April 3, 2008

Boy, do I have a bunch of red rocks

Posted in Tumbler tagged , , at 1:09 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I’ve been slacking a bit, been doing other stuff. But I finally checked on the tumblers. Lots of progress. As I think I wrote last time, my smaller tumbler didn’t quite have enough material to run a full load on the next stage. So the past week plus more material was tumbling at stage 2, so that it could be combined with the previous material for a full load. That was completed today, and now the rocks are happily rolling in stage 3 grit (fine, or pre-polish). So a couple more weeks, and there will be more happy shiny rocks. Of course that means I need to get cracking on the last batch and making them into jewelry *hangs her head in shame for not having done any yet*.

The larger tumbler was cleaned out and restarted with some of the old and some new material. And as I was looking at the containers holding the rocks, one thought came to mind “I have a bunch of red rock, for not really liking red.”

done with stage 1 These are done with stage 1… see all those red rocks….

not done yet These went back into stage 1 grit… see all those red rocks?

Last time I started the large tumbler, I started a bit of an experiment. Previously, I had kept some of the old slurry, to “jump start” the new stuff. Then I decided , to start fresh with every batch or so. So that’s what I did last time… I had quite a few more rocks that were ready to move on when I opened up the tumbler today. So that’s my plan for now. So I added more rocks to the tumbler, and restarted it. And I’m almost out of rocks! I had bought roughly 25 lbs at Christmas, and another 15 lbs or so just after that. And I’m down to a handful of onyx, crazy lace, and green tree agate. Oh, and some carnelian that could probably go into the large tumbler with everything else initially… before being sorted out for the finer stages. Also, I’m nearly out of the coarse grit, too. So until I make more money, when this stuff runs out…that might be it for a bit. So buy stuff! hehe.


March 19, 2008

Nothing fancy

Posted in Tumbler tagged , at 4:15 pm by jewelrybyleyla

Checked the tumblers today, they keep rolling.  When I changed out the grit and added more rocks last week, I felt that they weren’t rounding as fast as they could be.  So I’m playing with my recipe.  Before, I would use some amount of the slurry from the previous week, and then just had 1/2 or so of the normal amount of grit.  This week, I basically started fresh, so we’ll see how the rocks progress.  The other tumbler is still in stage 2 of polishing, so there’s really nothing done.

March 10, 2008

Tumblers, part 7

Posted in Tumbler tagged , , , , at 1:35 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I know I know… late. *hangs head in shame* I did check the tumblers on Friday, and took pictures… but other things happened… and I didn’t post them here… but it’s well worth the wait, in my opinion.

First the boring stuff….The large tumbler just had the standard check. A few pieces were done, most everything went back in. Some of them are pretty close but just not quite there. A chip or a crack, just waiting for the chip to get ground down, or the crack to fully break and the edges to be re-rounded. So we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.

Not finished ready for 2

Now on to the fun stuff. The small tumbler has been running the polish stage for the past week. When I checked them, they were happily polished, so I rinsed them, and then retumbled them with some Borax soap for a few hours to burnish them. Then it was time to see what goodies I had. This can be such a long process sometimes you put a rock into the tumbler, and its 2 months before you see the final product. And things change, so sometimes I don’t remember what the rock looked like before it went into the tumbler. Others you remember vividly because they might have been such a trouble maker. The last several batches of rocks that I’ve done were difficult, and I wasn’t all that happy with the results. But these I was extremely happy… so here are a few of my favorites. The first one had such great colors, but after putting it through a couple of rounds of polishes it never came out all nice and shiny… finally its polished *wooohooo*


This is a piece of tree agate, that just wowed me…. I don’t remember putting it into the tumbler but I loved the way it turned out.


This is a piece of jasper (red… not sure beyond that, it came in a mix of rocks for tumbling)… and even though I’m not a fan of red… its kind of a dark brown-ey red and its kind of cool


And here is the full batch…. they are sitting on an 8 in paper dinner plate to give some idea of their sizes. Most of the larger ones will become pendants, the rest we’ll have to see… if I can come up with some pairs maybe earrings, or other items.


I started a new batch of rocks in the small tumbler… mostly sodalite, with a bit of amazonite and agate.  Currently in stage 2, for a week or so to smooth them out.

Check in the coming weeks for the finished items in my Etsy shop.  And I’ll continue to post regular tumbler updates here… as they are running 24/7.

March 9, 2008

I know the update is late…

Posted in flickr, Tumbler tagged , at 7:39 am by jewelrybyleyla

I do have some lovely polished beauties that came out of the tumbler on friday. But real life stepped in for a few days and I haven’t gotten a chance to post them on here…but, you can get a quick sneak peek at them on flickr. And hopefully tonight, or tomorrow I’ll explain.

