Thinking of adding some finishing touches to your laser-cut parts? Tumbling is a great way to impart a uniform finish and remove burrs from a wide variety of metal parts, and should be part of your product design or hobbyist toolkit. Now, let’s learn all about it.
Back in the day
Did you tumble rocks as a kid? I did, using a Skilcraft electric rock tumbler, guaranteed to “Convert Rough Rock into Sparkling Gem Stones.” I received it for my 10th birthday, and still have a few of those not-so-sparkly gems hanging about on my bookshelves. In fact, of all the Christmas and birthday gifts received as a young boy, that tumbler was my favorite—excepting, perhaps, the Daisy Red Ryder BB-Gun I received two years later. No, I didn’t shoot my eye out.
It was easy to use. Fill the thing halfway or so with rocks, add enough water to cover them, toss in some abrasive media and a drop of dish detergent, and set her spinning. Sometimes the lid would leak, and I’d have to smear a little Vaseline on the threads before screwing it on, but it was otherwise flawless. With a week or so, voila! Those dirty old stones would shine like the Hope Diamond (well, almost).
Having scoured the surrounding area for would-be gems, I was soon sticking all kinds of household objects into the Professional All Rubber Tumbling Barrel with Precision-Fit Inner Lid. Pennies, nickels, and dimes. Car keys. Nails and screws from my Dad’s garage. My Mom’s dinner ring. The outcome of this last tumbling project was not one of my better childhood memories, and I stuck with rocks from that day forward.
After the Skilcraft
If you’re currently ordering, or thinking about ordering, laser-cut parts from online manufacturing service provider SendCutSend, you might be interested to know that the fine folks from Reno, Nevada are fellow tumblers. I know, I was surprised, too. Come to think of it, though, there might have been a brief mention of part tumbling and other finishing processes in another blog post, but the topic deserves a second look.
SendCutSend’s technology is a little different than that of my old Skilcraft, however. For one thing, they only tumble metal laser-cut parts. No car keys or dinner rings, please. There are also some size constraints—nothing smaller than 1″ square or larger than 5″ square—and the parts should be fairly sturdy, which means you’ll have to find another way to shine up those laser-cut spiderweb wall hangings of which you’ve been dreaming.
SendCutSend uses #8 ceramic tumbling media. Ironically, it looks like a bunch of little rocks. It’s a good, all-around abrasive, but comes with a few restrictions. For example, you might not want to tumble certain stainless steel parts with it. And if you want nice, soft edges on harder metals like AR500 armor plate, there are probably better ways to go about it. It’s for these reasons that SendCutSend doesn’t include tumbling as part of its online quoting service, so you should give them a call if you wish to discuss it further. They’re full of good ideas.
P.S. Maybe you don’t like speaking to people on the phone; maybe you don’t want to share the details of your top-secret, sure-to-change-the-world invention. That’s cool. Before you click off to the next site, though, just be aware that there are plenty of tumbling and vibratory finishing systems available, many of them at a surprisingly affordable price. Google it, or email email@example.com for a little free advice.