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Keeping steel tools polished


Hi everyone,

I have what may be a silly beginner’s question, but here it goes: I
know there are certain steel tools that need to remain polished (for
example, finishing & texturizing hammers, dapping tools, burnishers,
etc.). How do you keep your tools up? Do you keep a separate buff
just for your tools? Do you always sand down the tools first, or just
buff once a month or so? Tripoli or rouge? How often is it
appropriate to do this?

I have taken jewelry classes at my local community college, which
were great for learning new techniques, but we never learned anything
about basic tool maintenance, since most of the students weren’t
really serious about the craft. I have some new tools that I’d like
to keep like new, and some old tools that I bought from a retired
goldsmith that I’d like to get into better condition. Any info you
can give me will be really appreciated!



Hi Megan,

For a mirrored finish on steel, you want a buffing compound called
"Stainless Compound". It’s white (comes in a bar) and looks sort of
like a chalkier cousin to white diamond. Run it at 3450 RPM (Fast
setting on your buffer) on a 6" treated, tight stitched muslin buff.
(reserved just for stainless.)

It’ll take small steel parts (like chasing punch tips) from 220 grit
to a mirror in a few seconds. Amazingly aggressive stuff.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well on non-ferris metals, but it’s
what I’ve been using to keep my hammers mirrored for 20+ years. The
better your surface prep is, the faster, and more accurately it
works. Just like any other buffing compound.

I get mine from Allcraft, but I’m pretty sure the Freis could get it
for you if you asked, depending on which side of what county you’re
on. Rio doesn’t seem to have it.



Megan- I really love polished hammer faces, stakes, burnishers etc.
I keep mine with a light film of oil on them. My very best planishing
hammer heads I keep wrapped in flannel to keep them from getting

If they need a polish I just use white diamond tripoli and a muslin

Refinishing is another matter. Endless hours with successively finer
and finer emery down to 2/0 before polishing.

The best way to maintain your tools is to keep them clean, dry and

Here in rainy Portland Or we need to keep a humidifier going in our
basement shop.

if jeffery Herman chimes in on this one listen to his advice. He’s
da man when it comes to maintaining an amazing array of hammers and

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


I found the Pro Polish Polishing Pads available on Rio Grande to be
very handy for keeping hammers and pliers polished. After using the
pads you can wipe down the tool with a rag dampened with mineral oil
to preserve the surface. The polish pads are very mild though and
won’t take out scratches worth mentioning, for that you need a buff
charged with a cutting type polish like White Diamond.

I’m glad I found a use for those pads, as I found them mostly
useless for polishing jewelry.


I use Corrosion X works great and saves all the polishing.


Hi Brian et al,

The compound for steel is also available from knife making suppliers.
I rarely use compounds, but when I do, I use that form, on sterling!
Fast, really fast.

Linda Kaye-Moses


Jo Haemer

I use Polishing Paper #2/0 then a #4/0. Then after I use graphite
pencil coated #4/0 to make it smooth as a #6/0 paper. You can see
your profile afterwards on the steel face. I use this hammer only for
Channel, Bezel & Gypsy setting, nothing else.

If I find any sort of marks on the ‘face’, I immediately resurface
the hammer face.

Gerry Lewy


Speaking of protecting polished hammer faces. I use old socks to
protect them from being dinged. If there’s a little oil in the
material, so much the better.



Wow–I leave my email alone for a few days and come back to a
treasure chest of Thank you all for your awesome
responses. I now can’t wait for one of my boyfriend’s flannel shirts
or socks to die so I can rip them to shreds :slight_smile: