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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Dirty Tumbler and a Few Apples

The Dirty Tumbler

A few weeks ago, I got a load of jewelry out of the tumbler and everything was covered in sticky, greasy feeling black gunk.  Ugh!  In the way that teenagers feel they are immortal, I had previously thought myself immune to tumbler gunk.

"I'll never get that," I said smugly to myself.  That's for other people.  I run a clean shop.  There's no reason to ever have a contaminated tumbler.

But as the years went on, my attitude got lazy and I did end up tumbling something I probably shouldn't have (a piece with steel in it).

My barrels aren't old (I have one for precious metals and one for base metals), and I'd purchased them from reputable dealers (Lortone) so I doubted I was having barrel breakdown.

I was certainly mad at myself for tumbling steel, but the damage was done.

I soaked the barrel and shot in Coke overnight... nothing.

I ran the tumbler through five cycles with flat Coke... nothing.

Then I made the situation even stupider by putting one of my gunk pieces... One little piece!  That I'd wiped off!!!... into the "good" tumbler.  Y'know, in order to clean all the nooks and crannies.

And sure enough, all I'd done at that point was contaminate my second tumbling barrel.  D'oh!

In talking with some other jewelry making people, I did learn about "shot cleaner" and while we were on the subject, "burnishing compound", that I'd like to try.  Threw those two into yesterday's Rio order, then went off to google "how to clean a tumbler barrel" and found this article.

So yesterday I ran two cycles with shot and distilled white vinegar and today my tumbler is like new. The first cycle with vinegar, the water was dull gray. The second cycle with vinegar, the water was clear. 

So I put some silver pieces in and ran it overnight with water and Dawn. This morning, beautiful shiny silver, no gray, no sludge. Yay!

I suppose a shot of the sparkling silver jewelry might have been better than showing you how my shot is running clear.  Ha ha ha!

BTW, if you're wondering why I ran a cycle overnight and do I do that normally, the answers are because I was getting ready to go to bed and no.

I think you can get the same amount of shine from a 2 hour tumbling as a 12 hour tumbling, but you will get smoother edges with longer tumbling (which may or may not be a desired effect).

My Nightly Chores

So here are some (unknown to me variety of) apples.  We have four apple trees, but this is the best producer at the moment.

And if I back up a bit, you can see my faithful evening chores' companion.  He follows me through the orchard as I set the sprinklers, remove sticks from the mowing path, pick fruit off the ground or from tree limbs, add water to the deer's trough, and do whatever else needs doing.

Tonight we sat near the deer's part (the thicket of Eucalyptus trees) and watched a mama deer scope us out then signal to her kids (she snorts to call them) that we were apparently safe.  My phone died, though, so I couldn't get any photos.

And when we got back to the house, we were filling the other water bowl and as I was trying to clear the leaves out one of them moved.  

Poor baby lizard was in there for who knows how long unable to scale the sides.  After collecting himself for a bit on the rock that I relocated him to, he scampered off appearing just fine.

Oh, speaking of relocating... on Facebook I posted a photo of a large spider I relocated this morning.  His markings were very interesting.  He was eventually identified as a Western Parsons.  

Have a great day!  See you tomorrow!


  1. Great tip about your tumbler and omg - is that baby lizard the cutest thing ever? So glad you rescued him!

    1. Thanks, Debbie! And yes, he was awfully cute.. probably 2 inches total length (same as the Western Parsons spider). :-)

  2. Will you adopt me? Life looks cool where you are! Great post:)

    1. Ha ha ha! I'm not sure "cool" is the operative word when we had 6 triple digit days last week. :-)

      However, it IS totally awesome and if you're ever over this way, you must stop by so we can have a play date in the studio.

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  4. Thanks for your timely post Laura- I don't tumble as often as I should but recently I tried my hand at making a big bunch of copper ear wires which I decided needed to be tumbled. They came out all black and sticky! I was so ticked off and ended up cleaning each one off by hand. Guess what I'm doing today? That's right, following your lead and running vinegar through my barrel. Thank you for your helpful post & wish me luck!!

    1. Oh Tammie, please come back and let us know how it goes! Remember, I ran two cycles (3-4 hours each) of vinegar and shot before I added the jewelry. Fingers crossed for you.