Introduction: Affordable Rock Tumbler

Picture of Affordable Rock Tumbler

This is my affordable rock tumbler designed to tumble 3D printed parts, printed with ColorFabbs metal filled filaments (BronzeFill, BrassFill, CopperFill). It is also possible to add a 'golden' shine to regular PLA when the parts are tumbled with brass screws. It should be possible to build this tumbler for less than € 40.- which makes it much more affordable than 'professional' tumblers that can do nothing better than this one ;-)
With the 110mm drum it turns with approx. 22rpm - feel free to adjust the speed using different gear wheels (see note below).

You can go with a drum of your choice (i.e. old tins, etc.) but I found that PVC pipe couplings that are sold in hardware stores are perfect and cheap. This tumbler is designed to run with either diameter of coupling like 110mm, 125mm or 160mm (latter not tested yet). The 110mm drum is large enough for most of my parts and should be the starting point for your first try. For those who like a rubberized drum it is a good idea to print the inset for the drum with flexible filament.

Parts List:

  1. Geared Motor: 12V, 1:50, 100 RPM, 20 Ncm regularly called RB30 or RB35, available at Conrad, ebay, etc.
  2. Threaded Rods M8: 4x 250mm, 1x 275mm, 1x 235mm
  3. 29x 8mm Hex nuts, 1x 8mm locking nut & a couple of 8mm washers. 1x 3mm nut and 1x M3 x 20 screw (for the smaller gear wheel. 3x M3 x 16mm screws for the motor + 3 M3 washers.
  4. 4x O-rings 22x2,4mm
  5. 3D Printed Parts:1x Frame left, 1x frame right, 2 gear wheels and 4 pulleys
  6. 1 Power source 12V, 1A (actually 500mA should be enough) + 1 power cord, long enough, to be soldered to the motor and connected with the power source.
  7. 4x ball bearings 608zz

If you want to go with the suggested drum:

  1. PVC pipe coupling + 2 caps.
  2. 3D printed inset for the socket

The files for the 3D printed parts are available here: Rock Tumbler STL Files

The gear wheels are designed with this really cool customizer:
Thanks to ScribbleJ.

Step 1: ​Cut the Threaded Rods

Picture of ​Cut the Threaded Rods

Cut the threaded rods to the following lenghts:

4x 250mm for joining the 2 frame parts

1x 275mm (this one will carry the larger gear wheel)

1x 235mm (this one is the second, free rotating, axle)

Step 2: Attach the O-rings to the Pulleys and Loose Fit the Pulleys to the Axles

Picture of Attach the O-rings to the Pulleys and Loose Fit the Pulleys to the Axles

Attach 1 o-ring to each pulley

Loose fit the pulleys to the axles (you need the 235mm and the 275mm axle in this step)

See photo for the rough position of the pulleys. The distance between depends on the barrel you choose.

Slightly tighten the M8 nuts.(Not to tight yet, in order to adjust th eposition later if necessary)

Step 3: Push Fit M8 Nut Into Larger Gear Wheel

Step 4: Push Fit Ball Bearing Into Frame Parts

Picture of Push Fit Ball Bearing Into Frame Parts

Carefully push fit the bearings into the frame parts. Sometimes it is helpful to use a piece of scrap wood in order to push it nicely flat.

Step 5: Add 4 M8 Nuts to the Remaining Threaded Rods

Picture of Add 4 M8 Nuts to the Remaining Threaded Rods

Step 6: Attach the Threaded Rods to the Right Frame Part

Picture of Attach the Threaded Rods to the Right Frame Part

The right frame is the one where the motor is *not* attached. Top is where the frame parts are longer!

Step 7: Push the Other 2 (moving) Axles Through the Ball Bearings

Picture of Push the Other 2 (moving) Axles Through the Ball Bearings

Step 8: Attach the Left Frame Part to All Rods

Picture of Attach the Left Frame Part to All Rods

This step might be a little bit tricky. It helps if you slightly tighten the hex nuts on the right side

Step 9: Attach the Motor to the Frame

Picture of Attach the Motor to the Frame

But not tighten the motor screw now

Step 10: Assemble the Gear Wheels

Picture of Assemble the Gear Wheels

The smaller gear wheel (with a M3 hex nut + M3 x 20mm screw) goes on the motor axis

The larger one goes on the longer axle. Loose fit the gear, mark motor position and detach the smaller gear wheel. Now fix the motor on the marked position. Re-assamble the smaller wheel to the motor while simultaneously push the longer axis parallel.

