How To Tumble 18, 20, 22 GA round wire - Oxidized Sterling Silver

If I wanted to tumble an ounce of Oxidized Sterling Silver, could I do it in the smaller Loratone tumbler? Is it better to oxidized after the piece is made or could I just throw in an ounce at a time? I didn't see any questions regarding oxidizing and tumbling wire.

Stacy's Answer:

Hi Sindra!

The only medium I use is the Mixed Media Stainless steel shot. I put one pound of it in my 3 pound tumbler and 2-1/2 pounds in my larger 4C Lortone tumbler. The how-to's can be found in the Tips & Techniques section of my website in an article about tumbling. There's also one there about the liver-of-sulfur patina.

What I don't do is tumble wire before I use it. I tumble components and finished jewelry. The reason being is that tumbling work hardens wire, making it more difficult to work with. I prefer to keep my wire dead-soft. As I coil, twist and hammer it, it hardens right up! Once my pieces are finished, I tumble them and then add a patina (if I'm going to) and then tumble again.

If you have wire that has oxidized, simple pull it through a polishing cloth a few times or, if you're planning on adding a patina later, just use it as-is. Polish it up after your piece is made. If you tumble a coil of wire, it is only going to get "cleaned up" on the outside of your coil. If you put it in the tumbler all willy-nilly, you'll have a bird's nest when you take it out! :) (especially true for fine wire)

An ounce is not much weight and your tumbler, even the smaller Lortone 3A, should do a fine job of it. You can tumble much more than that, making certain not to exceed the weight limit of your tumbler which includes the tumbling medium and water.

I usually tumble my pieces first to polish them, then oxidize and tumble for a shorter period of time. Silver usually polishes right up within 2-4 hours in the tumbler, and 30 minutes to brighten a piece of jewelry or tarnished beads. (Be sure to run a wire through loose beads as they WILL fill up with shot if the hole is large enough.)

If it's just metal that you're tumbling - no gemstones or glass - it won't harm them to tumble overnight. I've found that if I want a lot of brighter silver to show, I remove the excess oxidation with steel wool or a fine 3M scrubby pad then toss in the tumbler for a few hours.

Hope these suggestions help!!

Comments for How To Tumble 18, 20, 22 GA round wire - Oxidized Sterling Silver

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Sep 18, 2012
OH THank you
by: Virginia broersma

Thank you for the informed reply I am just finding my way with wire and jewelery making in general. I have read about tumbleing wire and could not find why and how.

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