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Silver final finish shows hairline scratches

I am new to Orchid and am hoping that I can find a solution to the
following problem;

Hairline scratches in finished silver; In finishing sterling silver
pieces I go through all the steps of filing, graduating through
sandpapers #220 to #600, then Tripoli and Red Rouge (using separate
buffs) on an Arbe Polisher, carefully washing pieces between
compounds. Regardless of my care, my final finish shows hairline
scratches. I have tried Fabulustre and still have the same problem.
Can anyone assist me with this very frustrating problem, any
suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you


In finishing sterling silver pieces I go through all the steps of
filing, graduating through sandpapers #220 to #600, then Tripoli
and Red Rouge (using separate buffs) on an Arbe Polisher, carefully
washing pieces between compounds. Regardless of my care, my final
finish shows hairline scratches. 

Assuming that your buffs not contaminated - When going from one grade
of emery to another, direction must be change by 90 degrees and one
must make sure that all traces of previous grade are eliminated.

Examine piece after tripoli to make sure that there are no scratches.
For tripoli one should use good quality brushes.

If everything fine up to that point and you still have scratches
after rouge, rake your buff regularly. If does not help, you either
have problem with rouge itself, or the buff. Replace either of both.
If scratches persists, ask someone with experience to observe your
polishing technique.

Leonid Surpin

Hi Joanne,

When you say washing, are you using a brush or other cloth to clean
the piece? I had the same problem for a long time until I could get
an ultrasonic machine.


In Chapter 10 of the book my sister wrote, she writes about sanding
and polishing sterling silver beads. Her book is now available as a
free download from

The book is titled “Doming Silver Beads” by Nancy Howland. Free is
good. Hopefully, the in her book will help you with this


Hi Joanne,

I had this first time I polished a fluted brass dome (a class
exercise), fortunately a friendly apprentice told me to apply more
pressure when using the rouge… problem solved.

Regards Charles A.

Why don’t you try Zam followed by blue platinum rouge instead of
trip/red? I’m real finicky about finish and the blue gives me the
best result of all that I’ve tried. I polish about 30 degrees from
the previous direction. Its not critical, could 15 could be 45.

Its only very rarely that I use sandpaper anymore. IMO its just
tedium with no advantage. A file(when needed), rubber wheel, zam and
blue is most often sufficient to get a great polish.

But I think you should loupe those scratches, the higher power the
better. If you can see any depth at all its likely from the
sandpaper. This may show itself as a rounded or jagged edge at the
top of the scratch, but you will see an edge of some sort. If all
you can see is a reflected line with no discernable edge its likely
from the red rouge. These scratches have so little depth that further
polishing does not remove them, just kind of shuffles them around,
because its as fine as red rouge can go. You’ve reached the limit.
So followup with something finer, like blue.

I learned in class to go up to 600 then Tripoli and rouge. Then I
talked to a jeweler and he suggested to go up to 2500 grit, then
skip the Tripoli and just rouge. This works great to get a fine
polish on silver without those annoying scratches. Eventually I did
acquire a tumbler so for tumbled pieces I go to 600, then tumble.
For patinated or textured pieces I still go to 600, then patinate or

I used pieces of chamois for washing, having noticed that the only
thing that does not scratch the silver is my fingers…

Mary Barker


What sequence of grits do you use up to the 2500?

I typically can find 400 and 600 grit in the DIY section of
Wal-Mart, plus 800, 1000, 1500, and 2000 grit in the Automotive

Where can I find higher grits?

Andrew Jonathan Fine


I start polishing in my vibratory tumbler. Then I use three polishing
products: 3M radial disks yellow green (80), 3M micro-finishing film
(400), and 3M micron-graded abrasive light green (8000). You can buy
these at Rio. I’ll send you a sheet of 3M micron-graded abrasive
light green. I ordered two sets recently. This is for sterling silver
which is all I am currently using.

Best regards, Mary


I use, in order:

220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, And sometimes 2500

Which I got from TAP Plastics…Although I snag high grit sand
paper from wherever I see it.

Go in opposite directions with each change in grit. Do Not Cheat (or
you will end up going backwards anyway).

This gives a sort of deep shine with just rouge, and I do Fablustre
afterwards for a really high shine. I don’t know how to explain
"deep shine" exactly. It is probably my imagination but the shine
looks… um, uh… sort of “soft” and “deep.” This is always a
temporary condition with silver anyway… you breathe on it and it

If the piece has lots of small spaces, I sand to 600 then tumble
with clean steel shot for a lovely shine.

Mary Barker

I am newbie to silversmithing but I am truly confused as to why I
keep hearing that you sand with each individual grit only in one
direction and then the next in the opposite. Metal has no
"grain"…huh? The reason I ask is I learned this and then was trying
to shine up my bench block… it took forever…so I went back to my
normal way of sanding (use on polymer clay, resin, non-grain stuff
etc…counted stokes in one direction (N-S), flip to oppposite
direction(E-W) (counted strokes), flip to diagonal (NE-SW) count
strokes, flip to diagonal (NW-SE) count strokes. And it worked much
faster and better as far as I could see. If you need to check and see
progress just use a much finer grit over it a few times and you can
see any deeper scratches that may remain. May not be good for doing
tight spaces in jewelry but seemed to work just fine for bench block
and I got a better finish in 1/4 the time. Since I am new…I am
convinced I must be doing something “wrong”… because I keep hearing
the same thing? So really want to learn…need to

know why you are saying what your saying…especially if I am doing
it “wrong” in the long run?

Much Thanks,