Tumbling Glass Beads

I don’t know about you, but I’m really not keen on using acid to etch beads to take off the shine, so I decided to investigate tumbling glass beads instead.  The finish produced by tumbling is slightly different from etching and very pleasing at the same time. This only works with regular, smooth shaped beads, i.e. rounds, otherwise you can end up with gaps in the effect where the tumbling stones can’t reach into small dimples.  Unless, of course, this is the finish you want!

tumbled bead set

When I was a kid, I used to collect glass from the beach that had been polished by the sea and sand, as I loved the way it looked and felt.  The colours were always muted and seemed to be either pale green or clear – not the coloured glass you get nowadays in bottles, but pleasing nonetheless.  So imagine this look for any transparent bead and that’s what you’ll get.  The opaque glass also has a nice finish and seems to keep it’s depth of colour.  Anyhow, here’s how I did it.

I collected a couple of handfuls of roundish gravel from my garden path – about 2-4cm in size. I then stone tumbled them using the directions for my stone tumbler to get them reasonably smooth (80, 220 and finally 400 grade carbide grit) over a period of 2 weeks (check your tumblers manual in-case it recommends a different programme).  This took any sharp edges or lumps from the stones and prepared them ready for polishing beads.  I also had 5 small pieces of glass that I’d collected from the beach, so I thought I’d add this as well – not sure why, but seemed like a good idea at the time.

beads fresh out of the kiln

beads fresh out of the kiln

I placed my glass beads that I wanted to tumble into the container and filled it 3/4 full with the polished stones and added one tablespoon of Cerium Oxide polish – again, refer to your tumbler’s instructions in-case they vary.  I topped it up with water so it just covered the stones and beads, sealed the container and set it away tumbling.  I found that 2 hours tumbling gave a nice, regular finish.

Once I removed the beads (I found it easier to empty the whole container into another one without the water, to find smaller beads) I gave them a thorough wash and Voila!  Lovely beachy beads.

I hope you find this helpful!

tumbled glass beads

two hours of tumbling

3 responses to “Tumbling Glass Beads”

  1. Gay says:

    I saw these on ‘frit-happens’ show and tell, a lovely tutorial, thanks for sharing. These are unbelievably beautiful, as someone who lives by the sea, I’m already on the look out for a second hand tumbler, I’ve got to have a go.

    Thanks again

    Lovely blog

    Gay s

  2. Terri says:

    I saw these on Frit Happens too. I also live by the sea, but sea glass is just so rare now. I have been tumbling porcelain for a while – but now will start to tumble some glass beads as well. Bought the tumbler to finish my silver – and it’s never seen a bit of silver yet!

    Great blog btw.


  3. Munmun Nishi says:

    Really Fine!
    I enjoy and saw these on frit- Happens. That you make lovely tutorial.I also like it very much.This is so awesome post that you build up very nicely.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this article.
    Munmun Nishi 🙂

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