Who doesn’t love the sight of rocks and stones shaped naturally by nature elements such as water and wind?
Sometimes, it can be frustrating and unbelievable to imagine that it needs hundreds or even thousands of years to fashion them.
Now imagine creating your beautiful and smooth rock shapes in just a few days. Sounds exciting, right?
Often, all it takes to transform a rough piece of stone from a “boring ole rock” into a work of art is a rock tumbler.
If you’re fascinated by the beauty of stone and want to build your collection or even create one-of-a-kind jewelry, try one of the best rock tumblers.
A rock tumbler can transform an ordinary rock into smooth stones for crafts projects, home décor, and other hobbies.
The good thing with rock tumblers is they go beyond rocks but can also polish stones, brass, glass, beads, and even some metals.
Unfortunately, poor quality tumblers suffer from stripped gears, burnt motors, and rocks that end up half cleaned.
To save you from the inconvenience of poor quality rock tumblers, we’ve compiled a list of the best rock tumblers in our review guide below. We’ve also included a handy buying guide to help with the selection.
Table of Contents
The Best Rock Tumbler For The Money
#1 Tru-square Metal Products - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Topping our list of the best rock tumblers is the Tru-Square Metal Tumbler. It’s a rotary type of tumbler coming with a host of desirable features.
We would recommend this tumbler machine for almost every user, and this is primarily because the 15-pound capacity makes it appropriate for everyday use.
At the same time, it’s a high-quality machine with first-rate craftsmanship, so you can always depend on it for professional results, which is always a major interest for genuine enthusiasts. Thanks to the wonderful price-quality ratio, it’s also a fantastic option for hobbyists, collectors, and even schools.
As we had mentioned earlier, Tru-Square is a rotary tumbler, polishing the rocks similarly to how water polishes rock. To be more specific, the machine simulates the action of the ocean wave to polish.
Needless to say, the polishing action is quicker than the ocean. Even so, it’s not an instantaneous process; it might take a while before the transformation-perhaps a month or so.
According to users, Tru-Square is the real definition of performance versatility. The machine works great for a wide range of operations, such as fine polishing and coarse polishing. Additionally, its performance goes beyond rocks, but can also be used on metals, including brass.
Keep in mind Tru-Square is a heavy-duty option, so; it might not be a suitable machine for the smaller stones. Otherwise, the machine’s weight and density will destroy the stone and result in abraded surfaces on everything else. As for the rock’s size, the rule of thumb is to avoid placing rocks larger than ½ of the barrel’s diameter.
A nice design feature on this rotary tool is the sturdy construction consisting of Brass, Metal, Steel, and Rubber. The metal parts promote the machine’s reliability, while the removable rubber liner guarantees an enhanced efficiency.
Moving on, Tru-Square features a handy 155-v fan-cooled motor, preventing overheating- this is a key element on the reliability of a tumbler machine.
The only drawback to this tumbler machine is the noisy performance, and I don’t think you would want to use it inside your house. With a noise rating of 65 to 115 dB, Tru-Square is distractive, but as the rocks get smoother, the motor gets less noisy.
Tru Square also doesn’t have a variable speed as its set to function at the optimal tumbling speed. It’s not a turn off either, and overall, Tru-Square is a great unit that won’t disappoint.
#2 Lortone 3A Deluxe Rock Tumbler Kit - Runner Up
Lortone 3A is yet another fantastic rock tumbler worthy of your attention. Like the Tru-Square, it’s an accommodative solution, perfect for use by a wide range of users, starting from hobbyists, craftspeople, jewelry makers, rock polishers, etc.
It’s a product from one of the renowned brands in the rock tumbler domain, and as you would have thought, it carries the legacy of the Mother brand.
This particular tumbler machine has a capacity of 3 pounds. It’s a far cry from the 15 pounds we had earlier seen on the Tru-Square. But unless you require a vast amount of polished rocks, the capacity is quite reasonable, especially for the beginners and hobbyists.
Aptly named Lortone 3A Deluxe Rock Tumbler Kit, this option is a “kit” coming with everything you need for a successful rock tumbling. It incorporates a rotary tumbler 2 pounds of select tumbling rock mix, pre-measured quantities of four polishing grits, and a comprehensive set of instructions.
A perfect option for beginners and kids, Lortone 3A, is an easy to use tumbler machine, and you won’t need any expertise or experience to operate. Plus, the instructions are well-detailed and easy to follow.
Don’t let the plastic construction trick you into thinking Lortone 3A isn’t reliable. Sure, it can’t match the strength of some of the metal-based tumbler machines, but the plastic used here is the hard-plastic that won’t break easily. In particular, the motor is engineered to last for years, meaning you’re likely to get a lot of use out of the unit.
Lortone 3A might not be the perfect option for professionals, but overkill for beginners. The performance versatility for this unit is impeccable, considering it can even handle glass. But make no mistake in thinking glass tumbling performance is wanting; it gives excellent results, in the sense that it offers a smooth finish or beach glass effect.