February 29, 2008

Tumbler, part 6

Posted in Tumbler tagged , , , at 12:02 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I’ve been thinking about this update since yesterday. It feels like some sort of milestone, although in reality, that will be next week. The weather has been nice and I’ve been itching to get out and see how my rocks are doing.

So… how are they? Great! First off, I checked the small tumbler, last week I started the rocks on the fine grit, or prepolish. Today, they’ll be started on the polish stage. Will be? Why haven’t I started them yet, because first they have to go through a washing stage. I washed off the rocks and the plastic pellets, and washed out the tumbler. The rocks and the pellets went back into the tumbler, with a bit of Borax to wash them up. They’ll tumble for a few hours… anywhere from 5-12 hours (I usually aim for 5-6). This afternoon I’ll rinse off the soap, and put in AO polish (Aluminum Oxide). There isn’t any visual change in the rocks today, as the last two stages are working on the surface of the rocks at a very fine level. You’d have to use a microscope to see most of the changes.

On to the 15 lb tumbler…. Many of the rocks that I’ve put into the coarse grit the last 2-3 weeks have been very rough. There are pits and holes, which take a much longer time to even out, than to wear down a square corner. This means that many of the rocks are not done yet. I pulled out the ones which have been nicely rounded and smoothed out. And the rest went back in for a few more weeks, perhaps. I do have a few photos from the stage 1 batch. As usual, the first photo is the rocks that are done with the stage, and the second is the rocks that are going back in.

Stage 1 done Not quite done

The friend of any rock enthusiast is the Flat Rate Box from the USPS. For under $10 you can send as much as the box will hold. On the right forums, or bulletin boards, people sell their rock odds and ends for a few bucks plus shipping, or just for shipping… I purchased one, and quite a few of the rocks in the stage 1 picks have been from the box. It came from a woman who, as near as I can tell, cut open a rock, maybe made a cab out of one half, and tossed the ends into the box. A few of these ends, I looked at them, thought their color was good, but wasn’t sure what would happen when I tumbled them. I found one of these ends today, and was totally impressed by the results.

Its not quite ready for the next stage, as the backside is still kind of rough. But I had to take a picture…. the first is how I saw it when I pulled it out… the second picture is backlit to really show its uniqueness.

normal backlit

With any luck, the polish stage will be done next friday, maybe the following monday. And I’ll have the end result of the past 7 weeks. Of course, its not the true end, as then I can make all the treasures into jewelry, and I have several more pounds of rocks that are done with stage 1 and are ready for stage 2.

As always, check out my Etsy shop to see what I’ve done with some of the previous batches…and check back next week to see what’s new.

February 22, 2008

Tumbler, part 5

Posted in Tumbler tagged , , at 5:21 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I went through the tumblers today. Lots of progress and fun stuff.

The small tumbler, to recap, has a batch of rocks in it that has gone through a minimum of 2 weeks and up to 3-4 weeks. Then they spent 2 weeks in a medium grit. Today, I took them out of the medium grit, washed them up in borax for a few hours. Now they are rolling in a fine grit (Step 3). From here, often the ‘recipe’ of how to tumble rocks changes. Some people use a 500 grit, then a 1000 grit pre-polish, and then finally a polish with grains that are finer than 1000 grit. Additionally, there’s a couple of different pre-polishing compounds, and 3-4 different polishing compounds available on the market. Assuming that you don’t rush the first steps or two, and use care not to cross contaminate the coarser grits with the finer ones, its possible to get a great polish with just a fine (500 grit) and a polish (1000 grit). So that’s the process I’m going to be using. Here’s a picture before they were washed up.

Finished w. step 2

The larger tumbler has been running a coarse grit (Step 1) since it started tumbling. Each week, I go through it, and take out the rocks that are nicely shaped and have no nicks or cracks. As the rocks tumble, roll, and shape a fair amount of material is broken down into smaller particles, whether they are sand grain sized, or finer (clay), or just into smaller chunks. All this constitutes as material loss, so if you start with a softball sized hunk of material, you might come back with only enough material for a baseball (or less). Last week, I decided not to do a full inspection, but because of the material loss, I did add some more rocks. When I opened up the tumbler today, I was met with quite a mess. Something I put in last week had a ton of fractures or was generally softer than the agates and jaspers that are currently in the tumbler. There was a small handful of chips of rock. And while you need all sorts of sizes in order to get the best tumbling action, the mixture I pulled out today was just insane. So I sorted through the rocks, and pulled out the ones that have been rounded to my satisfaction. And I restarted the tumbler on the course stage with more rocks. Hopefully this week there won’t be so many shattered bits. And now for the pictures….The finished rocks has a bunch of Sodalite in it. The Sodalite was in the smaller tumbler, up until two weeks ago when I moved things around to start some rocks in the second stage. So they tumbled for a couple of weeks in the small tumbler in coarse grit, and then another week in the large tumbler to finish up stage 1. They will be in the next batch going into stage 2 whether its the small tumbler or the big one, as they’re for a custom order. One is a bit fuzzy due to the weather clouding up and it being a bit cold and my hands shaking. But you get the idea.

