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Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler (Review): The Best Rock Tumbler For The Money

harbor freight rock tumbler review

Did you know there's a Harbor Freight rock tumbler available?  As a matter of fact, there are four different Harbor Freight rock tumblers available!  This is great news for us rock collectors that want to experience the joy of rock tumbling, or rock polishing, but also don’t want to fork out a whole lot of cash in the process.

I’ve purchased many tools from Harbor Freight, and over all have had a good experience with the company and its products.  So I was very excited to learn that there is a Harbor Freight rock tumbler available.

I wanted to do as much research as possible on all of the Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers, and share with you what I found, the pros as well as the cons.


Review Of The Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers

Below are reviews of the two best Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers.  One is a rotary tumbler and the other is their vibratory polisher.

About The 3 lb Single Barrel Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler

The first Harbor Freight rock tumbler that I'm going to go over here is their 3 lb single barrel rock tumbler made by Chicago Electric Power Tools. Even thought this rock tumbler is sold by Harbor Freight, it is actually the Chicago Electric Power Tools 67631 Rotary Rock Tumbler.

Quality

High quality metal rock tumbler has a powerful motor, noise reducing leak-proof barrel and comes backed by a 2-year warranty. 

Price

One of the most affordable rock tumblers available, making it an excellent rotary rock tumbler under $100.

Ease Of Use

Perfect for beginners and experienced tumbler hobbyists. Easy to operate. 

Features

  • 3 lb capacity (4 ¾ “H x 4 ½ “ dia)
  • Rubber barrel for quiet operation
  • Smooths and polishes rocks, glass and metal
  • Easy to operate
  • Quiet
  • Low Speed

Pros

  • Good for beginners/intermediate users
  • Very popular rock tumbler for brass shell casings
  • Price
  • Easy to use
  • Sturdy

Cons

  • Does not come with tumbling grit/polishing medium. This can be purchased here or at your local hobby shop.
  • Drive belt has a tendency to come loose. This is easily fixed by adjusting the belt tension. Extra drive belts for Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers are available here.
  • Bushings are made from plastic and can wear out faster than other types of bushings.
  • The directions are unclear to some beginner tumbling hobbyists. You can read my article on How to Use a Rock Tumbler, which provides basic rock tumbling instructions.


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The 3 lb Harbor Freight Rotary Rock Tumbler may not be the perfect fit for everyone.  One of the main reason being that it doesn't come with rocks or tumbling medium.  

So if an entire rock tumbling kit is what you need, then you should take a look at the National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbling Kit.  

You can read my in depth review of the National Geographic rock tumbler and decide for yourself if its a better fit for you.

You can also read other users reviews and check out the current price on Amazon.

My Opinion On The 3 lb Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler

I was excited to write a Harbor Freight rock Tumbler review mostly because I know there are many of you out there that just don’t have a lot of money to spend on rock tumblers.  And let's face it, most rock tumblers or rock polishers aren’t cheap. That creates a dilemma.

I believe the 3 lb Rotary Drum Harbor Freight rock tumbler made by Chicago Electric Power Tools offers a fantastic solution to that problem.  I’m clearly a fan of the price point on this rock tumbler. It provides us with a sturdy and easy to operate method to polish rocks and thoroughly enjoy our rock collecting hobby.  It is a great little rock tumbler for the beginner as well as for seasoned tumblers.

As with many things that we purchase from Harbor Freight, it can sometimes be hit and miss.  But by carefully reading the instructions and by not overfilling the barrel (keep it under 3 lbs), I believe with this purchase, you will have a rock tumbler to enjoy for many years to come.


3 lb Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler FAQ

Question: Can you put broken glass in the harbor freight rock tumbler to smooth like "sea glass"?

Answer:  Yes. The Harbor Freight rock tumbler works for making sea glass.

Question:  Does the harbor freight rock tumbler come with tumbling grit, rocks or instructions.

Answer:  The Harbor Freight rock tumbler does not come with grit or rocks, but it does come with a set of instructions.

Question:  Can the Harbor Freight rock tumbler be used to polish brass?

Answer: Yes. Brass can be polished with this rock tumbler.

