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Buffing with tripoli leaves scratches


#1

Hi,

I’m new to metalsmithing and am working on my technique for
buffing/polishing sterling silver jewelry pieces. Flat pieces,
nothing fancy. When I come to the part where I buff with tripoli,
that step seems to create scratches. Let me describe what I am doing
in hopes that someone with experience can help me.

I use a Dremel tool with a flex shaft attachment. I use rubber or
silicone wheels, starting with coarse, then medium, fine, extrafine.
I use a loupe between each wheel buffing to make sure that all
scratches are removed. What I see at this point are smudge-like
swirls, which correspond with each section i have done, but no
scratches.

Then comes the tripoli. I use a yellow treated muslin buff about an
inch in diameter, with 2 rows of stitching. I use a circling motion
to cover each area. I’ve tried using a lot of tripoli, where i get
lots of black gunk on the metal, and i’ve tried smaller amounts
where I hardly get black gunk at all. Yesterday I put a brand new
buff on the flex shaft. I’ve done it at the number 2 speed of the
dremel (5000 to 8000 rpm) and I’ve done it faster (9000 to 11,000
rpm). the dremel can go up to 35,000 rpm.

Of course, if I try to polish it with rouge after the tripoli
buffing, all the imperfections show.

I would really appreciate some advice from experienced jewelers!

Thank you.
Leslie


#2

hello leslie,

Tripoli is a cutting compound- One uses it to remove metal, emery is
also a cutting compound. The “black Gunk” you are seeing clogging
your buffs are particles of metal - don’t toss them out, instead
start a refining trash can and when your buffs gfet clogged to the
point that carding them doesn’t work, they get placed in that bin for
later/eventual refining as there is a lot of reclaimable metal on
there…( a lot is of course relative, as it takes about a year of
tossin in used polishing cloths, buffs, polishing papers, sanding
bands, paper towels you wipe the bench down with and even vacuuming
debris- all containing metal - to make it worth the assaying charge
that most vendors get for refining mixed metals)…Rouges are for
polishing but more specifically pre-polishing agents ( the stuff
dremel supplies in their basic set ups are red ( iron containing)
rouge. I don’t use red rouge for that very reason it adds iron to the
surface and can cause odd results in reusing the metals ( re-pouring
scrap) and when rolling it out (splitting, brittleness, etc not due
to overheating whatever is in the crucible) if it’s not perfectly
clean- however there are water soluble red rouges that can be washed
off in hot water… An old friend of mine ( and well known metalsmith
that reccently passed away, D. X>ROss also shared this philosophy of
not using iron containing rouges, or even brass brushing metals due
to the insidious contamination potential…it’s a good practice to
know the ingredients of ALL the chemical/elemental compounds you work
with to avoid seemingly untraceable results when things go wrong in
the studio…9 times out of ten the problems can be traced to
contamination from ferrous substances, tools, etc. It is essential
that you use dedicated buffs - one for each metal and label them with
a permanent marker to avoid mistakes. You said you are using treated
muslin buffs…They are treated to strengthen the fabric to remove
scratches even though most vendors state that they are designed to be
used with cutting compouinds…pressing too hard actually defeats the
purpose and in the case of a flex shaft or dremel the thing to
remember is to let the rotation do the work. If you are gunking up a
buff quickly you are pressing too hard and/or using too much charge (
compound). 3M makes a product called the FX wheel that conforms to
your work- you may want to try that to get you out of the habit (
albeit short lived if you’re a novice !) of too much pressure on the
iece. 3M also makes radial bristle discs - that I highly reccommend-
that almost eliminate the need for compouinds altogether- they come
in assorted grits through micron size finishes and impart the full
range of finishes any compounds achieve- from cutting to
pre-polishing to mirror finishes…you should get some samples of
them, or just buy a kit of assorted discs and try working with
them…Compounds are messy, require the user to wear particle masks,
and get all over the studio in the form of deposited dusts that are ,
for the most part, not water soluble, so wiping your workstations
down doesn’t always remove all of them, and in some cases (cheap
compounds in particular) the oil bases leaves compound dust deposited
on tools that leads to rust ( if you deposit iron oxide- red rouge’s
chief component - on a doming punch you are asking for rust where it
lays on the tool, particularly if it wasn’t oiled to protect against
humidity, etc. in the first place !).

