Stoning enamels

Is there an electric “gadget” that any enamellists use for stoning
enamels under water so as not to have to do it by hand with a stone.
I have a dremel but using it with water cannot be safe, I assume.
Thanks Miki

Regarding mechanical means of stoning enamels, one of my enamels
instructors in Canada used a lapidary machine to grind off cloisonne.
It had two wheels with water running over them.

Donna in VA

The 3-M diamond Flat pad diamond files are the greatest tool for
stoning enamels. Once you use them you won’t need a power tool! Rio
had them in past catalogs page 357 in the 2000 catalog, but they
seem to be missing in the new one. ??? item 337-195 for 120 grit.
337-196 for 200 grit. They go to 800 but you won’t need the finer
ones. Enamelworks supply in Seattle will have them. You are right in
not using electric tools near water!



There are no “gadgets” that will stone an enamel while submerged.
There are, however, excellent alternatives to traditional alundum
stones that will save you much time and grief. The first would be a
good flat lapping machine such as those used by lapidaries to polish
slabs and large flat cabachons. These are spinning discs [mounted
vertically or horizontally depending on the machine] that have a
steady dripping water supply so you can work wet. Some are just
grinding wheels which are too harsh for enamels, others are wheels on
which you mount various grits of sandpaper. Remember that if you are
using a powered tool, it will work much faster than manual stoning and
you can really wreck a piece in a hurry. So err on the side of milder
abrasives until you have a clear sense of how quickly the lap cuts and
how much pressure to use. If your pieces are at all domed, you will
have to be extra careful to insure a uniform surface without flat
spots. I recommend using 3M’s Microfinishing Film discs as your
abrasive since they work consistently and cleanly. The downside is
that these machines are messy; they throw spray a long way and will
make the area around them pretty dirty unless you build a screen. And
a system like this will cost at least $200 [look at the Cabmate system
made by Graves, Inc.], perhaps less if you can find one used. The
second choice is nearly as quick, a whole lot cleaner, and costs about
$30 – get yourself a set of 3M diamond files. They come in four
grades, a whole range of shapes [flat, half round, round, riffler]
and cost about $6 each. You will find them in the Rio Grande catalog,
and Stuller also carries them. Also check with Allcraft in NY; at
least one other enamel supply house [Schlaifer’s, I think] has them. I
can do a job that used to take an hour with a stone in about five
minutes with these, and get a far superior result. Not only do they
cut both the glass and the metal [e.g. cloisonne wires] crisply, they
do it without shedding grit. I am still using the set I bought over
two years ago since they wear out very, very slowly. You won’t have
that sludge of destroyed stone in the bottom of your wash water
anymore. Diamond files keep the enamel surface clean and
uncontaminated by abrasive so your final firing is less likely to lock
in bits of grit or cloudiness. I use the files in order 1 thru 4, then
polish the wires by using Microfinishing Film in the 60micron, 40, 30,
20, and 15 grits. The wires have a mirror glow and the glass surface
is superb even before that final firing.

Hope that helps,

Anne Hollerbach

yes, one of my instructors used a lapidary wheel— to grind the
wires down, but then used a polishing compound to bring up a slight
gloss----think it was cerium oxide, but I’m not sure—perhaps Donna
can help on this—Alma

Some great advice so far on this thread! I use a flex shaft tool with
diamond bits and a small dish of water to get at small areas, but if
you want to stone the entire surface quickly, use an expandable rubber
drum on a polishing motor. You can change the sandpaper grits and set
up a water drip. I tried it in class once and it works very well, just
be careful not to press too hard and check your work often. You might
stone down too far. I’ve seen the drums sold in the Rio Grande
catalog as well as many lapidary catalogs. If you already have a
polishing motor and don’t mind getting a little wet, it will be
cheaper than the other lapidary setups. -Juliet Gamarci

Anne, just a clarification on using the diamond files-- I assume
from your response that it is still necessary to use the files under
running water. You cannot use them for enamels without using water.
Am I correct. And thanks again John, Anne, Juliet, and Alma for the
useful info.


Mike and others, