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13 Clever Tips & Tricks For Rock Tumbling You Should Know

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Rock tumbling can be an enjoyable process of transforming your hunt into something even more beautiful. However, this fun hobby can also be tedious and complicated if you don’t know what to do and take care of your rocks and tumbler.

One of the most important aspects of rock tumbling is to use the instructions with your tumbling machine or search for them online. Yet, it would be best to be careful about the rocks you put in your tumbler. Some of them fit well together, while others might cause some damage that you want to avoid.

Rock Tumbling Tips and Tricks
Rock Tumbling Tips and Tricks

If you are interested in the best rock tumbler made by National Geographic, you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).

Rock Tumbling Tips and Tricks

There is more to rock tumbling than just following manual instructions. To make the best out of your rocks, here are thirteen clever tips and tricks for rock tumbling you should know about and use in your future endeavors!

Use a Plastic Bin

Rock tumbling can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. The barrel’s lid is one of the most common reasons there is a mess after a tumbling project. It can pop off or sometimes even break, leaving you with a lot of mess to clean up.

To avoid this, you can always use a plastic bin to contain your tumbling. You can use a plastic or rubber or even a metal baking pan. What is important is that it needs to be profound. However, some of these options are a bit noisier than others.

The plastic bin is the least noisy option. Keep your tumbler safe or in an area that can contain it if it ever spills or leaks. 

Use Powdered Dish Soap For Better Results

We all want that perfect result when the rock-tumbling process is over. With a little bit of powdered dish soap, about a teaspoon each step, you can maximize the efficiency of your tumbler.

You can use this tip in every step of the tumbling process, from the coarse grit to polishing. Just make sure you do it at the beginning of each step in the rock tumbling process. The dish soap can help prevent grit build-up, keep everything moving, and grinding more efficiently.

Whatever you do, avoid using too much dish soap or liquid soap because it will make a big mess.

Don’t Use the Same Barrel For Polishing

Many people are tempted to do the polishing step in the same barrel where the grit process occurred. However, this can leave you with some bits of coarser-grained grit left in the barrel that can ruin the polish.

If you want to avoid this, use a different barrel for the polishing procedure. It might be another investment, but the results are excellent because you won’t have to deal with any leftover grit from the other steps. 

If you decide to use two different barrels, don’t forget to label them so you don’t mix them up in the future. Keep in mind that even with two barrels, you will still need to thoroughly clean your rocks before moving them to the polishing barrel to ensure that there won’t be any grit pieces.

Don’t Wait Too Long To Clean the Barrel

One great tip to save time and eliminate a lot of hassle is to clean your barrel as soon as possible after using it. You should clean it after each stage of the tumbling process so you won’t have to deal with dried grit later. It is tough to scrape off.

This will also ensure that your next tumbling batch will be successful. Clean the sludge out when it is wet and once the rocks are out. Put the rocks in a water-filled bucket so they won’t dry until the next tumbling step.

Remove Grit Containing Rocks

Many rocks contain grit in their cracks or bottomless pits, and it’s not easy to remove. No matter what you do, that grit will remain, but that doesn’t mean you have to ruin your whole batch.

Remove those cumbersome grit-containing rocks and proceed with the tumbling process with the rest of your batch.

Remember at what stage you took out those rocks and put them back in later with another batch. You might get those rocks cleared in your second or third batch. 

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 all you need to know about tumbling grits in the article below:
Rock Tumbling Grit: Usage, Types, Disposal & Substitutes

Use a Toothbrush

Rock Tumbling Polishing Tips
Rock Tumbling Polishing Tips

Removing grit from your rocks or barrel is a huge hassle in the tumbling process. However, you can make your work easier.

Use an old toothbrush to clean your rocks. Hard-bristled toothbrushes are the best in cleaning grit from rocks, but you can also use soft ones, but it will take more time.

If you don’t get rid of the grit, your rocks won’t look as smooth as they should once the tumbling process is over. Remove the grit after each tumbling stage for the best results.

Cover the Rock Tumbler

Rock tumbling implies a lot of noise. However, you can cover the tumbler to reduce it. You can cover your rock tumbler with a box. A cardboard box and some blankets or pillows might do the trick. 

You can use the same box the tumbler came in to reduce the noise. Just make sure it doesn’t rub against the machine.

Don’t use Small or Thin Rocks

Don’t use too thin or tiny rocks to ensure a successful tumbling batch. You should examine each rock individually and check for imperfections, size, and thickness. If they are too thin, they will eventually break and hinder your progress with the other rocks.

If the rock is too small, it might get crushed entirely, and you waste a fine specimen. None of the rocks you use should have deep cracks, and you shouldn’t use rocks from other batches if they are too worn out.

If you put the wrong rocks in the tumbler, they will break, scratch the other rocks, and potentially damage your tumbling machine. 

Save Tumbling Media

 Saving your tumbling media can save you money in the long run, but you must know how to do it. The trick is simple. Use the same tumbling media on the step it was previously used on, but don’t try to use it on different steps because it will do more bad than good.

No matter what type of tumbling media you use, plastic beads or ceramic, store it in a Tupperware container when you are done with it. Rinse and dry it first.

