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What Does a Rock Tumbler Look Like?

Whenever you see someone else’s rock collection, if you’re like me, you simply can’t help but wonder: “How did they get all those magnificent gemstones?” Well, you may be surprised to learn that you can do the same with your rock collection!

All you need is a rock tumbler!

Related: How To Use A Rock Tumbler

What Is A Rock Tumbler?

A rock tumbler is a fairly simple machine which has the sole purpose of taking ordinary looking rocks, turning them over and over in a mixture of grit (sand) and water and polishing them into smooth, round, brilliant stones.

The tumbling machine has a barrel which is connected to a motor.  The motor is what keeps the barrel constantly moving.

Inside the barrel is where the grit, water and stones are.  As the barrel moves, the grit slowly wears away the sharp edges on the rocks, eventually shaping them and polishing them. This is the exact same process that wears away rocks in nature, just on a much faster track!

What Does a Rock Tumbler Look Like?

I’ve explained what rock tumblers are and what they do, but perhaps you’re still asking yourself what rock tumblers look like.

Here are pictures of what my rock tumbler, a Lortone 3A, looks like.

Rotary Rock Tumblers

what does rock tumbler look like
Example of What s Rock Tumbler Looks Like

Below is a good example of what a standard rock tumbler looks like. There are of course different types of rock tumblers. The one shown below is a Lortone 3A single barrel rotary rock tumbler.

Single barrel rock tumblers are exactly what it sounds like. These tumblers have one barrel for tumbling rocks. These are great tumblers for beginners. It’s especially important to remember that with single barrel tumblers that you only mix together rocks of similar hardness.

Double barrel rock tumblers come with two separate barrels. The benefit of having a double barrel tumbler is that not only can you tumble double the amount of rocks, but you can tumble different batches that are each a different hardness.

The Rock Tumbling Unit

example of a rock tumbler

As you can see, a rock tumbler is a simple machine. It’s essentially a small motor that turns a barrel (or barrels). The rock tumbler is designed to keep the barrel in place while it turns over and over. A single rock tumbling batch can take a week to complete. So quality rock tumblers will have well oiled rollers that allow the barrel to easily rotate.

The Rock Tumbler Barrel

Your rocks, water, and grit are all contained within the barrel of the rock tumbler. The grit is what makes your rocks smooth, and it serves as a substitute for the sand that nature uses to polish and smooth your rocks.

rock tumbler barrel
Rock Tumbler Barrel
rock tumbler barrel with rocks inside

Vibratory Rock Tumblers

Vibratory tumblers are a little more advanced, and are generally used to polish rocks that have already been tumbled.  

The advantage of vibratory tumblers is that they are much faster at polishing your rocks than rotary tumblers are.  Many people will even have both kinds of tumblers on hand.  

First they shape their rocks in the rotary tumbler then transition to the vibratory tumbler to smooth and polish.  Doing this can decrease the time it takes to shape and polish your rocks by almost 66%!

Don Gerig

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