Rock tumblers are annoying, loud gifts

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What, not available at the Boing Boing Store?

I remember these were always listed in the ol’ Sears Wish Book. Even as a young’un I realized that whatever amusement it might provide would be diminished by the constant need to replenish it with highly specific supplies from who-knows-where. I certainly had no idea that you were supposed to run it for a whole month, though. Even Millhouse made it sound easy.


Solution: buy rocks pre-tumbled from China!


I think I left one running back in 1976 in New Jersey. Wonder if it’s still “tumbling”?


ERT - sorry, putting the brakes on this right now.

Don’t get those types of tumblers. They are louder and poorly made compared to “real” ones.

I would recommend spending a bit more and getting something like this:

Or worst case - this:

  1. The hard plastic barrels are much more prone to breaking.

  2. The rubber barrels don’t break, rarely leak, and they aren’t nearly as noisy.

  3. The motors on the above types tend to last longer. (My dad has one that is over 50 years old.)

I have a tumbler that I need to get a barrel for. Found it like new at an estate sale.

A few more words of advice:

I think that Chicago Brand is actually from Harbor Freight. While in general their stuff is rather lower quality, I would think it would have to be better than plastic toys. But Harbor Freight also has sales and coupons all the time, and it looks like their price is even less. For $8 more I would risk it, especially if you live near by.

They also have a 2 barrel model.

If possible, get an extra barrel. The reason is to keep your COURSE grit in one, and the FINAL POLISH grit in another. Make sure you clean out all the grit, especially if you only have one barrel. Just a small amount of the course medium will ruin your final polish and you have to start over.

Finally, HF does have medium as well.



Hi! I have rock tumblers! And I tumble all sorts of things, mainly broken glass to make jewellery with but also rocks and ceramic.

And that is plastic pos.

THIS is a real rock tumbler, I’ve got the double barrel one, been going for nigh on 10 years now, and you can plug it in and leave it running for a 100 days if you need to. Most good jewellery supply stores will carry them (jewellery, not craft supplies) or you can order them direct.

I’ve had good luck using sandblasting sand as tumbling grit, cheaper too!

Edit to add: @Mister44 - hello fellow tumbler!! :slight_smile: I see you covered the Lortone tumbler! I’ve never had one, but they intrigue me!

EXTRA edit: !@#$!#$%#@$%@#$ stupid Harbor Freight and they’re not shipping to Canada! Damn them all to hell!!


I knew that about you…


I got one for Christmas when I was 5 or 6. Not that loud. I got used to the noise. Slept right through it. When you are that age and a full on geek, those things are cool. (It was the 60s.)


I prefer a plane sander of some sort with a spray attachment. Way more fun to put planes and facets on your polished stones.


I second.

I have a Thumler’s dual barrel model. I run it in my basement and can’t hear anything from the floor above.

I’m a silver smith/jewelry maker so I rarely use the tumbler for polishing stones. I use it to tumble finished pieces in steel shot to harden parts that have become annealed during soldering. Tumbling time in this application is only 3-4 hours instead of weeks as is normal for rock polishing.


I got one at Harbor Freight a while back to make “beach” glass for a project. Big but cheap, cheaply made, and absolutely perfect for the purpose. Every so often the kids get it in their heads to make a batch of tumbled rocks. We keep it way the hell out in the barn because it is annoyingly loud.


I had one as a child of the 80s and left it running in my basement so the noise wasn’t bad. I made horribly ugly jewellry with the resulting polished stones and inflicted them as gifts on all my female relatvies for christmas that year. Was fun, but I never turned it on again.


sorry, i just thought we were playing that game where we make broad generalizations about something with which we have very little experience. :slight_smile:

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Your advice is excellent for those who wish to tumble rocks.

But are those the right choice for someone like @jlw who just wants to piss off an annoying relative by giving the relative’s kids a cheap,noisy plastic POS?

I mean, no point investing in quality for that, is there? Especially if the higher quality units are quieter.

Your selections may be better for actual Makers, but do they represent maximum Bang-for-the-Buck when it comes to cleverly annoying people you don’t like very much?



I’d rather send this theoretical kid a cheap rock tumbler and a karaoke machine, rather than a quality rock tumbler.


My handlebar mustache/man purse/skinny jeans/clark kent reading glasses forgives you.


Quantity over quality. The plastic one is louder but will break eventually. A good quality tumbler will provide a life time of annoyance.


Just fill your pockets with sand and rocks every day…