Like any typical tumbler machine, each step of the polishing process entails at least a full week. Even so, the polishing period depends on the hardness of the stone. And as you know, you can’t rush nature, and this is true regarding polishing rocks.
Though the manufacturer claims the unit can continuously run for 24 hours per day for years, it lacks overload protection, which tends to overheat with time. It’s not a deal-breaker though, but more of an inconvenience because it forces you to unplug the device frequently to prevent overheating.
Performance for this rock tumbler is simply fantastic with the patented rubber barrel, sporting a quick-seal cover producing impeccably polished pieces. It’s particularly a wonderful option for tumbling the hard materials as it excels in eliminating the jagged edges, giving wonderfully-rounded corners.
At the same time, the rubber material works as hard as you do to absorb the noise, ensuring quiet operation.
#3 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Professional Rock Tumbler - Best for the Money
National Geographic is a value-added purchase and probably the best purchase for the money. This is because, like the Lortone 3A, it comes with a full kit, comprising everything you might need for rock polishing.
This includes polishing grits, gemstones, and a comprehensive guide.
Capacity for the National Geographic is a bit only the lower side, considering it has a 2-pound barrel. It means the unit can only accommodate a pound of rocks.
However, for the 2-pound barrel, expect quality craftsmanship. The rubber construction offers a leak-proof design, meaning you won’t have to deal with an unsightly mess. Additionally, the barrel is further covered with a stainless steel cover guaranteeing extended longevity.
A nice characteristic of the overall design is the noise-reducing feature and is particularly a wonderful addition, considering most of the tumbler machines are noisy. Of course, like most units, the noise level alters depending on the hardness of the rock and the rock polishing stage. Again, the operation isn’t silent dead and will cause some distraction. However, you can place it in your garage, and your family won’t be bothered by the noise.
Another nice addition, which was absent in the previously-reviewed tumblers, is an automatic shutoff timer that prevents over-tumbling of the rock. It’s quite a handy feature if you don’t have time to monitor the stones as the machine will turn off automatically when time is right.
Uniquely again, National Geographic features a speed control timer, allowing you to select the operating speed. And so, if you need to create sea glass or any other creation, it’s easy to accomplish with this rock tumbler.
A potential downside to this unit is that closing the barrel’s lid is quite arduous, especially for the beginners. However, if you follow the instructions, you’ll eventually nail it.
In my opinion, the real drawback with the unit is that the grit offered by the manufacturer is only sufficient for a single round only, meaning you should purchase more grit separately.
All in all, it’s not a reason sufficient enough to look the other way. It comes with a nice assembly of features, and considering it’s a kit, you get everything you need to kick start your rock tumbling journey.
#4 National Geographic Starter Rock Tumbler Kit - For Beginners
Our penultimate option is yet another option from National Geographic, and it goes to underline the brand’s superiority.
The National Geographic Starter kit includes everything we saw on the NG Professional kit minus a select few features and costs less.
It’s more like a hobby kit, geared towards beginners as it offers an incredible introduction to rock, tumbling, providing everything you need to get cracking.
Despite the budget tag, the National Geographic Starter kit is a capable and reliable option. For instance, it’s a leak-proof option and boasts of a relatively powerful motor. Of course, it’s not the best and can’t be compared to NG Professional Kit-after all; you get what you pay for. However, I found the tumbler to be of fairly good standards, and the polishing was quite exceptional, especially for the money.
The one thing which it lacks is the noise-reducing barrel. The folks at National Geographic haven’t fitted with a unit with a rubber barrel; instead, they’ve used plastic, meaning it’s easy to know when the motor is running.
Because of this, only purchase the National Geographic Starter kit if you’ve a separate room for tumbling-ideally a soundproof room. The basement or garage is also a good place to use the tumbler from.
It’s a frills-free model, lacking the richness of features like the automatic shutoff timer. However, the auxiliary features are more of a luxury than a necessity so that they won’t affect the performance in any way.
Finally, like all other National Geographic tumblers, you also enjoy a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Even better, all the purchase proceeds for the National Geographic Starter kit are channeled towards conservation, research, and education programs- so you’ll be doing your bit to conserve the universe while you shop.
All in all, the National Geographic Starter kit is among the wonderful options in the market, perfect for beginners and coming at affordable prices.
#5 Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler - Heavy-duty Option
Frankford Rotary Tumbler matches the mean and menacing character to its cleaning prowess with a bad boy look.
Whether you’re looking to clean spent brass cartridges, silver, or any other object, Frankford Rotary Tumbler is optimized for performance.
The high RPM for this rotary tumbler means there’s little, if any, task it can’t handle.
And when it comes to innovation, the machine is up there; from the see-through cap, sifter caps to an automatic switch, this unit has everything you need for tumbling.
Frankford Rotary Tumbler also has a large capacity barrel, only tying to Tru-Square at 15 pounds. Capacity isn’t the only impressive thing about the barrel, but the double layer consists of hard plastic on the exterior for longevity and rubber lining on the inside to curb noise.
