Skip to Content

Best Rock Tumblers in 2022: Beginner and Hobbyist Options

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.

Purchasing a rock tumbler might feel overwhelming for newcomers and exciting for experts. With numerous options on the market, it’s essential to have a clear strategy before making a purchase.

The top pick for rock tumblers is the Lortone 3A, known for its simplicity, quiet operation, and durability. For beginners seeking affordability and value, the National Geographic tumbler is an excellent alternative. As for hobbyists, the Tumble-Bee TB-14 stands out in 2021 with its robust construction and generous capacity.

Tumblers are hard to look through. That is no secret. I will break down our choices and give you a framework to evaluate any tumbler you see for sale.

What is the Best Rock Tumbler to Buy?
What is the Best Rock Tumbler to Buy?

If you are interested in checking out the best rock tumblers, you can find them here (Amazon link).

What is the Best Rock Tumbler to Buy?

The Lortone 3A single barrel tumbler, available on Amazon, upholds Lortone’s renowned legacy of offering straightforward yet high-quality tumblers. This model surpasses others in terms of value for money, persisting long after pricier alternatives have faltered.

Even if you find yourself still undecided after perusing this article, particularly if you’re considering it as a gift, opting for this tumbler will leave you satisfied.

Lortone, a family-owned enterprise headquartered in the Northwest, embodies transparency and practicality amidst the vast lapidary industry. Their products deliver as promised, devoid of any elaborate marketing gimmicks.

A default warranty backs the 3A tumbler and offers replacement parts for some of the more susceptible components. This assurance underscores the tumbler’s quality.

Its design boasts notable features. Firstly, the barrel is constructed from hard rubber to minimize noise, a feature that surprises many users with its remarkably quiet operation. Secondly, the barrel rotates via friction with a pin underneath, ensuring the motor isn’t burdened with an off-centre weight but rather a small metal pole. This design choice enhances the durability of the Lortone 3A, a crucial aspect in the care of rock tumblers.

Barrel Capacity3 lb
ReliabilityState of the art
Motor OperationWarm
Lortone 3A Ratings

What to Look for When Buying a Rock Tumbler

What to Look for When Buying a Rock Tumbler
What to Look for When Buying a Rock Tumbler

Rock tumbler choices all boil down to a combination of a few important aspects: 

  1. Barrel size,
  2. Vibratory vs. rotary
  3. Construction quality (also equipment lifetime)

The primary hurdle for novice buyers of rock tumblers is discerning design elements that significantly influence usability and longevity.

Several pivotal decisions must be made early in the search process, significantly narrowing down the available options. Each of these decisions is thoroughly explored in this section. The initial consideration revolves around the frequency of usage, leading us to the first crucial attribute of a tumbler.

Choosing Your Barrel Size

Are you a rockhound bringing in a few loads every weekend? What about a rock shop owner looking to sell tumbled stones or jewellery made from them?

Are you just entering the world of rocks and minerals and looking to try out this beautiful hobby? Depending on your situation, a barrel of a different size will serve you best.

Each load of rocks in a rotary tumbler can take 4 weeks or even more if the stones are especially hard. This must be taken into account when you’re looking at hobbies, budgets, or pro-options.

Whatever the barrel size is, just do a quick calculation to see how many rocks you could tumble with it in a year and check if that fits your needs.

For example, our top pick, the Lortone 3A single barrel tumbler (Amazon link), has a capacity of 3 pounds so that you could get 36 pounds of tumbled stone out of it per year, more than enough for a beginner, but might not be enough for the avid hobbyist.

Now that you’ve decided on the ideal barrel size, you need to decide on the tumbler type.

Rotary vs. Vibratory Tumblers

Rotary tumblers and vibratory tumblers have a single fundamental difference, which makes them very different beasts in the rock tumbling world.

For a brief introduction, rotary tumblers spin a horizontal axis barrel filled with rocks, water, and abrasive – relying on collisions between all the components, facilitated by gravity, to smooth the rocks.

