Tumbling Chain Maille
by Kylie Jones
When I finally bought my tumbler I was just amazed at the difference between polishing my chain maille by hand and the finish that tumbling gave it, it is a completely different world.
Instructions
I use a rotary tumbler. The biggest differences are that tumbling cleans the inside of the chain that can be time-consuming to do by hand and it also burnishes the chain and makes it feel more fluid and slinky. And of course, you can have a coffee while it is doing the work for you.

I have always used a burnishing compound in the water and it comes out perfectly every time. I use a varied stainless steel shot with pins, saucers and tiny balls.
Kylie Jones's Tumbling Chain Maille - , Chain Maille Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, steel shot in tumbler
What metals can I tumble?

I have tumbled sterling silver, stainless steel, copper and brass. Using stainless steel shot the stainless steel chains will be burnished but not to a mirror shiny finish. To get that finish on stainless you will need to use a different material instead of the shot. I don't ever tumble trigger clasps or slider clasps as I think the liquid could degrade the inside springs.
Kylie Jones's Tumbling Chain Maille - , Chain Maille Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, sterling chain maille
Kylie Jones's Tumbling Chain Maille - , Chain Maille Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, sterling chain maille tumbled
What stones can I tumble?

I haven't tumbled pieces with turquoise or pearls because I have read this can damage the nacre on the pearl and the turquoise being porous may absorb the liquid. I tumble the chains before I add these stones. I have tumbled amber without a problem but I only did this for about 20mins. Glass and Swarovski crystals have been fine. Hard stones like quartz and chalcedony seem fine but if I'm worried I tumble one bead first just to see what happens, make sure you put the bead on scrap wire so the little stainless steel balls don't get stuck inside.

How Long?

I only tumble small amounts at a time, just because that suits my workflow. I usually check my pieces after 30-40 minutes and see if they need more time. The time will probably depend on what material and how much volume you are tumbling.

How do I store it?

When I have finished tumbling I rinse the barrel and stainless steel shot and then I cover the shot with filtered water with the water about an inch above the shot, all ready to use for next time. I tighten the lid and just leave it standing upright. I don't dry the shot and I have not had any problems working this way for over 2 years with the same stainless steel shot.
Kylie Jones's Tumbling Chain Maille - , Chain Maille Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, sterling
Kylie Jones's Tumbling Chain Maille - , Chain Maille Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, sterling chain maille tumbled

Materials

Sterling Silver Jump Ring Open (.035) 19ga. 8mm - Pack of 10
K11-31
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $4.66
  • Gold Club Price: $3.50
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Sterling Silver Jump Ring Open (.040) 18ga. (OD) 4mm Heavy (ID) 2.33mm - Pack of 10
K11-32
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $2.46
  • Gold Club Price: $1.85
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Sterling Silver Jump Ring Open (.040) 18ga. (OD) 6mm Heavy (ID) 4.2mm - Pack of 10
K11-33
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $3.58
  • Gold Club Price: $2.69
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Sterling Silver Jump Ring Open (.051) 16ga. 8mm Heavy - Pack of 10
K11-35
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $7.14
  • Gold Club Price: $5.36
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Tools

Chain Nose Wire Plier
G2-508
  • G2-508
  • Lesson Quantity: 2.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 2.00 each
  • Price: $32.95
  • Gold Club Price: $24.71
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WireJewelry Single Barrel Rotary Tumbler, Jewelry and Metal Polishing Kit, Includes 1 Pound of Jewelers Mix Shot and 8 Ounces of Shinebrite Burnishing Compound
G24-1-KITSS
  • G24-1-KITSS
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $149.95
  • Gold Club Price: $112.46
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  • Category: Chain Maille
  • Technique(s): Filing / Finishing