Do I need a tumbler for my silver clay? - Silver Clay School

Do I need a tumbler for my silver clay?

Since I’ve been teaching silver clay a number of years now, I do get the odd repeat question 😉 A lot of people see the kiln and ask do I need a kiln? And for that you can go to my blog post and read what I think here. But another very common question – especially after they see the results in class – is do I need a tumbler for my silver clay?

It’s a great question, because you can get some great results with using a tumbler for silver clay and my students see that every time they complete a class.

Silver Clay is easy to refine

It’s one of the beautiful thing about silver clay and there are a few! Most of the tidy up work, the ‘hard’ work which is not really hard, is done before the clay turns into metal. You finish, groom, tidy and sand when the clay is CLAY which is so much easier on the hands!

By the time your silver clay has been fired and it’s in its natural white state – the only thing you should have to do is polish. If you’ve done a good job at the pre-firing stage, then polishing should be a really easy task.

For me, I’ve always had a tumbler, right from the start, just because I am not one for sitting hand polishing lots and lots of pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I will hand finish a piece by hand if it needs an extra little bit of sparkle or attention to detail. But generally, if you get a piece of silver clay, it’s usually textured which can make polishing by hand a little challenging.

So do YOU need a tumbler?

Well it boils down to a couple of really easy to answer questions.

  • How much jewellery do you intend to make?
  • Do you mind sitting for hours (perhaps binge watching a series on Netflix) hand polishing?
  • Do you have any issues with your hands (i.e. arthritis or RPI?)

Because if you’re a person that makes jewellery occasionally, loves sitting watching The Crown or The Walking Dead and have strong, nimble fingers, then a tumbler might not be a required expense right now.

But if you’re a person that likes to chuck something in a pot and go and do something else with your time, or has anything painful going on in your hands, then you might want to consider a tumbler.

How I work

You see, what I do is; I fire my pieces, take them out, quench them in cold water if it’s safe and pop them in the tumbler and leave for a few hours. The jewellery gets quietly polished and I can go and write to you or make more jewellery or go out for a coffee with my friends… And when I get back, the jewellery has been beautifully polished and is ready for the next stage – whatever that may be.

If that sounds like the ideal polishing situation, then you should invest in a tumbler for your silver clay. And if you’ve made your decision to go ahead, then look out for my next blog which will be all about what to look out for in a tumbler. Sign up below to my weekly email to make sure you don’t miss it!