Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Purchasing a buffer

I am slowly collecting jewelry making equipment. I would like some
advice on purchasing a buffer. Can I get by with purchasing a buffer
from a hardware store?

Hey Becky,

We have plenty of polishing machines sitting in our shop from back
when we used to do a lot of mass production.

Feel free to contact me directly and I can send you photos of the
motors that we have. I’ll be happy to sell you a used one at a
fraction of the price. These guys last forever and are still in great
working condition.

Hi Becky,

Originally my buffing setup consisted of a bench grinder that I got
cheaply because some of grinder parts were missing. This was not a
problem for my needs so I just removed the remaining grinding wheel
and the guards and attached a couple of screw on spindles and a
couple of buffs. It was a somewhat messy setup to use so It was
exiled in an outside shed with casting equipment. When I decided I
wanted to move it into my clean space I built a cabinet out of
plywood including a couple of hoods around the buffs connected to a
vacuum cleaner that is switched on with the motor. The whole setup
works just fine and overall cost me about $250 including a relay
based switch with a large stop button for both the motor and the
vacuum cleaner.

I can provide photos and details if you are interested

All the best

I have a buffer from the hardware store, and I am very happy with
it. I bought tapered spindles from Rio to fit the shafts, did some
surgery on it to take off the annoying guards, and voila! I have a
tapered spindle on one side and a fixed cratex type wheel on the
other. Love it!

Janet Kofoed

Hello Becky,

Although a grinder motor (hardware store buffer) will work, I would
recommend that you save up for a polishing motor in a cabinet with
filtered exhaust. The main problem is the health of your lungs, as
you don’t want to breath the particulates that will be thrown off by
the hardware store unit. A secondary issue is the general
cleanliness of your studio. Those black particleswill gradually coat
all the surfaces in the area. Not to mention that a proper polishing
motor has faster speed (rpm), doesn’t ‘bog’ down, and takes less
time to polish a piece.

I initially used a grinder motor fitted with spindles for the
buffing mops. No enclosed cabinet with filtered exhaust. When I
began coughing up black phlegm, I realized what a bad idea that was
and bought the proper unit. MUCHfaster, cleaner, and good light to
see what I was doing.

That said, now I rarely use the buffer. Instead I use a combination
of 3M radial bristle discs on a small bench lathe motor, and
tumblers. Those tumblers are mechanical slaves which do the dirty
work of finishing and polishing. Once they go to work, I can do
something else.

There is a very useful booklet by Judy Hoch called “Tumble Finishing
for Handmade Jewelry”. Modestly priced reference and well worth the
money. Get itfor your library. (No association other than

Again, be kind to your lungs - you were issued only two! Judy in
Kansas, where leaves are beginning to turn colors and the grass
growth is slowing. Night temps are chilly. Fall is here.

A buffer purchase will depend on what you can afford. If you are on
a tight budget, yes, a grinder or buffer from the hardware, Harbor
Freight, a pawn shop or flea market will do. Just remove the
grinding wheels and substitute spindles for the buffing wheels. Then
you will need to fashion two hoods and one or two filters (perhaps
made from furnace filters). You can run your hood exhaust from a
fan, squirrel cage blower or shop vac. and you can get more CFM by
using a couple of blast gates so that only one operating hood uses
suction at a time. If you google the appropriate words, I’m sure
some images of DIY buffers will come up. Hoods can be built out of
cardboard or light plywood.

Is it made for buffing? Probably it would work. Mainly just a motor.
3450 rpm and a tapered spindle to put the wheels on. The motor you
can get from any motor repair place pretty cheap, the shaft needs to
fit the spindle.

Spindle you can get from Rio or any jewelry supply place. The thing
that is somewhat important is something to take away the dust. A
light is nice too. Put up a pic of the hardware store one. I’m

I have to endorse Judy’s choice of 3M radial bristle discs. They
have completely revolutionized my polishing. I use the 3" discs with
the hubs for a tapered spindle on my buffer, and in combination with
my caster starting me off with nicely pin polished pieces, and my
tumbler, the messy polishing compounds don’t get much use and my
studio stays much cleaner.

Janet Kofoed

My first buffer was a washing machine motor. That was a long time
ago. It was in a case made from an old dresser drawer and I had
installed a fan from a water heater to collect the dust. Worked fine
as I was learning. It was very under powered.

