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About all those polishing and buffing wheels

Once again I’m asking for advice and On the wall of my
local shop that caters to us amateur metalsmiths is about a dozen
wheels used for polishing. Why so many? Might sound like a dumb
question, but surely if there are so many they serve different
purposes. My texts don’t seem to help in this matter.

Anyone care to comment?

David in Victoria

Hi, David. Well, first, there are a number of different compounds that
are used for polishing, depending on just what you are polishing, and
whether you want just polishing (such as rouge), or some cutting, also
(such as Tripoli of various types, Zam, etc… Each requires a separate
wheel, as mixing them can cause big problems. (You even need to clean
off the piece you are polishing in between the various compounds, to
avoid contamination.) And different polishes are often used for
different metals. It can really add up in a hurry!

Hello David All those polishing wheels are like cars ! Basicly all cars
are made to move from one point to another.Fast cars don’t need
thatmuch time,but you have to pay more for them or they might have
more luxury.

Polishing wheels are made for polishing !!!

Now that easy to understand but … in polishing you have
different steps (read grids)you have to go to in order to come up
with a mirror like surface. All the shape or materials of those wheels
provide you with more comfort of reaching in to holes,edges,pits or
whatever. The whole point is that manufacturers are thinking about
selling their products and thats one of the reason why they make all
those shapes and grids or heat reducing wheels.

They’re promoting their one products!!!

Its up to us -jewellers- to make a choise in this big jungle of
products and the best wheels are the ones which work the best for you
and the ones you need!

Don’t drive crazy because you don’t have a whole collection of
polishing wheels,but be smart and just buy the one “YOU” want and

I’m sure that some of them are better then others,but again it’s up
to you to compare the price with the end result of that product and
if you feel that’s worth while to pay more for that product …
then go for it!!!

Just step back out of the circle of all this “promoting strategy” and
then you’ll see the real deal of the manufacturers. Master the product
but don’t let the products master you. Hope this will help ye a bit.
Regards Pedro

david - boy are you in for further surprises when you see the
catalogs! in addition to the probable dozen buffs your local store
has on the wall, there are 8 million, 702 thousand & 82 others in
different sizes & colors. i must have a hundred variations for
polishing & while there are jewelers who will say you only need a
few, they are mostly graduates of the ‘marquis de sade school of
design’ - if you can cut down the time it takes to grind & polish
your work that leaves more time for design & fabricating. first: you
need individual wheels for each polishing compound - it’s better to
have a couple of sizes for each compound; second: you will need
different material for different designs - it’s safer if you don’t
use a loose muslin wheel for a design with prongs or sticking up
thingies, PLUS you will spend less time searching the workshop when
the piece snags & is wheel-launched into space; third: BECAUSE! just
get a catalog from a supplier such as rio grande & read the
descriptions for each buff - that should give you a world of
good luck - ive


Speaking as one who has been called, on numerous occasions, a
"polishing fanatic", I must point out that the technique of polishing
jewelry is one of subtlety and requires as many different tools
(buffs and compounds) as one would expect to use when performing
other jewelry making techniques. I have possible 35 to 40 pliers
that I use to assist me in bending metal, well over a dozen cutters
of all types and as many hammers. So, it should be no surprise that
depending on what kind of jewelry you are working on and what finish
and color you wish the achieve will require different types of buffs.
In the same way you match hand tools to complete differing bench
tasks, you should make sure you have the right buff for the job.

Stitched buffs are generally used for cutting, tripoli and when a
fair amount of pressure is needed. The stitches hold the buff
together and provides a harder surface for the item to ride against.
There are several kinds of stitched buffs available. The unstitched
buffs provide a softer surface and are therefore used when putting on
final finishes. As well sometimes you need a narrow wheel so as to
limit the amount of buffing action. Other times a wider buff is
needed. An example of a need for a wide buff is when polishing or
cutting a large piece of sheet. Then there are the specialty buffs;
one’s that have chemicals embedded in the cloth, leather buffs, super
soft buffs, the list goes on and on. Each type is geared toward
allowing the polisher a wide variety of tools to complete a wide
variety of tasks. Then there are the buffs whose differences have no
real affect on the outcome. For example, I have never noticed a
difference in using lead centered buffs as opposed to any of the
other center types. But I know that some jewelers will use nothing
else but lead centered buffs. This is personal preference. So, take
all the different buffs that are used to achieve various results and
then multiply them by the different centers that are available and
you have a huge number of possibilities.

