Stone Polishing

Stone Tumbling/Polishing & Beach Walks

Looking towards Lowestoft

You may well wonder how someone decides to become (what is commonly called?) a rock hound.

Well, after several years of hard studying with little or no time to take any exercise, in July 2000, my partner and I, decided to start taking regular walks along the beach.  We live in Pakefield where the pebble beach is not even a stone throw away, that, together with some nice balmy evenings, was the beginning of our beach walks.

The picture above looks towards south Lowestoft (sandy) beaches although what is shown above is mostly shingle.

Travelling, or rather walking in the opposite direction takes you along past the caravan parks and Pontins holiday camp until you reach some sandy cliffs.

Going from Lowestoft towards Kessingland

The cliffs seen on the photo above are quite worrying – we are concerned with coastal erosion as we live so close to the beach. During the summer it is (still) possible to walk past these cliffs all the way to Kessingland – but for how much longer?

During the winter months, walking this route is very tide dependant as can be imagined from this picture. The sea crashes against the cliffs as shown, and as they mainly consist of fine sand, are prone to landfalls

Its strange really, how you notice and become interested in the geology of an area when you finally notice things. One example is these cliffs – you can clearly see different levels and colours of sand. I know that this area was at the very edge of where the ice-sheet stopped thousands of years ago and that probably has something to do with the markings and lines in the cliffs. But try as I could, there was not much information to be found about this in the local library. Oh well.

So .. as we were walking along the shore one evening, I happened to pick up one really nicely coloured stone, then another which had a nice shape, then another and another, etc. That was really the start of our interest in various types of stones.  You can get stones from various sources such as specialised suppliers but you can also pick up interesting stones from just about anywhere, even garden centres – so its worth keeping an eye out for sources.


Stone Tumbling – Methods Used

Are you thinking of becoming one of those mad rockhounds, going out in all weathers to find those wonderful stones? OK, so I am not an expert by any means and I am still learning which methods are the best to use for the stones I have obtained.

Stones - prior to being tumbled


Please feel free to contact me if you know something I don’t (more than possible!)

The first thing you need if you are going to tumble stones (apart from a tumbler that is) – is patience, and yet more patience.

The first thing I do after washing the stones is to sort them out into various sizes such as small, quite small, medium, etc. I purchased a set of 10 plastic freezer containers for £2.99 and put the stones in there. Quite a handy space saver as they can be stacked on top of the other.

I kept a diary of events for the tumbling and it reads something like this for the first batch of stones I tumbled.

  • 14 July: Medium/small stones. Mainly quartz. 850 grams in weight. 82 grams of (220) medium grade grit added.
  • 21 July: Stones cleaned and washed carefully. now 750 grams in weight. 75 grams of fine (400) grit added.
  • 28 July: Stones cleaned and washed carefully. 700 grams in weight. 35 grams of polish added together with some washing up liquid and rubber bands to make up mass up to 60% of drum again.
  • 31 July: Not happy with results so far. Re-washed stones again and added new 35 grams of polish / washing up liquid / rubber bands.
  • 6 Aug: Stones seem polished now – removing and putting in another batch of ‘good’ stones.

Something I started to do with later batches of stones was to put in some finished/polished stones into the tumbler with just washing up liquid (after the polishing grit).  Doing that really seems to finish off the stones and make them shine and look very glossy.

I did not use coarse grit to start with, as according to most books, if the stones have been polished by the sea and are smooth, this should not be necessary. However, in retrospect,
I do have some stones I am not really happy with and they will have to undergo the process again – so perhaps using course grit may save time and will certainly be used on some of the rougher stones I have collected or those with deeper pits in them.

I checked the stones on a daily basis in order know what the liquid looks like and to make sure that the stones were being correctly tumbled (or rather, that they were getting smoother).

I initially used the ‘trial and error’ method for tumbling stones, but I am now think that it is probably better to have a mixture of stone sizes .. ranging from the small to medium (but not too large!).  I feel (instinct) that the smaller stones help to fill up the gaps made by the larger stones and a better polish is obtained.

Finally after all the trial and error methods used, stones are removed from the liquid, washed and are left to dry.

After the stones have been dried they must be checked. Any that I found unsatisfactory were put back into the store of stones to be re-tumbled.

I visited 2 different craft fairs where they were selling tumbled stones (imported from abroad) which were so shiny I almost thought there was a lacquer on them. Is this the case or am I not tumbling long enough in one of the processes?

Polished stones

The picture (left) is a close-up of the finished polished stones
after they have dried off. This shows they are nicely polished
and some of them are just too nice to do anything with, I will
keep those ones myself!

What are your experiences with tumbling?

I have found it difficult to find specific information with regards to hints and tips on the Internet.

What do you do with your polished stones? I am still looking for ideas.

I look forward to reading your hints / tips / ideas / experiences,


Finished tumbled stones

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