If you love to see the action during the tumbling process, you’ll love the plastic lid with a transparent middle. The lid is also fitted with a rubber lining on the interior to prevent leakage and soundproof it.
The motor performance on the Frankford Rotary Tumbler is optimized for speed, and so, it’s robust and easily cleanses brass with ease. With a power rating of 60 watts, the machine can run at about 63 rotations per minute.
Uniquely, Frankford Rotary Tumbler employs a belt for turning around the barrel as opposed to e typical drivetrain gear. This eliminates the need for frequent replacement of the conveyor belts.
This tumbler is also rich in features as it also includes a built-in timer capable of setting times up to 3 hours. And once the set time elapses, you don’t have to worry about the power consumption because it automatically shuts itself off.
Best Rock Tumblers Buying Guide
Choosing a rock tumbler is challenging, especially considering there’re numerous designs and types in the market.
It’s even more challenging for first-time buyers, considering there’re plenty of features to consider.
Fortunately, in the guide below, I show you what to consider in your next rock tumbler purchase.
But before then, I’ll share with you the two common types of rock tumblers.
Types of Rock Tumblers
There’re two types of rock tumblers; rotary and vibratory.
They’re also known as rotating tumblers and often used by professionals because of the professional-grade results.
In rotary tumblers, the rocks repeatedly fall on each other within the barrel for polishing.
Vibratory tumblers are good in shaping and polishing raw stones and rock.
Also known as Agitating Tumblers, Vibratory tumblers use either ultrasound or spin method to polish the raw rocks.
The vibratory tumblers use a spinning method on the vertical axis to polish rocks.
They’re not a popular option because they cost a lot. However, they come with plenty of benefits from traditional rotary tumblers, and notably polished stone and rock with less time.
Rotary vs. Vibratory Tumblers Comparison
Suitable for Beginners
Suitable for professionals
Shape and sharpen rocks
Other Rock Tumblers
- Toy Rock Tumbler: Designed to cater to a handful of stones at a time. Toy tumblers are made from plastic, so not the most durable option. They’re also cheap and suitable for kids.
- Hobbyist Rock Tumblers: They’re mid-tier rock tumblers, designed for a little more durability. They also cater more load and don’t create lots of noise during tumbling.
- Commercial Rock Tumblers: They’re large machines, often used for industrial purposes. They can manage a few thousand pounds of rock at once.
Things to Consider While Buying a Rock Tumbler
Now that we’ve already seen the type of rock tumblers in the market let’s look at some of the things to consider when selecting a rock tumbler.
The barrel size determines the capacity of the rock tumbler. Of course, the size of the tumbler depends on your rock tumbling needs. Generally, however, the most common size for beginners is 3 pounds.
However, if you’re into professional tumbling, there’re many other options, including 6 lbs, 12 lbs, 2 lbs, and 40 lbs. These tumblers have a large capacity and are made from heavy-duty materials to last for years.
Remember, the choice of a rock tumbler depends on your basic needs and the size of the rocks. If you choose a heavy-duty option for smaller tasks, you won’t get the desired results and vice versa.
When considering a rock tumbler’s material construction, consider the barrel since it’s the main part of the tumbler machine. Plastic and rubber are the common materials used for the tumbler machine. Rubber is a fantastic option for those who need to reduce noise while tumbling.
On the other hand, plastic is a suitable option for a tumbler machine for kids. Plastic is less expensive and features extra durability, which is best for kids.
Look Out for Starter Kits
If you’re starting, keep an eye for the beginner starter kits, as these contain everything you need to get your first lot of polished rocks.
Conversely, if you’re shopping for a kid’s tumbler, the starter kit might also make more sense.
Generally, rock tumblers are noisy, and many people find this annoying. Even the premium options are likely to cause noise.
Still, there’re some distinctions in this area. For instance, some units are genuinely noisy, in the sense they might disrupt your daily activities. However, others can run without causing too much disruption.
From the various reviews, it’s evident that rubber tumblers are significantly quieter than other material, so you might want to bear this in mind in your next selection.
Even so, tumblers are noisy, and the best solution would be to find a place, like in a garage, so that noise wouldn’t be a source of annoyance.
Sometimes, a rock tumbler may have to run or days to achieve the desired results. However, in some situations, this might result in overheating of the motor, which could cause other complications.
To save you from the inconvenience, pick a model with overload protection, which will ensure the motor shuts off automatically in excessive load and utilization.
Single or Multiple Barrels?
Multi-barrel tumbler machines are suitable for the professional since it allows them to use different rocks with a single machine simultaneously.
Apart from this, the multi-barrel machine lets you use the rock tumbling process with different batches on a single machine, so you don’t have to spend weeks on a single batch.
As you’ve seen, there’re numerous features and products to choose from if you’re in the lookout for the best rock tumbler.
Ultimately, however, you should base your decision on a product’s unique features and performance specifications. More importantly, a rock tumbler should adequately meet all your rock tumbling needs.
If this is your first stint at rock tumbling, I would suggest you invest in a cheaper machine until you get its hang. With time, you will replace your original equipment.
At the same time, don’t overlook the capacity and size.