If you’re looking to pick up rock tumbling as a hobby, then you’re probably in search of the best rock tumbler to get you started.
A rock tumbler is a handy piece of kit that can be used to carve ordinary rocks into extraordinary designs, and even be made into jewellery, and can be suitable for all ages.
Picking a rock tumbler doesn’t need to be a difficult task, and that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 rock tumblers around to meet your requirements using durability, noise, cost and overall performance as a guideline.
Best Rock Tumbler Overall - National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit
Our overall best rock tumbler has to be the one that ticks all the boxes and is suitable for just about anyone, so for us, this has to go to the National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit.
Coming in at under $100, it is fantastic value for money, as it also comes with everything you need to get yourself started, including 0.5lb of rough gemstones, jewelry fastenings, and four polishing grits.
Also included is a useful information guide and easy to follow instructions on how to work the tumbler, so even a beginner can be up and running in no time.
The tumbler comes with a leak-proof rubber barrel that is built with a noise-reducing design, and has a handy 2-year warranty included, adding further proof that this tumbler is made to last.
It comes with a handy shutoff timer and speed control setting, which is a great little feature that can prove quite convenient in helping to prevent over-tumbling your rocks.
As with most tumblers, and despite the tumbler being designed with noise reduction in mind, you can of course still expect a bit of noise while it is in use.
Ideally you already have a storage place in mind, as you probably wouldn’t want it on your desk in your workplace!
While a garage is arguably the ideal solution, something such as a storage cupboard in a quiet room in your house should do the trick. You can then probably expect a minimal amount of background noise.
Best Heavy Duty Rock Tumbler - Tru-square Rotary Tumbler
If you’re already experienced with rock tumbling, you might be looking to upgrade and spend an extra bit of cash on something in the higher-end market.
For a little over the $200 mark, you can generally find a much larger capacity tumbler, and these are typically built with a much higher quality barrel, prolonging the tumblers life significantly.
This brings us to the Tru-square rotary tumbler. This tumbler is a serious bit of kit, and comes with a whopping 15lb barrel in the shape of a hexagon, and is made out of steel with removable rubber liner.
It comes with a heavy-duty motor at 115v, which is fan-cooled and comes with a handy overload protection feature.
Although on the pricier side, this is definitely one of the best rock tumblers on the market currently, winning multiple awards for its quality and durability (there’s a reason the company offer a huge 5-year warranty!).
Overall, this is definitely worth considering if you are serious about rock tumbling and looking to purchase something that won’t need replacing any time soon.
Lortone 3A - Best Rock Tumbler Under $100
Lortone have rightfully earned themselves a serious reputation as one of the best brands when it comes to rock tumblers. It was a difficult choice to single out a particular Lortone tumbler for this list, so we’ve included two!
This tumbler in question is the Lortone 3A. It comes with a 3lb. capacity, allowing for this tumbler to be more on the affordable side and coming in at under $100, while also maintaining a good performance standard.
One of the main standout features of this tumbler, however, has to be its motor, which comes with some serious power! Despite this, the tumbler actually runs at a reasonably quiet level, courtesy of its hard rubber lining.
This tumbler is suitable for beginners just starting out, but can also do a solid job for experienced hobbyists.
We were so impressed with the Lortone 3A that upon a quick vote, this was an easy winner as the office favourite from this list when considering all factors.
We can comfortably say without question that this is one of the best rock tumblers under $100.
Chicago Electric Power Tools - Rotary Tumbler
Although made of plastic, this tumbler excels in quality and comes in at a seriously affordable price, and can typically be found for way under the $100 mark.
It comes with a 3lb. capacity, and is considerably lightweight due to the quality plastic materials used to construct it.
The use of rubber barrels allows this tumbler to run quietly, and it is known to be able to run smoothly for days at a time without overheating.
Overall it’s a great little tumbler at a fantastic price and is certainly worth considering as a beginners rock tumbler for either yourself or a child.
If we had to pick a negative about this tumbler, it would have to be the speed of which the tumbler runs, and the lack of the ability to control this.
Lortone 33B - Double Barrel Rotary Tumbler
Our second Lortone tumbler is the 33B Rotary Rock Tumbler, and this one is slightly larger in comparison to the previously mentioned 3A.
The 33B comes with a double barrel and has a capacity of up to 6lbs. (3lbs. in each barrel).
This is an excellent tumbler for transforming your regular rocks into brand new sparkling gemstones, and upon our test run we found our hand-picked stones to be almost unrecognizable!
This is a very versatile tumbler due to its double barrel, allowing you to choose between completing multiple tasks at once, or simply using it as a single barrel tumbler to polish larger quantities.
You can also expect great longevity out of this tumbler, and it comes with a powerful 115v motor, so completing tasks on a larger scale should not prove problematic.
Despite its powerful motor, the 33B runs fairly smoothly without overpowering noise when stored in a suitable location due to its rubber barrels.
It is very easy to operate, so is suitable for both beginners and hobbyists.
Overall this tumbler is definitely one of our favourites on the list and comes highly recommended for those willing to pay slightly over the $100 mark.
Although it may seem a little on the pricier side, we can comfortably say that this tumbler is great value for money!
