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Reducing Polishing Time

Hi Guys: We are glad we joined the group and we are learning a
lot. We are having trouble communicating. This is our third
SOS asking for hints desined to reduce the polishing time. Our
piece look fine and we go though the routine steps using bobbing
compound, tripoli and rouge, but we spend far too much time
polishing…I am not sure either Elizabeth or I are asking the
right questions…Is anyone out there? If anyone has ideas, we
would really appreciate suggestions. Thanks a lot.

George, How much time are you spending polishing? Maybe you just
need to price YOur work accordingly to account for the time
spent. But you need to be more specific about how much time you
think you are spending on a piece.

You should try to eliminate steps and/or spend less time on each
step. Recognize just when you are finished with a step, it’s
posible you are simply over polishing. Perhaps polishing takes
more time than you realize. Polishing is a huge topic and there
are few answers that work for every piece. Be more specific.


Hi George and Elizabeth I have found that by sanding my pieces
with Moores abrasive sanding discs first ( they come in various
grades course to extra fine) this helps get rid of firescale and
light marks quickly and this speeds the tripoli and rouge
process. Depending on the pieces I am working on I quite often
do the above and then put the pieces in a Gyrock tumbler with
stainless steel shot until I get the desired sparkle. Some
artists don’t find this acceptable but it works very well for me
and cuts heaps of labour time. The tumbler is not always good for
flat work with no texture and putting rings in with stones isn’t
always a good idea. good luck , hope this is a little help.

Hi George and Elizabeth et al,

I have reduced finishing times on a lot of my ranges, especially
the lower end ones, by designing out the high polish. Ask
yourselves is it really so necessary.

You still want the high polish? The ‘glitter-factor’ is
important? Well, ask what makes the polish job so hard. Ask are
there any processes that unnecessarily put in the dents and
scratches during the making of the pieces.

Hope your communication to Orchid works out. Remember posts take
a day or so to appear. But when they do … it’s well worth it!

Cheers from the South Pacific (remember the movie?)
B r i a n =A0 A d a m J e w e l l e r y E y e w e a r =A0
@Brian_Adam1 ph/fx +64 9 817 6816 NEW ZEALAND Street Jewellery

this might be obvious but have you looked at your technique for
the anser. try reducing the scraches from the work
process(altough I have no idea what it is)ie with cacting
methobs I would improve the wax mold to a better finnish.

Hope it helps.

The single best way to reduce polishing time (that I know of,
anyway) is to do as much of the finishing as possible on the
bench. I mean that good care taken with careful filing and
sanding down to a fine grit (and 3M makes a set of micron
polishing papers that are just extraordinary!) makes the
polishing fly. Okay, so a little extra time on the bench is
necessary, but the final product is worth it. I’ve not been in on
the discussion for a few weeks (oy! Just Married! WHAT a
revelation!), so I’m not sure if you’re needing tips on mass
finishing or just the day-to-day finishing of repair items. For
mass finishing projects, like regular runs of a hundred or more
pieces, you might cast around for info on tumblers or vibratory
systems (see the 1998 Rio Grande catalog under mass finishing).
Otherwise, hand finish is the way to go and there’s no way to get
around the time it takes. (BTW, whenever a small child -
especially a little girl - is in the store and stares solemnly at
my blackened nails, I tell them quite seriously that if they grow
up to be a jeweler, not only will no one yell at them for
getting dirty, someone will actually PAY them for it. Gets the
child’s attention, certainly!)

Kathy, in the shop where “fingerprint” is the wallpaper style de

You could try tumbling several pieces with steel shot, or some
other mass finishing media, in a rock tumbler. Rio Grande has
several types available.

Rio Grande
pgs.220-233 in the tool catalog

God Bless,
Tom Urey

Try using a vibrating tumbler with stainless steel shot as
medium. And use a product from Rio Grande Super Sheen Descaler
(mixed with water) don’t fill quite to the top of the shot. I’ve
used this method and found that I don’t have to repolish at all!

