Just How Noisy are Rock Tumblers? (It Depends!)

Are all rock tumblers really loud? The answer is no because some models make much less noise compared to others. You need to look at the different products out there in the market for you to understand the reasons why others make so much ruckus. Simply put, they have two things in common – they have a cheap motor and they have a barrel made of plastic. On the other hand, quieter models have a better motor and a soft rubber barrel.

How Loud Are Rock Tumblers?

Where to Run A Rock Tumbler

There is quite a huge variation in the amount of noise various rock tumblers make. The loudest of the group, Discovery Planet’s rock tumbler kit, makes about 73 to 75 dB (decibels) at a distance of 3 feet. This is about as loud as a dishwasher and louder than your vacuum cleaner. On the other end of the spectrum, the Lortone 3A is the quietest, making about 55 to 58 dB at the same distance. This is about as loud as people talking normally in a conversation. The majority of models are somewhere in between, at about 60 to 70 dB, just a little quieter than your vacuum cleaner. 

When you look at these numbers, it might not seem like the cheapest rock tumblers really make a loud ruckus. During the day, when there are other noises from both indoors and outdoors, the sounds can be drowned out. At night, however, you will notice the rumbling and clattering more clearly.

Where Does The Noise Come From?

Problem of Rocks Getting Dull After Tumbling

There is a simple answer to this question. Most of the noise only comes from the part of the machine where the rocks get shaken around, specifically the barrel. Some of them can be attributed to the engine, if there are loose screws or if the motor itself is not of high quality, so this is something you might want to look into if you have a loud rock tumbler despite having a rubber barrel.

Plastic Barrels Are Loud

Imagine a plastic pail full of rocks, and try to shake them around. Notice how loud it is? This is exactly what happens when you use a rock tumbler with a plastic barrel. It might not annoy you when you only shake the barrel a couple of times, but imagine a continuously vibrating or rotating tumbler full of rocks for hours, days and weeks. 

Some people who are not as sensitive to sound might not get too irritated, but at nighttime, when all the other ordinary noises are gone, you are more likely to hear it even if you are in a different room. The constant clattering of the rocks in a plastic barrel is not only too much, but you can be sure that the plastic barrel of the rock tumbler itself will not last long. 

A soft rubber barrel is a different matter. The material absorbs the impact of the rocks tumbling around. The sound is even more muted when you do not fill the machine with rocks. At about 2/3 capacity, it will be as loud as a carton of juice being shaken. The cheapest of tumblers with a soft rubber barrel, try out Lortone 3A or Thumler’s A-R1. Basically, most models under the Thumler brand are quiet and worth the buy.

Your Rock Tumbler Is Overloaded

A lot of rocks banging on each other are simply louder than fewer rocks tumbling around a barrel. Thus, you can expect an overloaded rock tumbler to be much louder than when it is only filled to the recommended 65% capacity. To determine if this is the cause of the noise, try removing some of the rocks and running the machine again. 

The Motor Might Need Replacement

The cheaper models have motors of significantly lower quality, which may rattle and break down much more easily compared to better rock tumblers. However, if you have a more expensive model that shouldn’t make much ruckus and it starts to sound clunky (as opposed to how it used to sound like), then you can have a technician look at it just in case it’s the motor. A replacement motor might be necessary and if you have one of Lortone and Thumler’s rock tumblers, you can buy and change the motor easily. 

You Might Have Some Loose Screws

Vibration is normal when you have a vibratory rock tumbler, but the sounds might not always be attributed to the normal operations. Loose screws might lead to more-than-normal vibrations, so you might want to check around make sure everything is screwed tightly.

Your Rock Tumbler Might Need Some Oil

Some models need to be lubricated at the bearings once in a while. To check, make sure to read the instruction manual of the rock tumbler you purchased (some of them are actually permanently lubricated). Beyond reducing the noise, it extends the life of your machine. 

Oiling is uncomplicated and you do not need too much oil. One drop might even be enough. Doing this one time every month is enough to keep your tumbler working perfectly and humming quietly instead of making a noise. 

Just make sure you never apply the oil to the barrels, rollers, and the belt. The oil will make the belt slip and may even react with the rubber, making everything sticky. 

You Might Need Replacement Bearings

Lubricating the bearings can help reduce the noise, but the fact is, this part of the machine is subjected to of wear and tear. When it seems run down, you can refer to the manufacturer to acquire replacement bearings for your rock tumbler.

What Do You Do When Your Rock Tumbler Is Too Loud?

What Rocks to Tumble

If you are a newbie to rock tumbling, you might have fallen prey to buying the cheapest model there is. Most products aimed for kids (or beginners) are usually of the lower quality type and it can be an annoying discovery just how loud they can get. If you want to turn it into a hobby, then it makes sense to try these steps out if your rock tumbler is unusually loud:

Find A Quiet Spot

If you live in a house with hidden or low traffic areas, then you can simply keep the rock tumbler in a spot where it will not annoy anyone. A garage or a shed in the garden is a good option, just make sure it has an electric source and it is dry enough to keep the rock tumbler running. This is the cheapest and easiest solution if you have a noisy model.

Even the quietest model might annoy the most sensitive people, so you still need to find the right spot where it will bother people the least.

Figure Out Where The Noise Is Coming From

Possible causes of noise were outlined above, and if your normal rock tumbler is making more than the usual noise, then there must be something amiss. Check the motor, the bearings, the screws, or whether it is overloaded. This should already bring some improvements so that you can continue polishing those stones without being kept away the whole night.

Buy The Right Model

There are two kinds of rock tumblers, rotary and vibratory. Rotary tumblers are meant to run non-stop for at least 4 weeks, which can be annoying after a while.

Vibratory ones are used for shorter amounts of time (you only need, at most, 2 weeks to finish polishing) and do not need to be on the whole time. They run for about 12 to 24 hours before you need to rinse them. The downside of these models is that they are significantly louder but since they will not be running the entire time, you will not have to live with consistent vibrations for weeks.

Take note, though, that the different models produce various results as well. Rotary tumblers create smoother stones, while vibratory ones do not shape the rocks. Professionals have both, depending on the stones they have in the beginning and what they want to do with it.

Whichever kind you end up buying, go for quality brands like Lortone and Thumler, which are proven by tests to be quieter than other rock tumblers out there. They will be pricier but they have their advantages. The better quality means they will last longer, plus the parts can be replaced when they get worn out. Over time, you might end up saving money than buying a new machine every once in a while. For serious rock collectors, the investment is worth every cent.

Never Put A Box Over Your Rock Tumbler

One thing to never, ever do is to cover the machine to reduce the noise. While it might help with the sound, it will cause the motor to overheat.

Final Words

Serious about rock tumbling? You would be happy to find out that you do not have to suffer from the noise just to enjoy your hobby. All you need to do is understand where the ruckus is coming from and take the right steps to have the perfect tool. You can get your beautifully polished rocks without losing your peace and quiet.

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