Best rock tumblers
When you polish the rough edges away, you discover a beauty that was always there but was just a little hidden. Using this strategy, a rock tumbler turns ordinary-looking rocks into gems. However, to get the best results, you need the best rock tumbler.
Our favorite for 2021 is not simply a tumbler; it’s a rock tumbler kit. Dan&Darci’s Advanced Professional Rock Tumbler Kit comes with everything you need to get started, including the rocks.
To learn more about how a rock tumbler works and what to look for in a quality model, keep reading.
What to know before you buy a rock tumbler
How does a rock tumbler work?
A rock tumbler accelerates the process of wearing down rocks by using water, an abrasive element, and agitation in several steps to obtain a smooth polished finish. The result turns unremarkable into something striking.
Rotary vs. vibratory tumblers
There are two types of rock tumblers: rotary and vibratory.
Rotary: As it sounds, users place the rocks in a rotary tumbler in a barrel that spins. This method smooths the rocks and rounds the edges, giving them a more polished look and feel. The downside is a rotary tumbler takes about twice as long as a vibratory tumbler.
Vibratory: A vibratory tumbler shakes the stones a bit more violently than a rotary tumbler. The benefit is these models can get the job done in about half the time. However, even the best vibratory rock tumbler cannot achieve the finish produced by a rotary tumbler. Your stones will be smooth but not rounded. Additionally, vibratory tumblers tend to wear out more quickly and cost more than rotary tumblers.
What to look for in a quality rock tumbler
You can buy a rock tumbler in various sizes. While bigger lets you tumble more rocks at one time, it will necessitate using filler material if you ever want to tumble a smaller batch of rocks. Additionally, the larger the barrel (or bowl for vibratory tumblers), the more expensive the tumbler will be.
Tumbler barrels and bowls are either plastic or rubber-made. Unless you are purchasing a toy or have budget limitations, rubber is always the way you want to go. Rubber is more durable and quieter than plastic, but it will cost more.
By its very nature, a rock tumbler is loud. It’s a whirling or vibrating machine that agitates rocks. However, some models’ design operates at a slightly less invasive volume. If sounds bother you, look for a rock tumbler featuring a quieter performance.
Number of barrels
A rotary rock tumbler can have one or two barrels. The advantage of having two barrels is twofold. First, with two barrels, you can polish twice as many rocks at one time. Second, and more importantly, you can tumble batches of rocks of different hardness levels, but having softer rocks mixed in with hard rocks can ruin the whole batch.
When you purchase a rock tumbler set, you’ll get the rock tumbler, various packets of grit and often your first batch of rocks. However, some rock tumblers also come with additional tools and jewelry supplies so you can make keychains, rings, pendants and more.
How much you should expect to spend on a rock tumbler
When shopping for a rock tumbler on Amazon or another site, you will quickly discover they can range from roughly $40-$300. At the lower end, you will find smaller, single-barrel rotary tumblers, while the mid to higher-end will offer larger double-barrel rotary tumblers as well as vibratory tumblers.
Rock tumbler FAQ
What is the best rock tumbler for beginners?
A. A rock tumbler is a set-it-and-forget-it type of device, meaning it is not difficult to operate. You add the rocks, grit and water, then turn the machine on and let it run for several hours or days, depending on the model. The best rock tumbler for beginners is one that comes as a complete kit, including the rocks, so the novice has the best chance of being successful on the first try.
What are the best rocks to tumble?
A. Not every rock will turn into a beautiful gem after tumbling. You need to choose the right kind. The best rocks are hard, non-porous rocks with a non-gritty surface, ideally a seven on the Mohs’ hardness scale. This is a scale that denotes the relative hardness of minerals. This would include quartz, agate and jasper. It is also vital to tumble rocks of various sizes together but at the same hardness level; otherwise, the softer rocks will break down too quickly.
What is the best rock tumbler to buy?
Top rock tumbler
What you need to know: This slightly more expensive model is designed for the serious hobbyist or STEM student.
What you’ll love: Everything you need to get started is included in this comprehensive kit, making it an excellent option for a beginner. The easy-to-use interface displays both speed and remaining time.
What you should consider: Most of the issues with this machine are user errors, but make sure you read the directions.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top rock tumbler for the money
What you need to know: This is an affordable starter kit for beginners that still offers high-quality results.
What you’ll love: Besides stones, grit, instructions and the rotary tumbler, this kit includes accessories that allow you to make jewelry using your polished gems.
What you should consider: Rarely, there is a durability issue, but customer service excels and is determined to make things right.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This rotary rock tumbler includes the tumbler, abrasive material and backup belts, making it a better choice for a more experienced user than a beginner.
What you’ll love: This model has a slightly larger barrel capacity than average and the grit is made of walnut, which is less abrasive than sand.
What you should consider: The belts on this model are not as durable as the other tumblers on our shortlist.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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