How to Use a Vibratory Tumbler

Vibratory tumblers serve a number of great purposes in the automotive industry. This tool helps remove rust, debris or burrs from pieces of hardware without damaging their edges or mechanical integrity. They can also help polish hard-to-reach surfaces to an optimum metal shine, which is very useful when working on automotive restoration projects. Below, we take an in-depth look at how to best use a vibratory tumbler for your needs.

Vibratory Tumblers: Preparation and Maintenance

Before using your vibratory tumbler, make sure that the pieces you want to tumbler are clean and free of any grease or paint. To get rid of paint on a part, soak it in an automotive paint remover, but make sure that all solvents are clear of the part before putting it in a vibratory tumbler. For degreasing a part, soak it in a diluted metal wash solution, and if you are using a standard vibratory tumbler, you can use a small wet tumbler bowl for degreasing (see below). Always allow each part to be thoroughly rinsed and dried before being tumbled. When using the tumbler, always have it connected to a grounded outlet and placed on a completely flat, clean surface, ideally the floor, so that it is far away from combustible materials.

Every 100 hours of using the vibratory tumbler, a maintenance check should be performed. This includes checking the tightness of all the hardware and inspecting the interior of the bowl for any premature wear and tear. For maintaining optimum tumbler media, always allow the wet media to thoroughly dry before placing it back in a media container, and continue to use your media again and again until it becomes ineffectual, with the consistency of dust.

Vibratory Tumblers: Instructions and Safety Tips

Once you have set your vibratory tumbler on a clean, flat surface, fill the tumbler bowl with the appropriate tumbler media for your hardware part.The two primary types of media are green rust cutting media, meant for a harsher debris removal, and dry shine media, meant for achieving a finer polish. After adding your media and your hardware part(s), secure the tumbler lid by threading the nut down to the stud, and tighten it by hand. A standard vibratory eight inch bowl contains about three pints of substance, including both the work pieces and the media. Once you are ready to start tumbling, simply plug the tumbler into an outlet, and it should turn on immediately.

For removing rust from certain parts, use the green rust cutting media to your bowl with the ratio of about 70% media to 30% parts. For rust cutting media, you will want to add enough water to the bowl to wet both the media and the parts. Just make sure there is no standing water visible, and if the parts are a bit greasy, add one or two teaspoons of diluted metal wash solution to the bowl. Once the lid is securely fastened on the tumbler and the nut is tightened onto the stud hand, plug in the tumbler and let it run for about three to seven hours, depending on the condition of the media and the rusty parts. Once the process is finished, open the lid ajar, and carefully drain out any remaining fluid from the bowl. Then, dump out the contents of the bowl, use a magnet to remove any small steel parts from the media, and sort through the contents to pick out the cleaned parts for drying. Use this same process with the dry shine media in a large bowl, without adding any liquid to the bowl, to produce an optimum shine. Remember that tumbling for a longer period of time will increase the level of shine, and always make sure that the parts are not too big for the bowl, as they can damage it over time.

When using a vibratory tumbler, safety is always key, and there are some things to keep in mind. When the tumbler is on, never cover up the machine to dampen the noise as it could cause overheating, creating a fire risk. As mentioned above, never put any solvents into the tumbler bowls. Make sure that the power source you are connecting the tumbler to is safe and grounded and the cord is not damaged in any way. Only operate the machine on a solid surface, and never attempt to operate the tool with any other media, besides what is recommended. If you follow those rules, you will be smoothing automotive hardware parts successfully and professionally.

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  1. Well I purchased one of your 5lb vibrating tumblers. Followed the instructions to a tee. Trying to clean up some fuel line bolts and clips for my vett. 24 hours later after repeated checking all it did was polish the surface rust useing green media that came with it. Not happy with this investment. Back to the wire wheel I guess.

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