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Rotary tumbler comparison
Lortone QT12 vs Thumler's A-R12
Updated May 14, 2018
8:30 AM Eastern
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Click here for info on the Georgia Rock shop : The Mineral Gallery in Mcdonough, Georgia. Just South of Atlanta
Here we compare a Lortone QT-12 rotary tumbler to a Tru Square Metal Products  "Thumler's Tumbler"
A-R12. I've had my Lortone tumbler for many years and have just recently gotten the Thumler's A-R12.  As
shown below, the Lortone QT12 has much better design and higher build quality.  

Both tumblers hold 12 pounds of rock. They both have different barrel designs and I like the lortone barrel
better. The lid to the Thumler is nicer but that design wouldn't work on the rigid lortone barrel. The Thumler
has a flexible barrel which allows the lid to be popped into place.   The Thumler barrel doesn't seem to break
the grit down nearly as fast. In one week there is still grit left that hasn't been broken down.

Most modern Lortone products are painted this color blue and most Tru Square Metal Products are red in
color. Any Lortone machine that you see that is not this color has either been repainted or is from long ago
when they used a different color on their products.   The color of the Lortone machine is a dead give away if
it is an old machine.  

CLICK ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE ~ some expand more than once.
The Lortone has much thicker shafts and metal bushings and bearings.  The Thumler has skinny shafts and
plastic bearings.  I've had trouble with the Thumler shafts freezing up which halts the barrel and the tumbling
process.  The new Thumler is noisy and the drive shaft wobbles and moves back and forth and the idler shaft is
frozen in the plastic bearing with only the plastic sleeves on it turning.    The Thumler is a very recent addition and
it was troublesome from the start. I was lucky ( or unlucky ??) to get the Thumler last month second-hand: new
and unused but out of the box.  It could be that the drive shaft is bent and the cause of the problems.  If so, that
just goes to show that they are made too thin if it got bent before even being put to use.
The Lortone, which I've had  and have been running off and on for ten years now, never presents any problems
aside from regular wear and tear on the lid and lid gaskets. In ten years I've bought one lid and 2 gaskets.  In the
picture below you can see the design and build difference in the shafts of the two tumblers.
Shown below is the belt drives on both tumblers.  The lortone has a belt guard
while the Thumler doesn't.  The Thumler uses a round plastic belt and the Lortone
uses a much nicer wide belt that is notched and is the same type belt used in
automobiles. Here again, the Lortone is seen to have better build and design.
Shown below is the Thumler's Tumbler model A-R12. It is a rotary
tumbler that can hold up to 12 pounds of rock.
Shown below is the Lortone QT12
rotary tumbler that can hold up to 12
pounds of rock.
Both the Thumler and Lortone use Fasco motors.  The Thumler motor runs warm to the touch.  The lortone motor runs
HOT to the touch despite being a longer -sized motor.  From what I've read, all the lortone QT12 motors run hot to the
touch and that is apparently normal.   This has never been a problem in the ten years that I've had this particular tumbler.  
I've normally limited my tumbling to the cooler fall-winter-spring months since the motor runs hot.
I've recently gotten a small cooling fan on ebay that I've placed close to the motor and it has brought the temp down to just
"warm".   The "AC INFINITY" brand fan cost a total of $18 on ebay and uses only 0.8 watts of power.  That's a neglible
draw and may cost me 20 cents to run an entire year non-stop.  I was sure to get a fan that had a low energy draw since I
have the two tumblers on the same circuit breaker and don't want to overload it. The photo below  (lower left) is a close-up
showing the auxiliary cooling fan.
Both the Lortone Qt12 and Thumler's A-R12  normally cost about the same.  A quick check showed the QT12 to be $235 and the
AR12 to be $203 (that is a sale price on the Thumler and it is normally almost the exact same price as the Lortone).
The Lortone model has a much better design and build so I recommend it highly.  Even with the sale price on the Thumler, the
Lortone's worry-free performance will be worth a lot compared to a decade of hassles that one will probably have with the Thumler.

I recommend Kingsley North for lapidary machines and supplies and I've been ordering from them since 2005. I'm not affiliated with
them and don't get any kind of benefit for this recommendation, it's  just that I feel like a good supply place needs the recommendation
and for sure needs to stay in business!
Check out the the
Lortone QT12 at kinglsey north.  I recommend getting the kit for $20 more which has the grit that you are going to
need anyways.

I won't be posting a link to the Thumler as I can't recommend their rotaries based on my experience with them.  It's not just this one
machine, either. A long time ago I had ordered three of the smaller Thumler tumblers to re-sale back when I had an area set up to sell
rocks at the meeting place at Smith's Crossroads.   Back then, one of the three had parts missing out of the box.
The lortone tumbler in these photos is one that I've run
for about ten years or longer.  The Thumler in the photos
is one that I've recently just gotten about a month ago.
The Thumler A-R12 has been a disappointment and a source of aggravation.  The Thumler's Tumbler is made by Tru Square Metal
Products and they build them in the USA.  Tru Square Metal Products, in general, seems to make good products when it comes to
Vibratory tumblers.   They  make an excellent Vibratory tumbler , the ULTRA VIBE 10, which I have and highly recommend.

