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Removing scratches from silver rings/braceets

Hello al!
New here.
First off, I have no formal training, so I am self-learning as i go.

I like to restore silver rings and bracelets and am looking to improve my manual process to reduce the wear on my finger/wrist joints.

My current process is
By hand depending on how deep the scratches are to use successively higher grades of sand paper

  • Diamond File
  • 180
  • 320
  • 400
  • 800
  • 2000
  • 3000
  • 5000
    Then I move over to the Red-Wing 1/4HP wheel using 3" Grobet Muslin Wheels and Dialux comounds
  • Orange - Tripoli
  • Green - Polish
  • Black - Super Premium Polish - Mirror finish

I also have a Foredom Flexible Shaft I have been experimenting with various tools. While I like the Flex Shaft for removing the larger/deeper scratches quickly, I have found that i tend to cut into the metal too much if I use it on lighter scratches (i.e. using the Eve silicone wheels), so the flex shaft is only saving me the manual labor of the diamond file and the 180 grit. I still have to hand-work the 320 grit through 5000 paper.

The tools I have utilized on the flex shaft are mesh 320 wheel, 800 grit wrapped sandpaper wheels, and some medium, fine and extra fine Eve silicone polishng wheels. The eve polishing wheels are only 3.3mm thick and have a tendency to remove too much metal due to their narrowness which and results in divots.

What are your recommendations for the 320 to 800 range, which is the majority of the hand work and literal elbow grease that results in sore fingers/wrists?

In a perfect world, I am probably looking for a series of 3" wheels for the bench wheel and/or a recommended series of wide abrasives for the flex shaft.

If you have specific make/model that would be awesome.

Also, if anything I am saying is in left field, would appreciate the feedback.

Thanks in advance.

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For initial work you can try 5 of these radial bristle brushes together instead of a diamond file:

https://www.riogrande.com/product/3m-3-radial-bristle-disc-120-grit-white/332077

Read the entire page for directrions on how to use them. The radial brushes need to be mounted on one of these:

https://www.riogrande.com/product/right-side-hub-for-3m-radial-bristle-discs/334032

Since each bristle will cut and there are many bristles you will get shallow irregularities on the surface which will need to be leveled by sanding, but the 80 or 120 grits will do a quick job of intial prep work.

You could work your way down to 400 grit perhaps before needing to sand to level all the irregularities.

Neil A

They also come in much smaller sizes for flex-shaft use.

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You are doing the right thing by trying different combinations of the resources that are available to you to get to the results that you want. I have often said that, with a few exception, there is no one right way to do much of what we do. To get to a scratch free finish I do the following. Keep in mind that I work mainly in sterling silver, 14K yellow gold, copper and brass. Rarely do I use a file to do anything but level pieces to solder them together. When I do use a file it is a #2 and then a #4 or fine. I do use needle files to refine an inside shape that I can’t get to any other way. Most of what you would call filing is done on a 2X6 220 grit SC expansion wheel with a lot of water coolant. I then go to SC rubberized wheels on my flexshaft. I use
Eve wheels from Rio and others. The Rio # is 33263110. These wheels remove a lot of material but can also be used to do fine work depending on how much pressure you apply. They can create a shape or conform to a shape again depending on how much pressure you apply. Depending on the piece, I may also use my resin lapidary wheels with water coolant that go from 1200 to 3000 grit as a prepolish on wide flat pieces of sheet. Once filed, shaped and prepolished, I will polish using either tripoli or the LUXI equivalent on a 6" treated muslin wheel driven by a 1/2 hp Baldor polishing motor. Use whatever motor you have, I just like tall single shaft Baldor polishing motors as they give me a lot of room to work around the wheel. In addition to the Rio rubberized SC wheel, I use medium and fine pumice wheels to do prepolish when working close to a stone. Final polish is done with red rouge or the LUXI equivalent on a 6" muslin wheel. I do use ZAM when I am polishing a soft stone bezel combination. Neil suggests that you try the 3M products. I have and am very happy with what they do. I just haven’t been unhappy enough with what I do to look for something new. Keep trying new products and new procedures, but define what works for you now so that you have your go to that you can fall back on. Again, there is probably no one right way to do what you want to do. Good luck…Rob

