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
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
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
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