Best rock tumblers: Rock Solid Results

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National Geographic Rock Tumbler - Hobby Edition

Creating beautiful gems can be accomplished only with the best rock tumbler.

There are so many hobbies out there that it is almost impossible to keep track of them all. However, one of them which you do not hear so much about is rock tumbling. A hobby that started gaining more popularity. It is mostly children who enjoy this type of activity, but adults do it for various reasons as well.

Even so, you cannot turn rocks into gems without a rock tumbler. It is a simple but efficient device that will satisfy your hobby.

Rock Tumblers Guide

A rock tumbler is a device that consists of a round barrel and a motor that will spin that barrel for weeks on end. Inside the barrel, you put the rocks that you choose, water, and grit, and then you leave the tumbler to spin for a few weeks, depending on what rocks you used. 

As the barrel spins during the tumbling process, the rocks inside, thanks to the water and grit, will become beautifully polished. Of course, there are several kinds of grit, but for the first round, you are going to need a coarse grit to get rid of all the sharp edges. As weeks go by, you are going to move on to a finer grit for a more polished finish. Why is that important? The level of coarseness matters because you need to follow some simple rules to get the best results.

What can you do with a rock tumbler?

As I said, rock tumblers are used mostly for hobbies. It is often children who like using them, but adults can use them too. Here are some purposes for a rock tumbler that you may be interested in.

  • Jewelry making – I imagine you have seen a statement necklace made of huge gemstone-looking rocks, had you not? How do you think those are made? The manufacturer uses a rock tumbler to polish the stones to perfection and then adds strings and glue to secure the necklaces. It does not seem that hard, does it? So why spend a lot of money on statement necklaces when you can make your own? Look at the bright side. You know for sure that nobody is going to have the same piece as you do.
  • You can use it for various crafts – I have seen people use rock tumblers to create beautiful picture frames. They look unique, and they can make excellent gifts.
  • You can use it to make vases or plant fillers – if you have potted plants in your home, you can use a rock tumbler to create a filler. Then, you place the polished rocks over the dirt, and your plant will look like it is sitting on stones. It is a lot more attractive than dirt.
  • Decoration-making – if you like to create things out of anything, then decorations made from polished rocks that you get with the help of a rock tumbler will look amazing around your house, and even on your Christmas trees.
  • Keychains and magnets – keychains are a must, and the more appealing, the better. You can use a rock tumbler to make beautiful keychains. People love those.

Types of rock tumblers

As you can imagine, there is more than one type you can find out there. In fact, there are two: rotary and vibratory. The rotary rock tumbler is the most commonly used. It is also recommended for beginners because it is effortless to use. It will cut down the edges of the rocks, and smooth all rough parts, and after you change to a finer grit, the stones come out beautifully polished. The rocks inside will gain a round shape. The mechanism is simple too. A motor spins the barrel in which you placed the rocks, water, and grit. The results usually appear in 4 to 6 weeks.

The vibratory rock tumbler is not so common for beginners. It is meant to be used to finely polish stones that are already shaped. Just to be clear, such a tumbler will not shape the stone as a rotary tumbler does. People use it to control shapes and angles, something that is not possible with the rotary rock tumbler. One of the advantages of a vibratory rock tumbler is that the process does not last as long as with the rotary counterpart. Of course, after the stones have been shaped already.

Looking at how the two work, I think that the best course of action is to buy both models. The first one will shape the rocks with coarse grit, while the other one is utilized to give them that beautiful smooth finish. However, if you want just one of them, go with the rotary rock tumbler because it can do what the vibratory tumbler does, but the other way around is not possible.

Are all rocks usable in a rock tumbler?

In 1812, a German geologist made a scale, which bears the name Moh’s scale. The said scale gives rocks numbers from 1 to 10, and they determine the stone’s scratch resistance or hardness. You should use that scale whenever you need to pick out new rocks for your projects. Why? Because there are stones that can spend weeks on end in the rock tumbler, and they will barely have a scratch on them.

The principle is simple. The lower the number a rock has, the easier it will be to obtain the result you want. Just to get a clear picture, always choose a rock that is below 7. One of the most common examples is quartz. It has the number 7. Above it, there is topaz, corundum (the one used for whetstones,) and of course, diamond. But the good news is that you can go for so many other stones that are below 7. The rocks you can put in the rock tumbler are orthoclase, apatite, fluorite, calcite, and gypsum, and the softest rock is talc. As you can see, you do not lack options.

