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Cleaning up tiny metal swirls


#1

Best techniques for cleaning up tiny metal swirls and the even
tinier spaces in between?

Hi all,

Since I know there are a lot of experts with a lot of bench
experience here, I would love to get your advice before I proceed. I
hand carved a ring out of wax with a scrollwork design of tiny
swirls and spirals flowing through the design. The space in between
the spirals is pierced all the way through. I’ve now cast the first
proto in sterling, and wanted to clean it up a bit in between the
scrollwork as there are a few spots that need filing, evening out,
shaping etc. Besides micro diamond files, does anyone have any
special techniques to make this run more smoothly? I got as far as I
could get in the wax model without starting to break off the tiny
swirls, so I would like to be able to clean it up in it’s metal
form, since it’s stronger, and then cast production from there.

The spaces are really small and I’m a little leary of tackling them
with a drill bit. If micro files are the answer, can anyone
recommend the tiniest and strongest ones on the market? Mine are
horrible and rusted out (the joys of living on an island surrounded
by salt water and humidity!).

Many thanks in advance for your advice,
Liz


#2

Piercing saws can be used as very thin files.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#3

Liz, without actually seeing what your ring looks like, as you say
that the ring wax was pierced all the way through, I am assuming that
you use a piercing saw frame. So I would say that you could possibly
use the piercing saw frame with a suitable size blade to clean up the
ring casting’s interiors. A saw blade can be used much like a fine
file in jobs like these.

Good luck, James
James Miller FIPG


#4
The spaces are really small and I'm a little leary of tackling
them with a drill bit. 

All such work is carried out with jeweler’s saw. Use 8/0 blade for
the best results.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#5

Hello Liz, R un a saw blade thru the opening. If the pattern needs
shaping, then saw it to shape. If it just needs to be tidied up, use
the saw as a scraper. Next, run a piece of kite string thru, rub
bobbing compound on the string and slide the string (with ou t the
kite) up and down a few times to polish the opening.

Have fun.
Tom Arnold


#6

While I haven’t actually tried this, I have heard that you can run a
piece if fine string or dental floss charged with, say, tripoli
between the spaces; or maybe a thin strip cut from fine sanding
cloth or film.

Janet Kofoed


#7

Check out Micromark http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/bk

They have the best miniature tools around.

Denny Diamond


#8

Hello Liz,

Tiny spaces can be smoothed and polished by “thrumming” using string
charged with the various buffing compounds. Tim McCreight’s book “The
Complete Metalsmith” gives a brief illustration. Proceed gently. The
string can wear lines in the metal. I have also heard of cutting
narrow strips of sandpaper and using them in the same way.

Another option takes a page from the dentist’s book. Ask your
dentist for some used bits that are going to be discarded. As long as
you have a Jacob’s chuck in your handpiece, you will be able to use
these tiny bits. (Your flex shaft should also have variable speeds.)
If you explain to your dentist what you are wanting to do, s/he can
help you choose the most appropriate bit(s) for your work. Even
though the bits are too dull for the dentist’s work, they are still
sharp enough for your purposes. Recycle those bits!

You could also try using the smallest tapered round needle file to
knock off the high spots. I think ordinary metal needle files are
more effective than the diamond files when working with metal. Then
work your way thrumming through the compounds just as you would with
buffs.

Hope this helps,
Judy in Kansas, where the past month has been filled with perfect days…
so deserved after the miserable summer!!


#9
While I haven't actually tried this, I have heard that you can run
a piece of fine string or dental floss charged with, say, tripoli
between the spaces; or maybe a thin strip cut from fine sanding
cloth or film.

