A friend left a message on my facebook page saying that her knowledge of this process was nil. So here is a little quick info about what I'm doing with the rocks - tumbling, and how the process works.
The picture to the left is the tumbler that I own. It is a two barrel tumbler with each barrel having a 3 pound capacity. The two barrel works very well for me because I can devote one barrel to the rocks and let them tumble for weeks (not kidding!) and use the second barrel to tumble my silver work in steel shot.
The basics - collect the rocks or have friends do it for you when they go on really cool vacations. You will be amazed at how some rocks tumble down to nothing so you want to keep that in mind while you're looking. I always look for low profile rocks with a flat surface as they will be going into jewelry.
Fill your tumbler at least 1/2 full and preferably 2/3 full of rocks a varying size and shapes. Cover with water just to the top of the rocks but not completely covering. To this you will add about 4 tablespoons of Tumbling Grit. The techincal term is Silicon Carbide and it is an abrasive powder that will do over a week in a tumbler what the ocean would do over a few years. There are four levels of abrasiveness. You obviously start with the most aggressive and let this run 24/7 for about a week, this will take off the rough edges. In the weeks following you keep changing the liquid (NEVER POUR IT DOWN YOUR DRAIN AS IT WILL TURN INTO THE ROCK THAT IT JUST SMOOTHED OUT!!!) The fourth and final step is a polishing compound that will give them a shine as though they are wet!
That is the really quick guide and obviously you will want to carefully consider where you put your tumbler as the sound can be a bit maddening. Mine is up in the shop and I have learned to just deal with it. Although every time I go up there I wonder why I didn't bring up a can of WD-40.
I have been setting them in silver but have a set of Diamond Head Drill Bits on my shopping list so I can do some simple things with the smaller rocks.
I started my journey into jewelry making in 2005 while I was working in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, an area inundated with amazing artisans. I started with glass, which led to silver, which led to inlay, which led to joy.