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Polishing Tips


#1

Hello All,

I am primarily self-taught (orchid taught) and I have a few
questions regarding final polishing of silver/gold. I don’t have
the budget to buy a dedicated polishing machine - so I’m using my
foredom with various buffs. My question has two parts:

  1. Is there any recommendations with respect to what particular buff
    material goes best with what compound? For example, what is
    everyone’s opinion with Zam or Red Rouge? Is it best used on felt
    vs chamois vs muslin, etc…? Or am I over-analyzing the situation
    and does it really make much of a difference?

  2. When I do final polish (primarily with Zam on silver) - it
    doesn’t appear to polish as much as lay on a thick almost
    "grease-like" coating. Granted, when I take an 'ol trusty
    toothbrush and some elbow grease, it comes off and my piece looks
    good - but what am I doing wrong here? Am I applying too much
    compound, pressure on the wheel, or too high an RPM? I’ve tried
    altering these variables with limited success - but I can’t seem to
    quite “get it right”. I’ve played around with the 3M radial
    bristles (which I love) and some of the silicon polishers (don’t
    love quite as much) - and while they do a pretty good job - I just
    can’t seem to get a really good “mirror” polish. I’ve learned
    (especially from Orchid - TY!) that one of the biggest problems with
    polishing is to make sure one doesn’t short cut with the sanding &
    pre-polishing stage. I feel that I’m working my way carefully
    through this stage - but who knows, maybe this is part of the
    problem?

Thanks as always - and I appreciate your advice.

Regards,
Bradley


#2
    I am primarily self-taught (orchid taught) and I have a few
questions regarding final polishing of silver/gold. 

Hi Bradley. I believe that even those who learn in school or from a
"master" are somewhat self-taught, since no single process works the
same for everyone. We all take what we learn from others and adapt
the things that work best for us as individuals once we’ve tried
everything of interest to us. What follows is my tribute to the idea
that no one system works for everybody but, with patience and
experimentation, we all find what works best for us.

    I don't have the budget to buy a dedicated polishing machine -
so I'm using my foredom with various buffs. 

I began polishing with my rotary tool (not a Foredom) also, and I’m
still saving for a better polisher. Until then, I’m using a $149
small polisher that I think I got from Graves Company. It’s not what
I’d recommend for a production shop, and it bogs down easily, but it
gets the job done on the small pieces I work with. You can likely
find it in their on-line catalog at www.gravescompany.com Usual
disclaimer applies: I’m not an employee, shill or anything else -
just a very satisfied customer.

    1) Is there any recommendations with respect to what
particular buff material goes best with what compound?  For
example, what is everyone's opinion with Zam or Red Rouge?  Is it
best used on felt vs chamois vs muslin, etc...? Or am I
over-analyzing the situation and does it really make much of a
difference? 

Yes, it makes a very big difference, but not necessarily because of
what tools, equipment and compounds you use, rather, what works best
for YOU. A lot of people use Zam to polish their silver, but a lot
of others don’t. I fall into the second category. For sterling
silver, I first use Dialux red rouge on a stitched muslin buff, then
Dialux green rouge on another stitched muslin buff. The yellow buffs
are a bit stiffer than the white ones, and somewhat less forgiving.
The red ones take it a step further. Some have a looser stitch than
others. You’ll do well to try as many as you can on scrap to see
which combination(s) work best for you. An important step for me is
to use a good degreaser between all buffing stages. I prefer Simple
Green with a toothbrush.

For 14K, I get MY best result with red rouge on felt, then (don’t
laugh) Dremel Polishing Compound, also on felt. Or on a red stitched
muslin buff. For some reason, 14K likes to be polished by MY hand
with a harder buff (felt or red muslin). For me, softer alloys of
gold usually require softer buffs. The point I’m trying to make is,
you will, through experimentation, try all of the helpful
suggestions you get from this forum to find the exact combination of
tools, equipment and compound that will work for you. You may even
find that Zam works better for you after a buff with red or green
rouge, just make sure you get the one compound off by degreasing the
piece before you try another. And use only one compound per buff,
marking them accordingly.

    2) When I do final polish (primarily with Zam on silver) - it
doesn't appear to polish as much as lay on a thick almost
"grease-like" coating.  Granted, when I take an 'ol trusty
toothbrush and some elbow grease, it comes off and my piece looks
good - but what am I doing wrong here?  Am I applying too much
compound, pressure on the wheel, or too high an RPM? 

