Monday, November 26, 2007

Lortone vs. Harbor Freight Rock Tumblers

Here are real customer comments sent to us at

About the middle of August, I purchased a 3-lb rock tumbler from Harbor Freight Tools and have broken four belts in the process of tumbling and polishing one batch of agates. The particular model I purchased would be equivalent to a Lortone having only one 3-lb barrel. I did read one web site that warned about the poor quality of the Harbor Freight tumblers, but I wondered how I could go wrong for $22. I had my answer when I spent $16 on two replacement fans (the first two belts broke a blade off the plastic fan when they failed), four replacement belts, and shipping (close to half of the cost). The belts are difficult to replace and don't seem to last very long. I even tried a rubber band while waiting for the new belts to arrive. The rubber band did last for most of the pre-polish step, but was sticky and gummy at the end of that cycle. I'd have to be really desperate to try that again.

Near the end of September, my wife and I visited your shop in Salt Lake City (while visiting friends in Salt Lake), and I saw that you run multiple tumblers seemingly on a continuous basis. How long do the belts typically last on the Lortone tumblers? What is the diameter of the Lortone tumbler belts? Would I get more service life out of the Harbor Freight tumbler if I replaced the fan with a Lortone fan and used a Lortone belt?

I live in (city), WA so I don't visit Salt Lake City very often. I was impressed with your shop when we visited because of the assortment of tumblers, tumbler parts, grit, and rough rocks. Thank you in advance for your help.


Our reply:

Hi RM,
Thank you for your compliments to the shop. I’m glad you stopped in. We have a number of customers that use Lortone replacement parts for their Harbor Freight Tumblers. Specifically, we send out a lot of belts. I believe the Harbor Freight sizes correspond to the Lortone sizes, so you can base belts on your tumbler size. I’m not sure about the fan. That may be a gamble.

We send out shipments via FedEx and USPS everyday, so it is no problem to send you parts if you want to give that a try. Either order on-line at or give us a call at 1-888-762-5746.

May we use your comments and my response on our blog—with no identifying information, of course?

I hope that was helpful. Please let me know if I can answer anything else.

RM replies:

Yes, you may use my comments in your blog. I will order later this week, after pay day.

I based my question about the capability of swapping parts on your web catalog. The entry for the cooling fan indicates it can be used in the Harbor Freight tumbler. I was wondering if you knew of anybody who had successfully interchanged the parts.

You didn't answer my question about the service life of the Lortone belts (i.e., how long do they last?). I want to find out if the belts break frequently and I have to accept that lot in life, or whether the Lortone belts are made of better material and will last for several tumbling phases or for several batches of rock. I think that the material in Harbor Freight belts doesn't hold up to the heat generated by the flexing and the transfer of energy (to turn the tumbler drum). When they fail, they are usually cracked in several places, as if the rubber became brittle. I've removed the top guard plate to facilitate air flow for cooling to see if that helps.

And we reply again:

Hi RM,
I asked our lapidary people and they said you could swap parts between Harbor Freight and Lortone. Also, Lortone belts are much better than the one you have. They last a year or more in our machines. The trick to keeping them running is to not over tighten. Also, don't get the oil on them.

Thank you for allowing us to use your comments. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with!

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