The important thing to make sure of is to get something with some
sort of vent to collect your dust. Breathing is an important part of
being able to walk around.

Gerald A. Livings
Livingston Jewelers

The buffer I use is a 1/2 horse power and at least 50 years old. With
a squirrel cage fan, a very effective filter, and it is built into
an old kitchen base cabinet. I have a 1/4 motor that I use as well.
They both work. One is a little faster is all.

Don Meixner.

There are a couple things that are not really being addressed in
this thread. One is the health aspect. The other is metal loss.

The dust blows everywhere without a collector. All over your work
space as well as you.

At the minimum, use a dust respirator when buffing. A commercial
buffer keeps your work area, your clothes and your lungs cleaner.

The next question would be to find out what metal you polishing. Any
time you polish, you are removing material from the surface. With
copper it is not so costly so metal loss is not as large of an

Brass can contain small amounts of lead. Removing silver or gold can
cost you money.

When you polishing silver, you are removing material, making the
scratchessmaller and smaller until you cant see them any longer.
Where is that silver going? Without a collector, it is going into
the environment and getting lost. Are you polishing silver? Is it
blowing around the room or being walked out the doors on your
shoes?. If you see dust on your work surfaces, that dust contains

Your dust can be worth a lot of money, depending what you are
polishing and how much you grind and polish you do.

Filing, sanding, and grinding and polishing removes material. At
$25.00 per ozt, With gold at $1145.00 per ozt, it adds up even
faster. you can loose a lot of money very quickly. How much do you
want to through away. If it is blowing that dust out a window or
around your shop it is costing you money.

This may be a case of being “Penny wise and pound foolish”. If your
working in precious metals, collect everything.

Phillip Scott
Graduate Gemologist
Technical Support Specialist
Rio Grande, A Berkshire Hathaway Company

I am still using the same buffer I made almost 30 years ago. I made
it from the motor out of a clothes dryer. Mounted it to a board and
attached buffing spindles to both shafts. For dust control I built a
case around it with light plywood and Plexiglas. Each side has a hole
in the back fitted with a hose that goes to a small shop vac for dust

I have to agree with Phillip Scott.

Over the last 40+ years at the bench I have used many different
polishing machines, from DIY, cobbed together out of odds and ends,
to the bench-top commercially available modals that use furnace
style air filters, to a heavy duty “bagger” stand alone system. Each
upgrade more paid for itself, both in precious metal recovery and in
improvement in the environmentof the shop, dust wise. That dust is
both b ad for you to breath, and quite costly, as it is the fine
particles of metal that we jewelers have just removed form the
pieces we have polished.

@7 years ago the store where I work in decided to invest in one of
the Quatro series of polishing, dust collecting systems, to try to
cut down on the invasive black dust finding its way out into the
retail store.

These systems are NOT cheap, but I have never worked in such a clean
environment! The heppa final filters really remove every trace of
fine metal dust. (Now, I I could just break myself of the habit of
doing so much pre-polishing at the bench with rubber wheels and
bristle brushes the shop wouldremain truly clean!)

After the first three years I shipped the filter bags out for
refining, and my employer was stunned at the increase in metal
return ($$)

That Quatro may have been a high ticket purchase, but it has more
than paid for itself.

I am in total agreement with Phil. He is spot on. A small investment
will gain bigger returns.

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold
Stuller Inc.

Most buffing stations involve two elements. A 3450 rpm motor with
appropriate shafts and fittings for spinning buffing and grinding
wheels, and a dust collection system.

All motors are not equal and I have learned to look for motors that
are labeled enclosed lathe polishing motors. These are sold under
names like Baldor and Red Wing. These motors are not only enclosed to
prevent abrasive dust from entering the motor, but also are balanced
to reduce vibration and do not have any play right to left like lower
priced industrial motors have. Overall these motors cost more, but
help to reduce operator fatigue.

Anything we can do to reduce our fatigue at the end of the day is
worth a few additional dollars, because we can get more work done
with less fatigue.

As for dust collection, it is imperative to control the dust from
grinding and buffing. The best systems use bags or cartridge filters.
They are noisy, but can make a real difference in shop and health

One way of building a suitable dust collection system is to retrofit
a woodworking bag collector with a cartridge filter. I have one of
these as well as a Donaldson/Torit cabinet and my wife has been alot
happier about our work environment for years.

Ken Gastineau
Gastineau Studio Inc.