner bolt post will cause the hole in the plastic lid to open up to the size of a quarter or 50 cent piece.
    note: you can avoid this design flaw by picking up a couple of 1/4"-20 (course thread) nuts and securing the top as such: after putting the rubber & metal washer combo over the bolt, secure the 2 nuts (tightly) and then the wing nut. the 3 nuts together will not loosen and fly off now.

    - I've used both the medium and fine walnut shells but I think that the fine media does a better job (tip: use a 25% off coupon when purchasing media too!)

    - follow Triumvirat73's advice and purchase some flitz to toss in with the media (about an oz with every 3-4 loads of parts (the gallon size jug is the best value for the price, but only if you plan on tumbling a lot of parts. otherwise, go for the 16 or quart size container)

    - don't be afraid to let the tumbler run for 5-6 days straight. you'll be amazed at how "new" the parts look after tumbling continuous for 100+ hours

    also, don't bother to purchase additional bowls to hold different types of media. its far easier to dump the media out into a bucket and change it out then it is to remove the bowl from the motor.

    #20 4 years ago

    I use a thumblers tumbler rock tumbler and it works great.

    Pros > not noisey at all, should last forever as less stress on the machine than vibratory, can fit whole flipper assemblies in the big version, best bang for buck sizewise.

    I am very happy with my cleaning technique of untrasonic (hot water, dawn, and mean green or citris cleaner concoction) plus the tumbler for polishing and cleaning the hard to deal with and small stuff. I use the polishing wheel for big stuff that I want a super mirror finish on.

    #21 4 years ago
    Quoted from j_m_:

    - follow Triumvirat73's advice and purchase some flitz to toss in with the media

    I have found that adding some mineral spirits in with the Flitz will prevent the parts from gumming up with dust and dirt deposits, maybe a tablespoon per load.

    #22 4 years ago

    I have the Lyman Turbo, and it works great and is very quiet
    (walnut, rice and polish mix)

    #23 4 years ago

    I have the vibrating from HF and purchased my walnut media at the local feed store, a 50# bag for $12. Added an ounce of Flitz, let the parts run for a couple of days. The results were very good!

    #24 4 years ago

    I have numerous metal posts/bolts/screws/etc. that have what I can only call a black "stain" in spots. Nothing I have tried - metal polish, steel wool, dremel wire brush - seems able to remove this. Have any of you encountered this, and were you able to remove it with a session in the tumbler?

    #25 4 years ago
    Quoted from jibmums:

    I have numerous metal posts/bolts/screws/etc. that have what I can only call a black "stain" in spots. Nothing I have tried - metal polish, steel wool, dremel wire brush - seems able to remove this. Have any of you encountered this, and were you able to remove it with a session in the tumbler?

    Any pics?

    #26 4 years ago

    I have been using coarse walnut media with flitz and the HF tumbler. The longest I've ran it for was about 8 hours, so I guess not running long enough. Does polish pretty well, but doesn't remove any of the oxidation or small rust stuff. I got some other media to try, but maybe i need to go for longer

    #27 4 years ago

    Here's a pic, I circled the worst but you can see a lot of it spotting in other areas. The photo makes it look lighter, it's really more black than this. These are typical, I have numerous parts like this off the same machine. I assume it's some sort of oxidation but it's not rust as you can see some rust over on the left wireform bracket.

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    #28 4 years ago

    I've had the HF running for years and it works great.

    #29 4 years ago

    The knob has never came loose on mine from Cabella's no matter how tight or loose I left it.

    #30 4 years ago

    Thanks for the replies. Personally I would prefee something from the USA, so I think I will go with the Lyman.

    Anyone know an ultrasonic cleaner under $200 that is US?

    thanks again for all the information!

    Chris

    #31 4 years ago

    I use a nylon lock wing nut, and it has never come loose.

    #32 4 years ago
    Quoted from jibmums:

    Here's a pic, I circled the worst but you can see a lot of it spotting in other areas. The photo makes it look lighter, it's really more black than this. These are typical, I have numerous parts like this off the same machine. I assume it's some sort of oxidation but it's not rust as you can see some rust over on the left wireform bracket.

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    I have had black spots like that and they get better in the tumbler. If I remember, they are a different kind of shine after. Like the lack of galvanizing allowed more or less friction. It will definitely look better.

    #33 4 years ago
    Quoted from jibmums:

    Here's a pic, I circled the worst but you can see a lot of it spotting in other areas. The photo makes it look lighter, it's really more black than this. These are typical, I have numerous parts like this off the same machine. I assume it's some sort of oxidation but it's not rust as you can see some rust over on the left wireform bracket.

