Monday, December 15, 2008

R.I.P. my faithful rock tumbler

I've been running my rock tumbler almost non-stop for the past several weeks because of the Christmas rush in jewelry orders. It's used as a final step to polish my silver jewelry. In the past year, I've probably probably been running it about 48+ hours a week.

I first noticed that it's a bit sticky where the plastic meets the O-ring. Then it started hiccuping.
I finally came to the conclusion that the O-ring is shot PLUS there's wear where parts meet.

The O-ring isn't anything you could easily find at Lowe's. I suppose I might be able to find it on the internet. But, since I only paid $3 for this tumbler, I thought it might be time to upgrade to a better model.

So, in honor of my tumbler's faithful service for the past year, I'm re-running one of my favorite posts from last year:

Adventures in Jewelry Making: The Rock Tumbler

A while back while I was out on a garage sale run , I found a toy rock tumbler -the kind that you can buy at Michaels Craft Stores - for only $3.00.

It didn't look too bad. According to the seller, the tumbler was never used, however the little rocks and grit were missing. But, all in all, not a bad deal. I thought my 10 year old would like to try it or maybe I could use it for something.

Well a couple years passed and the tumbler collected dust in the front closet.

I'd always heard that tumblers are great for silver jewelry. They supposedly shine silver up and harden it. Since I make a lot of silver jewelry, it sounded like it might be worth a shot!

Next step: find out what I need to know about tumbling silver jewelry.

Google, of course comes in handy. I found this site that tells you just about everything you need to know about tumbling silver: Armed with the information, I am ready to begin.

First. I already have a tumbler. (So what if it's plastic! No snickering!) It looks simple enough and seems to work all right without anything in it..

Next, I need to get some steel shot - probably about a pound worth. After checking some sites, I realize that I will be paying more for my steel shot to FILL the tumbler, than I PAID for the tumbler itself. Plus there's a shipping fee for mailing a whole pound of stainless steel shot across state borders. This is getting expensive.

So, $24 later I have my steel shot:

I guess it must be dirty because the directions say that I'm supposed wash it before I use it with jewelry.

??? So what should you use to wash steel shot with???

Well, I have a colander. I checked the holes and decided that the shot PROBABLY wouldn't go through them. But...wait a minute... using a colander would mean I would have to put it and my steel shot in my sink and run water over them. Not a good idea. I don't want any steel shot going down my sink and into my garbage disposal!

What else? Let's see, I have some stainless steel mixing bowls. I can fill one up with soapy water, put the steel shot in it and swish it around. The shot could be washed on my counter top and not on the sink.

OK! Let's go!

So I got my bowl, put some warm water in it, and placed it around five feet away from my sink. I opened up my steel shot and started pouring it carefully in the water. Well, those steel shot are pretty heavy, and they seemed to gather some speed while I was pouring them in. All of a sudden -SWOOSH!

Do you know what happens when steel shot hit a steel mixing bowl. They start bouncing. About 5 of them bounce out of the bowl, and wouldn't you know those suckers bounced right across the counter top straight for my sink, with me scrambling after them and trying to catch them before they reached it.

I managed to catch two.

You KNOW where the others went.

Yes, they're down there.
No, I can't get them out.
Yes, I have to tell my husband something.

The plumber was called the next day. I was lucky. The house call only cost $120 because we didn't need a new garbage disposal. That would have been at least another $150 more.

In the end:

Rock Tumbler: $3
Steel Shot for said tumbler: $24
Plumbing bill for steel shot in disposal: $120
Look on my husband's face when the plumber handed him what was stuck in the disposal: priceless.


  1. Beadsme said...
    Sorry but i giggled. "hides face and carries on sniggering".
    Beat Black said...
    ooo, im so sorry for your lose. i used to have a tumbler when i was younger but barely used it. i threw it out and totally regret it now!!
    KayzKreationz said...
    This post was so cute about all you went through with the tumbler. But so sorry for you loss.
    Contrariwise said...
    I think I'm going to head to Harbor Freight Tools store and do some Xmas shopping for me!

    (I just love going there.)
    Anonymous said...
    My first tumbler came from Harbor Freight, and although it was reasonably priced, it also died just a few weeks ago. I'm on a Yahoo wire group, many people can and have used the Harbor Freight Tumbler for years. I guess it just wasn't in the cards for me, mine only lasted about 9 months, with not constant use, but many uses.
    I recently purchased a Lortone from the Connie Fox website.
    I guess it's all just a matter of luck, expensive or inexpensive, when tumblers have had it, they just quit.
    Good Luck on your shopping trip for yourself, that is the best kind of shopping.
    Julia Marie said...
    Where do you find the best prices on stainless steel shot?

    Contrariwise said...
    i'm not sure where to get the cheapest stainless steel shot. I bought mine at a Bead show. That way I didn't have to pay for shipping.

    Steel shot costs about $19-25 at most suppliers. I know that Thunderbird and Rio Grande carry it.
    Michelle (mkc photography) said...
    Oh, I too have to admit I'm laughing hysterically right now! Plumbing bill? Not so funny. Your story? Hilarious!
    Anonymous said...
    Love this story! too bad about your tumbler breaking, but I'm sure you can replace it for less than the cost of the plumber last time :)
    Unknown said...
    Hehe! Funny story! Sorry about the demise of your tumbler.

    I got my shot from Santa Fe Jewelry Supply
    It's $15.50 +s&h
    marcy said...
    I give up. You made me laugh out loud. I'm sorry for your loss, but your story was hilarious.

    Anonymous said...
    He hee! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face :) Isn't that always the way... now, I think I may need to invest in a tumbler!
    Tammy's Treasure Chest said...
    LOL You are so funny! Sorry about your misadventure, but I'm glad you shared it, I really needed a laugh today.
    CarolynArtist said...
    :p My hubby can never ever ever find out the amount of steel shot that's gone down 2 of the upstairs sinks over the years, never!!! And you are so kind saying goodbye to your tumbler! The video I dedicated to mine last month was not so sweet.
    I'm glad you got it going! I've heard people recommend keeping a magnet nearby, oh but AWAY from your computer! (not that you'd have your tumbler next to your computer doh!)
    The Beading Gem said...
    Glad you got that craft store/kid's rock tumbler- they work well. I do chain maille and love this inexpensive (even if I didn't buy at a yard sale!). I recommend it to beginner beaders I teach at workshops.

    I use rice not steel shot as I don't need to work harden my rings but more to polish them up.
    Contrariwise said...
    Oh I never even thought of using a magnet! Wow, what a great idea!

    Of course, I will never, NEVER, let my steel shot get anywhere NEAR the garbage disposal, so help me god.
    Molly said...
    ha!I read this post when it first came out.It was soo funny!!I'm's sad, but it's funny!..LOL
    Anonymous said...
    My mom bought the same rock tumbler and was miserable because of how long the process takes!
    Crystal said...

    I've dropped shot down there a few times. So far, no plumber... but it did make an ungodly noise when the garbage disposal was used until it finally went down. Oops. Somehow the disposal still works great.
    w said...

    my husband would rather tear the entire sink apart than hire a plumber.

    which... eventually results in the calling of a plumber.
    Deanna Lack said...
    ROFL... great story.
    Lilacpop said...
    Hilarious! We are so very much alike! I call myself "a catastrophe where ever I go." Did you end up using the tumbler at all--did anything good come out of it?
    SpDL said...
    omg - i had that tumbler when i was little and loved it - think that's probably where my love of jewelry and rocks;) first started. Have also had the same thing happen with the steel shot in my disposal lol.

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