Vibratory tumblers do less tumbling. They fill a container with abrasive rocks and vibrate this container – relying on small movements and friction to smooth the rocks. Check out the Tumbler explainer article for a more in-depth explanation of how they both work!

Because they work differently, they fundamentally change how you will use the rock tumbler. We have recommended rotary tumblers in this article because they are more common among the entry-level crowd and are more built for at-home use. 

In order to choose, take these factors into account:

  1. Tumbled rock shape
  2. Sound level
  3. Speed of tumbling

Because they involve fewer collisions, vibratory tumblers will change the shape of your raw stones less than rotary tumblers. Rather, they smooth the stones out in the general shape that they started in.

This also makes these tumblers achieve a smooth, polished end product quicker – up to two times quicker. On the other hand, rotary tumblers can be quieter and exert a less piercing noise frequency.

Noise LevelHigherLower
Noise FrequencyHigh pitchOscillatory
Speed3-4 days per load4-7 days per load
PopularityAmong ExpertsAmong beginners
Other UsesCasings, coinsMostly rocks
Vibratory vs. Rotary Tumblers

Construction Quality

As with any product, but exacerbated by the fact that tumblers are mechanical, involve moving pieces, and generally operate around the clock, the more inexpensive options will have a shorter life expectancy because they are made with fewer quality designs and materials. Lower-quality tumblers will also be louder.

While this is to be expected, just because a rock tumbler is affordable does not mean it is cheap and low quality. Many budget options can last years on end.

Therefore, I want to give you a few rules of thumb to choose an affordable option without sacrificing too much quality.

When you are looking for a quieter rotary tumbler, check to make sure the inside of the barrel is lined with a good thickness of rubber. Commonly, cheaper tumblers have rubber that quickly rips, leading to low-quality stones and louder operations.

Mechanical parts break; that is just a fact of life. A sign of a tumbler that is built to last is that it will come with some spare parts, such as rubber belts connecting to the motor or a wrench.

Another telltale sign is if you see a lot of people online asking for replacement barrels. Of course, this can just mean that the barrel is low quality, but it more often means that the main mechanical construction outlasts many barrels.  

The last trick to determining quality is more nuanced. You would not guess it, but the main way rock tumbler barrels break is by opening and closing them while reloading.

Always look for simplicity and rubber connections in these openings. Not only will they make your life much easier and cleaner, but they will also signal a higher quality product.

TIP: Check out the complete comparison guide if you are interested in understanding all the differences between rotary and vibratory rock tumblers:
Rotary vs Vibratory Rock Tumbler: Which One To Buy & Use

What is the Best Rock Tumbler for the Beginner?

We opted for a beginner-friendly option with a similar, albeit smaller, design concept. Despite its compact size and entry-level status, the National Geographic tumbler (available on Amazon) has garnered a solid reputation over time, offering excellent value to its users.

Although not the cheapest option available, it stands out for its quieter operation, prolonged durability, and superior performance compared to its more budget-friendly counterparts. In essence, the added value obtained by investing a bit more in this budget-friendly tumbler is well justified.

The National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler (also on Amazon) employs the same spinning pin design as the Lortone 3A, along with a rubber barrel. However, it boasts several additional features tailored specifically to beginners or children.

All the moving components are securely sealed, and access to the motor is not readily available to curious hands. Furthermore, it includes an automatic shutoff timer, addressing the common issue of forgetting to stop and reload the tumbler.

Barrel Capacity1 lb
ReliabilityMedium – Safety Focused
Motor OperationWarm
National Geographic Intro Tumbler Ratings

Rock Tumbler Starter Kit for Beginners

National Geographic also makes the best tumbling starter kit of 2021 (Amazon link). Starter kits are especially interesting because tumbling is so customizable that whenever a kit gives more diverse options, it is usually a great pick.

And what does this tumbling starter kit contain?

This starter kit contains half of a pound of stones to try out tumbling with. One of the most interesting and fascinating aspects of tumbling, no matter what level you are at, is getting to know the mineral you are tumbling.

