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Tips, Techniques, and Questions -- Technical questions or tips

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  #1  
Old 2015-04-16, 1:56pm
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Default Lortone 3A Tumbler Experiences

I just got a Lortone 3A tumbler a few days ago and I've been tumbling beads for about 24 hrs. now. I'll explain what I bought to go with the tumbler and how it's going so far, in case anyone else is interested in starting a foray into glass bead tumbling. I know I'm always looking for info, so I figure everyone else must be looking, too!

First of all, I purchased the Lortone 3A tumbler from Amazon, it was around $79 (free shipping with Prime).



It came from the manufacturer with a spare belt, which, if you've done any kind of research on small Lortone tumblers, the wearing out of belts seems to be a problem. This was validated to me when I found the spare belt in the bottom of the box! I had also purchased a set of 2 extra belts (which were $25.... ouch!).

I did some research here on LE as to which one to purchase and what to put it in to agitate and etch the beads, and decided on getting a pound of silicone carbide grit 1000 plus a bag of plastic pellets to act as the "carrier" to getting the grit to the glass. I guess that's what it means.





I was a bit skeptical as to how plastic pellets would be able to help achieve the etched look. Even though I understand they are merely a carrier medium to move the grit around, I just felt like there should be something else crunchy in there. I looked more online at some rock tumbling websites and came up with this stuff:


I placed an order for a pound of it from The Rock Shed after I sent them an email and customer service agreed that this type of medium would work great. It's called "Small Ceramic" medium and it arrived this afternoon. It's hard and about the size of dog food kibble.

Yesterday morning I filled the Lortone tumbler barrel up to 3/4 with beads and water, put in about a cup of plastic pellets, a tablespoon of grit, a squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent and turned it on all day. At 10pm I opened it up and checked the beads (because I'm sooooo nosy! I had to know what was going on in there!) The beads were mildly etched, but not enough so that they looked like the lovely, smooth matte that I obtain with Etch All. I popped the lid back closed and kept the tumbler turned off for the night.

This morning I plugged it back in and let it run all day, from 6:45am to now (4:45pm). The ceramic kibblets arrived in the mail this afternoon, so I decided to unplug the tumbler and change the carrier medium from plastic pellets to ceramic pellets. I used a fine holed kitchen colander to strain everything, and boy, was it disgusting in there! Lots of soapy grit. And the plastic pellets were a nightmare! They floated up and over the top of the strainer and went down the garbage disposal, which now grinds and gurgles in protest.

The beads were more etched than last night but still had tiny areas of glossy on them. After harvesting all the plastic pellets and throwing them out, I refilled the tumbler but put in about 1/2 of a cup of the ceramic pellets instead, along with beads, water, grit and soap. It's tumbling in the bathroom right now, and I'm planning on checking it later.

That's all I have for now, but I'll pop back in to update this post after I open the tumbler again tonight or tomorrow.
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Last edited by AVTrout; 2015-04-16 at 1:59pm.
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  #2  
Old 2015-04-16, 2:18pm
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Thanks! I want to start tumble etching too, so will watch out for your update.
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Old 2015-04-16, 3:27pm
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Try it without soap. I only have to tumble my beads for a few hours (usually 3 or 4 is enough) and they come out with a nice satin finish or like sea glass. Also I only fill to half or less with beads and then to just over half full with water and add a tablespoon of grit. I haven't tried pellets or ceramic kibble, to help carry the grit I just use some of my wonky small spacer beads. (I have lots of wonky beads lol). If the beads you are tumbling have lots of texture you will need something small like maybe seed beads to get into all those crevices. Name:  image.jpg
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Old 2015-04-16, 3:38pm
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Karen, I love that string of beads, both etched and not etched! I can't help but think that the plastic pellets act as a kind of cushy insulation vs. an aide to abrasion. Hmmmmm..... I think I'll try what you suggested next time. Thanks! I'll update in a bit.
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  #5  
Old 2015-04-16, 3:53pm
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Thanks. I can't decide which I prefer either, depends on my mood.
Your idea about the pellets makes sense, plastic is quite slippery. Also I think the soap makes things slippery and so the grit cant get a good 'bite'.
I only use soap when I'm tumbling silver to 'work harden' and polish it but I have a separate barrel for that to make sure there's no grit to contaminate finished pieces. That grit is so messy.
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Old 2015-04-16, 11:08pm
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Use soap when polishing jewelry, but not a squirt, just a drop or two of dawn does the trick.
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Old 2015-04-17, 5:09am
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I agree...the tumbler needs to be around half full or so it give everything lots of room to move. Also, plastic beads Don't have much effect. Glass is much better. You can use cheap ones from a craft store or your own throw away beads. I will be interested to hear how the ceramic works.
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Old 2015-04-17, 6:10am
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I second what Karen said... half full water, no soap, wonky beads and a teaspoon of grit. I only tumble a couple of hours... sometimes longer if I'm busy doing other things, and they come out like her photo. Works best with smooth beads.

Raised decorations make it difficult for the grit to get into all the small spaces though, which makes me tempted to try the acid etching for those kind of beads. But after reading all the dangers in one of the threads here, it scares me to go that way.
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  #9  
Old 2015-04-17, 2:56pm
Connie Cooper Connie Cooper is offline
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I got an inexpensive bag of glass #8/o beads from Michaels or Hobby Lobby...don't remember. Poured the bag in tumbler, added a cpl tblspoons of 1000 sil carbide & my beads. Water enough to cover everything by about an inch .. No Soap. 3-4 hrs for satin finish. Do NOT let the sludge go down the drain. I pour everything into a "clear" plastic container... Ziploc has good size for this...and pluck beads out. Cover & store for next time. I've had my lortone for a cpl years. No belt trouble... Of course now it'll act up cuz I said that...lol. Hope this helps.
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Old 2015-04-17, 3:14pm
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If you string your beads loosely on fishing line, there is no pouring or searching around for missing beads. Just pull out the string of beads when it's done.
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Old 2015-04-17, 3:36pm
pendragonfyre pendragonfyre is offline
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Default Lortone Tumbler

I have the Lortone 3 barrel tumbler. I only use the fine grit and plastic pellets and water... I never use soap.
I only require a couple of hours of tumbling for the same effect as below.
I have my barrels set up with solutions for polishing silver jewelry etc with one barrel for tumbling beads.
I would be concerned of the ceramic media actually scratching the beads based on their irregular shape.

My 2 cents...

Darlene


Quote:
Originally Posted by kartwheel View Post
Try it without soap. I only have to tumble my beads for a few hours (usually 3 or 4 is enough) and they come out with a nice satin finish or like sea glass. Also I only fill to half or less with beads and then to just over half full with water and add a tablespoon of grit. I haven't tried pellets or ceramic kibble, to help carry the grit I just use some of my wonky small spacer beads. (I have lots of wonky beads lol). If the beads you are tumbling have lots of texture you will need something small like maybe seed beads to get into all those crevices. Attachment 153996
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Old 2015-04-17, 4:46pm
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I started with a tablespoon of grit, probably 2-3 tablespoons of plastic pellets, a large package of the larger glass seed beads from Hobby Lobby, and water to make a good sludge and got good results.

When the seed beads began wearing down, I broke a beverage bottle and put it in the tumbler. I figured glass is glass, and the bottle was otherwise trash. It too gives good results.

I tumble etch for probably 3-4 hours.

It will not get into crevices. I do have acid etch on hand, but really prefer the texture of the tumbled beads. If I have another bead with crevices I want to etch, I think I'll dip it in etching solution in order to get the crevices, and then after neutralizing and rinsing well, put it in the tumbler for the nicer finish.
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Old 2015-04-17, 4:57pm
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On the issue of belts, I've had to replace mine a couple of times in the .. 6-7 years? .. I've had my 3A. However, it lives in the garage with no climate control, and I really feel like the months of heat here in Oklahoma don't do it any favors.

If the belt is getting floppy, you can buy a little time by "tightening" it, which you do by loosening the screws on the end and moving the mechanism a bit and retightening the screws, which puts more tension on the belt. When you finally replace it, don't forget to move the mechanism back so that you'll have room to tighten it again when it begins getting soft.

Also, if the drum isn't wanting to turn (and it isn't overweight and the belt is fine), use a green scrubbie to rough up the exterior of the drum and so that it will be grabby again. My drums have gotten kind of slick as they've gotten older, so I take a scrubbie to their exteriors whenever they need it.

DH just got a handful of replacement belts since both our tumblers needed them recently. I seriously doubt he paid 2/$25 and I'll ask him where he got them.
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  #14  
Old 2015-04-17, 5:47pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by earthandsky View Post
.....
It will not get into crevices. I do have acid etch on hand, but really prefer the texture of the tumbled beads. If I have another bead with crevices I want to etch, I think I'll dip it in etching solution in order to get the crevices, and then after neutralizing and rinsing well, put it in the tumbler for the nicer finish.
That's a good idea
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Old 2015-04-18, 2:31am
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I had heard that you only want to 'just cover' the mix of media and beads with water.

The impression I got was less than an eighth of an inch above the pile.