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I failed to mention mass finishing in my last reply. That is another whole topic of discussion. Buy Judy Hoch’s book first before you try mass finishing…Rob

I think you have way-way-way too many steps here. I would try skipping every other grit in sandpaper and see if that works for you to save time. Also, I think you can go from 600 or 800 grit sandpaper to tripoli…once you get to the wheels, things go much faster, so do that as soon as you can. You can also try bobbing compound, which is coarser than tripoli, on a buff also. So maybe from 400 or 600 paper to bobbing compound, then tripoli and then rouge. IDK if two steps of rouge are necessary, so I would experiment. Maybe if you need a super-super mirror polish you will see a difference with two rouge steps. I think the key is to experiment and see what saves you time without impairing the finish that you get. -royjohn

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All,

Thank you for the very informative responses. Your knowledge was exactly what I was looking for. I will provide an update here upon implementation.

Thanks again!

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One more tip among many other useful ones: I use “Scratch Erasers” from Jool Tool.
They act like a burnisher to blend scratches. I use mine on a OttoFlex flex shaft and they come in sizes for other polishing machines.

Helene Daniels

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hello,

you mentioned that you like to restore silver rings and bracelets, so i am thinking that they might have detailing/ filigree/granulation/ stamping/ texture/ set stones…

if so, you might also experiment with a mounted natural bristle wheel brush (medium)
with graystar (like tripoli) or zam(?) as mentioned above…(i have yet to exoeriment with zam…maybe tomorrow!)…try picasso blue rouge on a medium or soft natural bristle brush

i like to shave off some compound, make a little pile, chop it up, and then add a few drops of mineral oil.

then i touch the wheel into it, and then hit the piece, using the flex shaft…

as far as a process, here is what i usually use:

if there are scratches:

320 grit sandpaper, wrapped on a flat wood stick (sanding stick)…i score the sheet with the scribe as i fold it around the stick to get crisp edges…you can wrap the sandpaper around whatever will suit your needs…popsicle stick, wood dowel, toothpick, etc or cut pieces and fold it up or roll it up to proper size and thickness…

then repeat with 400, 600 grit

also, you will get much much more out of your stroke if the piece is braced…against a bench pin, or even edge of table…rather than “air filing” holding piece in the sir

then i move to graystar (i “think” graystar/ tripoli is around 800 grit…(?)

with whatever wheel/ brush will achieve result…just need to learn what each type does…muslin buff is less forgiving, medium natural brush mire forgiving (with detail), rubber wheels polish, stone wheels grind

they are all a particular form, shape, and grit of abrasive, in rotary form…depending on what finish you want…mirror finish, satin finish, metal brushed finish…

like metal burs are a particular form, shape, rotary version of a metal file

also , try experimenting with a hand held brass scratch brush under running water…for a nice soft kinda shiny surface…

you could use 2 cut needle files for deeper scratches, or 4 cut (i love escapement files…smaller than needle files!)

have fun

julie

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Burnishing scratches, especially deeper ones, makes removal easier, faster. Burnishing is a good step to take on an isolated scratch on a pristine area as it minimizes the amount of material that’s removed adjacent to the scratch. Think feathering, scratch removal footprint, minimal low point remaining in the scratch zone when finished. These deeper scratches once repaired often require a lowering of the whole surface area to feather in the footprint. Focusing too narrowly on the scratch plus high speed tools can make matters worse. Burnishing usually allows for a shallower repair swale, thus easier to recover the smooth surface. I use a highly polished steel burnisher. I’ve never used agate but I imagine it would work for lighter scratches and more delicate surfaces and areas. Burnishing will often smooth out shallower scratches so they magically disappear. A quick polishing touch up is all that’s then required. Obviously, deeper burnished scratches still require sanding and polishing stages to final finish, it just makes it easier with less metal to remove. A final note, start with a lighter pressure as you burnish and watch the metal moving over the scratch, increase pressure from your wrist, not your elbow or shoulder, until things look better. Don’t overdo it. Burnishing work hardens and lowers the surface under the tool, leaving an irregularly hardened surface to smooth out in the end. And make sure your piece is well secured when burnishing. The pressure required can create an out of control tool if you slip.