I recommend going to the sales staff and explaining what kind of work
you are doing and having them make recommendations as to what you may
need. Then buy a few extra types and try them out. You may find
that you like one kind of buff over another. The fact is that even
people like me who are very finicky when it comes to finishing, don’t
necessarily enjoy spending hours upon hours buffing. So, find what
you enjoy using and what gets the job done for you the quickest so
you don’t burn out on polishing. Another fact that is well known is
that a beautifully finished jewelry item will sell better than a
sloppily finished piece every time. It is well worth spending time
learning the proper technique of polishing and well worth spending
time on the actual job of polishing.

I hope this has been helpful.

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler

Hi all,

My work is mostly textured but for a small accent polish I don’t
think anything beats a well polished burnisher or bright cutting with
a graver. Just be sure to use a little lubricant.


Hi Larry,

I thought only novices (guys like me) bent metal; when you get to be
a master you form metal (bg). My mentors always told me that metal
was bent accidentally. If you

did it on purpose it was formed. Even when I try to form it, it
usually gets bent.

Thanks for the great polishing explanation.


What would be a set of essential wheels for the silversmith?

I have two cloth, one for rouge and one for a bar that is yellow?
They came together, I know I am supposed to use the yellow first…

I also have a leather and cloth wheel for cerium oxide, I need
something for tin oxide (works great on soft stones) and I am not
certain what else would be good?

Thanks for any help

dave…are you related to cynthia arens ? she had contacted me a
year ago about some drawings she had and i forwarded them on to one of
my suppliers. just wondering how she made out. thanks ann

What would be a set of essential wheels for the silversmith? 

Hello Laura, I think you also need an inside ring buff - get at least
two, one for each of your compounds. They’re available as either
solid felt or as fuzzy stuff on a wooden tapered spindel. I’ll bet
TR the Teacher will be able to suggest the best one. Judy in Kansas
where my tomatos are setting fruit!

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

Hello !!

You must have a big bussines in order to buy 8 million 708 thousand
and 82 different polishing wheels.Next to this,you need an awfull big
storage place and a very good memory to remember all of them.I wonder
howmany times you have to run up and down to get your perfect
polishing wheel and howmuch time you spend looking for them.With all
respect for your work and labor,but I can get my polishing done with
MUCH less material.

I’m sorry but this can not be done even when my father was the king
from Persia,I still wouldn’t have enough time to get it done in time.

Regards Pedro


It reminds me of a story one of my cousins told me. When he went
into the service he kept getting in trouble for calling his rifle a
"gun". Two things my cousin was well known for was his rebeliousness
and his love of hunting. As he didn’t like to be bullied by anyone,
and as a matter of principle he continued to call his rifle a gun.
Finally it came time to prove his markmanship. Pardon the pun but he
blew everybody else away in markmanship and his sargent quit making a
big stink out of the rifle/gun issue. With nothing else to prove,
and no one to rebel against, he began to call his gun a rifle, though
his sargent wouldn’t have cared if he called it a lollipop as
superior a shot as he was.

Anyway, I think I’ll keep bending my metal and let others comment on
how well formed the metal is.

Larry Seiger

Polishing compounds are graduated similar to sandpaper and lapidary
polishing pastes. You start with coarser stuff and gradually move to
finer stuff.

The yellow is probably bobbing compound. It is very aggressive! IT
REMOVES scratches and also the detail on your work if you over do it.
But it doesn’t polish-just leaves a dull luster. Lol I remember
putting a piece of silver plate on the bobbing wheel for about 2
nano-seconds, and I got the most beautiful brass patch you’ve ever
seen. That was the end of that goblet.

White tripoli is a medium polish. I like it better than green tripoli
on silver. White seems to do a better job of ridding silver
firescale. Green seems to bring it out. On gold, I can’t tell the
difference between green and white.

Red rouge and/or white fabulustre for final polish.

Keep your polish sticks and polish pads separated by compound. e.g.
keep the bob and the bob wheels in a separate box than the tripoli
and tripoli pads. If you mix them up, you’ll contaminate the finer
polish pads with coarses polish compounds.

But the trick in polishing is always getting rid of scratches before
you ever get to the polish stage. I work thru 220, 400, 600, and 1200
grits sandpapers before I ever start to polish. I try to protect my
metal when I sand by placing a cloth on my bench pin. Placing the
metal directly on the bench pin just gets scratches from the little
metal bits that are now embedded in the bench pin. If you don’t get
the scratches out, all that polishing will do is give you shiney

When setting stones, I wrap my piece in tape where the graver vice
will hold it. Always protect your metal as you work. You won’t
totally eliminate picking up scratches as you work, but you can
greatly reduce them.

What a nasty pain in the butt it is to set your stones, only to
discover a big ugly scratch, where you thought you had made it all

Here’s a tip on soft muslin wheels. Go to Sears hardware area. They
sell a package of 5 or 6 different size soft muslin wheels for $10.
Such a deal!

Good luck,

Virginia Lyons