What result are you seeking? Mirror finish??? If so, this may
be the answer. How long??? Well, it depends on the piece. Make
sure there aren’t any gouges (the shot will only enhance the look
of the gouge). Are you using file, sandpaper (through various
grit . . . start with large grit and end up with very fine grit)
Then maybe, the “ooo” steel wool. And THEN polish with bobbing
compound, followed by Zam. (I work with sterling.)

Hope this helps!

George and Elizabeth: I may have missed something along the way
but I’ve been using white compound of trade name fabuluster for
years and have stopped using red rouge or tripoli all together.
I can do both the fine polish and ruff finishing with the same
compound. I also use it at the bench for buffing prongs, tinnis
braclets etc. Hope this helps it has cut my buffing time by two
thirds with the same results.

Ed Tigert

hi there, your asking the right questions… are you chemically
dipping your pieces befor you start polishing?. using nitic acid
or cynaid ( purchase from gesswein)… It might help reduce your
time. Sorry to say though, polishing takes time. The folks who
polish… well thats all they do. Usually shops that can afford
extra help can have the luxury of having someone polish for
them…I think polishing is an art in it self…good luck…cathy

I took a wonderful marketing seminar this weekend for jewerly
designers. One of the first things they taught us is figure out
what you do best and figure out what you do worst. Once you have
it all sorted, hire people to do what you have trouble doing. As
for polishing I send my pieces out to an inexpensive polisher on
47th Street. I rather spend a few dollars and have a pro do it
they waste my time on something I do not do well.

Just a thought!



It’s surprising that you haven’t had an answer on your polishing
question. this is a really good group for answers. The
effectiveness of your time at the buffing wheel depends on a
number of things. Speed is important. An increase in speed can be
accomplished by a faster motor by using a larger buff. The
outside of the buff is traveling faster than the axis. There are
charts that detail this. The preparation of the metal also is a
big factor. The fewer scratches on the metal, the less time
buffing. I would rather sand than buff any day. Sand at least to
400. I use bobbing compound, gray star, and Zam and work in
silver. Gold may do better with different compounds but these are
the ones I like. Oh, one other thing. I have found some students
who simply don’t press the metal hard enough against the buff
although I did once have a women who stalled the motor.

Marilyn Smith

Dear George & Elizebeth:

I stopped using tripoli and rouge for gold years ago! After a
fine emerying, you only need a product called Fabulustre or Zam.
It comes in 1, 2 or 3lb paper tubes. I like to break off a chunk
and hold it in my right hand as I polish to replentish the buff
as I go. I use an inside buff for rings, mounted soft brush
(about 3/4") for between prongs, a diamond hard lap for sides of
shanks, ect. and a yellow or the newer green buff to finish.
Works great for gold and silver. For platinum however, requires
a special rouge. I have heard about a series of rouges
especially made for it but I have only used a compound somewhat
like the old tripoli followed by the Fabulustre to finish.
Platinum is of course much harder and requires more time.

Hope this helps and sorry you did’nt recieve a reply previously.
I’ve found this listing VERY helpful and have compiled a file of
posts to help me in the future.

Best wishes;
Steve Klepinger

I think the question you need to ask is whether polishing is
actually a quick process. Do that, and I think you’ll find that
you are not alone. Taking even a well prefinished piece of
jewelry work out to that perfectly polished surface is not a
routine and quite job. Polishing well is an art in and of
itself, and a good polisher in many shops is a highly valued

