Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tool Tip: Taming the Tumbler Shot

Back in December, I posted about using a tumbler to polish up your finished pieces in an article titled:  Tumble & Shine (that post can be read here.)  As the pieces rotate in the tumbler they are surrounded by steel shot and cleaner, this means there is always the chance of that shot getting lodged in open areas, whether it is an enclosed bail or openings in a hollow form.  I'll admit that I'm the first to throw caution to the wind and opt for taking the risk of running an item through the tumbler to see what happens.  I have a series of hollow organic forms that have a lace-like outer-surfaces that always trap the shot.  In these cases I usually end up trying to pick it out with small tools or simply sitting at my bench and shaking and shaking (and sometimes cursing) and then shaking some more until I get them all out.  After seeing my pieces, another jewelry artist asked if I was tumbling them and suggested I try putting pipe cleaners through the openings to block the shot.  Above, you can see they look a little silly, but were well worth the suggestion.  They tumbled for about 3 hours and the pipe cleaners held up fine.  I was suspicious that the one on the right that was full of openings and now surrounded by pipe cleaners might not get much benefit from the tumbler, but I was wrong.  I did intentionally leave the pipe cleaners wide open to allow the shot in and it worked, tumbled up nice and bright.  In the piece on the left the pipe cleaner is run through the bail, twisted to stay in place and then the end was bent in to prevent it from scratching other pieces being tumbled.  In the piece on the right, the ends of the pipe cleaners are forced into the openings and bent into positions to hold themselves in place, I was expecting some to have fallen out by the end of the tumbling, but they were fine.  This was a great tip that should save me a lot of time in the future!

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