Now let the motor run for a few seconds in order to check everything works fine. May be you have to re-adjust the distance of the gear wheels.

If everythings works well tighten the gear wheels and all threaded rods that are connecting the frames.

At least you should counter the nuts on the moving axles. Allow enough space that the axles can rotate freely.

Now you can finally check the distance between the pulleys and tighten the nuts.

Step 11: Let's Get Ready to Tumble :-)

Picture of Let's Get Ready to Tumble :-)

Ok, you're finished with the assembly, now lets tumble:

First of all I recommend to drill a hole into each of the caps that close the socket. One cap will always stay into the socket. This one schould get a 2-3 mm hole. The second caps needs a larger hole in order to attach a M8 or better M10 screw with some washers on it which will help to open the barrel.

Add your 3D printed parts into the barrel and add a whole lot of different brass screws.

Close the barrel and let the tumbler run for a minimum of 6 hours (better is 12 hours or more - depends on the part to be tumbled)

Step 12: Have Fun With the Result :)

Picture of Have Fun With the Result :)

After tumbling it is a goo idea to finish the parts by polishing with a buff wheel


uhrheber (author)2016-05-30

I'm using a motor with a different rpm, so I have to adjust the gears.

Would you be so kind to release the settings you used for your gears, so I could use them as a starting point?

Thank you.

onkelgeorg (author)uhrheber2016-05-30

The small gear (motor) has 31 teeth and the large one has 47. The distance between the axles is 41.5 mm

hope this helps ;)

uhrheber (author)onkelgeorg2016-05-30

Thanks, but not completely.

What length is the shaft, and how did you generate the big wheel without the shaft, and the holes nearer to the axle?

onkelgeorg (author)uhrheber2016-05-30

can't remember the length anymore, please download part and measure.

gearwheels are generated with:

holes are added in tinkercad.

briancarterndt made it! (author)2016-03-07

Thank you for the design. I based mine off of your design. I had to design mine because the motor I bought was different. Everything except the threaded rod, nuts and electronics are #3d printed. The frame, motor mount, and pulleys are all ABS. The gears and rollers are Alloy 910. The drum, O-Rings, and pulley belt are all TPU.

I added and on/off switch

I added a speed controller

I added two pulleys and a belt on the other side for dual turning

I also added, in the design, a detachable and adjustable motor mount to allow for changing gears and motors.

DavidG163 (author)2015-10-09

can you sent a link to the motor ?

onkelgeorg (author)DavidG1632015-10-09

yes sure, it is the same like on your similar question on thingiverse ;)

DavidG163 (author)onkelgeorg2015-10-11

thanks a lot :)

can you send me one to the power source to?

many thanks :)

DanielB66 made it! (author)2015-08-16

Amazing job Joerg, I´ve used a stepper motor and arduino to program it to run 2 hours on each direction and added a "window" to see how things are going inside. =) Thanks for sharing !!

Helmi74 (author)2015-07-28

Awesome stuff, Georg - instantly going to make this. Did you do some tuning to the inner side of the pipe, too? Think it could use some obstacles to make stuff fly around a bit more - at the end this is what the professional products do.

onkelgeorg (author)Helmi742015-07-28

thank you :)

The tuning is the part called 'inset'. I don't know a better English word for it. It is a decagon which is placed into the drum to make sure parts are flying around. If this part is printed with a flexible PLA it is pretty similar to professional products.

If you have any ideas of improving the diction, please let me know ;-)


Helmi74 (author)onkelgeorg2015-07-29

[german fuzz] Wir hätten's auch auf Deutsch probieren können :-) [/german fuzz]

thanks, guess i've just been to blind or to impatient to read in detail - just saw these inserts on Youmagine. Going to start printing today, Motor already ordered from eBay. Thanks for the great and simple input.

onkelgeorg (author)onkelgeorg2015-07-28

here is a photo:

cburg (author)2015-06-10

Great Job on your write-up of this project. I would like to build one. I do have a question or two.

1) Would give me(us) more information on just what you put in the tumbler? You said something about brass screws.

What size and how much of the container do you fill? example: 40% screws + the object.

2) what other things could I use besides brass screws?

Thank You for you write up and your time. I am new to this whole idea of tumbling.

onkelgeorg (author)cburg2015-06-10

Hi, thank you :-)

Here are my answers:
1) I never "measured" how much screws were in the drum, but your example is pretty close to what I would suggest. 40% is a good point to start with.

2) you can use everything that is sold for use in rock tumblers, like ceramic pyramids, stainless steel balls, nutshells and of course brass screws or galvanized or stainless steel screws. It depends on what finish you want in the end.