If you must use compounds to achieve a certain high polish on
platinum or gold, Dialux brand outperforms the cheapish ones and
it’s worth the few extra bucks for superior product when it comes to
compounds for *polishing *. Tripoli, emery and bobbing compounds all
cut fast and furiously and it is almost irrelevant which brand you
use as they all remove a lot of metal. A good way to learn about
compounds and wehat they do is to read a few vendor’s catalogues and
their descriptions, then the MSDS to find out just what they are
made of…A carrot or pumpkin compound are basically the same no
matter who makes them, as are green compounds for gold, blue ones,
white ones, etc…they are almost universal and just listed in
catalogues by proprietary names though the contents are genetrally
equivalent across the board. Dialux lists all the compounds you could
ever need, and its a good point-of-reference to study their catalogue
to gain an insight as to the components of “x” colour compond’s
acticve principals…Thunderbird supply also lists a wide range of
compounds (they manufacture them) and their site is another good
point of reference when learning what they do…Basic research will
yield a world of for you… Good luck and don’t press so
hard with your dremel tool- let the speed do the work !!!.. rer


#3

Hi Leslie,

A Dremmel to polish has the distinct disadvantage of being a hand
tool.

The best polish (imo) is from a fixed bench tool, either a polishing
lathe or a bench grinder with polishing mops.

The procedure that we are doing in class is to hand sand to 600
grit, then to use tripoli, then to use rouge. This is for jewellery,
and it puts a high polish on the metal.

Putting on the Cutler hat. For ferrous metals, that are a lot
tougher, I use a belt to get to 600 (or greater depending on the
job), then I use a stitched mop with tripoli, then I use a loose mop
with more tripoli, rouge is not necessary.

Regards Charles A.


#4

Leslie,

If you are having black gunk on metal you are over charging the buff
with tripoli. Try not using too much. You also might be leaving bits
of wheels from the rubber wheel steps so make sure to wipe it clean.
Next, Polish in different directions or cross polish. Work against
the rotation of the wheel. Clean the metal, use a new buff for the
rouge preferably a softer non stitch and don’t cross contaminate
with tripoli. When polishing with rouge go with the wheel direction.
See if that helps you.

Russ
The Jewelry CAD Institute


#5
I use a Dremel tool with a flex shaft attachment. I use rubber or
silicone wheels, starting with coarse, then medium, fine, extrafine.
I use a loupe between each wheel buffing to make sure that all
scratches are removed.

That’s your first error. Don’t look so closely! (nobody else will.)

I gave up using tripoli years and years ago. I use 320 grit
sandpaper, then 1500 grit sandpaper, then

http://tinyurl.com/25yonu5
bobbing compound then

http://tinyurl.com/2ebtg8a
pumpkin polish and finally


green rouge.

When purchasing bobbing compound, ask your supplier if it’s a
whitish, crumbly, waxy, dirty compound. If it’s yellow, and
clean/dry, it ain’t what you want. Get the kind made for polishing
steel. Oh and all three of these compounds cut extremely fast so be
careful with your detail.

(FYI, bobbing compound will remove fire-scale too, although the best
cure for fire-scale is found in my second sentence above.


#6

Leslie, are the areas you are finishing very small? I would never
use a dremel on a piece I could get a larger tool on like a 6 inch
muslin wheel. Flat surfaces are more difficult to get a high polish
on, curving or domed surfaces are easier to high polish.

I use white diamond between tripoli and rouge, on a muslin wheel. I
never wash between compounds and my work is characterized by large
areas of shiny silver. I start my finishing with silicon oxide paper
either on a drum sander or stick, worn 220 first then worn 600. I
then go to the tripoli wheel, white diamond and rouge. Check out my
work on my blog ; http://patania-jewelry.ganoksin.com/blogs/

Also, movement during the polishing and sanding phases is necessary,
the drum, stick or wheel must constantly be employed in different
directions on any surface otherwise the abrasive is digging trenches
into the metal. Even on very small pieces I use the above method. The
small size of the dremel tools can also dig trenches if not
constantly moved in a circular motion while in use. If you have any
questions you can contact me off list,

Hope that helps
Sam Patania, Tucson


#7

Sounds like you have contamination either on your buffs or in the
EEE itself. You should not be having scratch problems so to me it is
a contamination issue.

