I’ve had an alarming number of emails from people who have lost the fingerprint off their finished silver piece after only 1-2 hrs tumbling!
When I contacted them to try and sort things out with them, they all came up with the same problem! So I hope this post will help those people who have never used a tumbler before and are about to buy one.
The problem starts at the store where you are going to buy your tumbler, many places are set up for lapidarists who use tumblers only for grinding and polishing rough stones into very smooth, highly polished semi precious stones, I’m sure most people would have seen these on markets, or at alternative health shops where they are used as healing crystals. Stone polishers generally don’t use their tumblers for anything else, consequently, when you walk in their shop, especially if you’re a newbie and don’t know better, they will tell you what you need, based on what they know and have sold for many years: Grinding Med
Well now you have a problem! Using grinding medium on silver is going to grind the top layer off your work, so if you happen to have a delicate fingerprint texture there, it will be gone by the time you unload the barrel!
Usually tumbling takes about 2 hours for fingerprint charms and pendants and sometimes you might even leave it there a little longer. If left tumbling overnight you might lose the whole piece, it will have become paper thin and will break apart by just touching it!
Mixed Stainless Steel Shot
Mixed Stainless Steel Shot is the medium you should be using, but even here you can get in trouble! Do not buy your stainless steel shot from a gun shop! Their mix, while a lot cheaper, is very heavy and will put thousands of little dents into your work.
Buy only from a reputable jewellery supplier and use the fine Mixed Stainless Steel shot they have for sale. This shot will last you a lifetime and give a your work a beautiful high shine every time!
You can add a commercially available Burnishing Medium, just a tiny bit added to the barrel before closing, this will lubricate the wet mix and increase your shine. The same effect can be achieved by using a few pure soap flakes, or a little baking soda.
So the moral of the story is this: get the best materials and tools, don’t let yourself be talked into alternatives, especially if you are a newbie, making those kind of judgements is hard when you don’t have all the facts. Read the chapter on ‘Finishing’ in my ebook ‘How To Make Fingerprint Jewelry’ and you’ll have all the options there for you to explore.