Daily Wire Tip June 15: Tumbling Chain Maille Jewelry

By on June 14, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
June 15, 2011


Should chain maille jewelry be tumbled? Is that to harden it so that the links don’t open?

-Sue in Easton, Pennsylvania


Hi Sue, many folks tumble their chain maille jewelry for several reasons. Yes, tumbling will further harden the links. It will also remove any burrs, clean the work, and give it a nice shine. You do need to be aware that any wire that will normally tarnish with time, will still tarnish after tumbling.

In my studio, we occasionally tumble my daughter’s chain maille jewelry. When? Well, only if she is working with home-made jump rings that may have burrs from the saw blade. We place finished pieces (pure chain maille, without any beads) into a small barrel with 1 pound of mixed stainless steel shot, a small squirt of blue, original Dawn and enough water to cover the contents. Then we turn on the tumbler and leave it to run for about 1 hour. Then we remove the finished items, rinse them thoroughly under running water, and leave them on a towel to air dry.

The final step is to rinse the shot, let it air dry, and then store it until the next need. We put the dry shot in a plastic container with several silica gel packs. Many people, including us, save the silica gel packets that are packed into so many items today. If you need to purchase more, I like the company Silica Gel Packets.

In writing the article Tumbling Your Jewelry, faculty member Mary Bailey interviewed several folks who regularly use a tumbler with their finished jewelry. As you are thinking about a tumbler, you may find some useful information that will help you decide whether or not to tumble your finished chain maille pieces.

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    June 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm


    I was wondering I have read that some will clean the shot and then store it in water. Are there any issues with this that I am missing? I have had mine stored in water for a couple of months and no problems yet, but could there be something coming I have not seen yet?

    Thanks for the help.

    • avatar


      June 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      No Paula, as your experience proves you can safely store your stainless steel shot in water. My answer contained info from my own experiences : ) You are fine.

  2. avatar


    June 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Dale, you are such an inspiration to us all! Thank you for your ideas and advice. When it comes to tumbling jewelry, I have also heard that copper “should” be tumbled dry with white rice to polish it. Is that true?

    • avatar


      June 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks Marilyn. I have also ‘heard’ about using rice in a dry tumbler, but I have no experience with this process. I imagine that some folks prefer using something other than stainless steel on copper, maybe thinking of denting their pieces?? Hopefully someone who has experimented with this idea will pop in and let us know for sure how it works.

  3. avatar


    June 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I’ve been teaching chain maille for several years and find that dry white converted rice in my tumbler is good to use for pieces with opals or delicate gems. It shines the pieces but does not harden the rings or remove burrs. I do not use my (rotary) tumbler barrel. Instead, I use a “recycled” glass jar that fits in the tumbler and use that.

    • avatar


      June 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

      Wow Celeste, thanks so much for sharing this info! I had no idea about how to use rice in a tumbler. Basically you are saying that rice in a tumbler is a good cleaning method. Awesome!