It goes through such a transformation in colour, shape, texture, and clarity from its raw shape to its tumbled shape that it is interesting to know the “whys” and “hows” of the mineral to see how they affect the tumbling process.

This kit facilitates this interest by including 9 different types of minerals in this half-pound sample rocks and explains the minerals in the instructions.

The instructions also contain fun facts about each mineral and information about how the tumbling process works in relation to how the natural process of smoothing and rounding is carried out. 

The last important piece of any starter kit is the abrasives. This kit comes with a small amount of abrasive, enough to take the sample minerals through each step of the process.

It’s great to have this small amount of abrasive as a starter because it lets you see a typical process before you choose how you want to conduct your own tumbling processes.

Some people choose 3 or 5 steps for their tumbling process, and some change the process depending on the stones. Because grit abrasive is usually only found in bulk, this small amount is a much-appreciated sample.

TIP: Every tumbler can go wrong from time to time. Therefore, it is good to know what can be the cause and how to fix it. Check out the most common reasons why your rock tumbler leaks and how to fix it:
6 Reasons Why Your Rock Tumbler Leaks and How to Fix it

Best Rock Tumbler for the Hobbyist

The Tumble-Bee TB-14 model (Amazon link) is our favourite hobbyist option. For the curious hobbyist, this tumbler will be everything you need. It is simple, hard-working, and built to last. 

It has a similar design to the Lortone 3A – which we have found to be the most efficient design on the market.

The motor spins a pin on the bottom, which turns a hard rubber barrel through friction, while the end of the barrel is held in place by a pin. This design differs from the Lorton 3A in how the motor is cooled, and the structure of the base of the tumbler is sturdier.

This Tumble-Bee model (Amazon link) has two main perks over the Lortone 3A. The fan-cooled design is more efficient at cooling the motor (warm motors can be a sign that they will wear out earlier, though that has not been a problem for the Lortone model).

However, because of this rule of thumb, Tumble-Bee has installed a thermal overload protector on this model, making sure that the equipment shuts down if it gets too hot. The barrel also can hold 1 pound more stones, which is a big improvement for a high-volume rockhound. 

When you buy it, this model includes a moderate amount of grit to try out the standard 4-step process and the abrasives to go along with it. It also comes with oil and a wrench to facilitate working with the equipment – a clear sign that this tumbler is built for the long run. 

This tumbler (Amazon link) is simple, with not much operation other than an on-off switch (and operation instructions, of course). For the average hobbyist, this is more than enough because creativity comes from what is put inside!

Barrel Capacity4 lb
Motor OperationCool
Tumble-Bee TB-14 Ratings

TIP: Rock tumblers require some maintenance, though, as you will need to oil them regularly to keep them running smoothly. Check out the complete guide on oiling your rock tumbler in the article below:
Step-By-Step Guide: How To Properly Oil Your Rock Tumbler

Best Rock Tumbler for under $100

The best tumbler for under $100 may surprise you. It is actually our top pick for rock tumblers in 2022 – the Lortone 3A (Amazon link). This incredible construction does not run you very much at all, and that value is why we have picked it as our top choice this year. 

To reiterate, the Lortone 3A wins because of its all-around value. Its simple, no-frills design affords it a reasonable cost while allowing the motor to run for years. Its hard rubber barrel ensures it’s among the quietest of the rotary tumblers and is made for at-home use.

We recommend that if you are looking into the hobby of rock tumbling and have any chance of carrying it with you for at least a year or two, this Lortone will not disappoint you.

However, take our advice and make sure the 3-pound capacity works for you, and do not store it anywhere hot, or you might find its lifetime less than expected. Check it out on Amazon!

TIP: Rock tumblers use various types of grit in the multiple stages of the rock tumbling process to shape, smooth, and polish the stones. Find out the complete guide about tumbling grit in the article below:
Rock Tumbling Grit: Usage, Types, Disposal & Substitutes