Daily Wire Tip Oct. 21: Black Goop on Tumbled Silver

By on October 20, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
October 21, 2010


Hi Dale, I read your tips every day, and you give great advice. I recently had a problem with my tumbler. It left a black sticky residue on my silver jewelry. Now I am afraid to use it. I used it according to manufacturer’s instructions. Has the rubber gone bad, or can I fix this?

-Vicki in Miami, Florida


Hi Vicki, you didn’t mention if your tumbler is new or if you have been using it for a while. We have had some great discussions on the reasons for the "black goop" that appears on both the shot and jewelry pieces in a tumbler. To read all about them, please read these posts and their comments: How to Keep Stainless Steel Shot free of Residue and New Drums Leaving Black on Silver.

If anyone else has some good advice and would like to share their experiences, please do!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    October 21, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I had the same problem when breaking in my new tumbler. After lots of research, I found the same information your shared in your Daily Wire Tip on January 9, 2010. Those measures worked great for me. I just had to break it in and keep cleaning until the goop was gone.

  2. avatar


    October 21, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I have not encountered this problem of a “black sticky goop” on my jewelry, and I have been tumbling my work for several years now. There have been a few times when the pieces came out less than sparkling. I think part of that may be due to using too little liquid dish soap. I started off using Dawn and putting in a squirt or two, rather than a few drops. When I started to be more frugal with the dish soap (a couple of drops instead of a squirt) the results were less than spectacular. Part of the problem is that if not enough detergent is present the rubber from the barrels attaches to the stainless steel shot and the jewelry. So, if you are going to use dish soap, use Dawn and use a couple of squirts rather than a few drops.

    More recently I started to use burnishing compound with spectacular results. It is “Super Sunsheen Burnishing Compound”. I keep a gallon jug of solution mixed with water which I use instead of Dawn. It is especially useful if you have more delicate pieces you don’t want to tumble for a long time. 30 minutes to 45 minutes can produce fantastic results.

  3. avatar


    October 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Reading the “fine print” that comes with tumblers and replacement barrels reveals that manufacturers advise NOT using liquid detergents. What I have used successfully when tumbling rocks is some shredded (pared off with a knife) bar soap. I usually use Ivory soap. If it isn’t overdone, there is no film left on the finished product. I’d wash the pieces to be tumbled with detergent ahead of the tumbling and rinsing well – then tumble.

    • avatar


      October 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks Pete. I also use Ivory Snow ‘flakes’ when tumbling rocks.

  4. avatar

    Dianne in Cincy

    October 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Dale – I read all the tips, and find them very helpful with my jewelry business, however need help with tumbling. I’ve had a double tumbler for several years and my first eperience was awful! I had purchased steel shot, but it wasn’t stainless steel – thus the jewelry was ruined and I never used it again. Can that ruined jewelry be restored in any way?

    I find it hard to believe that delicate wirewrapped jewelry isn’t ruined.

    I need really complete directions on quantities and proportions of everything: how much shot, and what kind, how much water & soap and what kind of soap – dawn or ivory flakes. How many pieces of jewelry per barrel, how long tumble. As you can tell, I’m a real novice at the tumbling process and would really appreciate your help!
    Dianne in Cincy

    • avatar


      October 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Dianne,
      Here is where ‘I’ could get a bit crazy as I personally have many, Many tumblers and have never, ever put a piece of my wire jewelry into one – ever!! (This is one of the reasons I mainly use half-hard wire, as it hardens while it is manipulated, therefore not needing any ‘extra’ hardening when the piece is finished.) But I have met a lot of people who DO tumble their work, for a variety of reasons.
      WS Faculty member Mary Bailey interviewed several folks about how to tumble jewelry and wrote a great article with details of the procedure that has you baffled; check it out here: http://wire-sculpture.com/jewelry-making-blog/1384/tumbling-your-jewelry/