    For that kind of rot, using granite dust will take care of it. Here is my approximate mix:

    Hopper 1/2 full (3.5 qt. capacity) med. or course walnut shells
    1/2 cup granite dust (found in the reptile section of a pet store)
    Squirt of Flitz
    Tablespoon of mineral sprits (the real stuff, petroleum based)

    Let it run overnight and check. Add more granite if needed. Make sure the mix and parts are moving well. The dust is heavy, so too much of it or too much liquid will slow down the movement and nothing happens. Keep running it until cleaned up. This should leave a satin finish but no rust.

    #34 4 years ago
    Quoted from Superchicken:

    For that kind of rot, using granite dust will take care of it. Here is my approximate mix:
    Hopper 1/2 full (3.5 qt. capacity) med. or course walnut shells
    1/2 cup granite dust (found in the reptile section of a pet store)
    Squirt of Flitz
    Tablespoon of mineral sprits (the real stuff, petroleum based)
    Let it run overnight and check. Add more granite if needed. Make sure the mix and parts are moving well. The dust is heavy, so too much of it or too much liquid will slow down the movement and nothing happens. Keep running it until cleaned up. This should leave a satin finish but no rust.

    Thanks for the tips there. I tumbled my stuff looking like that in coarse walnut with flitz overnight and was sorta shiny, but that stuff was still there mostly. Ill try what you said!

    Also, can you tumble a final tumble with maybe fine walnut and flitz for a shinier polish?

    #35 4 years ago
    Quoted from jrivelli:

    Thanks for the tips there. I tumbled my stuff looking like that in coarse walnut with flitz overnight and was sorta shiny, but that stuff was still there mostly. Ill try what you said!
    Also, can you tumble a final tumble with maybe fine walnut and flitz for a shinier polish?

    Yeah, maybe. Just depends on the plating. If it's under the playfield the satin finish is fine. I do early SS restores and the mechs are almost always in horrible condition. I'm not doing high end restorations. I just want the stuff clean and functional.

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    #36 4 years ago
    Quoted from jrivelli:

    Thanks for the tips there. I tumbled my stuff looking like that in coarse walnut with flitz overnight and was sorta shiny, but that stuff was still there mostly. Ill try what you said!
    Also, can you tumble a final tumble with maybe fine walnut and flitz for a shinier polish?

    I think you need to tumble longer and make sure the media is really moving around. If there is too much stuff in the tumbler it will take longer. I usually leave mine at least 24 hours sometimes 48 hours.

    You can switch to the crushed corncob media (pet store) after you have run it for 48 hours and then run another 24 to 48.

    #37 4 years ago
    Quoted from SilverUnicorn:

    Anyone know an ultrasonic cleaner under $200 that is US?

    This one isn't too large but I have cleaned coils and other grimmed up items in this and it works great. Takes about 4 minutes on a cycle and you can chose a shorter cycle if need be. I use Simple green. Also easy to clean.

    http://www.harborfreight.com/25-liter-ultrasonic-cleaner-95563.html

    #38 4 years ago
    Quoted from BadBrad97:

    I think you need to tumble longer and make sure the media is really moving around. If there is too much stuff in the tumbler it will take longer. I usually leave mine at least 24 hours sometimes 48 hours.
    You can switch to the crushed corncob media (pet store) after you have run it for 48 hours and then run another 24 to 48.

    Ah, cool thanks for that. I'll snag some of that media too. Yeah, I was trying to not put too much in, only like 1/2-3/4 full of media and then a bit of parts, lots of small things so far mostly. I'm guessing tumble longer is my key

    #39 4 years ago
    Quoted from jrivelli:

    Ah, cool thanks for that. I'll snag some of that media too. Yeah, I was trying to not put too much in, only like 1/2-3/4 full of media and then a bit of parts, lots of small things so far mostly. I'm guessing tumble longer is my key

    I know with mine... If you fill it 3/4 of the way (with no parts) turn it on, see how the media moves. Start throwing parts in until the media slows down a little. If you turn it on (with the parts in it) and they just vibrate back and forth and move in circles it will take forever. It should look like the media is flowing over the parts. If that makes sense.

    #40 4 years ago
    Quoted from BadBrad97:

    I know with mine... If you fill it 3/4 of the way (with no parts) turn it on, see how the media moves. Start throwing parts in until the media slows down a little. If you turn it on (with the parts in it) and they just vibrate back and forth and move in circles it will take forever. It should look like the media is flowing over the parts. If that makes sense.

    That's actually really well put, thanks! Quite new to tumbling so love all this advice

    #41 4 years ago

    Make sure you try it out right away. I bought the same one at HF and shelved it for almost a year then tried it out. Right out of the box I put some parts in, let it go while I was at work, and came home and no sound from the basement. I go downstairs and it had totally vibrated its motor mount to pieces and eventually shut off after bouncing all over the place. I had to buy another one and return the other broken "new" one. Tumbler #2 has been ok the 3 times I've used it but it's like a teenager, I don't trust it in the house alone.

