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Polishing on the Flexshaft

Hi Everyone. This forum is great! I have been taking lots of jewelry
classes and LOVE working with silver. I am trying to polish a ring on
the flexshaft, but I don’t know what to do. I’m taking a jewelry
class at an adult education school and they don’t have very many
things. I’m making my first prong setting for my Mom.


Angie C.,

So far the only few problems you might and will have is the polish
compounds will for sure be hitting you in the face…Don’t worry about
Halloween, you’ll be wearing all of the polish and tripoly on your
face, eyes and maybe your in hair…:>)

You have no suction to remove the compounds, don’t worry about
having lunch because “you’ll be eating the stuff”. The little buff
wheels are not made for heavy duty finishing. My suggestion is to
contact Kenneth Singh or Andy K. on this channel and ask for their

When you are polishing items, you need two hands to hold each item,
so far you need one hand to hold the Flex-shaft and the other to hold
the ring…so far you are short of one more hand…we weren’t born
with three hands. LOL !

Ask these two guys for an in-expensive vacuum machine with a filter
attached, that will do the job for you and to keep you
clean…:>)…“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!”

Hi Angie,

I don’t own a “real” buffing setup, so I do a lot of polishing with
my flex-shaft. Usually, I start with a black silicone wheel to
remove surface imperfections. Depending on whether the piece is cast
or constructed, or whether it is organic or more geometric in shape,
you may want to use sanding sticks instead to preserve crisp edges
and smooth planes. Rubber wheels will sometimes create a ripply
surface, and they’ll round edges over very quickly. Use your
discretion, and be sure to constantly move the rubber wheel gently
in small, circular motions as you’re sanding. Hovering over one spot
or using excess pressure will create a dent. In all steps, be
careful not to hit the piece with the screw on the mandrel!

Practice on scrap to get a feel for the abrasive, and rinse residue
from the piece when you’re done.

Depending on the type of surface and the finish you want, you may
find it handy to give the piece a going-over with a 3M radial
bristle disc. These things are great - I use the 50 grit wheels to
create texture and the 220 and 400 grits for finishing. The fine
bristles on the discs allow you to get into textured areas and tight
spots. You can also make a nice satin finish with these wheels.

For the next step, I usually go over the piece with tripoli on a
plain 1" muslin buff - I’ve tried the treated ones and didn’t like
them. The tripoli should remove all remaining scratches and leave
you with a good, nearly-shiny finish with a slight hazy cast. Again,
use a moderate pressure with the buff - pressing too hard will
create streaks and drag lines. Wash your pieces well to remove the
tripoli residue. It’s important that no tripoli residue remains on
the piece, or the abrasives in it will continue to work on your
piece and it will never get past a tripoli polish.
Rio Grande’s
water-soluble Sunsheen tripoli is a real boon; it washes up quickly
and easily with Simple Green or dish soap. A gentle scrub with a
toothbrush will help remove residue from crevices.

Using a new muslin buff, go over the piece again with rouge. I use
red rouge, but many jewelers prefer black rouge or Zam (or green
rouge) for silver. They’re not expensive, so experiment to see which
one works best for you. With the application of the rouge, you should
see the shine “pop” as the final finish develops. Once you’re
satisfied, give your piece a final bath in dish soap or Simple Green
(don’t scrub it!) and dry it on a soft, lint-free cloth.

Practice good polishing-compound hygiene: be sure to keep your
muslin buffs separate from your tripoli buffs, and isolate the
compounds themselves from one another. I’ve found it handy to keep
the buffs with their sticks of polishing compounds in photographic
slide boxes.

Bear in mind that polishing compounds often contain silica, and that
particles from polishing processes can be irritating and damaging to
your respiratory system. (I wear a dust mask and face shield
whenever polishing, and I still need to get myself a decent
respirator. I have too many times regretted not putting on a dust
mask when making some tiny touch-up with a rubber wheel, and I end
up sneezing all evening.) Finally, clean up your bench and go and
wash your face to get all the gak out of your pores :slight_smile:

There are literally hundreds of different combinations of buffs,
abrasives, and compounds to try when polishing - this is just what
has worked out well for me. Play with different finishing approaches
to find the one that works best for you.

HTH - Good luck, and happy polishing!

Jessee Smith

   I have too many times regretted not putting on a dust mask when
making some tiny touch-up with a rubber wheel, and I end up
sneezing all evening.)  Finally, clean up your bench and go and
wash your face to get all the gak out of your pores :) 

As Gerry (I think) mentioned, finishing and polishing are safer when
done holding the work in both hands.

I totally understand making do with less than optimum tools but
there are some cheap and relatively easy adaptations you might
consider for safety and comfort or convenience.

My first “buffer” was a cast-off drill from my brother-in-law and
used a 1/4" diameter screw-end arbor to hold the buffing wheel. Not
content to hold the dang thing between my knees to work, I
appropriated an unused motor-mounting bracket that I McGiver’d up
parallel with the edge of the workbench. This held the drill body
and the wheel rotated down-and-back while I worked but polishing
compound went everywhere! At least until I plopped a cardboard box
behind the drill set-up.

After several months of this, we set up a proper double-ended motor
for my needs but still used the cardboard box.

Years later, when I finally got a flex shaft, I discovered that the
concept of holding something in my left hand and working on it with
the flex shaft in my right hand was beyond foreign to my
lapidary-trained brain! Not to mention the GAK (nice word) I didn’t
care to eat or dodge! I yearned for a cleaner, two-handed approach
and glommed onto a drill press my husband had long-ago picked up at a
garage sale thinking I’d have some use for it. This makes a great
holder for the flex shaft handpiece, which is bungie-corded through
openings of the table which is rotated to vertical position. This
set-up comes from the LEFT side which makes the rotation
down-and-back rather than in-your-face and allows for safely holding
the work with two hands. The table with attached handpiece is
positioned within my portable air handler filter - added to my studio
years ago and a much healthier alternative to the cardboard box!

I also use a larger, more standard buffer, but love this set-up for
most flex shaft work.


Pam Chott

   This set-up comes from the LEFT side which makes the rotation
down-and-back rather than in-your-face and allows for safely
holding the work with two hands.

Pam, we may be on to something here…I’m LEFT-handed!

Maybe that’s why Gerry’s post left me wondering why he was so
concerned. I hope that using the flex-shaft as I described won’t be
dangerous for right-handers, although I can see how it would be
messier. All of my detritus flies toward the wall behind the bench
(or into a cardboard box I set up on the bench), and I rarely - if
ever - have a problem with the buffing wheel grabbing the workpiece.
Just lucky, I guess?

For right-handers who still want to polish with the flex-shaft, Rio
sells a handpiece holder that clamps into a bench vise - it’s just a
chunk of machined HDPE (or similar dense plastic) that sells for ten
bucks. This could be used to keep the handpiece stationary on the
workbench (on the left side, as you described) and both hands could
be used to hold the workpiece. Hmmm… I may have to try this myself!
Cheers, and sincerest apologies to any rouge-splattered righties,

Jessee Smith

I use a Foredom with the 3M Bristle Discs I get from Rio Grande. I
start with yellow and work all the way through to the green and then
finish with rouge. It’s the best finish for me. I used to use the
tripoli’s, etc. and never got as good a finish. Also I can get
"into" most rings with the discs.

J. S. Ellington