John Dach


#8

When the scratches appear, are they circular, like the smudges you
describe, or straight lines? If they are straight, do you use
sandpaper, files or similar before using silicone rotary bits - what
might be happening is that the matt finished silver is “hiding” the
scratches from a file/abrasive paper, and then the lustre finish
from the tripoli is exposing it. Rouge would then make it even more
obvious. Solution to that is to use finer abrasives before the
silicon.

If the scratches are circular, then the problem must be the silicone
bits you are using.

Or, if you look at the scratches close up, are they like a comet - a
circle with a “tail” streaking away in one direction (or several
directions)? If they are like that, it could mean that the tripoli
is biting into tiny surface flaws and “ripping” them open. Solution
to that is not to overpolish, and to ensure you polish everything
evenly in every direction. You could also try a coarser cutting
compound, like Carbrax, before using the tripoli, or even instead of
it, depending on the final finish that you want. It’s
counter-intuitive, but sometimes a coarser composition causes less
problems, because it will abrade the whole surface, not just the
softest or weakest parts.

Are you making perfectly flat items? If you are, try making them
slightly concave or, better, slightly convex - I asked a master
polisher called Stephen Goldsmith his advice once, on polishing flat
silver, and he said that at the top end of the market, items rarely
have true flat surfaces, because they are very hard to bring up to a
mirror finish.

If you can, you need a jeweller’s lathe and some large mops - that
will make a big difference whatever the problem. If you have a
normal lathe, you could buy a tapered mandrel and run mops on that.
The problem with using very tiny mops is that you can’t work the
whole surface at once, which is more likely to lead to variation in
final finish.

If I’m barking up the wrong tree, maybe you could post a link a to
close-up photo, or email me one. There are many on here who will know
better than me, but I hate silver, so I’m a good ally, and willing
to fight it :wink:

Jamie
http://primitive.ganoksin.com


#9

Tripoli is a cutting compound, its aggressive and therefor leaves
those marks. Your rouge will remove those marks. If you’re using red
rouge…don’t. Red rouge and silver do not like each other.
Overpolishing (in an attempt to remove the marks left by trip) with
red rouge will leave tiny pits, which are harder to deal with than
scratches. Try some Zam, and follow that with blue platinum rouge for
a hard shine if the Zam is not as perfect as you want.

I think one inch is too small a wheel and probably too narrow to
boot. Instead of a circular motion try a back and forth motion,
parallel with the tool shaft. Your wheel goes side to side rather
than forward and back.

You’ll find once you get a proper buffing setup this problem will be
solved. You’ll come up with new probs but that’s the way of it.


#10

leslie polishing is no joke especially flat pieces try greystar instead
of tripoli also dermel may not be giving you even pressure also friend
uses white diamond after tripoli try it just with compounds and no
silicone wheels

keep at it
zev


#11

Sam,

I’ve always considered your work to be of a professionally polished
level, so I was surprised to read that you NEVER WASH between
compounds when finishing. Also, as you mentioned, you have large
polished areas on your silver pieces. Perhaps you (or others) can
comment further on why washing is unnecessary. Just curious.

Jamie


#12
For ferrous metals, that are a lot tougher, I use a belt to get to
600 

I’m starting to sound like a broken record (LPs? what’s that?) but
try Zam even on ferrous metals.

I just had my rocker arms retipped (valve actuating mechanisms for
car engines, made of cast nodular iron) at the machine shop. The
’normal automotive standard’ comes out quite rough from the grinding
operation, not too far from what a single cut file feels like when
you drag your fingernail over it,actually. Fine but I’m not building
to normal standards. I used Zam on a yellow stitched buff and got
those tips bright and smooth, fairly quickly. I also use Zam to
refinish stainless steel watch cases and bands.

Zam cuts fast but leaves it glossy and smooth in one step. What more
could you ask for?


#13
(or others) can comment further on why washing is unnecessary 

OK I never contribute but I’ll take stab at it…

Properly done there should be almost no residual compound on your
piece. If one is getting compound build up then one should look at
why that is happening. I read several people say its from too much
compound. I’ve never run into that. I find too little tends to cause
build up. Sounds counterintuitive but.

