How to Make a Rotary Tumbler Machine from Basic Items

Don't bother polishing those rusty metal bits manually when you can build a rotary tumbler machine instead.

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Got some rusty metal bits that need good polishing? Then use some basic materials to make your own rotary tumbler machine.

Follow this simple guide to find out how. 

diy tumbler complete
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

As you can imagine, like any project of this nature, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started. 

Materials and gear needed

With all your gear and tools in hand, it is now time to get on with the build. 

Step 1: Prepare the main body

The first step is to measure and cut your timber down to size to form a square of timber. This will need to be slightly larger than the diameter of your plastic jar.

With that done, mark out a circle in the middle of the square of timber, and cut this out using a band saw. 


This circle/disc needs to have the same diameter of your chosen plastic jar (which will act as the main drum for the tumbler). 

diy tumbler timber circles
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

With that done, find the exact center of the timber circle, and drill a hole through it. Next, using a belt sander, or orbital sander, clean up the cut edges of the circle as needed. 

Next, take your large plastic jar. Remove the lid, and drill another hole through the center of it. Next, take your wooden circle, once again, and drill four holes about 3/4 of radius along four intersecting 90-degree angles. 

Drill matching holes for the lid of the plastic jar too. 

Next, take a strip of wood the same height as the jar, and drill two holes at either end of it. 

diy tumbler lid and wood disc
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

With that done, take the plastic jar lid and wood disc, and mount the two together using suitably sized nuts, washers, and bolts, as shown above. 

Next drill two more holes in the main plastic jar to match the holes in the strip of wood you created earlier. Next, take the wooden strip and secure it to the jar using more bolts inside the jar. 

diy tumbler wooden strip internal
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

Rinse and repeat to add three more strips of wood at 90-degrees to one another. 

Step 2: 

Next, measure and cut some more pieces of wood to the dimensions detailed in the video. With that done, take the smaller piece and core a hole through it as shown below. 

These two halves will be used to form a wooden vice to hold a power drill. 

diy tumler core wood
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

With that done, cut the wood to bisect the cored hole, and then drill some holes on either side of the circle-halves on their vertical edges. Next, take the other piece of wood (for the base of the tumbler) and attach four caster wheels on one side, as shown below. 

diy tumbler casters
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

With that done, add a layer of wood glue to the opposite side of the casters, and glue the larger of the two cored vice pieces into place. Screw into place as well. 

diy tumbler end plate
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

With that done, take your power drill, and secure it into place using a pair of bolts in the device's vice-assembly. 

duy tumbler drill mount
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

Next, add a long bolt to the center of the wood/plastic jar disc and secure it into place in the jaws of the power drill. Now, add the main plastic jar to the lid assembly and rest it on top of the caster wheels. 

diy tumbler in place
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

With that done, make a small block of wood the same height between the vice assembly and the bottom of the drill. Drill a hole and insert a bolt near the top so that it can be used to keep the drill's activation button pressed in. 

Place on the assembly (but do not glue or screw -- the weight of the drill will keep it in place). 

Step 3: Finish and test your tumbler

Next, remove the jar and fill it with tumbler medium. With that done, grab whatever rusted pieces of metal you want polished, and drop them into the medium. 

With that done, spray in some polishing liquid too for good measure. Secure the jar (with all its contents) to the main tumbler lid, and ensure it is fully secure. 


Next, tighten the bolt next to the drill trigger until the drill is fully on and leave your tumbler to do its stuff. 

diy tumbler test
Source: Junkyard - Origin of Creativity/YouTube

Wait 30 minutes or so, and then untighten the bolt to deactivate the drill. You should now have a handful of nicely polished metal bits. 


If you enjoyed this build, you might like making another piece of a DIY kit. How about, for example, your own combi-miter and table saw

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