Rock tumblers have been used for hundreds of years. Sure, they looked and operated differently than the rock tumblers we’re familiar with today. But its an art that’s been around a long, long time. And all these years later, there are still many people that still enjoy tumbling and polishing stones.
Polished rocks can be used to make jewelry or to even decorate your house. There are many different types of rock tumblers available now days; some of high quality for professional use, and some that are not built as rugged and are designed for the hobbyist in mind.
So that makes choosing the best rock tumbler strictly a matter of personal taste, mostly based off what you’ll use it for.
But there are definitely certain things that set one tumbler apart from others. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about rock tumbling so you can find the best one for you and your personal use.
Best Rock Tumblers
When looking to purchase a rock tumbler, some essential factors to consider are the type, size, durability, and motor quality, as well as the options for various grits and polishing materials. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rock collector, it’s crucial to find a tumbler that can cater to your specific needs and level of experience, while providing consistent and reliable performance.
Thumler’s Tumbler MP-1 Rock Tumbler
The Thumler’s Tumbler MP-1 is a solid option for beginners looking to start rock tumbling, as it delivers noteworthy results and offers a complete package.
- Ideal for beginners and hobbyists
- Comes with grit packs, stones, and jewelry pack
- Includes a helpful tumbling guide
- May require lubrication early on
- Not suitable for large tumbling projects
- Not intended for heavy-duty use
From our personal experience handling the Thumler’s Tumbler MP-1, we found it to be quite impressive for its compact size. As a beginner rock tumbler, it’s perfect for those just starting in the hobby or looking for a simple and easy-to-use option. The included barrel holds up to 2 pounds of stones, which is suitable for small to medium tumbling projects.
What sets this rock tumbler apart from others is that it comes with everything needed to begin tumbling right away. The included grit packs cover the entire tumbling cycle, ensuring a smooth start for newcomers. Along with the stones, jewelry pack, and tumbling guide that also come in the package, this kit offers great value for its price.
However, we did notice that the MP-1 may require lubrication sooner than expected. During our first cycle of tumbling, some squeaking and squealing sounds emerged. This can be easily resolved by following the instructions provided, and it doesn’t diminish the overall functionality and performance of the tumbler. We recommend this rock tumbler for casual hobbyists and beginners, but if you plan to use it extensively or for larger projects, you might want to consider sturdier models within the market.
Thumler’s Tumbler: AR-1 Rotary Rock Tumbler
A reliable and efficient rock tumbler ideal for hobbyists and professionals alike, giving you an excellent performance in rock polishing.
- High-quality 3-pound capacity
- Fan cooled and overload protected motor
- Comes with tip sheet and instructions
- No on/off switch
- Top of the canister might come off during operation
- Might require frequent balancing and lubing
We recently used Thumler’s AR-1 Rotary Rock Tumbler, and the overall experience was impressive. It’s a professional-grade tumbler, and its 3-pound capacity is perfect for handling various types of rocks for polishing. Its 120V motor provides heavy continuous duty, and with built-in fan cooling, it avoids overheating, ensuring prolonged use.
The instructions and tip sheet that came with the AR-1 made the process easy to understand and follow, even for beginners. After a few successful tumbling sessions, we noticed how the polished rocks came out smooth and shiny, as promised.
However, there were some minor issues we encountered. The tumbler lacks an on/off switch, which would have been a more convenient feature. We also had instances where the canister’s top popped off mid-process, but it was relatively quick to fix. Additionally, the tumbler can be sensitive to balance and might require constant adjustments and silicone lubrication.
In conclusion, the Thumler’s Tumbler AR-1 Rotary Rock Tumbler is a durable and efficient machine that delivers excellent results. Despite a few hiccups, we find it worth considering, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional in rock polishing.
Thumler’s Tumbler Heavy Duty Rotary Rock Tumbler
This rock tumbler is a great investment for professional quality results and efficient operation.
- Heavy-duty, professional-quality tumbler
- Large 15lb. capacity
- Continuous-duty, fan-cooled motor with overload protection
- Can be overfilled easily
- May run hot to the touch
- Frame may need extra support to prevent noise
After using the AliKids Thumler’s Tumbler Heavy Duty Rotary Rock Tumbler, we noticed how sturdy and professional it is. This tumbler is designed for individuals who want to achieve great results with their rock tumbling projects. Its 15lb. capacity allows for tumbling a larger number of rocks compared to other models, making it a time-saving choice.
The continuous-duty motor in this rock tumbler is fan-cooled, providing consistent and efficient performance. The overload protection ensures that the motor won’t be damaged by excessive use. Although the tumbler can run for days on end, we noticed that it runs hot to the touch, so caution should be exercised around it while it’s in operation.