While storing the tumbling media, one thing to keep in mind is to ensure that the container is appropriately covered with a lid so no other debris can get inside.

Reused tumbling media will save you money and yield better results as it gets smoother.

TIP: Do you feel like you are throwing away perfectly good grit? Can you reuse tumbling grit? Find out the answer in the article below:
Can Rock Tumbler Grit Be Reused? You Should Know This

Use Different Rock Sizes

Many rockhound enthusiasts use the exact rock sizes in their tumbling process. However, this isn’t a requirement. You should instead focus on a variety of sizes for the best results because the specimens will grind against each other with more contact points. 

If there are more contact points, you will generally have better results, yet, you should avoid using too small rocks because they might break.

Instead, you can use ceramic media to fill in the gaps of smaller rocks. You can also use it if you don’t have enough variety. This will ensure a smoother tumbling process and incredible results.

Keep Track of Your Work

Sometimes, the best tips and tricks you learn in any domain come with experience, and the same is true with rock tumbling. As you begin your adventure, you should record your rock and its results and see what works and what doesn’t for you.

Each batch of rocks is unique and will yield slightly different results. However, it is essential to write everything down and experiment with them, be it with new materials, techniques, or equipment.

By writing everything down, you will learn the art of rock tumbling faster. You will easily remember why something worked and something didn’t and continuously improve your technique.

You should keep track of grit size and type, rock types, sizes, date steps and conclusions, tumbler speed, tumbling media, and the results.

It is essential to understand your results and improve them. In the rock tumbling world, it’s straightforward to forget what step you are on or what you did and didn’t do. Keep notes every time to make your process more reliable.

TIP: Rock tumblers require some maintenance, as you need to oil them regularly to keep them running smoothly. Check out the best oil for rock tumblers in the article below:
Step-By-Step Guide: How To Properly Oil Your Rock Tumbler

Use Hard, Dense, and Smooth Rocks

If you are a beginner or not, you know how vital the Mohs hardness scale is. If you don’t know about it, you should study it. The Mohs hardness scale determines the hardness of various materials, including rocks.

Rocks that are harder than eight on the Mohs scale might not yield the best results, but on the other hand, rocks that are softer than 5.5 on the Mohs scale will break away. You can purchase a hardness testing kit or use a knife to test the hardness of your rocks. 

Generally, using rocks of similar hardness scales in your tumbling process would be best. Hard, dense, and smooth rocks are among the best choices.

If you want to test the smoothness of a rock, break it in two and observe its surface. If you don’t want to break your rock, analyze it for gritty or grainy spots. If they are absent, your rock is smooth.

Have Patience

The last tip on this list shouldn’t surprise you because patience comes with its rewards, as with most things. Rock tumbling requires a lot of time and patience, and the more patient you are, the better the results. 

Your rock-tumbling batch might take days, weeks, or even months to reach the desired results. Just make sure that you always check up on them. Please remove the softer rocks faster than the harder ones because you may risk breaking them apart.

TIP: It’s no secret that rock tumbling is a process that requires patience, as it can take several days for your specimens to see the light of day and shine, finally. Find out how long it takes in the article below:
How Long To Tumble Rocks? Exact Values For Different Rocks

FAQ About Rock Tumbling

Still did not find the answer to your questions about finding a labradorite? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

Do you leave the rock tumbler on all day?

It would be best if you left your rock tumbler on during the day and night to ensure the best results. If you turn it off, you might use more electricity and lengthen the time, apart from possibly having other tumbling issues. You shouldn’t be concerned about the noise as it will grow more silent as the rocks get rounder.

How do you tell if a rock is hard enough to tumble?

To identify the best rocks for tumbling, you should perform a hardness test. If the rocks collected can scratch a piece of glass, they are harder than 5.5 on the Mohs scale, which is suitable for tumbling.

You can also use a steel knife to scratch the rock. If it doesn’t scratch the rock, they are even better candidates having a Mohs scale above 6.5.

Can you put random rocks in a rock tumbler?

It would be best if you didn’t put random rocks in a rock tumbler. Instead, you should select rocks of equal hardness scales. They should be hard, dense, free of voids, pore spaces, and fractures and have a smooth texture.

What rocks should NOT be tumbled?

You shouldn’t tumble gritty, grainy, or sandy textured rocks. Avoid using tiny rocks or specimens with voids, pore spaces, or fractures in general. They will also break and destroy your entire tumbling batch and damage your tumbling machine.

Can you over-tumble rocks?

Tumbling rocks can be long, lasting from a couple of days to weeks and even months. However, you can over-tumble rocks.

For example, soft rocks can be over-tumbled and ground away to nothing. Rocks, such as agates, are harder and aren’t so quickly over-tumbled. To tumble rocks for extended periods, you should use identical rock specimens.

If you are interested in the best rock tumbler made by National Geographic, you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).


Rock tumbling is a fascinating and gratifying process. If you do your steps right, the results are worth it. Use these thirteen tips and tricks for your rock-tumbling process and witness the results!

TIP: Rock collectors know how hard it is to find those perfect specimens for tumbling. Check out the best places to find rocks for tumbling in nature in the article below:
7 Best Places to Find Rocks for Tumbling in Nature