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The Finished Part Blog

The Finished Part Blog

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wood Tumbling

Hand sanding wood parts can be a labor intensive, inconsistent and inefficient process. This cost is multiplied when small and/or intricate parts need to be sanded. In order to prepare rough cut wood parts for staining or painting a significant amount of hand-work can be eliminated by barrel tumbling the parts.

Left: Rough cut (note flashing in slot)
Right: Tumbled finish

Saw or rough cut wood parts will have sharp edges and 'flashing' (note left side of picture) as well as a rough surface finish. Tumbling with an abrasive such as White Aluminum Oxide will 'sand' the surface area smooth, remove the hairs/flashing and round the edges (see right side of picture). Depending on the size and geometry of the part the tumbling can be done part on part. If the parts are too large to provide a smooth tumbling action or have intricate cut outs, slots or holes, Hardwood Media should be added to produce a consistent and uniform finish from batch to batch.

While barrel tumbling wood parts may not produce the final sanded finish, a large majority of the hand sanding can be eliminated and free-up time to work on more valuable operations.


Anonymous said...

In my shop we have been hand sanding small parts for years. We do not have a tumble sander yet but are seriously thinking about it. Running mostly hard maple. Parts are usually 3 to 4 inches high and wide, 3/4 inch thick with some detail. Also would like to smooth a variety of maple balls from 1 inch to 2 inches. By the time they get to a tumble sander they will be fairly clean with the edges rounded over. I want to find out if it is possible to smooth parts without changing the dimensions to much. Also, will the flat parts that are around 4 inches get dented by the tumble action?

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