I wouldn’t say washing can always be skipped, it depends on the
nature of the piece. But let’s say the piece is plain and smooth, no
crevices like prongs to collect junk. Whatever tiny amounts of
tripoli remain will be rapidly sloughed off by the rouge wheel. Any
trip that gets on the rouge wheel will be likewise sloughed off. That
of course though doesn’t mean one should charge the trip wheel with
rouge. If the nature of piece promotes build up in crevices then you
either have to wash or follow up the buff with a small mandrel brush.

I used to adhere to the Separation of Buffs and Rouge clause in the
Jeweler’s Constitution, but its just not a big deal. And with Zam
(Oh please Neil, enough already, you a paid spokesman or something?)
there exists no problem with contamination. For many years I resisted
Zam because it just didn’t make sense, how can a compound cut fast
and still leave a bright finish? Then I tried a bar and its almost
all I use nowadays. Old skool is old.

But certainly if one IS getting contaminated buffs one should wash
between steps.

Sorry if I stepped on Sam’s toes here.


#14

Jamie,Thank you for the compliment. I am not at all sure why it
works, my guess is that the cloth buffs loose so much compound and
surface of the wheel during my normal operation that the next softest
wheel and compound just wash out the last more aggressive compound? I
learned this way, not washing between compounds, and worked that way
for years before I heard that most or many crafts-persons do wash
between courses. I do wash fanatically between diamond compounds when
polishing stone but I just never have for metal.

My normal finishing process goes like this,
Hand file
worn 220 emery paper strip on plastic handle
worn 320 emery paper strip on handle
tripoli
white diamond
red rouge
OR
worn 180 on drum sander with water drip ( I can skip the hand filing
when using the " wet finisher")
worn 600 on drum sander with drip ( at this stage I sometimes will
hand emery with the worn 320 or go over the piece with a grey Scotch
Brite wheel)
tripoli
white diamond
red rouge

after either sequence I sonic clean and then steam clean and dry I
then go over the piece with a clean rouge wheel ( I will run the
wheel over an old file to get most of the rouge off but, it is the
same wheel as I used above) wipe off with a polishing cloth and it is
ready to present to the client. I studied finishing for years as I
understood it to be the most time consuming process that my work went
through. The drum sander was a big leap in technology for my
workshop, running under water to keep cool. It took the place of most
filing, I am often running to the wet finisher to dress edges.

The Scotch Brite wheels will often allow me to skip hand emery all
together.

My wet finisher has 2 drums on it and 2 Scotch Brite wheels running
under water drip. I only do this for silver, gold still gets the hand
process all the way through for scrap control reasons.

Washing between compound courses would slow me up too much and I
have just never found it necessary. Each of my compounds has it’s own
set of wheels and I change them out when switching between compounds.
I use lots of compound too, I am charging the wheels constantly
during the time I am using them.

Sam Patania, Tucson


#15
I've always considered your work to be of a professionally
polished level, so I was surprised to read that you NEVER WASH
between compounds when finishing. Also, as you mentioned, you have
large polished areas on your silver pieces. Perhaps you (or others)
can comment further on why washing is unnecessary. Just curious. 

As a general rule, washing is a must. That said, if one understands
why it is necessary to wash between compounds, one can figure out a
way to avoid it. Here is one way tripoli to rouge. run tripoli wheel
on high speed till it dry, rake it and run again dry. (danger -
experience required - a lot of cutting can take place ) move to
rouge - pre-prepolish - rake - polish - finish.

Conventional route with washing in between is much safer for
beginner.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#16

Hi Leonid,

As a general rule, washing is a must. That said, if one
understands why it is necessary to wash between compounds, one can
figure out a way to avoid it. Here is one way tripoli to rouge. run
tripoli wheel on high speed till it dry, rake it and run again dry.
(danger - experience required - a lot of cutting can take place )
move to rouge - pre-prepolish - rake - polish - finish. 

Currently, in class, we use sets of polishing mops, one set for
tripoli (only one type), and one set for rouge (one type).

We use an ultrasonic cleaner between operations so as to not
contaminate the mop sets.

At home (a different industry), I use many different colours of
Tripoli, and I have a separate mop for each. After polishing a sword
with one mop, I clean the blade, then proceed.

If I need to clean a mop, I have a piece of steel flat bar, that I
hold onto both ends and angle the edge into the on coming mop.

Regards Charles A.