Another thing that I heard was to use vacuum cleaner belts when the supplied belts die. They seem to last forever and come in a wide range of sizes.
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Old 2015-04-22, 9:07am
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Thank you all so much for this thread! I purchased the same tumbler a few weeks ago and I've been so intimidated it's still in the box Would anybody mind sharing their favorite grit size? Or does any work?
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Old 2015-04-22, 9:59am
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Depends on the texture your after and what your tumbling to etch glass 1000 seams about right to give it a soft texture.
Different media can be used to clean, harden, deburr, polish, or change surface finishes on metal findings as well.
I have the 33B and it take around 12 hours or so from bottle to faux sea glass with coal slag and bottle glass.
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Old 2015-04-22, 10:12am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AVTrout View Post
Karen, I love that string of beads, both etched and not etched! I can't help but think that the plastic pellets act as a kind of cushy insulation vs. an aide to abrasion. Hmmmmm..... I think I'll try what you suggested next time. Thanks! I'll update in a bit.
So what were the results?
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Old 2015-04-25, 2:17pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mina View Post
That's a good idea
A great idea! -- I guess quotes within quotes disappear...
The idea of an acid etch followed by tumbling.

I got some glass pony beads and also added some little chunks of purchased boro stringer (about 3mm, I think).

Thanks Alexis, for starting a wonderful thread.
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Old 2015-04-26, 12:47pm
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My tumbler barrel exterior wear was remedied by putting wide rubber bands around the outside for friction/grippiness. They wear out and can be replaced.
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Old 2015-05-25, 2:49pm
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I am moving away from acid etch myself, and I was wondering if you clean your beads before tumbling? Or does the tumbling also clean out the bead release?


Aimee
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Old 2015-05-25, 3:23pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PolychromeBeads View Post
I am moving away from acid etch myself, and I was wondering if you clean your beads before tumbling? Or does the tumbling also clean out the bead release?


Aimee

I have heard that using real pipe cleaners from a tobacco shop to string you beads on while in a tumbler will do a lot to clean out the bead release. The kind from a tobacco shop will have tiny wires cross twisted in to them where as the cute ones for kids will not.

But without the pipe cleaners there is not anything small enough in the tumbler mix to get inside the holes to work against the bead release.
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Old 2015-05-25, 3:38pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedslug View Post
I have heard that using real pipe cleaners from a tobacco shop to string you beads on while in a tumbler will do a lot to clean out the bead release. The kind from a tobacco shop will have tiny wires cross twisted in to them where as the cute ones for kids will not.

But without the pipe cleaners there is not anything small enough in the tumbler mix to get inside the holes to work against the bead release.
Sorry, that doesn't make sense. 1000 grit abrasive is quite small, like sand. I'm sure it will go through the holes. I just wondered if I'm wasting my time cleaning them first.

I guess I'll have to toss one in un-cleaned to see.


Aimee
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Old 2015-05-25, 3:42pm
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My thought was there was not any force to move the grit through the holes with enough umph to abrade the bead release.
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Old 2015-05-25, 3:55pm
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Ah - now that could be Phill. I was thinking the movement of the tumbler would be enough.

I definitely think this calls for an experiment!

...not today, though. I have a migraine and I do not want to listen to the tumbler!

I will test this out and post my results in the next day or two. It would certainly be nice to skip the cleaning step for tumbled beads.


Aimee
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Old 2015-05-25, 5:15pm
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I heard the pipe cleaner trick works good.


If I had a tumbler it would be in the garage under a couple of boxes.
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Old 2015-05-27, 7:04pm
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I've been cleaning out bead release by stringing beads on twisted safety wire, in the tumbler. I twist it with a drill motor and and bench vice. Works great.
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Old 2015-05-28, 7:48pm
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Okay, I just washed up a bunch of beads from the tumbler. Some were old ones that had not been cleaned, others were new ones and I did clean them. I found that the "softer" glass (opaque colors) came out with very clean bead holes, whereas the "harder" glass (transparents) still had bead release stuck in there. But it looks to me like cleaning after tumbling is the way to go. Interesting!

This was only the second time I have tumbled beads. The first time I did all opaque beads, for a specific project. This time I did a mix of opaque and transparent. I tumbled them for 3 hours, which I think is the most common time for soda-lime glass. The opaque ones look lovely, but the transparents aren't as nice as the ones I etch with acid. They have a rougher look, and almost a white haziness to them that I don't care for.

Here's what may be my problem: I see everyone is using 1000 grit silicon carbide. I realized just now that I bought 1000 grit aluminum oxide by mistake. If I get the SC do you think I will get better results?




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