Rotary Tumbler for Sanding

I know this has been considered in another thread, but I wanted to bring it up again… Does anyone have any experience using a rotary tumbler to finish sand pieces. I have found very little on the web. Some home grown ideas about using bags and dryers, but I like my dryer too much. I’ve considered a cement mixer, but again I’m not seeing enough info to attempt this as I would have to buy a mixer. This is the only official site (everything else is forums) that has anyone explaining how to do this with a commercial machine.

I’m likely going to try something, I sand a sooo much stuff, but I want as much info as I can to save my time in experimenting. Anyone have any info??

I only have experience with very small aluminum pieces in something like this:

We just threw the pieces in there with some fine media and let it tumble away for 4 hours. It removed all of the sharp corners from machining.

I would think you should be able to find a technique that works for you. Unfortunately it would probably be a lot of trial and error. Maybe try to mock something up that is just big enough to put a few pieces in and see how it goes before investing in a full size thing. Maybe a bucket held stationary on some rollers being turned by a motor (or treadmill if you need some exercise) or by hand (if you need a lot of exercise and have a lot of free time).

One thing I read said vibrating/rocking because it causes the media to “slide” over the material the same way sandpaper slides across the surface when sanding.

The vibratory tumblers work great for things like handgun \ rifle brass as well as small metal parts.

Years ago I did home restorations and used them to clean up the old fashioned door handles and hinges that were ornately cast steel with some fantastic designs.

The key was to change media depending on the desired result. Sand etc… would do fine details, but I always started with corncob media to get the bulk of the metal cleaned quickly…

Think of it as starting with coarse grain paper and working down to the fine stuff.