 

2. Harbor Freight 18 lb Vibratory Tumbler

About The 18 lb  Harbor Freight Vibratory Rock Tumbler

In addition to rotary drum rock tumblers, Harbor Freight also sells vibratory rock tumblers. Both the rotary style and vibratory rock tumblers have their own advantages and disadvantages.  If you're considering a vibratory rock tumbler, keep reading for a detailed review on the Harbor Freight Vibratory Tumbler.

The 18 lb vibratory rock tumbler from Harbor Freight is a heavy duty tumbler that's designed to produce much quicker results than it's rotary rock tumbler counterpart. 

The tumbler is mounted on four sturdy rubber feet for extra stability during the tumbling process. The sturdy polyethylene drum opening is 10.5 inches in diameter which makes it super easy to add and remove rocks and tumbler grit.

Features Of The Harbor Freight Vibratory Tumbler

  • Integrated liquid drain hose
  • Large 18 lb capacity
  • 18 gauge steel motor housing for maximum durability
  • Polishes faster than rotary tumbling
  • Easy to operate
  • Rubber mounted feet for stability and noise reduction
  • Durable polyethylene drum and lid


Why I Like The 18 lb Harbor Freight Vibratory Rock Tumbler

The reason I like this Harbor Freight vibratory tumbler is because of its overall affordability.  Harbor Freight nailed it again with this one.  Vibratory tumblers in general are more expensive than their rotary style counterparts, but there are perks for forking out the extra cash.

One of the biggest benefits is that a vibratory tumbler is faster than rotary tumblers. That means more finished product and less sitting around waiting.

The Harbor Freight vibratory tumbler has a large 18 lb capacity bowl and also has an integrated drain hose.

The base, or motor housing is made out of 18 gauge steel.  The tumbler sits 18.25 inches tall and rests on rubber mounted feet for added stability when operating. The polyethylene drum opening is 10.5 inches wide which makes it easy to add and remove items.

According to the manufacturer, the recommended media to use in the tumbler is plastic beads, walnut shell, corn cob, red rouge and ruby powder. The overall height of this tumbler is 18-1/4 in.


Why Start Rock Tumbling?

Rock tumbling, or rock polishing, is the hobby of collecting a variety of rocks and literally turning them into gemstones you can use for many different kinds of things such as jewelry, crafts, decor or simply just to display at home.  It’s an incredibly easy hobby to get into and it doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s an activity the entire family can enjoy together.  And like other enjoyable hobbies, the more you do it, the better you become.


What I Look For In The Best Rock Tumblers

While researching the best rock tumblers, there are a number of specific things I like to pay very close attention to.

Quality

Quality might as well be the most important factor to consider when choosing a rock polisher. You’ll be spending your hard earned money and we want to to make sure it lasts for a very long time.  Make certain you buy one that will last.

Price 

If you're like most rockhounds, you probably don’t have an incredible amount of money to spend on your hobby.  So price is a very important factor in determining the best rock polisher. We all want to take our rock collection to the next level, but we don’t want to spend a fortune doing it.

Ease of Use

When it comes to choosing a rock polisher, ease of use is an important factor to consider.  The idea is that over time, kids should be able to use the rock tumbler without a significant amount of adult supervision.  Of course, supervision will be necessary during the learning phase of rock tumbling. But eventually, we want this to be an activity kids can do on their own.


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Don't forget that you are definitely going to need a supply of rock tumbler grit to go along with your new Harbor Freight rock tumbler. 

This rock tumbler grit refill from Polly Plastics is a really great option. This is the same tumbler grit that I use, and can say from first hand experience that it works great.  

For a more in depth look and reviews of other tumbler grit refills that I recommend, check out my post, The Best Rock Tumbler Grit.

Conclusion

Give the Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers a try! Whether its the Harbor Freight Vibratory Tumbler or the Harbor Freight Rotary Tumbler, I'm confident that either one of these Harbor Freight Tumblers will exceed your expectations. 

I hope this rock tumbler review was able answer any questions you might have had about the rock tumblers by Harbor Freight.  These rock tumblers are excellent entry level and intermediate use tumblers. And you can't go wrong with the price that Harbor Freight sells them for.


Related Posts:

  1. Where To Find Rough Rocks For Tumbling (And Raw Gemstones For Polishing)
  2. The Best Rock Tumbler Grit
  3. How To Use A Rock Tumbler
  4. How To Make Your Own Rock Tumbler Grit Substitute
  5. (REVIEW) National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler: Best For Beginners