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How To Get Into Rock Tumbling and Polishing As A Hobby

What You Need For Rock Polishing and Tumbling

Rock tumbling and polishing or lapidary as it is also called, can be a very rewarding hobby, both as something fun to do and also a way to make money. All you need to get started is a rock tumbler, grit and some nice unpolished stones of various types. You can buy bags of stones that include semi-precious stones such as agates or you can hunt for rocks to tumble along road cuts and stream beds. There are rocks in every state and province of North America that you can polish into gem like beauties. Many varieties of quartz rocks can be polished to look like precious stones and rocks such as petrified wood, obsidian, turquoise, opal and hematite. look amazing when tumbled.

Using a rock tumbler requires patience. It takes hours for the finished product to be ready. You start by washing your stones and placing them in the tumbler along with special grit and water. It takes days to polish most stones to a gem like finish.

Choose Quality Rough Stones For Rock Tumbling

When you first get started in lapidary or rock tumbling you may want to purchase rough stones. Because only certain types of rough rocks are suitable for lapidary and look good after they are polished you want to make sure that you are not wasting too much time by polishing ordinary stones. Until you have honed you rock hound skills and can find a good quantity of stones you know will polish up, buy a bag of good rough rocks hand selected for polishing. One advantage of purchasing tumbling rock or rough stones from a rock tumbling supply store is that they choose varieties that tumble well together. You can't tumble rocks of different hardness or the softer rock will get ground into pieces by the harder stones.

How To Get Started Rock Tumbling. Choosing A Rock Tumbler

Rock tumblers come in all sizes and price ranges. The simple one above has just one chamber and is made of plastic. A tumbler like the one above will last for several batches if it is not overloaded. If you plan on making rock tumbling a serious hobby you will want a tumbler with a hard rubber chamber and a solid metal frame for long life.

 There are rock tumblers with multiple chambers that allow you to tumble two batches of rock of different hardness or rocks that may be at a different stage of polishing. If you will be polishing rocks to sell, such as in a souvenir shop, you will want a large tumbler with multiple chambers so you can keep several batches of rocks polishing at different stages.

Steps Of Rock Polishing

Rock tumbling must be done in several stages. You use different kinds of grit for each stage. Typically you start with sixty to ninety grit in the first stage of tumbling and end up several stages later using burnishing soap to give them a very smooth finish. Your rock tumbler will come with a complete instruction book on when to apply the different grits.

Getting Started, What You Need For Rock Tumbling - Polishing

To get started tumbling rocks you need to buy a good tumbler, preferably one with a rubber drum, a grit kit that includes rough grit, fine grit and pre polishing grit, polishing grit and plastic pellets , some rough tumbling stones and have a place like a workshop or garage where you can set the tumbler on a hard surface. Most rock tumblers make a bit of noise you you will probably not want it inside the house since it will take days to tumbling to finish most rocks.  It helps if you have a sink nearby or if you set up some temporary plastic wash tubs to clean your supplies, rock and tumbler when you are done.

Rock tumbling or lapidary is such a satisfying hobby because you never know just what tumbling and polishing will reveal. It takes patience as some skill but you will be rewarded with objects of beauty you can give as gifts, display in your home, make jewelry and crafts from, and even sell in tourist shops.




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