The main key to making polishing efficient is simply doing the
work that comes before correctly. If you’ve finished out your
metal with #3 emery sticks only, you’re going to spend a lot more
time polishing than if you’d taken it to a finer finish first.
Using a good flat emery stick by hand on a flat surface, instead
of getting surfaces that need to be flat only almost flat with
sanding drums or rubber wheels, will also speed things up. In
general, you can remove metal faster at the bench than at the
polishing wheel, so the better a job you do at the bench, the
less overall time will be spent. Bobbing coumpound cuts, but if
you’re spending more than a very little time with it, you’ve not
prepped the piece well enough. And once bobbing compound has
been used, why do you then also use tripoli? For gold and
silver, you should be able to take that bobbing finish, CLEAN THE
BOBBING COMPOUND OFF, and then go directly to a rouge finish,
especially if you use a rouge with a little more cut than red
rouge. Cleaning the bobbing compound off will also make your
rouge buffs work better, what with less cross contamination.
Tripoli can be used as an intermediate step for those surfaces
that did not need the bobbing compound’s agressive cutting
action, but there is no need to use it where the bobbing has been
used properly.

Also, be sure you’re using the correct types of buffs and
brushes. If you try to do everything just on plain buffs, you’re
missing the boat. Brushes cut differently than a buff, and a
hard felt wheel works differently yet, and so it goes. Be sure
you’ve got a good selection of the various types of buffing
media so that you’re not killing yourself trying to refine a
surface with the wrong type of buff.

Hope this helps.

Peter Rowe

And on the subject of buffing … I seem to be getting a
build-up of black greasey gunk (obviously from old polishing
conpounds in the buff) that is coating my pieces when I polish.
I’m using the coarser stitched yellow muslin buffs. Any way to
get this gook out of my buffs?

Virginia Lyons

One of the most important things I learned about reducing
polishing time is something called part polishing or
par-polishing. This is a technique that has been used in the
silversmithing trade for many years. The idea is to polish each
piece that requires assembly/soldering to a high finish
particularly where there could be solder joints. This applies
particularly to jewellery where there are intricate and complex
pieces that have to be assembled. When the piece is soldered
together you already know that anywhere around a solder joint
has been polished. Using this process can save hours of
frustrating polishing of small and intricate pieces of work.
Richard Whitehouse Silversmith & Jeweller

Well, I don’t think anyone has addressed the procedures of
automatic finishing. I had questions about that as well and
remembered I bought a little booklet about it awhile ago. If
you’re really sick of handpolishing you could get a metal
finishing tumbler and use some cutting media in two grades then a
burnishing cycle; all that would be needed at the end would be a
rouge touch-up. I’m thinking about trying this myself since I’m
getting into casting multiples and don’t want to spend all day
polishing the same piece of art over and over. I already have a
Gy-Roc tumbler and a regular rock tumbler so I’m halfway there.
I’ve been using Rio’s Green Buff as a final barrel tumble polish
on silver and it puts about the brightest shine I’ve ever seen on
silver overnite. They also have Red Buff for gold too…Dave

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For my production silver work , flat surfaces, I use a bench top
combination belt/disc sander. I start with a 120 grit and finish
as fine as 400. This cuts polishing time dramatically and makes
for a perfectly flat surface. On some pieces you may be able to
get around having to buff through firescale by a fine silver
coating and burnishing process. Here is how it’s done: Prefinish
your piece by sanding and bobbing till smooth. Coat the piece in
an alcohol and boric acid solution. Heat until a whittish surface
appears (way below annealing temp.). Now quench in the pickle
solution. Follow by burnishing with a brass brush and soapy
water. Repeat this process 4-5 times. This produces a fine (.999)
silver finish, which besides covering firescale also reduces
future tarnishing of the silver. You can finish by tumbling the
pieces in steel shot to obtain a higher polish. I don’t recommend
this process for high-wear items such as rings since the fine
silver coating will not with stand the wear. Most earrings,
pendants and brooches are fine.

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck, Tom Tietze -The Artisan Workshop

This isn’t a repy but adding to the question; I’m doing
multiples of a small figurative pendant (a face of a mythical
figure…) and wonder if its possible to use a regular rock
tumbler or my Gyroc tumbler to finish these with minimal hand
polishing? I guess we’re both talking mass finishing procedures
here? Dave

Kickass Websites for the Corporate World
Crystalguy Jewelry
Recumbent Cyclist’s Advocacy Group