Lortone Rock Tumblers – Everything You Need to Know
Are you looking for a Lortone Rock Tumbler and can't decide which model is best for you? In this article we talk about what to look for when buying a tumbler and we review each Lortone model so that you may make the best decision on which tumbler is right for you.
We’ll cover some history of the company, overall characteristics of Lortone tumblers, help you determine which model tumbler is suitable for the size and amount of rocks you plan to tumble and finish by reviewing each tumbler individually.
But first, here's a look at the current Lortone lineup for their hobby division:
Lortone Rock Tumbler Models for Hobbyists
4-1/8" x 3-7/8"
1.5 lb. x 3
2-5/8" x 3-7/8"
3 lb. x 2
4-1/8" x 3-7/8"
3-1/2" x 5-3/4"
3-5/8" x 6-3/4"
7-1/2" x 6-3/4"
6 lb. x 2
3-5/8" x 6-3/4"
Our Buyer's Guide
Lortone is one of many companies in the United States that manufactures lapidary and jewelry equipment.
Lortone has many different pieces of equipment and materials ranging from saws, rock tumblers, abrasives, laps, and more.
Some History on Lortone
Located in Mukilteo, Washington, Lortone is an American lapidary manufacturing company that has been around for over 50 years.
How well known is Lortone?
Most people serious about rock tumbling either already own Lortone equipment, or have heard of the company and its products.
Everyone has his or her preference to brands of machinery they prefer. You may come to find your preference of brand someday as well.
Quality of Lortone Tumblers
Lortone tumblers are designed to be efficient, hold up well to continuous usage, and are built to last a lifetime (with proper maintenance).
One thing unique to Lortone is that the inside of their rock tumbler barrels are not circular like some other company’s barrels.
Lortone decided to do this even on the smaller models to help rocks ride up the walls rather than slip back down the wall when a rock reaches the top of the rotating rock pile.
This helps to speed up the process just a little bit and makes for a better tumble.
All of the tumbler’s barrel lids are lined with rubber and backed by metal, so you do not have to replace the lids as often as plastic lids on other brand’s tumblers.
The barrel hand screw nut on the lid goes in a slot on the tumbler’s frame to help keep the barrel from migrating to one side of the tumbler.
I find this helps to further decrease the consumable parts you will need to replace over time due to usage.
Also, the motors are thermally protected from getting too hot by having a built-in auto shut-off, allowing the tumbler to shut down until the motor cools off.
This typically happens with barrel loads beyond the rated capacity.
Which Tumbler is for you?
Before you buy a tumbler, these are the variables that you will need to consider
It is important for you to know the average size of rocks you want to tumble and an estimate of the yearly poundage of rocks you want to tumble.
This will save you in the long run because if your tumbler is too small, you’ll quickly find yourself wanted to buy a larger one.
This is a mistake I made when I was just starting out as described further along in this article.
If you are just starting out and have never tumbled before and don’t know if you even like to tumble, I recommend getting one of the more inexpensive models that will work for the size rocks you want to tumble - not necessarily the yearly poundage you might want to tumble.
That way, if you decide you do not like tumbling and waiting for your rocks to process to completion, you have not spent as much money as you might have otherwise.
It is important to note that tumbling is not a fast process. One batch of rock can take an entire month of nonstop tumbling.
Many people I talk to are surprised at this fact and would not tumble rocks for this reason alone.
For future reference in this article, I will assume one batch gets done in one month (some people like to run batches for longer or shorter durations based on the finished product they want).
Questions to ask yourself
Below is a chart I made based on my experience to help you determine the best size and Lortone model tumbler that will fit your needs.
What is the average rock size you plan to tumble?
- Stones 0.5” diameter or less tumbling at most 35 lbs. per year I recommend the model 3-1.5. If over 35 lbs. per year, see question #2.
- 0.5-1” see question #2.
- 1-2” diameter and under 45 lbs. per year I recommend model 45C. If more than 45 lbs. see question #2.
- 2-3” diameter see question #3
- 3-4” rocks I suggest model QT12 or C100-12
- 4” or more see question #5
How many pounds of rock do you wish to tumble per year using rocks that are less than or equal to 1” in diameter?
- For 30 lbs. or less I suggest the model 3A
- 30-50 lbs. I recommend the model 33B or 45C
- If you expect to tumble more than 50 lbs. per year see question #3
How many pounds of rock do you wish to tumble per year using materials 3 inches in diameter or less?
- For 50 lbs. or less rock per year, I recommend the model QT6.
- To tumble 50-120 lbs of rock per year I recommend the model QT12, QT66. Or if you want a heavier, commercial-grade build quality then go with model C-100-12, which is a light duty commercial grade
- If you’re planning on tumbling over 120 lbs. of rock per year you will need a commercial grade tumbler, see question #4
To tumble more than 120 lbs. of rock per year with one machine, you’ll need a light duty commercial-grade tumbler. With that said, how many pounds of rocks do you plan to tumble per year?
