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I Forge Iron

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The chain is a good idea. I built a tumbler from a 55 gl. steel drum with the removable lid. I drive it by running a belt over the drum and down to the motor pulley for right at 37 RPM.

Vibrating it with a chain too is a MUCH better option.


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Excellent post. I have long considered making one myself from a steel 55 gal drum.

Couple of questions:

My wife's silversmithing tumbler has an octagon interior to help scoop up the medium (and items) so that they are impacted by the medium more effectively. Is the interior smooth or did you include small paddles or other fixtures to do something similar?

What medium are you using? (Black beauty, steel shot, ceramic shot, etc)

Another thing I've done with her tumbler when I use it on small steel items (such as horseshoe nail rings) is to have a tumbler drum loaded with lightly oiled sawdust for a final high polish that lightly coats the items so they don't rust while awaiting sale.

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Hello everyone,

Sorry for the delay, I have been out for a while. I'll take some more pics for you to look at and post them sometime this week. Here are the answers to some of the questions. The pending photos will help explain more.

The barrel is a thick heavy grade plastic. It used to hold floor wax. I chose plastic because I thought it would be quieter and hold up better than the steel drums. That being said, with the chain it's pretty noisy.

The chain is held on using compression. I put on a 2" x 1/8" strip around the drum and then wrapped the chain around that. I then squeezed the heck out of it until the two ends of the chain came together. I then put 2 pop rivets into the strip just to keep it from sliding.

The media I'm using is very fine glass beads because I like the high luster finish. It's important to give the work a couple day soak in vinigar to remove all the oxide so that the media will have an easy go of polishing.

I have 3 fins inside made from the plastic concrete edgers that you can buy at Home Depot. I like them because they have reinforcing supports that run the whole length.

I don't think this was a question but I'm using an industrial sewing machine motor to power the tumbler. I got it off Ebay and chose it because it has 2 ways of achieving different speeds and came ready to work with an on/off switch, rubber mounts, bolts, and adjustable belt tensioner attached.

Now... "Leeeets get ready to tuuuuuble!!!"

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I should add...

The barrel is held down using gravity alone. That's another nice thing about using gears to bite the chain as apposed to a belt which has to loop both around the barrel and a pulley. With the chain you can just grab hold of the barrel, lift it off, and you don't have to worry about undoing any belts or things of that nature. That being said, big chain may be hard to stumble on and if your looking to buy one the belt is a much cheaper option. Of course with the belts you don't get the cool Mad Max look...

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  • 2 weeks later...

OK I know I said I would post more photos but I have been busy getting all of the bugs out. Things coming loose and stuff of that nature. I'll get some more pics up as soon as I'm sure it's working at 100%

Question, I was using glass beads to achieve a polished look but it does not seem to be working all that well. I'm thinking of using saw dust or small wood chips, the kind you use in hamster cages, and mixing that with some kind of inexpensive polishing compound for ferrous metals. Does anyone know of a good compound?

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i didnt realise you could tumble metal things! scuse my ignorance but is this process for getting it polished ? would love to see some pics of the pieces when they have been tumbled and would they have differnt quality to pieces polished in other ways? thanks! :)

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