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Vibratory Rock Tumblers: How They Work & Which One Is Best?

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If you appreciate locating and polishing rocks or stones, you will be aware that there are two sorts of rock tumblers, one of which is a vibratory rock tumbler. If you want to know why vibratory rock tumblers are better for some stones than others, you should look at how they function. Fortunately, I have researched the subject to make it easier to understand.

Vibratory rock tumblers don’t traditionally tumble rocks. Instead, vibratory rock tumblers use vibration and the combination of the supplies in the tumbler to chip at, smooth out, and polish your stones. Many believe the best vibratory rock tumbler is the Eastwood Electric Vibratory Tumbler.

Below, you will not only learn how vibratory rock tumblers function, but I will also explain additional factors to consider. Other subjects covered include the best vibratory rock tumbler, how to use one, how noisy vibratory tumblers are and how to lessen their noise.

If you are interested in checking out the best vibratory rock tumbler, you can find it here (Amazon link).

What Is A Vibratory Rock Tumbler?
What Is A Vibratory Rock Tumbler?

What Is A Vibratory Rock Tumbler?

Vibratory rock tumblers are machines made to help you smooth jagged edges and polish rocks or stones. If you are a seller of cut and polished rocks, this machine saves you a lot of time in the smoothing and polishing process. Vibratory tumblers allow you to shape, round, and polish stones in more significant amounts.

Are Vibratory Tumblers Good For Rocks?

Depending on the type of rock and the result you are looking to achieve, vibratory tumblers do a great job. Vibratory rock tumblers are known to be faster than rotary tumblers if you wish to polish and round the edges of your stone. 

Vibratory rock tumblers are better when used with rocks or stones that are not too hard. However, vibratory tumblers tend to keep the rough shape of the rock or stone after tumbling.

Rocks or stones tumbled in a vibratory tumbler appear much more naturally formed than rotary tumblers, which have an artificially rounded appearance.

What Does A Vibratory Rock Tumbler Do?

Vibratory Rock Tumblers: Use vibration to smooth and polish your stones or rocks. After cutting rocks or stones, tumblers can round and polish the edges. 

A vibratory rock tumbler may also be used on uncut stones or rocks, and even easy varieties can be rounded and polished because this machine prevents chipping and cracking.

How Does A Vibratory Rock Tumbler Work?

Vibratory rock tumblers use vibration and its effects on stone to soften the edges and polish stones to be shiny. By adding stones and other ingredients, called a medium, into your tumbler, you allow the machine to cause a kind of erosion that slowly rounds the sharp edges of stones. The combination of time, rocks, medium, grit, and water is often called a recipe.

Vibratory rock tumblers are a lot gentler in the tumbling process as weight is used to vibrate the chamber without allowing the stones to collide, break, or chip.

Minor impacts between rocks produce the result of smooth and polished stones, other components in the chamber, and the chamber itself, which causes a type of erosion.

If you are on one of the first steps of the tumbling process, you will probably have some grit in the chamber. The grit and other ingredients in the chamber will serve the same purpose as sandpaper when hand polishing a stone. 

If you are on the later or polishing steps, you will usually have an agent in the chamber that serves as a polish. This polish is applied to all the stones simultaneously by using the same vibration that erodes the edges and corners of the rocks to make them smooth.

Are Vibratory Rock Tumblers Loud?

The noise level of your vibratory tumbler dramatically depends on the quality of the motor, the material of the bowl, and the size and kind of stones you use. When buying a rock tumbler of any kind, you can expect that your machine will be pretty noisy while it’s running.

Vibratory tumblers with higher-quality motors will usually run slightly softer than those with lower-quality motors. If your tumbler bowl is made of metal or hard plastic, the chances are that it’ll also be quite a bit louder than a tumbler with a softer or rubber bowl.

Another thing to keep in mind is the number of rocks and the kind of stones you’re tumbling. Smaller stones tend to make less noise than bigger stones that clash more often.

You can also reduce the amount of noise by finding the correct number of stones for your tumbler, as too many and too few could both increase the noise level.

Additionally, there are some other things to consider when discussing the noise level of a rock tumbler. Usually, there is much more noise in the area when your rock tumbler’s lid is off, so it is best to keep it on tightly.

Secondly, if your floor is uneven, your tumbler could be making extra noise as it moves around on the floor. Make sure to use a flat and steady work surface.

Lastly, by placing something over your rock tumbler or positioning your rock tumbler on a softer surface, like a carpet, you can also substantially reduce the noise. 

TIP: It’s no secret that rock tumbling is a process that requires patience. Check out exact values for different rocks in the article below:

How Long To Tumble Rocks? Exact Values For Different Rocks

How To Use A Vibratory Rock Tumbler?

Using a vibratory rock tumbler is relatively easy if you know what you’re doing. It is essential to realize that you will always use steps to help you accomplish the best results.

The steps include things like adding water, changing or adding grit, and keeping an eye on the stones in the tumbler to ensure you are not over-tumbling them.

Though you get general instructions when getting a vibratory tumbler, it would be best to ask others for help or find a recipe to give you the best results. Recipes differ for different stones, but below is a basic recipe to give you a basic idea of how to use a vibratory tumbler.