Keep in mind that the softer the rock, the less time it will need to spend in the rock tumbler. For example, if you put talc in a rock tumbler and you leave it in there to spin for 4 weeks, you will not find anything other than water, grit, and talc powder. Make sure that you do your research on how much time different rocks need to spend in the rock tumbler. 

Top 3 Best rock tumblers

If you are in the market for the best rock tumbler, you should know that not all products are able to give you what you need. That is why my advice is to always read the specifications. Another thing that should help you make a good decision is to read some rock tumblers reviews online. That way you can see what other people bought and whether or not they are satisfied with their purchase. If you still feel unsure, you can always go for one of the three products below. They are all excellent rock tumblers, and people who have bought them have only good things to say about them. I think you will find them just as useful.

Best for adults: National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit

The first product that I think you will enjoy very much is the kit provided by National Geographic. I say kit because it includes everything you need to know about tumbling rocks and everything you need to get started. It is excellent for children or adults that have never done this before. The package contains the tumbler, four polishing grits, a sifter, a learning guide, and nine types of real rough gemstones. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, so I think this product will help you get the hang of it pretty quickly.

The rock tumbler from National Geographic is very easy to use. It features one-touch settings and an automatic shut-off timer. The high-quality tumbling machine is equipped with a powerful motor that will last for many years to come. The barrel has a capacity of one pound, but it is made of rubber so that there is no annoying noise. The lid is made of stainless steel for durability.

The barrel is also leak-proof for a non-messy experience. In case you forget about it, the automatic shut-off will turn the motor off. You will receive some jewelry fastenings as well so that you can start making some jewels. I think it is an excellent kit and is ranked as the best rock tumbler for adults. I am sure you will love learning about rock tumbling using the National Geographic rock tumbler.

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Best for beginners: Discover with Dr. Cool Hobby Rock Tumbler

Discover with Dr. Cool Hobby Rock Tumbler

The rock tumbler from Discover with Dr. Cool is a very popular product in this category. Thousands of people have already bought it, and the overall opinion is that there are only a few rock tumblers out there that are better. I am sure that if you go for it, you will feel the same no matter your skill level.

The Discover with Dr. Cool Is also a kit. You will receive the tumbler itself, half a pound of gemstones to get you started, four grades of polishing grit, jewelry fastenings, a guide, and of course, clear instructions. The device is built with quality in mind. It is durable and sturdy. The base is made of metal, and the powerful motor will make your barrel spin for years.

The barrel is made with rubber to minimize noise, but the lid is made of stainless steel for more durability. It also makes the barrel leak-proof. The point is that this rock tumbler is as quiet as it should be. The timer is programmable so that if you forget about it, it will not keep on spinning. We consider Dr. Cool Hoobby to be the best rock tumbler for beginners, you will be pleased with its use.

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Heavy duty: Tru-square Metal Products Heavy-Duty Rotary Tumbler with 15 lb Capacity

Tru-square Metal Products Heavy-Duty Rotary Tumbler

Last but not least, the rock tumbler from Tru-square is destined for people who take rock tumbling very seriously. I say that because the barrel has a 15-pound capacity, which means that anyone who uses it will be able to polish large quantities of rocks at once. If you have a small jewelry business, then you may be interested in this product. 

The Tru-square Metal Products rock tumbler is a professional-grade product. It has a massive metal barrel. The metal is of the highest quality, but you do not have to worry about the noise. The barrel is lined with rubber so that you can enjoy your life without hearing the extreme sound that some rocks and grit can make inside a metal barrel. You will not even know it is there. The liner is removable for easy cleaning.

The 115V heavy-duty motor is powerful and will spin that barrel for years to come. It is fan-cooled in order to prevent overheating. That should add a few more years to its functionality. One of the best things about this rock tumbler is that you can use it for something else other than polishing rocks. You can also use it to polish brass or other metals you may need. The machine is easy to operate, and the instructions you receive are unambiguous. You should not have issues with using this device.

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My recommendation

At the end of the day, you need to make a choice on your own, no matter which product we recommend as being the best rock tumbler. However, if I were to choose just one of the products above, I would go with the National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit. To tell you the truth, this is pretty similar to the one from Discover with Dr. Cool, so whichever you choose, you are going to be satisfied. They are two of the best rock tumblers you can find on the market.

Final thoughts on best rock tumbler

Finding the right hobby is not the easiest thing to do. However, if you find rock tumbling to be something that you enjoy, one of the products above will help you get started. You will see that, in time, you will get the results you want, and you will make some beautiful decorations for yourself or your home.

Updated on May 2, 2023