Discover With Dr. Cool
The Discover with Dr. Cool is aimed at the slightly younger generation, and it can prove to be the perfect gift for somebody looking to dip their toes into the wonderful hobby of rock tumbling.
This tumbler is an ideal starter kit. It comes with the 4 necessary grits and nine different gemstone variations, jewelry fastenings, and a beginners guide to help get you on your way.
It is priced quite a way under the $100 mark and comes with a leak-proof rubber barrel which helps significantly with noise reduction in comparison to its plastic competitors that are usually within this price range.
It also comes with an automatic shut-off timer, and various speed settings to allow you to run the tumbler at your own desired pace.
There is also a 100% satisfaction guarantee that comes with a 2-year warranty, so you can rest comfortably knowing that this tumbler is built to last.
All things considered, this tumbler is very well put together when you bare in mind it is aimed at a younger age group, at an excellent price for what you receive in the kit.
National Geographic Starter Rock Tumbler Kit
Finally, we think it’s definitely worth mentioning this National Geographic starter kit.
This starter kit is quite similar to the previously mentioned hobby kit by National Geographic, but comes in at a considerably lower price and is more suited as an introductory kit to those just starting out.
It includes a tumbler with 9 types of rough gemstones, the four necessary polishing grits, jewelry fittings and a sifter.
Also included is a very helpful beginners learning guide in full colour that anyone can follow, allowing this kit to work as a great gift as a first rock tumbler for a child.
The tumbler is built to be leak-proof, and the motor is fairly powerful considering the price range.
As this tumbler is made of plastic, you shall probably want a designated room to run this tumbler in.
Although a rubber barrel is included to help reduce noise, you are certainly going to know this tumbler is active if you are within range.
What do I need to get started with rock polishing?
If you are just starting out, then it might be a wise idea to purchase a rock tumbler package that comes with all the essentials to get you started.
If, however, you decide to purchase all the essentials separately, then you will, of course, need some rocks. You want these to be relatively small, but certainly no bigger than a medium-sized strawberry. Feel free to get a bit creative with the shapes!
You will also need the 4 grades of tumbling grit. This consists of coarse, medium, pre-polish, and polish.
While it may not be a physical item, you will also need a lot of patience! Rock tumbling is not a speedy task, and each step can take up to a week+ to complete in order to get the perfect outcome.
This means you can be waiting for at least a month to 6 weeks before you see the final result.
It is also worth considering a good storage place before purchasing a tumbler. While you can certainly find rock tumblers on the quieter side (keep an eye out of tumblers with rubber barrels), you are tumbling rocks, after all, so you can expect a bit of noise regardless.
A garage is probably the ideal location if available, as it is out of the way enough that you shall probably not be able to hear it from inside your home, but is easily accessible for you to check on regularly.
Otherwise, a suitable storage place that is out of the way inside your home, ideally where noise can be kept to a minimal, shall usually do the trick.
You probably won’t want your tumbler sat on your kitchen worktops, however!
How do I know which rock tumbler to choose?
There is really no right or wrong answer in terms of choosing which rock tumbler is best for you, as it all comes down to personal preference and your own requirements.
With that said, there are some things you can keep in mind to assist in your decision.
Level of noise
An important factor when choosing a rock tumbler is, of course, the level of noise it makes. As we have previously mentioned, due to its purpose, you can never expect a rock tumbler to be completely silent.
Rock tumblers with rubber barrels are generally much quieter than those without, but you can still expect a reasonable level of noise if storing your tumbler in a room you are often in.
Choosing a rock tumbler with rubber barrels and storing it in a suitable location are two key factors to help minimise disruption.
The capacity of your rock tumbler is a key component that should be carefully considered.
You can get many different size barrels, with some of your more average sized barrels being around the 3lbs mark. This is usually a suitable size for a beginner or casual hobbyist.
A 3lb. barrel should allow for 2lbs. of rocks, with the remaining 1lb. containing the grit and water.
Higher capacity barrels are also available for those looking to take it to the next level, and it is recommended that you aim for something between 7 and 14lbs. for this usage.
Also available are commercial tumblers. These are usually considered ‘heavy-duty’ tumblers, and can range from anywhere between 20 – 40lbs.+
Bigger is not necessarily better, so it is highly advised that you do not simply go out and purchase the highest capacity tumbler you can find if you are just starting out.
Start with the basic 3lb. barrels, and work your way up if you find yourself wanting to tumble more rocks at one time.
Investing in a rock tumbler that you know is going to have good durability is a wise idea, as it is not something you want to be having to replace every few months.
Rock tumblers run for long periods at a time, so it is key that your rock tumbler can perform efficiently for weeks at a time without running into issues such as the motor overheating.
Be sure to look out for tumblers built using quality materials, and a rock tumbler with overload protection is never a bad idea, as your rock tumbler should then turn off automatically should an issue arise.
Look out for starter kits
If you’re just starting out, then be sure to keep an eye out for beginner starter kits, as these will generally contain everything you need to get your first lot of polished rocks.
A starter kit shall usually contain a tumbler itself, along with all the necessary grits, and 1lb. or so of rocks for you to polish.
The National Geographic kits are a great example of this, and usually, also come with a learners guide to assist you through the process.
The best rock tumbler for you really comes down to personal choice based on your requirements and your budget, but hopefully our list can help to point you in the right direction!