Today I experimented more with cleaning beads with the tumbler. You already know the good news: It’s possible.
The bad news is, the steel shot could leave residue on the beads if your shot is dirty from tumbling silver previously. I tumbled this batch for about 2.5 hours and the holes were TOTALLY clean. The top beads in the photo below show the residue, but it’s more apparent in person.
The good news is, it’s easily removed, as shown in the bottom beads. The BETTER news is that if you clean your shot between different media, this won’t happen at all. Tonya Davidson of Whole Lotta Whimsy gave me the tip of how to clean my steel shot and tumbler barrel. Put the shot into the barrel, at 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 water and tumble for up to an hour. Rinse as much as necessary and you will be ready to go.
If you do manage to get beads that have a gray looking residue, just do the following:
Have you heard the tip about using Coke or toilet cleaner to remove the silver effects that can be left on some turquoise or copper green glass beads? Well, I didn’t have any Coke but I did have my mighty toilet bowl cleaner handy in the studio.
So, I poured some into a little container and threw in some of the dirty looking beads.
I put the lid on and shook them around for a few seconds. I’d say give them at least a minute. You could also put them in, let them sit as long as you want and give a good shake before retrieving them. I’ve forgotten beads over night before and they can start to etch slightly so try not to do that. Your finished result? Beads, sparkling and shiny, no residue.
The toilet bowl cleaner is nasty stuff. Nasty! I like to wear plastic kitchen gloves when I use it. I’ve also found out the hard way that it will corrode any metal tools just by being open near them so be careful and guard your tools with your life. I also make sure to dilute the rinse water very well and run the faucet when pouring it down my sink. My studio sink is stainless steel and I know that can’t be good after seeing what it did to my tools a few years ago.
To retrieve the beads I used to use a designated set of long tweezers. While this can work it can be frustrating when you’re in a hurry to try and fish them out. What I do now is use a little strainer and pour the whole thing through it into an identical container and just repeat that back and forth whenever I need to do it.
I then drop the beads into a large container of water to get the bulk of the toilet bowl cleaner off, and run the faucet to dilute it. I do a final rinse, with my rubber gloves on with the beads in my hands. I think that about does it.
Now, if you don’t want to do this, I plan on experimenting with other methods just because I’m curious. Different tumbling media and if I ever get some Coke in the house I’ll try that too. Just an FYI: neither old coffee nor Hansen’s Lemon Lime Soda work.