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Cleaning bolts in a tumbler – PART 1

Every now and then we get asked about cleaning bolts in a tumbler so we thought it was time to post a few pictures with extra information.  Tumblers are great for cleaning up all sorts of metal objects as it takes a lot of the tedious hand-work out of the job. There are a few different ways to do it – Part 1 of this article deals with tumbling in a Vibratory tumbler:


This test batch included a selection of old bolts and other items – some extremely rusty, others just very greasy and dirty.

The test machine is a Gyroc A tumbler (the medium size).  In this test, the tumbler was loaded with about 4kg of medium cut ceramic media (medium abrasiveness, triangle shape) – about 4 heaped tablespoons of #80 grit silicon carbide and a small amount of water was added along with the test parts.

The parts were tumbled for about 1.5 hours – just before removing and rinsing, additional water was added for about 10 minutes to make the clean-up easier.  Note that normally we would recommend degreasing parts before tumbling for better results – we did not bother with this small test batch.




After almost 2 hours of tumbling, the parts came out very clean (even better if degreased before tumbling).  However, there are a few things to consider with the Vibe Tumbling Method:

1) Using coarse abrasive grit in a vibratory tumbler will wear the barrel faster than in normal usage.  The tumbling is faster and more effective but you need to factor in more frequent replacements of bowls.

2) The donut shape of the tumbler bowl does restrict the size of piece that can be tumbled – they need to be small enough to move freely around the bowl.

3) Vibratory tumblers are more noisy than the rotary tumblers.


Vibe_B_AfterThese photos show a before and after shot of the pieces (note the large cog was too large to fit and was subsequently tumbled in the rotary batch instead).

There is a little rust remaining on the thread of the largest bolt – this would have been improved by degreasing prior to tumbling.