Janet - this is called thrumming and it is described in Oppi
Untracht’s book “Jewelry, Concepts and Technology”, and he says
"Thrum is a weaving term meaning any mass of fibers, thread, or
loose, coarse yarn. Thrumming in metalwork is a form of hand
polishing parts of a work that are otherwise inaccessible by the use
of a length of coarse, soft threads or thrum charged with an
abrasive. Thrumming thread is available in coarse, medium and fine
grades. They can be used in bunches or singly, depending on the need.
One end of the thrum is tied to any rigid member, held tight, and
charged with a bar of tripoli or rouge for rubbing it along its
length. Only one type of polishing compound should be used on a
particular set of thrums. The free end is then passed through an
opening or depression in the work and is then held tautly with the
left hand. The work is moved up and back on the thrum with the right
hand, changing its angle of contact as necessary to reach the desired
places. Additional abrasive is added when needed. Thrums work
quickly, and the work must be examined often. The thrum is withdrawn
when the work is finished." Copied from Oppi Untracht’s book.

To this, I’d like to add that I’ve tried this method of polishing
pierced metal and can say, you really must watch closely as you can
easily “cut” the metal if you use a hard fine string pulled very
taut for a thrum. I’ve had best results using several strands of
very soft cotton yarn (like is used for knitting). But if you don’t
watch closely, you can truly cut ridges inside the pierced areas
from rubbing it on the taut held yarn (string). But if done
carefully, you can get a lovely polish on otherwise unreachable
areas or difficult to reach areas.

I suggest you try this method on a scrap piece of pierced metal
first (not your final creation) to see how it works and how quickly
it “cuts”. I’ve also used thin strips of very fine sanding paper
rolled into pencil thin rolls and inserted in the cut out places.
But it doesn’t work as well for me as the soft cotton thread rubbed
with polishing compounds.


#10

Hi Liz,

I have cut strips of the 3M microfilm papers to fit in my jewelers
saw. First it’s easiest to make them double sided, so I use a simple
glue stick or have even used rubber cement to glue two sheets
together. Then I cut them in long thin strips with my zip type paper
cutter made by “Fiskars”. It does a really nice job getting the
strips very straight and even.

Use the strips as you would a jewelers saw blade, just don’t put too
much tension on the paper when placing it in the saw frame, so it
does not tear. Its very fast & easy to get in between pierced metal
parts with this, and you can use all the different grits and bring
the inside edges to any degree of shine. Another advantage of the 3M
papers is that they are kind of like a microfiber paper, almost like
cloth, and they hold up real well even when wet. If you don’t have
the 3M micro papers, I imagine you could use any fine sand paper made
for metal, but I always get the wet/dry types, which are best for
polishing, and work really god when wet.

Good Luck!
Teresa


#11

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful tips! I knew I could count on
you!

All my best,
Liz


#12

Yes, you certainly can do this and it works quite well. Jewelers have
been doing it probably for centuries. It’s called “thrumming.” Only
caveat: keep constantly moving the part of your metal in contact with
the string or you will very quickly have a groove the diameter of
your string. Another fun and effective technique is to place
heavy-duty clear plastic tape of the kind used to seal boxes for
shipping, on the back of a sheet of sandpaper. Then cut off a narrow
strip with scissors, thread it through your piece, mount it in your
jeweler’s handsaw as if it were a blade, and then “saw” back and
forth. Added benefit: you’ve sharpened your scissors, too!

Gary Strickland, GJG


#13
Another fun and effective technique is to place heavy-duty clear
plastic tape of the kind used to seal boxes for shipping, on the
back of a sheet of sandpaper. Then cut off a narrow strip with
scissors, thread it through your piece, mount it in your jeweler's
handsaw as if it were a blade, and then "saw" back and forth. 

Gary thanks for sharing this tip. I have glued sandpaper to sheets
of plastic for years to use a sanding strips and blocks (the blocks
are glued to vacu-formed blister packs). I never thought of using the
tape for the same purpose. One more item to add to my hardware list.

Thanks
Frank Goss


#14

Agreed! Great tips from everyone who posted, I can’t thank you
enough. I started with the saw, then I went in with the sandpaper
with tape trick, and finally the thrumming technique to get to the
really hard to reach places and wow! I wish I would have taken a
before photo, because it’s made a huge difference!

Thank you again,