I have been using a full set of these wheels for several months
now, and I love them. Because they are “spongy,” they will follow a
soft contour without leaving facets or flat spots. These are not
really a true replacement for the polishing buffs and compounds that
we are familiar with, but more like a “sanding” wheel. Castings that
I would have normally sanded at the bench prior to buffing are now
done in the polishing area.
The wheels start at 240 grit and progress to 3000 grit. Because
they are removing metal faster than you may be used to, they will
initially surprise you at how HOT the jewelry will become! The good
news here is that these wheels can also be run wet. I have not seem
any references to this, but they also work great for polishing
cabochon stones and inlay. If you don’t have, or don’t wish to have,
a water drip at the polishing wheel, just keep a cup of water handy
and dip often.
I recently had a job with an opal cab that was gypsy set into a
domed ring. I initially sanded the sprue area and finished the
casting with a 240 grit wheel. After setting, I had to shape the opal
to match the contour of the ring as well as remove any tool marks. I
started with a 240 grit wheel, run wet at a slow speed (1800rpm).
This trimmed the opal and left the ring with a fairly smooth surface.
I then progressed to 3000 grit, also at slow speed and running wet.
At that point, the ring had almost a tripoli polish. I finished with
buffing wheels and compounds, and used tin oxide on a piece of
chamois to polish the opal. This whole procedure took only a few
The wheels are not inexpensive, and will not last forever. If you
are doing a fair amount of platinum work, these wheels may become
your new best friend! Platinum must be sanded progressively smoother
prior to polishing. There is no way around this. The 3M FX wheels
allow you to do at the polishing motor what was previously a slow,
tedious process done by hand at the bench. I have found that they are
at least 5 times faster than hand sanding, and the results are equal.
Of course, I still have to hand sand the small detailed areas, prior
to wheel sanding. I use these wheels with water. There aren’t any
compounds to remove between steps, so you will progress quickly
through all the wheels.
I should add that I am using the 4" wheels, and I am running them
at only 1800 rpm. If I used a larger diameter wheel, the surface
speed of the wheel would be greater than the 4" wheel and generate
more heat. I would stick to a 4" wheel if you are using a polishing
motor, but would put an 8" wheel on a lapidary cabbing unit.
If Rich from 3M is reading this, it would be REALLY GREAT if 3M
would put a smaller spindle hole on these wheels, as changing the
adapter between each wheel is a pain. These wheels are too expensive
initially to have to purchase a separate adapter for each wheel. I
would also like to see these come as a set: 240, 320, 600, 1500, and
3000 grits. I’d also like to try these for polishing inside rings,
so a tapered cone would be great, and maybe some different widths,
while you’re at it!
33 N. Market St.
Frederick, MD 21701