Using BBs as shot?

by Heather
(Ferndale, MI)

Hi, I am looking for a more Economical source of shot for my harbor freight tumbler. I haven't used it yet but I will be polishing and hopefully hardening both sterling and copper handmade earring wires. I wondered why no one seems to be talking about using BB's? Are they too round for good results? Also I read a Canadian jeweler (who said she could not find Dawn) and has used a small pics of Dove hard soap w great results. She claims that Dove leaves an invisible film on her jewelry which actually prevents the metals from oxidizing for months which helps her between shows from having to re-polish her wares. Any experiments with Dove on your part? Thanks for the great site and willingness to share your expertise!!

Stacy's Answer:

Hi Heather!

BB's are usually made from lead - not good for a number of reasons - or steel rather than stainless steel. Steel mixed with water = rust. For jewelry tumbling, I like the assortment of shapes found in the "jewelry mix" as they all work slightly differently and combined, produce a very nice finish. The pin shot works well also, but is more expensive. Rio Grande has a very good price on the stainless steel jewelry mix at $18 for one pound or $32 for two pounds. The stuff lasts forever making it a good investment and inexpensive in the long run.

As to the soap, I often have to use other brands of dish soap and they seem to all work just fine. The dish soap only acts as an agent that helps to hold the "gunk" being removed by the shot in suspension and away from the metal. As long as you are using a product that does not contain bleach or abrasives, any ol'dish soap will probably do. I don't like anything oily or greasy in my tumbler, as that can cause a host of other problems.

I do use Dove bar soap as a lubricant for my saw blades with great success, but I'm not sure about it's anti-oxidizing properties. Also consider that low humidity, cooler areas are great for metal jewelry as it needs less polishing to maintain its beautiful finish. Damp, salt and perspiration oxidize metal quickly!

There are a lot of great tips out there! Experimentation is a great way to discover what works best for your particular design needs. Try the Dove soap in your tumbler and report back the results! It may prove to be a great way to add a light, protective coating to the finished jewelry!

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