Five gallon bucket rock tumbler

polished rocks before after

Have you ever had a beautiful rock you wanted to polish? You don’t need to buy your own polishing machine to do so. Once again, the five gallon bucket can come in handy. There are a number of different designs you can use to create your own rock polisher, depending on the equipment you have available. We’ll look at some of them here

Polishing your own rocks

The principle behind rock polishing is relatively simply. You take a few good looking rough rocks. When you find rocks you want to polish, you take some form of grit for the rocks to brush against and some form of liquid lubricant to enhance the process.

Once you have these supplies, you need a polishing machine, in which the stones are regularly tumbled, thereby gradually smoothing their edges, until they become smooth and shiny. This can take quite some time. To do this professionally, you use multiple different stages over a period of days, using increasingly smaller grit, until you eventually use powdered polish to get your perfectly smooth stones.

Note: Tumbling a rock is going to be noisy and can take hours or days depending on the speed and your individual preferences, so make sure beforehand you won’t disturb your neighbors too much with it.

Setting up your own cheap rock tumbler

Unfortunately, good professional polishing machines can be quite costly however. So, to polish your own rocks, it’s a better idea perhaps to start out with some simple DIY methods to tumble them. Take a look at this ingenious design for example:


What’s going on here? A five gallon bucket is spun around rapidly, causing the rocks inside to tumble rapidly. A grinder motor found at a thrift store is used in combination with some old lawn mower wheels, to make the bucket spin around at a very rapid pace. This is the same basic principle as the more expensive rock tumblers you can buy online.

There’s another design you can find on Instructables. Here, a five gallon bucket, a drill and a soda bottle are used to spin rocks around. Keep in mind however, that although you can set up your own rock tumbler, you will still need grit material with which to polish the rocks. This material can be bought readily online or at a hobby store, it doesn’t have to be very expensive.

Finding good rocks to polish

gemstones beach pick up good polishing

Depending on where you live, you can run into beautiful stones in nature. Try searching near mines, mountains and other places where the soil is naturally absent or has been stripped away. There’s a long list of books for sale on Amazon, listing all the stones you can find in every American state. Of course, rough gems can simply be bought online too, but it’s more fun to go out looking for them yourself.

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