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Making your own burnishers

Last month I took a quick course in stone-setting in which the
instructor made his own little burnishers for pushing the metal
around the stones.

He made them quickly and now I’m trying to figure out how to make
them. Also I’d like to see what you veteran stone-setters out there

CS / Austin


Back in 1956 or so I made my first burnisher from an inexpensive
screwdriver that happened to have a hard steel shank. I simply broke
off the blade, then ground the stub to a bullet shape, followed by
smooting with successivly finer grades of emery paper until I had an
acceptable polish. I still use it today, just re-polishing it as
necessary. It works as well as any commercial model. I have also
modified dentist’s probes and scrapers by removing the blade portion
and rounding off or tapering the stub to make miniature burnishers
of various shapes.

The key is to find a hard material, make it into a useful shape, then
polish it to provide the bright finish you want to achieve on your
work. Don’t forget agate as a burnisher material. If you have access
to lapidary equipment and a sound piece of agate or jasper (any solid
chalcedony without voids or cracks) you can make a burnisher of
extreme hardness with a finish that will probably never need to be
re-polished. You could use concrete nails, broken drill bits, or many
other sources of hard steel as your burnisher material. It is easy to
mount the metal part in a wooden handle with epoxy, then do all of
the shaping and polishing of the business end.

Dick Davies

Carol -

I made some of my own a few years ago after reading an article
written by Tom & Kay Benham (for Lapidary Journal, I think). I looked
through my treasure trove of beads and found some tumbled agates that
were designed as top-drilled long beads. Held those in hand at the
grinder & made my own curved or pointed burnishers.

Anyone who makes them quickly has lots of experience doing similar
work. Not that you can’t do it; just be prepared to spend a few years
practicing. Given my meager experience at the time, I know mine are
not top-quality, but they get the job done. I have a lot of pleasure
using them because they are MINE, I used available materials, and I
pulled up my sense of self-worth by myself.

Do an internet search for the Benham’s article; it may be available
as a back-order from Lapidary Journal.

Good luck to you,

In a pinch, for a quick fix, I have used a stainless steel
teaspoon…nice roundness and a handle!

Rose Marie Christison

He made them quickly and now I'm trying to figure out how to make
them. Also I'd like to see what you veteran stone-setters out
there use. 

There are only two materials I use for making burnishers: broken
ball bur shafts (thanks to Paul Reilly), and various diameters of
water hardening drill stock.

Using the shaft from a .5mm ball bur gives a working tip of even
less making it suitable for burnishing bezel edges on even the
smallest stones. Carefully reshape the end (where the cutting ball
broke off, finish with available abrasives until you can use your
silicon pink wheel on the flexshaft to polish. The pink wheels, at
high speeds on the standard flexshaft give a superior surface to
polishing them with steel compounds on the polishing lathe. Whatever
your final tip diameter be sure there are hard edges left as this
tool will scratch stones if not properly polished or forced against
the stone during burnishing.

The second, the water hardening drill stock, can be heated to red,
forged and ground to shape, hardened by heating until no longer
magnetic (really hot), quenched in water, and polished, again, with
1500grit wet/dry and a pink wheel. I don’t bother with tempering for
burnishers. The harder the better.

Stainless, especially that used for flatware, is not hard enough to
give a decent burnish on anything other than 18k yellow. 18k white
and 14k w&Y, need the harder steel to really put a polished surface
the work.

Some commercially available stainless sold in 3 & 6 foot lengths is
harder but still not worth the trouble for how long it takes to get a
decent surface.

Les Brown

1 Like

Dear Dick-- Hey thanks so much. So you generally make them bullet
shaped? Did you remove the handle of your screwdriver?

Thanks, & Cheers,
Carol / Austin


So you generally make them bullet shaped? Did you remove the handle
of your screwdriver? 

The exact shape is up to you. You could make it hemispherical, or go
the other way and make it very tapered. Or make several in different
shapes. And yes, I did leave the handle on, as burnishing takes a
fair amount of pressure you have to apply with your hands and
fingers. You need the handle! BTW, my screwdriver had a wooden
handle, and of course it is easy to shape that kind of handle to fit
your hand better.

Dick Davies