    Don

    #42 4 years ago

    well, tumbler no. 4 from HF "died" yesterday. time to cash in the replacement plan for the 4th time

    it was working until I turned it off. with the lid off, I turned it back on to search for the last remaining parts and lo-and-behold, the motor was making a hum, but nothing was happening. that $10 replacement plan has now paid for itself 3x over.

    ps
    I fill the tumber to the top of where the inside of the plastic bowl ends (where the rubber and steel washer on the inside are). that seems to the total amount of media that HF gives you if you purchase a separate bowl.

    1 month later
    #43 4 years ago

    Will the vibrating tumbler help with pieces as picture below (a lock bar handle)? I've already polished it with "Liquid Metal Polish" and a paper towel so nothing overly aggressive. It did shine up parts of it but it still has very shallow pitted areas of rust/black.

    20140225_153241.jpg
    #44 4 years ago

    Drmark12pa,

    I use a HF 5 Ib tumbler for 48 hours for polishing small parts. Walnut medium shells and any suitable polish available. If vid endorses this HF tumbler then get your credit card out as you are good to go.

    When I get your issue with pitting of dark marks I wire brush/ grind smooth. Takes a few minutes. I then re-plate using a cheap tin coating kit takes a further 30 mins. I then polish with a metal polish until it is gleaming. A spray of clear lacquer and it stays that way for a time. It the part is too big for my quart size re-plate container I do not re-plate but buff the dickens out of it. Probably a few hours.

    Steve J

    #45 4 years ago
    Quoted from DrMark12PA:

    Will the vibrating tumbler help with pieces as picture below (a lock bar handle)? I've already polished it with "Liquid Metal Polish" and a paper towel so nothing overly aggressive. It did shine up parts of it but it still has very shallow pitted areas of rust/black.
    20140225_153241.jpg 248 KB

    Maybe have these types of parts powder coated?
    Once and done with it, no more dirty "pits" in the metal to look at,
    and you can color co-ordinate it with the pin?

    #46 4 years ago

    Just purchased the Harbor Freight 5lb vibrating rock polisher. Also purchased 25lb of walnut shells which I thought were a bit spendy at $25 considering the unit was only $44.
    When using, how much media do you people use and when you add something to the mix such as Novus, what kind of volume do you add so it's not so much that it's a big mess but enough to actually do something?

    #47 4 years ago
    Quoted from DrMark12PA:

    Will the vibrating tumbler help with pieces as picture below (a lock bar handle)? I've already polished it with "Liquid Metal Polish" and a paper towel so nothing overly aggressive. It did shine up parts of it but it still has very shallow pitted areas of rust/black.

    20140225_153241.jpg 248 KB

    Get a product called Evapo Rust. Let that handle sit in it for 24 hours. Rinse with water, dry, then run in the tumbler. It will shine up nicely. And the pitted areas of rust/black will be gone.

    #48 4 years ago
    Quoted from DrMark12PA:

    When using, how much media do you people use and when you add something to the mix such as Novus, what kind of volume do you add so it's not so much that it's a big mess but enough to actually do something?

    with the HF tumbler, your total weight of the bowl (media and parts) shouldn't exceed 5lbs., otherwise you'll put unnecessary strain on the motor. I typically fill to where the bottom of the bowl comes up in the center (where the nylon nut attaches on the inside).

    as far as any media "enhancer" like flitz, I typically add about an ounce worth and let it mix in a bit without any parts in the bowl so that you don't get any "wet" clumps on your parts.

    #49 4 years ago
    Quoted from EMsInKC:

    Get a product called Evapo Rust. Let that handle sit in it for 24 hours. Rinse with water, dry, then run in the tumbler. It will shine up nicely. And the pitted areas of rust/black will be gone.

    Would naval jelly rust remover give the same result? I have some of that from a previous unrelated project.
    I also have some metal polish (it's a light blue gel/paste) that I previously used on pinball screws that really made them shine since they had more of a tarnish. It appears Flitz is possibly a similar compound?

    #50 4 years ago
    Quoted from EMsInKC:

    Get a product called Evapo Rust. Let that handle sit in it for 24 hours. Rinse with water, dry, then run in the tumbler. It will shine up nicely. And the pitted areas of rust/black will be gone.

    You can remove the rust and black marks but once it's pitted, it's pitted and they'll be there forever.

    I've had a few pins that had parts really messed up and all it took was 4-6 days worth of tumbling. I keep tumbling things until they look the way I want them to.

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