One thing we encountered while using this rock tumbler is the potential for overfilling. Having a scale to weigh contents can help prevent this issue. Additionally, we found that the frame may require external support to reduce noise. Despite these minor drawbacks, the AliKids Thumler’s Tumbler Heavy Duty Rotary Rock Tumbler provides excellent performance and long-lasting durability for a variety of rock tumbling needs.
The National Geographic Professional Rock Tumbling Kit
- Professional tumbling results with selectable speeds and timer
- Ultimate quiet operation with a sound-dampening cover
- All-in-one kit with GemFoam rock polisher for brilliant finish
- Higher price compared to other models
- May not produce desired “wet look” polish with top grit
- Potential belt issues with larger barrel machines
National Geographic rock tumblers can come with a bit of a stigma that they’re only designed for kids and might not be as durable as other tumblers you might see on the market. But this is definitely not the case with this tumbler.
This kit comes with a 2-pound barrel, three speed motor and a timer with settings for both days and hours, so it’s easy to get great results.
The brand-new re-design has a sound-dampening lid that makes the entire tumbling experience much quieter than before. This is a huge improvement over the older models of National Geographic tumblers. A quieter tumbler is a great option for people who like to tumble indoors. However, I’ve found that even the quietest rock tumblers still make substantial amounts of noise. As such, I recommend sticking them out in the garage.
The kit comes with everything you need to get started tumbling and polishing, including a pound of rough rocks, four bags of varying sized grit, jewelry fasteners, a strainer, and GemFoam rock polisher for a final high gloss finish!
Lortone 3A Rotary Rock Tumbler
- Quiet and sturdy design
- Easy to operate and maintain
- Durable motor built for years of service
- No on/off switch; must unplug to stop
- Limited to 3 pounds of capacity
- May require more advanced users to upgrade eventually
I just recently purchased one of these to tumble agates and jasper, and it’s works great.
The Lortone 3a has a VERY quiet rubber barrel that has a 3lb holding capacity. And the best thing about the Lortone 3a was just how unbelievably quiet it was.
One drawback is the lack of an on/off switch on the unit, meaning you have to unplug the tumbler to power it down. It’s a minor inconvenience but worth noting. Additionally, the 3-pound capacity may be suitable for small projects, but for larger batches or bigger stones, you may need an upgrade as you progress in your rock tumbling endeavors.
Despite its limitations, the
Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler Review
Did you know there is a Harbor Freight rock tumbler available? As a matter of fact, there are four different Harbor Freight rock tumblers available! This is great news for us rock collectors that want to experience the joy of rock tumbling, or rock polishing, but also don’t want to fork out a whole lot of cash in the process.
I’ve purchased many tools from Harbor Freight, and over all have had a good experience with the company and its products. So I was very excited to learn that there is a Harbor Freight rock tumbler available.
I wanted to do as much research as possible on all of the Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers available, and share with you what I found, the pros as well as the cons.
Review Of The Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers
Below are reviews of the two best Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers. One is a rotary tumbler and the other is their vibratory polisher.
Note: It always seems to be hit and miss on whether or not these rock tumblers are available, so you’ll need to pop into a local Harbor Freight or give them a call ahead of time to see if it’s in stock. I always check when I’m in buying other tools and they seem to be there most of the time. Amazon used to carry them, so it’s worth checking them out too.
The 3 lb Single Barrel Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler
About The 3 lb Single Barrel Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler
The first Harbor Freight rock tumbler that I’m going to go over here is their 3 lb single barrel rock tumbler made by Chicago Electric Power Tools. Even thought this rock tumbler is sold by Harbor Freight, it is actually the Chicago Electric Power Tools 67631 Rotary Rock Tumbler.
High quality metal rock tumbler has a powerful motor, noise reducing leak-proof barrel and comes backed by a 2-year warranty.
One of the most affordable rock tumblers available at $58 (at the time of this writing), making it an excellent rotary rock tumbler under $100.
Ease Of Use
Perfect for beginners and experienced tumbler hobbyists. Easy to operate.
- 3 lb capacity (4 ¾ “H x 4 ½ “ dia)
- Rubber barrel for quiet operation
- Smooths and polishes rocks, glass and metal
- Easy to operate
- Low Speed
- Good for beginners/intermediate users
- Very popular rock tumbler for brass shell casings
- Easy to use
- Does not come with tumbling grit/polishing medium. This can be purchased here or at your local hobby shop.
- Drive belt has a tendency to come loose. This is easily fixed by adjusting the belt tension. Extra drive belts for Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers are available here.
- Bushings are made from plastic and can wear out faster than other types of bushings.
- The directions are unclear to some beginner tumbling hobbyists. You can read my article on How to Use a Rock Tumbler, which provides basic rock tumbling instructions.
My Opinion On The 3 lb Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler
I was excited to write a Harbor Freight rock Tumbler review mostly because I know there are many of you out there that just don’t have a lot of money to spend on rock tumblers. And let’s face it, most rock tumblers or rock polishers aren’t cheap. That creates a dilemma.