Rotary tumblers, as the name implies, rotate the barrel to create a tumbling action which grinds the rock down or polishes it depending
on the grit or polishing media that is used.  Rotary tumblers are slow but are tried and true. The time to go from start to finish is usually
4 weeks total. It is never any faster than that and quite often a lot longer than that. Each stage, Rough, Medium, Fine and Polish are a
minimum of one week each.  The polishing stage is usually seven days or longer in a rotary tumbler and below we compare  that
finishing time to a vibratory tumbler which takes just one single day.

A rotary tumbler can't be completely filled and there has to be from 1/2 to 3/8 empty space.  It is not very efficient at grinding/polishing
because only the rocks that are falling downwards are in motion and being worked. This is just a small amount of the load at any given
time that is being subjected to a grinding or polishing action!    A vibratory tumbler can be filled completely and it has to be mostly full
to even work at all. The more material - up to it's maximum fill line - the better it runs.  Every single stone is in motion and being worked
at any given moment and that is why the are so fast to finish! Every rock is vigorously vibrating and also moving upwards or
downwards and slightly clockwise - hence the "cyclonic" vibratory tumbling. It's mesmerizing to watch them in action as the mass is
moving around and with stones coming upwards at the outer wall and then moving back downwards at the center of the bowl. It is also
deafening to watch them in action, as the lid has to be removed in order to watch the scene unfold! One of the few drawbacks of a
vibe tumbler is that the are noisy and loud, even with the lid on. With the lid off, the noise is so loud that it can honestly be described
as deafening!  

Vibratory tumblers are fast  - polishing stage takes only one day - and vibrate to create a cyclonic vibratory tumbling action.  Since
they are finicky and require constant attention to do the grinding stages I usually don't use them for that.  I only use them on occasion
for the polishing stage.  I don't use them often for polishing since they are fussy and not as easy to use at a rotary tumbler. The main
reason that I don't normally use them is because a vibe tumbler doesn't handle slices or slabs well.  I think the vigorous force might
cause additional chipping or bruising when running batches that are just quartz.  On agates, the vibe tumblers can do an amazing job
of polishing in just 24 hours.   Vibratory tumblers use a lot less grit and polish.  That can be a big deal when it comes to certain
polishing media such as Tin Oxide that retails for $30 per pound! It can cut the expense on polishing media in half or a third!
If time allows I may add info and photos on Vibratory tumblers.
If you'd like to check out the unusual stones that I polish (like EXOTIC PIETERSITE) then use the
navigation bar to check out the Tumbling Page One & Two.
Shown at lower left is some blue and gold pietersite that just finished one week in rough grind. I've just
rinsed the slurry off to see how the tumbled pietersite is progressing.  Around the middle of June
(2018) I should have a very nice batch of polished pietersite ready to sell.
Yes! We do sell finished tumbled stones - although the
ones that I tumble aren't run-of-the-mill rocks.  I tumble
Pietersite, Rutilated Quartz, kentucky agate, Paint rock
agate and Paint Rock carnelian, and other uncommon
beautiful rocks and fossils.   Admittedly, that is just a
small part of the many rocks, crystals, minerals and
fossils that I sell at Georgia's very own rock shop, The
Mineral Gallery inside the Peachtree Antique Mall in
McDonough, Georgia.  Click the banner below to see
many vivid images of the rocks that we have for sale:
You can click the following link to watch a short video of my
vibratory tumbler running. Clicking
THIS LINK will download a
.WMV file  that you can click to play.   It's a pretty cool clip and
watching it is pretty mesmerizing.  

*Note: you may have to click to allow the download to the .wmv
file.   You should see the download begin on the lower left side of
your screen. Once it downloads, just click to play and it'll open up
in a windows media player (which almost everyone has).   It's a
23mb file and will take a minute or two to download. If you don't
see the window to start the file playing, just look in your download
folder for a file named "ultra-vibe-10-vibratory-tumbler-running".

I used to be able to embed the video player in the page but the
latest change in Chrome broke the player or is otherwise blocking
it so  this is a work-around until I can find a solution.
The video shows the actual speed that the rocks move at. What
you really can't tell is that all of the rocks are vibrating almost too
fast to see, in addition to tumbling around in the bowl.
Shown below is my Ultra-Vibe 10 tumbling a load of rocks. This was
actually running when I took the photo.   Click the link to the left to
download the video file which shows it running.
In the photo above, I'm using Tin Oxide and a very small amount of Ivory bar
soap .I  take a cheese grater and shave off a tiny amount. It doesn't take but a
flake or two to suds like is shown in the photo.  This helps to reduce the surface
tension of the water on the rocks so that they stay wet instead of beading up.
This keeps the polishing media powder dispersed evenly over the rocks.