TOOLS How I tumble buff polymer clay

I've decided to update this discussion, since I've collected a bit more information. For those who know me, more info than you'll ever need. ;-) Due to the volume, I've broken up this discussion into several pages.

Rotary Tumble Buffing
Tumble buffing is a great time saver if you like buffed beads. T-buffing creates a nice satin shine on my beads. T-buffing also shortens the time I spend when I use my Dremel or Foredom to get that high-speed glossy shine.

I cut up soft denim jeans into small pieces. As I have found blue denim to actually tint the beads slightly blue, I've switched to using white denim.

I've tried some other fabrics (felt, satin polyester, flannel) but they don't do well in a tumbling environment. The pieces clump together and line the walls of the barrel instead of intermixing with the beads.

The denim pieces break apart quickly, though. So I try to find the tightest weave I can.

I've heard some use acrylic fleece, thus I suspect any soft material should work.

For plastic tumble barrels

You only need to add the beads and the fabric pieces. No rouge or water or anything. Add enough so the barrel is 1/2 to 3/4 full.

Tumble for 4-6 hours.


For rubber tumble barrels

In addition to using the loose denim pieces in tumble buffing, I made a liner out of used denim for my Lortone tumbler barrel.

The liner consists of a long strip to line the sides and two circle pieces for top and bottom. Each liner piece is double thick so they remain stiff.

I made this liner set for two reasons.

  • The more denim surface there is for the beads to rub against, the better and faster they get done.
  • Some folks have complained their rubber barrels can leave a discoloration on their polymer clay beads. I've noticed that with my rubber barrels.

Again, it's only soft fabric and well sanded polymer clay pieces. No water, rouge or anything else is used. Just put the tumbler lid on and close it up the standard way. Tumble for 5-8 hours.

Insert bottom circle, then strip.

Load beads and denim pieces.

"Say goodnight, Gracy."

There's nothing better than having a great tool when you need it.


Last update to this page: 11 May 08. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.