Easiest Homemade Rock Tumbler





Introduction: Easiest Homemade Rock Tumbler

This could possibly be the easiest tumbler ever built. It cost me $0. The 5 gallon bucket, printer (from which I got the roller bars), and the 3 liter bottle came from the trash. The drill was a gift. I'll bet you could do this in about 5 minutes or possibly less. It took me about 10 minutes - but I'm slow! It really does a good job!

Step 1: 5 Gallon Bucket - Almost Any Size Will Do

This is a QUICK and VERY EASY way to make a rock tumbler. It took me less than 10 minutes. I did my best to use the motor from the printer but it was just too fast. I tried to gear it down but all I did was messed things up. I have several motors from microwave ovens that turn the food. I'll give that a try some day but I fear it will be too slow. If any of you have done this, PLEASE let me know. I dont get a chance to get on my computer very often so please, if you leave a comment or ask a question, dont think I'm ignoring you. Also, I didn't check to see if this has already been done. If it has - I'M SORRY. I've been using this for several weeks.

I tumble rocks so, since most containers WILL leak, I used a bucket. I had several 5 gallon buckets so I used one.

If you have ever taken apart a printer/scanner you will have the 2 rods that are needed. One will more than likely have rubber on it. This is what grabs the paper. The sizes vary. You can adjust the height of the holes that you drill for these. The rubber roller bar is the one you attach to your VARIABLE speed drill. Make sure that this bar is AT LEAST level with the other bar. One inch lower (including the width of the rollers) is ideal.

Step 2: Drill Your Holes and Insert the Bars

I know that these are very sorry looking pictures but I did this in a hurry...

I use two containers that are sturdy plastic and have very wide lids. One is 5 1/2 wide and the other is 6 inches wide. I spaced my holes at 4 inches. Be careful... The rubber on my rod is only about 1/4 inch thicker than the bar. I've seen some that have rollers that are about 1 inch thick. Drill your holes accordingly. Start with your roller bar (the one the drill will be attached to) and space your next bar about 1/2 to 1 inch HIGHER than the roller height. My second bar is fixed. It doesn't turn at all. I havent had any problems so far since these are stainless steel rods and super smooth but it wouldn't be a problem to just drill the holes a bit larger.

Step 3: 3 Liter Soda Bottle

I cut this to level the drill (and attached rod) with the 5 gallon bucket.

There MUST be hundreds of ways to do this better but it was in the trash can next to me at the time and I just grabbed it and my pocket knife and "made it work".

Step 4: Finished Product

My pictures were horrible in the first place but they also were "cropped" once uploaded.

Anyway, this is a drawing of the finished product. It does the job for my first step of rock polishing. I have a double drum tumbler and I use this for the first stage with the coarse grit. I bought my tumblers (I have 2 double drum tumblers) from Harbor Freight Tools. I've had them for 3 years and the ONLY problem that I have is that the rubber gasket that covers the bolt plate has worn holes in the center. THAT is why I came up with this, Once the rocks go through the first stage they become more rounded and lose ALL of their rough edges. I believe it was these rough edges that wore out my tumbler gaskets.

One thing to note: This is noisy! I barely hear the rocks tumbling over the sound of the drill. Good luck



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    16 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Most drills use a brush motor and inherently will limit how long 24/7 operation can continue before they the brushes grind to nothing but a spring...

    2 replies

    I agree. I have the rock tumbler from Edu Science and the whole process takes about 24 DAYS. If Kingfish23 can do it in less time I would like to know how. anyway that much time I am sure would trash a drill.

    A lot depends on the type of rock you use and how fast the process takes..


    What do you put the rocks into? What should i use for that?

    A dimmer switch meant to control lights will not work well on a motor. A fan control it meant to control motors would work

    Found a simple motor drive combination. somebody must be throwing out an old bread-maker that leaks burns or they just want to get rid of it. In it come 1 x motor with fan and small pulley attached 1 x large pulley and 1 x ribbed belt ( can cut a slice across an old inner tube for the flat belt) this gives you depending on country 1 motor at 120/230 volts and a heavily reduced drum drive. Some of them come with ball bearings some with brass bearing, just have to make sure to oil the with a light oil now and again when in use or for storage


    grit and water is added to the barrel along with the rock, as the barrel rotates this works a bit like sandpaper and smooths the rock
    you start with coarse grit and work down to finer grit- make sure to thourerly clean the rocks and barrel after each stage
    fill about 3/4 full of rock, add enough water to just cover the rock, add some grit (google how much to use per KG) and spin
    for each coarseness spin for 7 days
    hope that helps!

    i can imagine that a motor would be quieter (and cheaper) than a drill, and you could probably get one from the printer
    if you can figure out how, the speed can be reduced with gears (im working on this, my current idea is a worm drive attached to the motor output axis linked to a gear. to attach the gear to the structure, attach a thin, sturdy stick to the rubber rod and insert this through the centre hole of the gear and then through the drilled hole in the bucket)

    but yeah, this is a great project- cheep, functional and easy! hopefully im going to make this as soon as i get my hands on a printer

    I've been using it everyday, 24 hours a day without a problem. I'm using it with the coarse 60/90 grit. I have 2 double tumblers that I bought at Harbor Freight and the ONLY problems I've had with them is the rubber gasket, which covers the entire lid, has worn through. I've had them almost 3 years and I'm still using the original drive belts! They give 6 replacement belts (at least with the double tumbler). Now I need to find how or if I can buy the replacement gaskets.

    Forgot to mention - I had to use 2 zip ties around the drill trigger. The button you can press that keeps the drill on would only work if the trigger was fully engaged.

    2 replies

    Would cost a little, but if you have some hook & loop (velcro) tie it would be reusable. Like what you would put on a power cord so you could keep the cord wound up.

    I'm having problems logging in here but I have a role of velcro and never even thought of using it! That would make adjusting the speed easier also. After I published this I found that I DID have a drill with an adjustable speed screw on the trigger - eliminating the need for these.