Friday, June 19, 2020

Strange Lockdown Hobbies No. 257 : A Tumbling We Will Go

My dear wife bought me a rock tumbler for my birthday. It's not just any rock tumbler, it's a National Geographic Variable Speed Professional Rock Tumbler! It is designed to stimulate my curiosity, occupy my stagnant mind, fill the empty hours of lockdown, and open my eyes to a world of beauty I had never known was there. Having watched my fill of box-sets and scanned my way through a lifetime of old photos, this new hobby - "a fascinating hobby for all the family" - is designed to keep me out of mischief. 

If you are thinking of taking up rock tumbling as a way of coping with the trials and tribulations of modern living, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of before you embark on this enthralling hobby. First, it is by no means a fast-track to instant gratification. As soon as I took the machine out of the box, I got a warning of what might lie ahead. There are two dials on it, one to adjust the speed and the other to adjust the time of the tumbling cycle. The latter dial deals only in days! Further investigation suggests that a normal cycle would be about five days tumbling with Grit #1, followed by 8 days with Grit #2 .... etc, so by the time all the various grades of grinding grit have been used you are talking about weeks if not months of constant tumbling. That may not be a problem for everyone, but if, like me, you are advancing in years, you need to ask yourself whether you or the rocks will be ground down the first.

The second potential problem results from the grinding process itself. The rocks, along with the grit and the water, sit in a robber sealed container which is constantly turning. Now I am deaf, but even I am aware that it makes a considerable amount of noise. It is currently sat at the other end of my desk, tumbling away, making so much noise that my desk is vibrating. Lucy the Dog can hear the noise and has now abandoned my study. Neighbours from up the street are beginning to gather - observing appropriate social distancing measures, we are, after all, a law abiding neighbourhood - and discuss the possible source of the noise coming from the bottom end of the street. Birds have abandoned our garden, and cows in the fields further down the main road are lying down in the field in the middle of the day.

I am sure it will all be worth it, when, in a month or three, the results of my first experiment in rock tumbling emerge from the tumbling tank. The instruction book warns me not to be impatient, after all, it cheerily tells me, it takes oceans and rivers millions of years to achieve the results I will be able to see in as little as a year or two. Beautifully polished stones that are as stunning as gemstones. We shall see! I will keep you posted about the outcome.


  1. You’ll be making your own jewellery before you know it! But since when has your mind been stagnant? X

  2. Can't wait to see your results! As a child or teen I saw a magazine ad for a rock tumbler, and it was a dream for many years (yes I was a strange child.) Now I can afford one, I don't think my neighbours would appreciate the noise so I have to live vicariously.

  3. I glad I missed numbers 1-256.

  4. In readiness for your next visit, I am saving for you some choice Dominican rocks that I've retrieved from the river. If they're too big for your device you can try loading them into a cement mixer with pulverized millstone grit as an abrasive.

  5. It will be interesting to see the end results. I remember when people had them and I did see the smooth rocks back when I was young.


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...