We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Rock Tumbler?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A rock tumbler is a device used by lapidarists to shape and polish the rocks that they work with. A lapidary is someone who works with rocks, either as a hobby or a profession. Hobbyists may use a tumbler to polish rocks that they have collected for display, while professionals such as jewelers use a tumbler to shape and prepare rocks in preparation for use in finished pieces. Because of the wide range of people using these devices, they come in an assortment of styles ranging from simple desktop models for people just experimenting with rock tumbling to industrial models for use in large jewelry studios.

When rock is first mined or collected, it is usually rough, misshaped, and pitted. A skilled lapidary can see the potential of a hunk of rock like jade or quartz, and use a rock tumbler to bring out the natural beauty of the stone. First, the rough stone is broken into chunks of different sizes, and then put into a tumbler with coarse grained grit. The tumbler is a cylinder which turns with the assistance of a small motor. After several days have passed, the rocks are checked, and if the lapidary is satisfied, they are washed and tumbled with a smaller grained grit. This process is repeated several times, with the grit getting progressively finer, until the stones are ready for polishing in a tumbler set aside specifically for this purpose. When the rocks emerge, they will be much smaller than they were originally, but they will also be polished and glowing with the natural beauty of the stone.

As a hobby, rock tumbling calls for a great deal of patience and a workspace which can be soundproofed, because tumblers must run for a long time before the rocks are completely polished. A tumbler essentially speeds up the natural processes of nature, which will polish rocks eventually over centuries. Even with a tumbler, however, turning a piece of rough stone into a polished specimen can take several weeks.

A basic rock tumbler works through rotation, but some lapidary supply companies make tumblers which use ultrasound or vibration. These tumblers tend to be more costly, but they are also quicker and quieter, and produce a range of rock shapes as well. Ultimately, the choice of what type of tumbler to get is up to the individual purchasing it. If you are considering rock tumbling as a hobby, you may want to consider acquiring a tumbler designed for small rocks until you have decided whether or not tumbling is for you, at which point you can purchase more costly big tumblers which can handle more weight, and bigger rocks.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon51473 — On Nov 06, 2009

you could use a replacement motor from an existing tumbler company.

By anon17261 — On Aug 26, 2008

i'm building a tumbler. what motor should i use? rpm's?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.