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Craft Rock Tumbler for Shining up Chain Maille Necklace

We have seen Carol's work a number of times as she travels along her jewelry making journey with her new love, chain maille. She started this byzantine necklace at a workshop and finished it at home. The bright aluminium she used really needed tumbling to shine it up. Previously she had used an old toothbrush and toothpaste for the job but the thought of doing that for a whole necklace was rather off putting.

So I suggested she got what I bought from the local Michaels specifically for chain maille - a kid's rock tumbler (below) and filled it with dry rice - no water otherwise everything gets mushy. Using rice to polish up chain maille a common technique but bear in mind that the metal rings will not get work hardened.

The tumbler did a great job of polishing up the necklace over 1-2 hrs. Buying a full sized tumbler is expensive (typically $100 or more when shipping is factored in) so a craft tumbler at $40 for light use makes more sense. Carol could progress to a proper tumbler later if her interest ever developed enough to want to tumble gemstones. The latter will definitely need a much better device for hardcore tumbling with stainless steel shot over several days.

The necklace was a gift for a young girl who was really delighted with it. Thanks Carol for sending me the picture of your creation before giving it away!

For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips
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  1. Tumbling is the best! It always amazes me how shiney chain maille is after being tumbled. The lemon juice and salt dip for copper takes away the tarnish but tumbling makes it shine as it does for other metals.
    Thanks for showing a less expensive method to tumble. I think my Lortone tumbler was about $80.It was a good investment though.

  2. I have a rock tumbler from when I was a kid and this was the same plan I had, except, I found out that you should probably use a new barrel if it was used to tumble rocks as you will end up with scratches. I didn't however think of using rice for polish, which is fantastic!

    I did find another alternative to expensive tumblers at harbor freight, and hurray they accept international orders!

    I found a double barreled tumbler is only $50 and a single barrel is only $33

  3. Thanks to you both for some excellent alternatives. Alas for us Canadians, by the time we pay the taxes, customs duties at the border and the hefty shipping costs, a tumbler ends up far more that we are willing to pay if it is only for light use.

  4. Thanks for the referral to this post. I have a tumbler from Michaels. They often have 40% off coupons, so I bought mine for about $25 (plus tax!).

    I am going to try this over the weekend (for the first time).


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