Polishing techniques

I have been polishing for a while, but always have a problem that
perhaps someone can help with. I use a 3,600 rpm machine (although I
have heard a 1,700 rpm is better for silver) and I use bobbing
compound followed by chromium. My problem always seems to be that
when polishing with either, a lot of black build up happens on the
silver. I tried using much less compound and it doesn’t really help
too much. I use 8 inch yellow sewn wheels. Perhaps I need to press
harder? Any thoughts or tricks and tips? Thanks!

Fr. Alexis Duncan

Fr Alexis,

I almost always run my polishing machine at high speed - 3450RPM. My
first time students almost always come to me with their first polish
job with two faults. One, it is almost never polished…they don’t
have the correct pressure down yet and two, it is almost always
covered with ‘keep’ - the black build up you talk about. It is a
build up of the compound on the surface of the metal caused by a
combination of too much compound on the wheel and insufficient
pressure against the wheel. Of course, when it builds up, the metal
under it is not polished. Keep can be easily removed by simply giving
the piece being polished a short sharp push into the wheel. Be sure
to hold it tightly as the wheel could grab it away from you. You
might have to do that several times to get rid of all the keep over a
wide area but, after it is gone, you can go back to your normal
polishing routine.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!’ @coralnut2

Hi Fr. Duncan,

Are you overloading, or conversely not putting enough bobbing
compound on your wheel? Pressure does play an important part - but
either of these two things can cancel out correct pressure…

How often do you use a rake on the wheel to condition it and remove
excess? We probably use a rake on the wheel at least once in 4
hours of polishing. More often when called for. These little things
take time to get figured out. Every artisan acquires their own

In England/Europe professional polishers have a 2 to 3 year
apprenticeship - in this country, almost no one spends any time
teaching the finer details of polishing.

One more thing. Since you are using sewn wheels, and they tend to
get packed and hard after a period of time - have you ever taken a
blade and cut the outside row of threads? This allows the buff to
“loosen up” a bit and act more like it did when new. It will throw
fuzz and thread all over when raked afterwards, but this only lasts
a couple minutes. We cut the outside row of threads any time the
buff gets hard and the muslin gets too short. It is normal for the
buff to wear down with use. Doing this “reconditions” it.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA 95209 USA
209-477-0550 Workshop/Studio/