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Gomez,
Thanks for the input on using burnishing tools. I do have one and I use it to close deep narrow scratches. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bench to brace the work against , but per below, will start looking for one. Was watching some videos this morning on using the burnishing tool.

Helene,
Thanks for the comment on the jool tool. The Jool Tool has been on my want list for a while. That is great to know the “scratch erasers” can be used on a flex shaft. I will get some.

Julie,
Getting into the narrow areas and textured areas was going to be a future question of mine. Thanks for reading my mind and already answering it. Also thanks for making me realize I should have a bench and maybe a bench pin or vise. I typically do the sanding (air filing?)by hand and with your comment realize is much less effective than having the piece braced and also probably a major contributor to the joint pain.

Rob,
Have added Judy’s book and your other suggestions to my order list that is being generated from this conversation

Again thanks all… this has been a wealth of incredibly useful information.

1 Like

:fire: Looking forward to seeing your results.

hello again,

i forgot to mention, regarding rubber wheels and points…you can “shape” them/ refresh the edge/ make then smaller…to the shape you need to fit the area…ie: flat, knife edge, rounded…smaller size…by using a dressing stone or old file…

i tried the zam on the medium natural bristle brush, as well as an unstitched muslin mounted buff, on the flex shaft…to refresh a labradorite wire setting ring that i had been wearing…worked well! shiny final finish…graystar on a medium natural bristle brush is amazing too…not too fast not too slow…

once while in a jewelry class, standing over my teachers shoulder while he finished a signet ring, at a bench littered with mounted wheels and buffs, i asked him “how do you know which one to use next?”…he replied “you use the one(s) that will get you the result you are looking for”…very deep! stuck with me!:rofl:

also, i use wood handled wire file brushes to rake my mounted buffs (fluff em up).

julie

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hi,
i also forgot to mention, regarding bench pins, don’t be shy about filing knotches, ledges,slits, etc into your beautiful pin!

take a look at the benches in the “bench exchange” section of ganoksin, to see how individual they can be.

also on a related note, also consider tools to hold your items…ie: wooden ring clamp, parallel pliers, pin vises, pieces of wood and thermo loc, etc…to give your hands something bigger to hang on to…

julie

1 Like

hi again (haha)
i should clarify, regarding notching and modifying bench pins…

this is done on an as needed basis, ie: you are bracing a piece an it keeps sliding…notch the pin…ie: you are sawing a mark on a wire, yoh can rest the blade in a notch to keep it steady while you run the blade up (not down) to make a mark…

julie

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Speaking as a smith with a joint-related disability (EDS) and the degenerative arthritis that comes with it- a proper bench and holding equipment (ring clamp, work holders, even a ball vise if you can swing it) are absolutely critical. They will keep you safer and more comfortable, and your work will improve as a result. I only got my bench a month ago if that, and I can already see the difference in my work. I’m steadier, and that makes me more comfortable and confident when I pick up any tool. My bench is the simple $300 one from Rio and it’s wonderful. Good adjustable stool is important too, you want different heights for sawing, filing, other tasks.

I’ve already jumped on the bandwagon and ordered the mini jool tool burnishers too. I’d never heard of them but they sound exactly like what I need. I’ve got my process figured out with Luxi compounds and various buffs to get a great shine, but dealing with scratches is still something I don’t feel expert with.

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I got the jool-tool scratch removers today and they are so cool! They do a fantastic job of blending not just scratches but seams etc. too. I can see I’m going to get a lot of use out of them.

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