Tumbling copper rings
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Joined: June 12, 2013
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Location: uk

Tumbling copper rings
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Posted on Sat Jan 10, 2015 2:38 pm
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i've just managed to acquire a tumbler, and am planning on cutting my own rings from bare copper wire to make pretty placebo bracelets for hippy friends and also to sell. i did make the one bracelet for a friend which i didn't tumble, which turned out nice enough, but i like the fact that the wire will get work hardened by the process of tumbling as well as the other benefits.

i've a couple of questions though - i only appear to be able to purchase the stainless steel shot by the kilo which seems a tad excessive, will i really need that much?

the dish soap thing - would a basic home made, unfragranced soap do? will it patina the copper or anything? (i don't know much about metal!!!). i make my own soap too so could totally tailor the recipe to the requirements... if i knew what they were!

how long will i need to tumble the rings for?

is there a fail safe method of keeping the rings together enough to not have to pick them out of the shot one at a time, but not so together they don't get tumbled, erm, properly?

if anybody has a decent link they could please share that would explain everything to a beginner like me i'd be really grateful. what i could find online with a basic search wasn't really in depth enough, and not specific to bare copper wire despite attempting to refine my search. limited time etc (busy trying to set up new fish tank to cycle and move the old one to a new home for that week etc!).

i'd be really very grateful if anybody could help, i'd just like to sell placebos that are pretty, so if they don't work, unlike other placebos they wont be a complete rip off!

Joined: May 26, 2010
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Posted on Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:27 am
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I've never tumbled anything before but I can still regurgitate a few things I've heard about. Depending on the size of your rings you can tumble finished pieces instead of individual rings. Copper is very soft though so you want to make sure nothing gets damaged in the process. A kilo of shot is about what you'd need. It's like a handful or so. My best advice is to just lurk more.

Joined: December 22, 2007
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Posted on Sun Jan 11, 2015 2:54 am
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The amount of stainless steel shot you need depends on what kind of tumbler you have and its capacity. I have a Gy-roc B vibratory tumbler with a three pound capacity. I have a couple of pounds of shot in it. A kilo of shot sounds reasonable.

Tumbling work hardens copper a little bit, but not much. I have used both dish soap and burnishing fluid to polish. They both work. I think burnishing fluid is a little better and it's usually good to use something that is specifically for burnishing metal. But there is nothing wrong with using a couple of drops of plain dish soap. I've used liquid Ivory without any extra ingredients with excellent results. Don't use too much. You don't want it foaming all over everything.

I tumble for about 30 minutes. Very rarely do I need to let it go any longer than about an hour. A rotary takes a little longer. I have forgotten about my tumbler once or twice... overnight. It came out nice and shiny. No damage. Cool

I prefer to work with clean but unpolished rings. I tumble the piece after I make it. The shot gets in all the cracks and shines things up very nicely. If you would rather tumble rings, you can string some wire through them. Just make sure the wire is thick enough that it doesn't slide through the ring openings, or you will be fishing rings out of shot anyway. There are also some sifting methods that I don't know anything about.

Tumbling with stainless steel shot, a little water, and some soap is surprisingly gentle. The shot doesn't ding the metal. It smooths the surface of the metal instead, making it very pretty and shiny. I have even tumbled jewelry that had expensive crystal beads on it and had them come out without a scratch. And I can scratch a crystal bead just by looking at it. Razz

I'm not sure where to send you to look for supplies in the UK. I'm sure someone here can help though. There is also a links page you can look through. Searching online for jewelry tumblers and tumbler media should get good results.

Oh, and I found this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaKOlwHNSdY
If you have a vibratory tumbler, this shows you what you are shooting for. See how everything sort of climbs up the outer wall of the tumbler and then falls towards the center? That's what you want!


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Joined: June 12, 2013
Posts: 16
Submissions: 1
Location: uk

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Posted on Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:30 pm
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wow - thank you so much for answering all of my questions so quickly and succinctly. i'd not have thought of simply tumbling the finished item, that has potentially saved me hours of unnecessary effort!

with regards to the dish soap/burnishing fluid, still going to do some more research on that one as there's maybe the potential for some extra nerding in the kitchen with my face mask, goggles and chemicals... any excuse!

have ordered some mixed steel shot, but no longer have to wait for that to arrive before getting on with winding, cutting and weaving.

again - thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge with me x

Joined: February 24, 2015
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Posted on Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:26 pm
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For Brass I tumble with dish soap. Water. And a detergent additive called LemiShine. in about an hour I have shiny brass and grey water. Rinse in warm water and let air dry.

Never done copper but since brass is copper and zinc, it will probably work.


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Posted on Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:46 pm
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I have used dry rice with good effects on copper.
It takes a lot longer, but organic media is cheap.

Copper alloys form different compounds over time.
Some take longer to remove.

With larger rings you can use a screen to sort fairly quick.
With smaller rings you could try walnut or corncob.
Both are often available at larger pet shops.

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