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Tumble Cleaning Beads: Observations – Part 3

You know how sometimes you think you have a great idea and it works but as you pursue it more it might not be as great as you thought?  Well, that’s not the case with the process of tumble cleaning beads that I’ve been exploring.  However, there are some things that I’ve noticed along the way that need some refinement.  Things like:

1.  If you use larger hole beads (I’ve tried the size larger than 1/8″ but can’t think of the actual size off the top of my head) certain sizes and shapes of the shot can get lodged into the hole.  I’ve worked it out but it’s a pain.  To remedy this I will try using possibly two pipe cleaners at a time through the beads.  My theory is that will leave less room for the shot to get in there.  Another alternative is a uniform size and grain of shot that is bigger than the holes…I’ll have to look into that next time I’m perusing the Rio Grande catalog.

2.  Remember that tarnishing effect I got that I thought was from dirty shot from previously using it on silver?  Well, it seems as though it gets dirty from the metal core of the pipe cleaners too.  Luckily my solutions of cleaning with toilet bowl cleaner works and is quick and Tonya Davidsons tip about cleaning the shot and barrel by tumbling it with a part vinegar solution works like a charm too.  So, now, after a load of beads I rinse the shot, pour in some vinegar and water and tumble for a while so it’s ready to go the next time.

3.  Regarding the pipe cleaners:  I noticed that if you really hold them in the flame everything burns away and you’re left with a very think twist of wire.  This is ok but I actually just melt most of the fuzzies away. This leaves some of it behind as molten plastic.  I’m not sure if this is better or not but it does leave behind a larger mass of twisted wire that is a little textured.  I’ll report more on that as I go along and learn from it.

4.  Some beads clean faster than others.  Very strange.  I’ve noticed this when using the Dremel too.  When I would clean opaque cobalt blue beads I would notice a blue residue coming out of the bead.  Are they softer?  They are the cleanest I’ve noticed coming out of the tumbler.

5.  Transparent beads need some tweaking.  I haven’t cleaned them much with the tumbler but I noticed that, as with anything under transparent glass, the hole is magnifiied and so is any residue from bead release.  The tumbling isn’t rigorous enough to get down in there and wear away the peaks of glass that house a deeper layer of release.  They might still need to be dremeled.  Or I will try finding a smoother release or ‘hand polishing’ the mandrel with release on it before torching.  For now, I am adding a small opaque core to transparent beads so I don’t have this issue.

That’s what I have for now.  Happy tumbling!!

2 thoughts on “Tumble Cleaning Beads: Observations – Part 3”

  1. THANKS a bunch for sharing this. I am trying it as I type. After making hundreds of tiny beads using up all my twisties and stringers they have been sitting waiting to be cleaned. I strung them all up on wire and they are batch by batch being cleaned.

  2. Yes, it’s working great some glass cleans better than others and I had my wires to long the first time so now I cut them so that they stand up in the tumbler without the shot and then poor the shot in. I know it’s the small twisted wire making it work.

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