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Good results polishing by hand

Hi everyone,

I have been making wire and bead jewellery for about a year. Two
weeks ago I went to a one week long jewellery course. Not very long
to learn but long enough to give me the confidence to start
experimenting by myself.

At the moment I’m just practicing cutting with the saw as my skill
in that field is more than poor. I never thought it could be that
hard tu cut straight! Well after hours of cutting and filling I have
finally managed to make a small simple cross. Happy and frustrated
at the same time as the piece was not shiny I started to polish it,
with… a nail polisher it’s shiny now.

Then I thought, well, Silversmithing existed long before electricity
therefore I should be possibel to polish by hand. This is where I
need your help. Could anyone tell me how to get a good result by
hand? I just need the alternative for while before I’m able to
afford something electric. :slight_smile:

I’m certain I’m making a foul of myself but still hoping to get some
tips from you. :slight_smile:

Have you considered tumble polishing? You can get a Harbor Freight
single barrel tumbler for around $25
Item number 46376



I’ve found 3M’s Wetordry Tri-M-ite Polishing papers to be really
good. I know Rio Grande stock them. They also stock sanding sticks,
but it’s cheaper to make your own.

It’s an abrasive cloth-like material that goes from 400 grit through
to 8000 grit. You work through each of the 6 grits, criss-crossing
the direction you polish in each time you move up a grit. Finally
give the piece a good rub with a rouge cloth and you should have a
mirror finish. I’ve found these cloths especially good for preserving
the flat surfaces of a piece.

Eva Martin
Hampshire, UK.

Oh my god, I don’t believe that I can actually answer a question!

Rio Grande has some great stuff that I use for small jobs, but you
could use them for larger jobs, just lots of elbow grease! I have a
polishing wheel, but no where to put it yet, so I do everything by
hand (or job it out).

They are the 3M papers… under “sanding papers” in the index…

Get the WetorDry Tri-M-ite Polishing paper. I use the green to the
pink followed by a polishing cloth on some of my castings if they
need a touch more shine out of the tumbler.

If you need something heavier, you can check out the Imperial Micro-
Finishing Film which is a harder kind of paper. These will actually
take metal off your piece, especially the coarser ones, so use with
care. Some of them are like files.

Whichever one you use, make sure you go in order and if must hit
each step on your way down. However, if you start using one and
realize that it’s way too light, you can skip going up (coarser),
but going to the finer ones you really need to hit every paper along
the way to get the best results.

Good luck!


I often polish by hand as sometimes it is the best way to get into
small spaces or simply get a good flat surface without putting in
more scratches than you take out.

To start, I recommend taking the piece down to at least a 1,200 grit
paper, make sure you sand in more than one direction as that allows
you to see if there are any scratches left, and using a sanding stick
(the paper wrapped around a bit of wood) will speed the process. I
then go from a medium greasy (a polishing compound, I think it
equates to about a 6000 grit paper) to High Bright (also called White
Diamond, a fast cutting compound advertised for polishing steel, its
faster and gives a better finish than tripoli) and finish with rouge.
As a backing I tend to use a rag, thread or piece of leather,
depending on the job, and will support this with a bit of wood if
required. Some turps or paint thinner (NOT nitrocellulose!), can be
used as well to help get the polishing compound onto the backing, but
this is not always necessary. It also helps to clean the piece between
changes in compound, and obviously change the backing.

Then there is elbow grease. Polishing is always a massive effort, and
by hand you really feel it. Very satisfying though.

Also a handy tip on cutting things out draw it on paper first and
then glue it to the metal. If you rough the surface of the metal up
with fine steel wool and use wood glue (PVA) then it will hold well,
it is also handy as it removes the problem of the reflection making
it difficult to follow the pattern. Purists recommend using rice
paper, but in reality standard stuff works just fine. Which means
that you can design on computer and then use the print out as a
template, opening the whole of the internet to you for inspiration
clip art is particularly good. And sit low the work piece should be
in line with your chest, it makes controlling the saw easier and is
better for your back.

Good luck.

Chris Penner

Check the archives, [Terms = sanding] there’s a wealth of


If you happen to have a Dremel Tool you can add a split mandrel and
use that to move things along. It’s not a flexshaft, but it works.
Cut 1" x 2.5" strips of wet/dry sandpaper of each grade, 200-600,
higher if you have it. You should be able to find this at a hardware
store. Before slipping the sandpaper into the mandrel pull it paper
side down along the edge of a table to break the glue. Fold over
approx. 1/4" of the short edge and then slip into the mandrel. It
should stay in there snuggly. Always wear safety glasses and mask
when using your tools. Keep your fingers as clear of the spinning
paper as you can, or you’ll sand them too!

Have fun!

Pam Farren
Newburyport, MA

Could anyone tell me how to get a good result by hand? . I'm
certain I'm making a foul of myself but still hoping to get some
tips from you. 

Nor really, I saw somewhere directions for starting and finishing by
hand (not to good on files, used to rough out the shape, I am sure).

This may help; I found it on an opal page. If you have a piece of
opal jewelry that has become scratched or dull, just use the finer
papers (700 or 800 grit) you can try to work the above process by
hand by cutting small strips of the sandpaper and just rubbing them
back and forth across the stone until the scratches are taken out.
If the paper is too harsh, just tone it down by rubbing it on a
piece of glass. Next step is to get a piece of old sheet or pillow
slip (cloth) and vigorously polish with tin oxide or cerium oxide.

Also see this site.

Also, try locating a club. Use their equipment.
contact one (or several nearest you. Note my club Golden Spike
(Ogden, Utah) is connected to the golden hour’s center. However Roy,
Clearfield, Layton and I am sure some others have a place to do
lapidary/silversmithing. Sponsored, I think by parks and recreation.
I noticed an .at as part of the email, and note this might not be in
the states.

As a note, lapis is not infrequently finished by hand polishing,
unfortunately directions were not given. That avoids the taint of
having to disclose that wax was used as a part of the polishing.
Also on the faceter’s guild list references have been made to
polishing the table by hand before dopping and cutting the mains. In
short as long as it is an honest inquiry the only dumb question is
the one that is not asked. The lack of asking and honest informed
replies is where all (or most) problems originate.

Good Luck