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Big tumblers

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  • Big tumblers

    In the thread on uses for an old compressor tank the comment was made: ‘You could also turn it into a big tumbler. Blacksmiths like to build big tumblers to descale their parts...”

    Does anyone have photos of larger tumblers?

    What media is used for this sort of thing.

    I have been toying with the idea of building a larger tumbler so any suggestions would be appreciated.

    I have a good bit of old chain that has become rusty. I experimented with one piece and placed it in some vinegar and left it for a week. That did an acceptable job but I continued to ponder the tumbler as a means of cleaning some of this old chain. After Lazlo’s comment I got to wondering how an old cement mixer would work for this. I have needed to put a new belt and motor on mine. It is probably time to do that and throw a bag of blast sand in it and try it on the chain and some misc. small pieces of metal stock.

    How do you think an electrolysis tank for descaling rusty material would compare to tumbling.
    Byron Boucher
    Burnet, TX

  • #2

    My wife wanted the look of tumbled marble in a bathroom but I objected to the $15/sqft cost. So I was able to obtain a bunch of tile off cuts from a project and cut them up into 2"x2" pieces. I took my cement mixer, took out the batter bars, thru in the tile and in sand. In 1/2 an hour I had perfectly tumbled marbled. Probably tumbled over 200' of this at no cost but my time to rip up free scrap.
    For steel that was really rusty I've thrown in some fine gravel as sand wasn't enough. Tumbling metal in gravel is noisy, marble in sand is fine. Thank goodness I live in the sticks.

    The nice thing about tumbling compared to electrolysis is the tumbling softens all the pits you would see with electrolysis and leaves a nicer patina.
    Last edited by 914Wilhelm; 08-27-2010, 09:01 PM.


    • #3
      Google "Wheelabrator"

      They make one for engine blocks.

      For diesel trucks.


      • #4
        The problem with metal tumblers is they wear themselves out. lapidaries use rubber tumbling barrels. I think that a food grade poly barrel with a screw-on lid would make a pretty durable tumbler. Here these barrels sell for about $25.00 at the scrap yard. Laid on a set of rubber rollers from a boat trailer and driven with a friction wheel on a fractional hp gear motor, and it should handle some pretty heavy parts.
        Duffy, Gatineau, Quebec


        • #5
          You might also take a metal tank down to one of those places that do the spray-on truck bed liners and have them coat the inside.



          • #6
            I have had this old cement mixer since 1971 and it was old when I got it. It is heavy enough that I am pretty sure that it will out last me. I will give it a try.
            Byron Boucher
            Burnet, TX


            • #7
              Byron, one of the big tumblers I saw was shop built out of heavy-gage sheet metal. It's at Balcones Forge out your way at Marble Falls -- you should come to the next meeting.
              From memory, it was roughly 8' long x 4' wide by 4' tall. Driven by a simple chain & sprocket. There are internal metal slats in it (like a cement mixer), and they throw in a bunch of washers, bolts, cut-offs, etc, and let it run. It's LOUD.

              I'd think a cement mixer would work well.
              Last edited by lazlo; 08-28-2010, 12:19 AM.
              "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


              • #8
                About 35 years ago I drove past Scotchman Industries plant just outside Philip, South Dakota several times a month . . . usually in the very early morning or middle of the evening, when the plant was closed. More often than not, they had a "homemade" tumbler running, outside of the building.

                That tumbler was pretty simple: A large tractor tire hanging from a motorized shaft that extended through the tire's center hole. If I had to guess now, the tire ID was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 feet and the revolving shaft maybe 3 inches. Judging from the clanging, they must have had a number of fair-sized parts in their tumbler that pretty much just banged against each other.


                • #9
                  There was an auto wrecking yard near here which had a homemade vibratory finisher made out of a metal pan 3x3x2' deep suspended on rubber ad shook by a 5hp motor with a counter balance weight.

                  The media was busted windshield glass.You could throw in a set of steel valve covers and an oil pan,come back in an hour and they would be nice and scraped clean of paint.
                  I just need one more tool,just one!


                  • #10
                    I worked in a steel warhouse/fab shop in the mid '70's. We had a tumbler that was about 5' diameter and 5 ' wide. It was used for parts that come off our burn out table to knock off the slag. The media used was rock of 1-3" diameter. Made a little noise while it was running.

                    If you build one, consider using truck bed liner paint or old carpet to line the interior.
                    North Central Arkansas