Tumbling Oxidized Metal

by Danielle
(Temecula, CA)

Have you ever had a problem with tumbling oxidized metal? Is it better to tumble it dry — copper, for example? If I oxidize it to black and tumble it, will the oxidation come off with soapy water? Also, will it leave residue in the shot that will ruin a future batch of Sterling silver?

Stacy's Answer:

I've never had a problem tumbling oxidized metal nor have I had a problem mixing metals such as copper and silver together. I've been using the two together in my jewelry designs for years and love the look! I think adding a few pieces of silver to the copper makes the piece look richer and more expensive.

I have never tumbled any metals dry....the rotary tumblers are designed to use Stainless steel shot, water and a squirt of liquid dish soap. My preference is the original Dawn® dish soap. When I want a darker patina, I let the item dry completely before tumbling and then only tumble for 1-2 hours tops. Tumble longer and the patina could start to be removed by the tumbling action. I seal the finish with a clear lacquer enamel.

As to the residue on the shot, I clean my shot and barrel with dish-soapy water and rinse before re-loading the barrel. This prevents any build-up of unwanted crud in my tumbler. This morning, I tumbled some bright silver earrings after an evening of tumbling some heavily oxidized bracelets with no problems. They turned out shiny and beautiful with a bright finish. Of course, the shot, etc. had been cleaned before I added the new items. :)

I DO tumble silver and copper together and I oxidize them together too. Both turn out beautifully but there are some rules to be observed when oxidizing the metals together. I've heard it said that this could not be successfully done, and that is absolutely not true. You just remember the metallurgy of each and treat them accordingly.

Comments for Tumbling Oxidized Metal

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Oct 12, 2009
Tumbling Oxidized Silver
by: Anonymous

I'm trying to tumble oxidized silver and keep the dark rustic appearance. When I did it for a few hours all the oxidation was gone - do I just have to do it for a shorter amount of time?

Stacy's Answer:

If you find that too much of your patina has been removed, then, yes! simply tumble for a shorter period of time. I've found that 1-2 hours is usually good. More than that and more of the patina is removed than I usually want.

For a more rustic look, tumble for perhaps 30 minutes to one hour or so and then try removing the excess patina with fine steel wool instead of a polishing cloth. This gives a satin or brushed finish to the metal which works well with a rustic or tribal look.

Keep notes and remember, you can always re-apply the patina and start again.

Oct 06, 2010
Tumbling Black Sterling
by: titanias-garden.com

Spider did an experiment tumbling a silver bracelet with water and Black Max (same as Jax Silver Blackener) for 2 weeks. The bracelet came out shiny and looking like hematite. I'm doing the same right now.

Note: If you try this out, you won't be able to re-use the barrel for anything else and will need a new barrel for your regular items.

Jan 12, 2015
Tumbling black sterling
by: Deanna

Has anyone ever tried a liner in their tumbler? I wonder if it would hold up then , the barrel,wouldn't be stained.

Feb 18, 2015
Tumbler Liner?
by: Stacy

Hi Deanna!

What exactly is a tumbler barrel liner (besides the obvious - a liner for your tumbler barrel ;-)) and where do you get them? Or have they been invented yet?

Different manufactures of the tumblers all have slightly different barrels: some round inside, some with straight edges on the inside, different diameters, etc. Not to mention all the different barrel sizes available. But could be interesting.

Sounds cool.
Stacy :-)

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