I believe the 3 lb Rotary Drum Harbor Freight rock tumbler made by Chicago Electric Power Tools offers a fantastic solution to that problem. I’m clearly a fan of the price point on this rock tumbler. It provides us with a sturdy and easy to operate method to polish rocks and thoroughly enjoy our rock collecting hobby. It is a great little rock tumbler for the beginner as well as for seasoned tumblers.
As with many things that we purchase from Harbor Freight, it can sometimes be hit and miss. But by carefully reading the instructions and by not overfilling the barrel (keep it under 3 lbs), I believe with this purchase, you will have a rock tumbler to enjoy for many years to come.
3 lb Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler FAQ
Question: Can you put broken glass in the harbor freight rock tumbler to smooth like “sea glass”?
Answer: Yes. The Harbor Freight rock tumbler works for making sea glass.
Question: Does the harbor freight rock tumbler come with tumbling grit, rocks or instructions.
Answer: The Harbor Freight rock tumbler does not come with grit or rocks, but it does come with a set of instructions.
Question: Can the Harbor Freight rock tumbler be used to polish brass?
Answer: Yes. Brass can be polished with this rock tumbler.
About The 18 lb Harbor Freight Vibratory Rock Tumbler
In addition to rotary drum rock tumblers, Harbor Freight also sells vibratory rock tumblers. Both the rotary style and vibratory rock tumblers have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re considering a vibratory rock tumbler, keep reading for a detailed review on the Harbor Freight Vibratory Tumbler.
The 18 lb vibratory rock tumbler from Harbor Freight is a heavy duty tumbler that’s designed to produce much quicker results than it’s rotary rock tumbler counterpart.
The tumbler is mounted on four sturdy rubber feet for extra stability during the tumbling process. The sturdy polyethylene drum opening is 10.5 inches in diameter which makes it super easy to add and remove rocks and tumbler grit.
Features Of The Harbor Freight Vibratory Tumbler
- Integrated liquid drain hose
- Large 18 lb capacity
- 18 gauge steel motor housing for maximum durability
- Polishes faster than rotary tumbling
- Easy to operate
- Rubber mounted feet for stability and noise reduction
- Durable polyethylene drum and lid
Why I Like The 18 lb Harbor Freight Vibratory Rock Tumbler
The reason I like this Harbor Freight vibratory tumbler is because of its overall affordability. Harbor Freight nailed it again with this one. Vibratory tumblers in general are more expensive than their rotary style counterparts, but there are perks for forking out the extra cash.
One of the biggest benefits is that a vibratory tumbler is faster than rotary tumblers. That means more finished product and less sitting around waiting.
The Harbor Freight vibratory tumbler has a large 18 lb capacity bowl and also has an integrated drain hose.
The base, or motor housing is made out of 18 gauge steel. The tumbler sits 18.25 inches tall and rests on rubber mounted feet for added stability when operating. The polyethylene drum opening is 10.5 inches wide which makes it easy to add and remove items.
According to the manufacturer, the recommended media to use in the tumbler is plastic beads, walnut shell, corn cob, red rouge and ruby powder. The overall height of this tumbler is 18-1/4 in.
What I Look For In The Best Rock Tumblers
While researching the best rock tumblers, there are a number of specific things I like to pay very close attention to.
Size and Capacity
The size and capacity of a rock tumbler are crucial factors to consider when purchasing. It will determine the amount of rocks you can process at once. Consider the following:
- Small tumblers: Ideal for beginners, hobbyists, or those with limited space.
- Medium tumblers: Suitable for those with more experience or processing larger quantities.
- Large tumblers: For experienced users or professional-level rock tumbling.
Type of Tumbler
There are two main types of rock tumblers: rotary and vibratory. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
- More common and affordable
- Good for beginners
- Polishes rocks through a rotation process, which can take more time
- Faster and more efficient
- Ideal for experienced users
- Uses a vibrating motion instead of rotation to polish rocks
Material and Build Quality
The material and build quality of a rock tumbler can significantly impact its durability and performance. Choose a tumbler made from high-quality materials such as:
- Metal gears: Allow for a more extended lifespan and more reliable performance
- Heavy-duty motors: Ensure consistent operation and minimal downtime
- Sturdy barrels: Prevent leaks and resist wear from constant use
Rock tumblers can be noisy during operation, so it’s essential to consider the noise level before purchasing. Look for tumblers with rubber barrels and noise-reducing features to keep disruption to a minimum.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
Make sure the rock tumbler you choose is easy to operate; user-friendly controls and functions will make the process more enjoyable. In addition, a simple and straightforward design will help make maintenance and cleaning tasks more manageable.
By considering these factors and understanding your needs, we can choose the best rock tumbler to satisfy our rock-polishing desires.