#17
As a general rule, washing is a must. That said, if one
understands why it is necessary to wash between compounds, one can
figure out a way to avoid it. Here is one way tripoli to rouge. run
tripoli wheel on high speed till it dry, rake it and run again dry.
(danger - experience required - a lot of cutting can take place )
move to rouge - pre-prepolish - rake - polish - finish. 

Another method which some might find easier. Roughly the same in how
well it works (at least I find it so…) Simply keep an extra few
types of wheels, brushes, laps, etc, similar to what you’re already
using for rouge or tripolii, but don’t put compound on them. After
tripoli work, use these “clean” wheels to clean off excess compound.
Then move to the rouge wheels. Eventually, they’ll accumulate enough
tripoli to no longer be so good at getting off residual compound, so
then they become your next set of new tripoli buffs if you like (or
rake them clean again).

And yet another, somewhat less effective method on silver, but often
adequate for gold, platinum, etc. For your rouge compound, use a
rouge type that still has a little cutting ability. Many of the
platinum rouge types, especially the aluminum oxide Japanese (?)
compounds such as the ones carried by Gesswein (which are the ones I
use, so I’m less familiar with other brands that might be out there),
have enough cutting ability to not only give a high polish, but also
remove some fine scratches such as might occur with traces of
residual coarser compound. With these rouge types, although you might
get a little cross contamination from residual compounds, the cutting
ability of the rouge is sufficient to “overpower” that contamination.
This is helped as well, by the fact that these compounds are a bit
dryer, with less binder, than traditional tripoli and rouge, so they
load the wheels less, and persist on the wheels less. The downside to
this method is that these compounds (At least those Japanese
compounds are) a good deal more costly than the traditional
compounds. I tend to use this last method, simply because with the
types of work I most often do, these are the compounds I most often
use. It sort of feels like cheating to polish silver this way. Seems
careless, as though it shouldn’t work. I remember before finding
these compounds, having totally seperate rouge buffs stored carefully
in their own plastic bags to keep them clean, for silver, and
carefully washing after tripoli, to avoid those infuriating scratches
that seemingly appeared only as one finished up the final rouge
stage… With these compounds, though, it just doesn’t seem to be
much of a problem any more. If such a scratch appears, the next pass
across the buff takes it off again, even on silver…

Cheers
Peter Rowe


#18

Use a buffing rake to clean the wheels…make sure not to cross
contaminate. Apply the compound sparingly. Too much WILL leave
compound on the piece. Always cross polish.

Russ


#19
For your rouge compound, use a rouge type that still has a little
cutting ability. 

It took me a while to figure this out, but it makes life SOOOOOOOO
much easier!! GREAT TIP!!

 This is helped as well, by the fact that these Gesswein compounds
(Japanese?) are a bit dryer, with less binder, than traditional
tripoli and rouge, so they load the wheels less, and persist on
the wheels less. 

It has taken me a long time to realize that the binders vary
SIGNIFICANTLY by manufacturer. Some are dry, some are greasy, some
are light, some are heavy, etc. As a person’s skills progress, and
their needs progress, it’s good to move from the cheaper, generic
compounds to high quality coumpounds.

The better performing compounds are more expensive, but well worth
it. My biggest problem was figuring out which ones to select from the
hundreds out there. Ask jewelers you respect most.

Jamie


#20
If I need to clean a mop, I have a piece of steel flat bar, that I
hold onto both ends and angle the edge into the on coming mop. 

Flat bar is fine, but a section of an old saw blade works better. It
has to be mounted for safety reason of course.

There is a thing in polishing which academics call “aggregation and
flow”. In plain language - polishing medium builds up on front edge
of the piece. Then it breaks off and gets drugged under the piece and
comes out on another side. It is denser then the rest of the medium
and therefore acts as cutting component, destroying the finish. It
is precisely the reason why sometimes no matter how long we polish,
there are scratches.

That is why some mops constructed from loose layers of material.
Spaces between layers acting as channels to guide these aggregations
without damaging the finish. After some use the layered structure
gets distorted and does not work as well. Raking with toothed blade
restores it. It is even more important for mops made from leather and
felt.

A word of caution. Process of raking can be dangerous. Mops grab on
toothed blade with surprising force. Rake must be well braced.
Reliance of one’s strength can be disastrous. Blade must be well
mounted, on secure handle, and mops should be run at very slow speed,
while raking. Very little pressure must be used.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com