How to Build a Vibratory Tumbler

Hobbyists use vibratory tumblers to polish stones, glass or metal. Depending on the polishing method and medium, vibratory tumblers can be used to remove rust from small metal parts like washers, nuts and bolts. Because a vibratory tumbler shakes the material rather than rotating it, a vibratory tumbler cannot be used to smooth rough edges. For projects requiring the materials to be polished for only a few hours a you can convert a hand sander into a temporary vibratory tumbler.

Things You'll Need

  • Vibratory hand sander
  • Screwdriver
  • 2-liter paint can, with lid
  • Four 3-inch screws


    • 1

      Set the vibratory hand sander on a flat working surface with the base plate facing upward.

    • 2

      Remove the sand paper.

    • 3

      Use a screw driver to remove the screws connecting the base plate to the body of the sander.

    • 4

      Place the 2-liter paint can on top of the base plate to ensure that it will not overlap screw holes. If the paint can does not fit on your vibratory hand sander or you do not have a paint can available, any lidded, metal container that fits will do. Plastic containers may work for short jobs but will scratch and puncture, making them useless for more than one use. Never use a glass container.

    • 5

      Remove the can from the sander and set aside.

    • 6

      Place three 3-inch screws in the holes in the sander. These screws will be significantly longer than the original screws so only a small portion of the screw will actually go into the base. Do not over tighten or force the screws. The exposed portion of the screw will hold the can in place.

    • 7

      Place the can on the base plate of the sander between the three screws.

    • 8

      Screw in the fourth 3-inch screw. Expect this to be a tight fit. The screws should be snug against the can so that it does not shift during the vibratory cycle.

    • 9

      Fill the can as required for your polishing needs and turn on the sander to start the vibratory tumbler cycle. Only run the sander for a hour or two at the most. Monitor the temperature of the motor frequently to prevent overheating and burnout.

Tips & Warnings

  • This particular design will not accommodate significant amounts of weight. Limit the total weight of the tumbler including media, water, and working material to less than 2 lbs.
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  • Photo Credit rusty bolt pile image by Dmitri MIkitenko from

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