- 120-240 lbs. see model C200-12 or model C-20
- 240+ lbs. see models C300-12, C-40 and C20-2
If you are wanting to tumble rocks an average of 4” or more or wanting to tumble more than 200-400 lbs. of rock per year with one machine, you need a heavy duty commercial-grade tumbler. See models C20, C40, and C20-2.
Lortone tumbler models
This tumbler is the most popular for beginners and also the most affordable in the Lortone tumbler series.
It's great if you are not sure whether you would enjoy rock tumbling. It's also perfect as a gift for a child who wants to get into the hobby.
It’s only disadvantage I find is you are limited to the size of rocks you can tumble - although this is hardly a dealbreaker for beginners.
So if you’re looking to tumble larger rocks, you might want to look at a larger machine.
The barrel interior measures 4-1/8" depth by 3-7/8" diameter and holds around 3 lbs. of contents.
Model 3 – 1.5
This tumbler is designed for tiny rocks, so it is more of a specialty item.
It’s designed for people that like to make beads and tumble light or expensive materials for polish such as turquoise, emeralds and other more expensive gemstones that you do not want to risk getting beat up and broken due to the stone cost.
These rocks are typically sold rough by the gram.
It does come with 3 barrels, each measuring 2-5/8” depth and 3-7/8” diameter. Each barrel can hold about 1.5 lbs. of material.
This tumbler can process twice as much material as the model 3A because it has two of the same barrels that the model 3A uses.
Like the model 3a, you can’t put larger rocks in the barrels.
But the advantage to twin barrels is that you can use one barrel for polish, and the other for rough grinding in the same operating cycle.
It’s like having two tumblers in one. The benefit here is that you don’t have to wait an entire month to start another batch.
This model is where you can put slightly larger stones in the barrel as it measures 3-1/2” by depth, with a 5-3/4” diameter.
You can also process more material as the barrel is rated to hold around 4 lbs. of contents.
Medium size tumblers
Medium size tumblers are typically for processing a lot of material and cost a little bit more than the small tumblers.
These are more for the serious hobbyist.
If you have not guessed by now, the barrel of this tumbler can hold up to 6 lbs. of contents and can tumble larger rocks than the smaller tumbler lineup has to offer.
The inside barrel dimension measures 3-5/8” depth by 6-3/4” diameter.
This is a large barrel measuring 7-1/2” depth by 6-3/4” diameter and can contain up to 12 lbs. of contents.
You can tumble large rocks in this barrel. The largest rock I tumbled in a barrel this size weighed about 5 lbs.
This model tumbler is almost the same as the model QT12 (which uses the same barrel), but has a larger motor mounted on the frame and is built better quality-wise.
The parts won’t wear out as fast.
This is designated as a light duty commercial tumbler, but for hobby use, it will last a lot longer than the QT12 tumbler will between consumable replacements.
This tumbler uses two 6 pound barrels so you can run a polish and a rough barrel at the same time.
Light Duty Commercial Grade Tumblers
Models C100-12, C200-12, and C300-12
These model tumblers use one, two or three 12 pound barrels and have a better frame and motor.
The consumable parts for these do not wear out as fast as the other tumblers do.
Commercial Grade Tumblers
Models C20, C40, and C22-2
These tumblers are for tumbling very large rocks or tumbling large amounts of rock per year.
Built heavy duty all the way around; the barrel has thick rubber and is surrounded by metal making it quiet during operation.
Words of wisdom
Here’s a recap on the importance of choosing a proper tumbler model - real world example
I started out with a standard 12-pound tumbler as my main tumbler, and it could not keep up with the amount of rock I wanted to tumble - or the size of rock I wanted to tumble.
I kept filling up 5-gallon buckets with stones I wanted polished and kept on wearing out consumable parts.
Looking at my options, I ended up getting model C40 which was the right size that I needed for my hobby purposes.
My 12-pound tumbler now collects dust, and I only use it for special batches along with some smaller tumblers.
So it’s important to know the average size rock you want to tumble and how many pounds of rock you plan to tumble per year.
That way you do not have to buy another tumbler later on to fill your needs, repeating the same mistake that I did!
Eventually, all tumblers need maintenance and new parts.
The parts I recommend that you keep on hand would be one extra lid and a few drive belts.
These are the most common parts that will wear out over time. These are your “consumable parts” that will be replaced the most.
Some motors require light motor oil every once in awhile, and it is good to use some oil around the moving parts periodically as well.
All replacement parts for Lortone tumblers can be found through Lortone on their website or through their catalog.
Basic Tumbler Supplies You Need
With any tumbler, there are always some materials you will need. The following is a list of what I recommend you buy with your tumbler purchase.
- Grit (see our grit guide here)
- Rocks to tumble
- Pellets to protect the rocks
- Ceramic media
- One of each consumable part type
- Light motor oil (SAE-20 works great) if the tumbler requires some for maintenance, it’s always good to add a little to help lubrication to extend motor life.
Tumbling is a fun process and one of the cheapest ways to make polished rocks.
Making sure you get the right size tumbler to meet your needs is important so you can be the most efficient in both time and overall cost.
By following this guide, I am confident you will find the right tumbler for your rock polishing needs.