Ryan MacKenzie (author)2015-06-09

Nice work. Would be great to see the before and after photos.

see step 12, I added an image of the marvins before tumbling

Wow what a difference, thanks for the edit

eburman (author)2015-06-09

Great project but I'm not sure that the words "affordable" and "3D printed parts" are mutually compatible.

onkelgeorg (author)eburman2015-06-10

it is affordable for sure, because you don't have to own a 3D printer :-)
Just order the parts on
I calculated the price there. The pronted parts will cost 30-60 Euros, depends on the hub you choose. If you have a friend with a printer it will be less than 10 Euros if he charges you for the material only.
When you order at 3dhubs the price will increase from ~40.- to approx. 60-90.- Euros which is still less than the half of the professional tumblers.
affordable or not? ;-)

Fordt (author)2015-06-09

where did the frame and the barrel come from?

onkelgeorg (author)Fordt2015-06-09

the frame, the pulleys and the gear wheels are 3d printed. if you don't own a 3d printer you can easily order printed parts at

the barrel was bought in a hardware store. it is a standard socket which is used by plumbers


You keep describing the barrel as a "standard socket", but that means a round tool that fits on a ratcheting handle to remove nuts from bolts in the USA. Is there a name for that that means more to US?

He means a PVC pipe coupling.

They come in all sorts of sizes and qualities.

wow, thanks for your help finding the right word. I will edit the text now ;-)

The Lightning Stalker (author)2015-06-09

Tick tock rumbler

nonobadog (author)2015-06-09

A long time ago a friend made a real cheap rock tumbler. He bolted a long shaft electric motor to a shelf so the shaft was horizontal. Then hung a medium size tire over the shaft and turned it on. Very simple and it worked well and was free if you have the junk parts around.

He did have a big washer on the end of the shaft so the tire would not work its way off the end and if he was using a wet medium he had to add water every day because it would evaporate.

dakotarios (author)2015-06-09

Let me ask, as a novice bladesmith rock tumbling has always been something I wanted to try as it gives a nice finish to the blade. Would this also work for stuff like that?

tnetcenter (author)dakotarios2015-06-09

It should work for rock and jewelry tumbling, but you will want to avoid drilling any holes in the drum since those techniques will require liquid inside the drum with the tumbling medium.

Great instructable!

onkelgeorg (author)dakotarios2015-06-09

sorry I don't know if it would work. Until now I only tried 3D printed stuff.

JasonD3 (author)2015-06-09

Awesome tumbler. That looks like a really solid long wearing design. For your next one if you want a challenge try a vibrating tumbler. Easy to make if you don't mind replacing parts constantly, much more difficult to make one that will last as long as the one you built.

Love that its wall mounted, gets it off the workspace!

onkelgeorg (author)JasonD32015-06-09

may be it is an idea to design the vibrating tumbler in way that all parts that have to be changed frequently are 3D printed?

btw: my tumbler is not wall mounted, but nice idea for a future design ;-)

JasonD3 (author)onkelgeorg2015-06-09

you could certainly build an Incredibly precise vibration tuner with 3d printing, could get some very fine polishing done.

HA! my perspective on it was off! I still really like it as a tabletop.. you could actually wall mount it with just a couple parts to support the bottom or press it against the rollers.

lionel1024 (author)2015-06-09

I want to build something like this for spray paint that I know I'll be using in a day or two, just lay the can on, and let it run so the mixing ball keeps the paint mixing.

w1bmw (author)2015-06-09

Very nice and timely. I'll have to break the frame in two pieces to make it printable on my smaller bed, but that's no problem. I'm anxious to see how wood filament prints come out after tumbling. Thanks for sharing this!

onkelgeorg (author)w1bmw2015-06-09

you're welcome. pls post a photo if you have success with wood filament. good luck

Mfrancadn (author)2015-06-09

This is just what I was looking for!
Thanks a bunch!
Just voted for you.

onkelgeorg (author)Mfrancadn2015-06-09

sounds great :)

thank you and have fun with the tumbler

Edbed (author)2015-06-01

This looks awesome

onkelgeorg (author)Edbed2015-06-01

Thank you. If you like you can vote for my design in the 3D printing contest :)

tomatoskins (author)2015-06-01

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

onkelgeorg (author)tomatoskins2015-06-01

You're welcome. If you like you can vote for my design in the 3D printing contest :)

About This Instructable




Bio: digital media designer — 3d print geek — tinkerer — mechanician — hobby astronomer — beer drinker and hell raiser :)
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