Step one: Course grit

The first stage of your tumbling process will usually start with coarse grit. You will need to fill your bowl to about 75% capacity with stones and other media, like plastic pellets, if you need them. Once your stones are in the tumbler, you should add half a tablespoon of grit per pound of rock in your tumbler.

You will also have to add water to the tumbler until the grit coats the stones in the chamber. This first step is to shape your stone and start rounding edges and corners.

Step two: Medium grit

After you’ve tumbled your stones for the recommended amount of time needed for the first step, you can wash them off and start the second step.

The second step is the same as the first step, except that this time, you will be adding half a tablespoon of medium grit per pound of stone instead. This step in the process helps smooth your stone a bit more.

Step three: Fine grit

Again, like the previous step, you will have to rinse off your stones properly before repeating the process the last time. It would be best to use fine grit for the final round of shaping and smoothing this time.

Like before, you will also need to add water and extra media if required. This step is the last one that requires you to add grit to your tumbler.

Step four and five: Polish and Burnish

The latter two processes are outlined here, as the polishing phase is only required if you believe it is necessary.

Like in the previous stage, you will add your stones and some water. However, for this stage, you will need to apply some polish. This process will result in shiny, nicely polished stones.

Check out this video on how to use a vibratory rock tumbler.

Important to remember:

You must remember to wash your stones and barrel properly between steps to ensure no grit remains that can harm your stones. I must also state that some rock types do not require the coarse grit step when using a vibratory tumbler.

TIP: Once you have tumbled your own rocks and have loads of gorgeously polished gemstones, you may start wondering what you can do with them. Check out simple and clever ideas in the article below:

What Can You Do with Tumbled Rocks? 10 Simple & Clever Ideas

Best Vibratory Rock Tumblers

Now that you know what vibratory rock tumblers are and how to use them, which one is considered the best? Luckily, I have put in the effort to research this as well. Below are what I regard to be the best option and a runner-up.

The best vibratory tumbler I could find is the Eastwood vibratory tumbler. This machine is made with a high-quality motor and other high-quality parts to ensure it can be used for a long time. I have also listened to this machine, and though it is not exactly quiet, it is one of the least noisy machines I have heard.

This tumbler also ideally allows you to tumble other things, such as smaller pieces of metal, so that you can use it for a variety of objects.

This machine also has a large bowl, allowing you to tumble a lot of stones simultaneously, which is especially useful if you use your tumbler in a shop.

Along with the size of this machine and the high-quality nature of its components, it is also a very steady machine. The base and stand of this tumbler widen to the bottom, ensuring that you will have minimum rattling and that the lid can be tightly secured to provide even more noise reduction.

With all the factors mentioned above and after reading some of the reviews of this product, it is clear why this vibratory tumbler has an Amazon rating of 4.5 stars.

Click here to learn more about the Eastwood Tumbler (Amazon link)

My alternative to the Eastwood tumbler is another high-quality VIYUKI tumbler. VIYUKI is well-known for producing durable and high-quality rock tumblers, which are widely utilized in the community. VIYUKI not only ensures quality and a good-looking finished product, but they are also confident enough in their tumbler to offer a warranty if necessary.

This tumbler comes with a lid that can also be tightened to reduce noise and has a very stable stand to ensure less noise from wobbling. This machine is also straightforward to use and has an easy on-and-off switch. 

Along with the product itself, this package also comes with three bags of media for different uses. The given media is explicitly made to improve the use of this machine.

Considering all the aspects of this tumbler mentioned above, I agree with and support this tumbler’s Amazon rating of 3.5 stars.

Click here to learn more about the VIYUKI Tumbler (Amazon link)

TIP: It can be a very exciting experience turning a jagged piece of stone into a beautiful gleaming gem. But how to do it without a rock tumbler? Check out the step-by-step guide in the article below:

Can You Tumble Rocks Without a Tumbler? Step-by-Step Guide

How Long Does It Take To Polish Rocks In Vibratory Rock Tumbler?

The time it takes to polish rocks in a vibratory tumbler depends on the type of stones you want to shine, the quality of the tumbler, the medium used, and the number of steps you need.

Harder stones require longer tumbles as they take longer to become smooth. If you want to do only the last step in the process, which is not recommended unless your stones are already smooth, it should take around two days for hard rocks.

If you need to complete the process of shaping, smoothing, and polishing hard stones, you will be looking at around 14 days in total.

The steps mentioned before significantly impact how long your stones will take to finish. The first step takes the longest time, being anywhere between 3 and 7 days. The other steps take around two days to get the harder stones.

Your time could vary drastically for softer stones and can be lowered by about three days on average. Again, the step can take up to 6 days to complete. The other steps can take between 1.5 and 2 days to finish. 

I recommend reading up on the stones you would like to tumble. The best way to ensure good results is by finding a recipe made for your specific type of stone. It would be best to note that burnishing is not always required or desired and averages between 1 to 2 hours after all the other steps have been finished.

BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):


How your vibratory rock tumbler works can depend on many different variables. Some aspects that can change how long it takes or works include the type of stone, the type of media, and the size of the rocks. It is always best to ensure you buy a good quality product for tumbling your stones to ensure less noise and a better result.

TIP: Kids love seeing ordinary rocks transform into dazzling gemstones before their eyes. It brings science to life for them. Check out the best rock tumblers for kids in the article below:

Best Rock Tumblers for Kids in 2022: Options For Diff Ages