Finished stage 1 back for more

Each time I add new rocks to the tumbler, I think “I should take a picture of the rough rocks to give y’all an idea of what I start with.” And why exactly it takes 2-4 weeks to get rounded rocks… Today I still had my camera with me outside when I went to break up more rocks (usually I take it back inside as soon as I’m done sorting). So here’s a picture of what the rocks look like after I beat them to death with my rock hammer. Many folks do this step with a saw (a trim saw for rocks, or a tile saw with a diamond blade), and they can get some cool shapes or just round some of the corners off so they don’t have to spend as long in the tumbler to become rounded. That’s a frozen OJ concentrate container in the corner for scale. Most of these rocks started out about fist sized before they were broken up.

rough rock

As always, check back next week to see the progress that’s been made. And check my Etsy store to see what I’ve made from previous batches.

February 15, 2008

Tumblers, part 4

Posted in Tumbler tagged , at 10:49 am by jewelrybyleyla

Wow, week four already. By the general formula, I should have happy polished rocks now. But I’m not one to follow the norm. A four week process can give you a nice shine…but a longer process will make the perfectionist in everyone happy.

So, since I haven’t done a real update on the blog in a couple of days, I wanted to do this one early. There’s no pictures, because there’s not much to show this week.

Here’s what we have: The large tumbler I’ve pulled out most of the well rounded finished rocks, so when I opened it up this week, the rocks are still in various shapes of square. A number of pointy edges, cracks and crevices greeted me. So they all went back in for another week. I also added a few more rocks, to add some bulk to the barrel.

In the smaller tumbler, I started a small batch of rocks on stage two last week. They are shaping up nicely, but I am leaving them in stage two for another week, to finish smoothing them out for stage three.

So check back next week, to see the progress… In the meantime, check out Etsy to see what I’ve done with past batches.

February 1, 2008


Posted in Tumbler tagged at 8:06 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I didn’t have enough light this afternoon to check on the tumblers.  I’ll be glad when the days get longer.  Going through the rocks is first thing on the “to-do” list for saturday morning.  Check back.

January 31, 2008

Something new

Posted in flickr, Tumbler tagged , at 4:59 pm by jewelrybyleyla

I’ve started a flickr page to put all my jewelry photos, since I will likely run out of room on wordpress to put all the pictures I have of my jewelry. Down at the bottom of the column on the right hand side is a mini-feed from flickr, in case you don’t want to navigate away from this site.

Also, remember to check back tomorrow (friday, Feb 1st) to see the progress of the rocks in the tumbler. Fingers are crossed that more of them will be ready for the next stage of polish…. but come back to see what happens!

January 25, 2008

The tumbler

Posted in Tumbler tagged , at 5:28 pm by jewelrybyleyla

In order to make this blog about the whole craft of making jewelry, I’ve decided to do a weekly feature about the tumbler, and its process and progress.

Unfortunately, since I came up with this idea today, and I’m already 2-3 weeks into the process, I don’t have pictures of the first phases. But, I’ll walk through it anyway. It starts out with some minerals and rocks, a good starting place is someplace like The Rock Shed, and getting some rocks. I picked up one of their mixes, along with some extra things like moss and tree agates. This went into the tumbler along with coarse Silicon Carbide grit and water. The tumbler simulates a stream bed on a much faster scale… so decades of work is being accomplished in mere weeks.

So I checked the tumbler today, after most things had been in there for 2 weeks. A few items had been in for a week longer. And quite a few rocks had already been tumbled along the shores of the Great Lakes, and were sent to me by a friend. Here is what they looked like before I started poking through them a bit more….

Whole batch

I spent the next hour and a half at least, sorting through them. In the end, I came out with three batches: Rocks that I was happy with and will be moved on to the next stage…. Rocks that will spend at least another week in the tumbler…. And a group of citrine, carnelian and rose quartz that I will end up tumbling separate from the rest… so here are the pictures in that order….

Sorted Not done yet Various Quartz

Stay tuned…. next Friday or Saturday I’ll see how many more are done! Check out my Etsy to see what I’ve done with previous batches of rocks.

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