Maybe all or none of the above. Do you rake your buff occasionally?
Sometimes there is too much buildup on it that can contain a lot of
the binding agent and not enough grit. There are commercial buff
rakes available, but I find a piece of scrap wood works quite well.
Just hold the wood firmly while applying the buff, and use the
largest piece of wood you can to help prevent the buff from grabbing
it.

     I've tried altering these variables with limited success -
but I can't seem to quite "get it right".  I've played around with
the 3M radial bristles (which I love) and some of the silicon
polishers (don't love quite as much) - and while they do a pretty
good job - I just can't seem to get a really good "mirror" polish. 
I've learned (especially from Orchid - TY!) that one of the biggest
problems with polishing is to make sure one doesn't short cut with
the sanding & pre-polishing stage.  I feel that I'm working my way
carefully through this stage - but who knows, maybe this is part of
the problem? 

I also use the 3M bristle brushes and love them dearly, especially
for those hard-to-reach places and inside rings. But you’re right,
they do a great job without really getting the “mirror” polish. Use
them to pre-polish, and the buff of your choice for your final
polishing. Once I realized that no single compound works for ME, I
was on the right trail. Once I realized that I needed to get all of
the first compound of with a de-greaser, I found MY holy grail.
Since you understand that sanding and pre-polishing is the most
critical stage, I believe you’re on the trail of yours. Good luck
and try it all.

James in SoFl


#3

Bradley,

I think The Doctor gave you some good grist for the mill. Here are a
few additional things to consider. ZAM can be used for many
things…one in particular - most of the carbonate and phosphate
stone groups. When you set turquoise or rhodocrosite, or malachite
to name a few, they all polish beautifully with ZAM which will give
a great polish to the surrounding silver at the same time!

One question I must ask you… are you sure part of your problem
getting a ‘mirror silver’ polish isn’t due to fire scale? Do you get
a blotchy look when polishing? Is there a gray or gray-pink surface
along with areas of mirror silver? If so, you have fire scale and
it will take a lot of polishing to remove it if at all. Check the
Orchid archives for more on this subject.

Re getting into those ‘little’ spaces I don’t even try to polish
them…I burnish them in a vibratumbler with steel shot for 30
minutes (more in the Orchid archive). The result is a really nice
burnished silver surface even down in those places you can’t begin
to reach with a wheel or brush. Then I polish the higher parts.

Personally, I normally only use first and second cut polishes and
dispense with third cut unless it is something very very special. I
do the same on both gold and silver and normally finish with either
ZAM or Fabuluster. The problem is there are so many polishes and
wheels out there one could experiement for years before deciding
which you like best. Instead, I have learned to use just a few and
use them well. There is a loooot more I could add but lets leave it
there. Happy experimenting!

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


#4
I  do the same on both gold and silver and normally finish with
either ZAM or Fabuluster. 

Having tried all sorts of polishing methods, I have to agree that
these are the ones that have worked best for me with silver and
brass: Tumbling with steel shot, followed by polishing with either
ZAM or Fabulustre. If the ZAM doesn’t give it a high enough shine,
wash it off with warm water, a toothbrush and plain old Ivory soap
or Dawn dish washing detergent. Then polish with Fabulustre, using
a muslin buff. Keep at his last step until you get the highest
shine you can. Wash it off, and you’re done. I like to use Zam to
refresh stones such as malachite and turquoise when the surface gets
a little dull.

Dee


#5

You did not say what size objects you are trying to polish nor if
they are textured or not. It all makes a difference. I don’t like to
polish with the flexshaft particular if the object is flat and
smooth. The buffs are so narrow that I get an uneven finish. I
prefer a buffing machine or my little vibratory tumbler with steel
shot. As far as the build up or black on your pieces, the buff may
be too loaded or you may not be using enough pressure.

marilyn smith


#6
As far as the build up or black on your pieces, the buff may be too
loaded or you may not be using enough pressure.

Please forgive me, Marilyn, but the problem is pretty much never too
little pressure, much more often the opposite. Properly used, a buff
should function best with very little pressure, letting the edges do
the work. More pressure often results in “drag lines”, those insidious
little tiny grooves in what is supposed to be a flat surface.

Opposing views welcomed.

Noel