Author Topic: Vibratory Tumblers  (Read 722 times)

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Offline sav0r

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Vibratory Tumblers
« on: February 12, 2020, 10:38:41 AM »
What do you guys think of vibratory tumblers?

I'm thinking about picking one up. I'd probably most often want to toss machined aluminum bits in it, but it would be nice to clean up old bolts, brackets, etc., that will likely be steel.

I was thinking about going straight for the 18lbs unit, likely from Harbor Freight as I have a store about 3 miles from home. They also have good prices on media and I won't have to pay shipping, which is nice. I checked out the media from McMaster, it's quite expensive IMO, but the quality is probably there.

The worry I have is that I'll never get nice finishes or that I'd be better of with a polishing wheel. I don't mind letting parts run for a few days, but if I'm never going to get get a nice finish out of the thing then it's pretty useless.

www.chrislivengood.net - for my projects and musings.

Offline paul1478

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2020, 10:44:46 AM »
I am into pinball and this is something everyone uses when they restore a game. I have seen great results (not from myself but from photo)
brackets, bolts, washers, you name it. Not much aluminum in the games but lots of steel.
I think it is a great idea I have never even made the connection to.
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Offline IR8D8R

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2020, 11:43:18 AM »
The media is the key. It's possible to obtain near mirror finishes with the right media. How well it works on complex items is somewhat unknown until you try. Any media that is aggressive enough to work as a dirty steel cleaner will also abrade things like threads. Oxides like rust are harder than bare steel so that can create problems with wearing the clean metal faster than the oxidized portions. The limitation in complex items is related to the size of the media grain. Walnut shells with fine rouge give a nice finish and are available in different meshes. They work slower than ceramic. I've also used small nylon balls with rouge. A lot of things work as media. Sand, kitty litter, pea gravel, wood chips... Purpose made stuff costs money. Ceramic loads up and needs to be cleaned with muriatic acid.
 The vibratory type work faster than the rollers but they make a lot of noise. Especially if you are using ceramic chips or cones. When I did a lot of rifle brass tumbling I found that I could tolerate the constant sound of a roller in the shop with me better than the vibratory type.
 I made my own roller using 8" PVC as a container with expanding rubber plugs in the ends. It was pretty easy to fab up. I used old typewriter platins for the rollers and a fan motor. Not as many junk typewriters around nowadays but a metal rod with a bunch of o-rings works also.
 It takes some time to figure out how long to tumble and get the media right. If you try to be too aggressive with the abrasives you can ruin stuff. I don't think you would regret having one if you decide to go for it.

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Offline sav0r

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2020, 08:21:55 PM »
Thanks for the input guys. Much appreciated. I may pull the trigger on one soon.
www.chrislivengood.net - for my projects and musings.

Offline zedixe13

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2020, 08:55:19 PM »
I bought this one last year and sold it back 3 weeks later .

https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/mastercraft-polishing-tumbler-2995513p.html

Take forever ( a day vibrating and moving all around the place ) to get bolts and nuts cleaned not speaking of medium sized brackets . Cover is plastic and the center hole for the holding shaft get elongated in no time . I tried several medium and my final words are ,  this thing is worthless .

Offline jradnich

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2020, 10:33:15 PM »
I've used one quite a bit. I bought it to polish rifle brass for reloading. The only media I've used is crushed walnut shells. That's what I use on brass. I just put the old stuff in a can and save it for motorcycle parts.
It works pretty good on small parts that are degreased. It doesn't remove globs of grease and the grease makes the media ball up. It works really good on  removing rust. I like to run nuts and bolts through it.
One big caution though. The media will fill up blind holes and is a real pain to get out.

Offline 85RZwade

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2020, 09:31:35 AM »
Love this topic! Learned a bunch about something with which I have no experience ...and the man made his own tumbler out of PVC and typewriter parts! How cool is that?
Rubber side down!

Offline m in sc

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2020, 09:58:22 AM »
we had (and still have ) a huge one at work, we used to use it to tumble the machined parts we made, all 6061 and some stainless.

we tried all sorts of media, and for use, the nylon pyramids seemed to do the best job. also, we used a mild citric acid/water solution through the media which was wayyyyyy better than just running it dry.

downside, getting the media out sucked. and it was loud. we had it way in the back of the shop. but it gave a beautiful almost burnished finish.

however, for my MC and car stuff, i prefer evaporust, then a follow up in an ultrasonic with carb cleaner.

Id be leery of putting hardware in a tumbler as its easy to let it just run forever and forget about it, unless you are using very mild media. ive seen threads get very shallow after leaving stuff in too long.

Offline sav0r

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2020, 01:55:04 PM »
I was thinking of letting it run while I wasn't in the shop. I've been trying to figure out good ways to prep parts for anodize. It seems to me that they need a fairly uniform surface and I just haven't devised how to achieve that on irregular shaped parts that have seen a bunch of machining operations. Perhaps I need to get my finishing operations better worked out? Obviously somebody has this figured out because all sorts of beautifully anodized parts are pumped out daily.

The other benefit would be deburring, it's easy to do on machine or by a hand a lot of times, but there are times where it's near impossible or even after deburring the part could use a bit more.

I've seen other people use slurry's instead of straight media with good results.  I'll have to research that more.

Evaporust is fantastic stuff. Between cathodic cleaning, a power washer, and evaporust, my RD turned out like new. It was really bad too, with an old and failing liner, soldered up in places, smashed in. I've also had great luck with loads of items using Evaporust, the stuff is incredible. My ultransonic tank was a game changer too.

I may also take the dive on a DIY anodize setup. I figure I can do it relatively cheaply, but I need to figure out the prep first.
www.chrislivengood.net - for my projects and musings.

Offline IR8D8R

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2020, 04:53:14 PM »
Running wet with abrasives drastically increases the action. But it also gives a completely different finish than running dry. And you will get rust in the mix if you are tumbling ferrous metals unless you use oil or some other non-oxidizing fluid. To obtain bright finish you can use felt plugs or shredded cork with rouge. Rubber works good too. I used cut up bicycle inner tubes on some of my rifle brass. Really polished the brass well. It takes longer of course. Standard practice for deburring and finishing is a dull patina using ceramic dry without additional abrasive. It is often an alternative to brushed on aluminum electronic chassis parts after they are punched out to remove sharp edges and production scratches.

I've tried all kinds of stuff just to see what happened. An electronics company I worked at 30 years ago had a commercial tumbler with an octagonal container about 3 feet in diameter that we tumbled small plates in after machining. That was with extruded ceramic chips that looked like rabbit food pellets. It had a pretty slow rotation. At Standard oil refinery in the valve shop we had one that was just a plain 55 gallon drum on rollers filled with wood chips and fine carborundum powder. I bead blasted all the big coked up dirty valve bodies and threw them in in there overnight before they got rebuilt. My job was taking them apart and cleaning them. Nasty. I was 18. It wasn't a great gig.

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Offline Striker1423

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2020, 05:27:31 PM »
I roll my own ammo. I've never seen shinier brass than what comes out of a wet tumble. 40 dillar rotary tumbler from harbor freight and stainless steel media.

A drop of dawn dish soap and if you want shine, a dash of lemme shine.

Check it in 2 hours and enjoy the sparkle!

Offline sav0r

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Re: Vibratory Tumblers
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2020, 11:33:48 AM »
A lot of people like tumblers for brass, it seems the reviews are a lot more mixed when it comes to harder materials.
www.chrislivengood.net - for my projects and musings.