Rock tumblers have been used for hundreds of years. Sure, they looked and operated differently than the rock tumblers we’re familiar with today. But its an art that’s been around a long, long time. And all these years later, there are still many people that still enjoy tumbling and polishing stones.
Polished rocks can be used to make jewelry or to even decorate your house. There are many different types of rock tumblers available now days; some of high quality for professional use, and some that are not built as rugged and are designed for the hobbyist in mind.
So that makes choosing the best rock tumbler strictly a matter of personal taste, mostly based off what you’ll use it for.
But there are definitely certain things that set one tumbler apart from others. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about rock tumbling so you can find the best one for you and your personal use.
The National Geographic Professional Rock Tumbling Kit
National Geographic rock tumblers can come with a bit of a stigma that they’re only designed for kids and might not be as durable as other tumblers you might see on the market. But this is definitely not the case with this tumbler.
This kit comes with a 2-pound barrel, three speed motor and a timer with settings for both days and hours, so it’s easy to get great results.
The brand-new re-design has a sound-dampening lid that makes the entire tumbling experience much quieter than before. This is a huge improvement over the older models of National Geographic tumblers. A quieter tumbler is a great option for people who like to tumble indoors. However, I’ve found that even the quietest rock tumblers still make substantial amounts of noise. As such, I recommend sticking them out in the garage.
The kit comes with everything you need to get started tumbling and polishing, including a pound of rough rocks, four bags of varying sized grit, jewelry fasteners, a strainer, and GemFoam rock polisher for a final high gloss finish!
Lortone 3A Rotary Rock Tumbler
I just recently purchased one of these to tumble agates and jasper, and it’s worked just perfectly.
The Lortone 3a has a VERY quiet rubber barrel that has a 3lb holding capacity. And the best thing about the Lortone 3a was just how unbelievably quiet it was.
You can get more information on the Lortone 3A here.
Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler Review
Did you know there is 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 available, 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.
Note: It always seems to be hit and miss on whether or not these rock tumblers are available, so you’ll need to pop into a local Harbor Freight or give them a call ahead of time to see if it’s in stock. I always check when I’m in buying other tools and they seem to be there most of the time. Amazon used to carry them, so it’s worth checking them out too.
The 3 lb Single Barrel Harbor Freight Rock Tumbler
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.
High quality metal rock tumbler has a powerful motor, noise reducing leak-proof barrel and comes backed by a 2-year warranty.
One of the most affordable rock tumblers available at $58 (at the time of this writing), making it an excellent rotary rock tumbler under $100.
Ease Of Use
Perfect for beginners and experienced tumbler hobbyists. Easy to operate.
- 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
- Low Speed
- Good for beginners/intermediate users
- Very popular rock tumbler for brass shell casings
- Easy to use
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.