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What Tumbling Does

Jens Pind Linkage 7 JPL7
Tumbled and raw (same piece)

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Intricate chains need a tumbler to polish them best. The results would be impossible to efficiently duplicate with hand polishing. It's mandatory equipment that every serious chainmaille or jewelry artist uses to finish their items properly. About 30 minutes transforms a piece from ordinary to amazing. It smooths some burrs and jagged edges but won't fix sloppy workmanship like divots, nicks, bad closures, file marks, or other flaws.

Rotary tumblers can have a hardening effect though vibratory ones generally do not. Stainless steel shot tumbling media impacts the surface thousands of times. However, the physical effects don't happen as quickly as the aesthetic ones.

Tumbling's importance was highlighted after making some tight chains. Pure silver gets a milky surface during fusing which causes significant friction between the rings. It took more than 24 hours just to get a JPL5 bracelet to move freely. That's about the average for my chains.

The slipperiness of polished silver chainmaille is extraordinary. There is a correlation between silver's shine - it is the shiniest metal - and how it slides so effortlessly over itself. Tumbling reveals a mysterious tactile and visual element unique to each weave.


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