View Full Version : Rock Tumbling Rusty Bits and Pieces

05-22-2004, 11:55 AM
I have heard that you can clean off small bits and pieces, like screws, nuts, etc. using a rock tumbler. I certainly have a few (thousand) items that could use this treatment. Any ideas on what to use for the grit media? Do you also add liquid (water? oil? gasoline?) to the tank? How long should I tumble before seeing results? Any items that should not go through the treatment? For what it is worth, I am trying out a tumbler as we speak (write) with a few miscellaneous parts, using the grit that came with the tumbler and water, as per the instructions for rocks.

05-22-2004, 01:33 PM
OK. I am responding to my own post. I just went out to the garage and checked on my tumbling bits and pieces. WOW. After only 12 hours of tumbling, these hopeless looking screws, nuts, and bolts look like they just came out of a Moss Motors baggy. They are polished up like little metal jewels. So, at least one "recipe" seems to be: the coarse grit from the rock tumbler package, in a small amount of plain water, for something like 12 hours. Now I am looking for more little pieces to tumble.

If any of you have a reply, please post it. If any of you have not purchased a rock tumbler, you should do so. Much safer and cleaner than the wire brush wheel for the little parts.

05-23-2004, 09:51 PM
12 hrs? I've been using the old wire wheel holding little bolts, washers and nuts with a small vise grips then immidiatly spraying 2 coats of dull alum- PITA
Each group I say to myself NEW STAINLESS STEEL STUPID If I had to go it again - thats what I'd do.
Did you see post on my M C ? /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/thirsty.gif

05-23-2004, 11:45 PM
I've now run a second set of items through the rock tumbler. Where the first group was mostly gunked up with grease and paint, and could probably have come out of the tumbler in less than 12 hours, the second set was covered with rust and was a tougher cleaning job. For example, I included the four thumb screw that hold on my side curtains. I put them in before dinner last night and pulled them out today around lunchtime, so they had about 18 hours in the tub. They are as sparkly and clean as though they were brand new. The thumb screws could use a little hand brushing in the screw slot, but the knurling is pristine.

The wire brush wheel method works if you are in a hurry and don't mind a little marring of the finish. I am also concerned about ruining the threads on some of the screws and bolts. I used the wire wheel on some of the larger pieces that would never fit into the rock tumbler. As I mentioned in one of my posts under "Painting the Master Cylinder," the wire wheel also poses the risk of propelling small bits out into the great beyond. Or injecting them into your abdomen. Or your eye. Or your dog.

The rock tumbler is also an exercise in forced patience for me. I am, by nature, an impatient person. My little car does not work on this theory. Having to wait 12-18 hours to get clean nuts, bolts, screws and washers means I have the time to do a slow and methodical job on everything else.

For my next round of tumbling, I am planning on using some different grit material. I have used up the little bag that came with the tumbler.

Dave Russell
05-24-2004, 02:13 PM
Did you catch Willy's comment about the paint. Freshly stripped parts have all of the zinc/cad plating removed & will rust pretty quick when put on the car, if not before.

05-24-2004, 08:19 PM
Roger that...thanks.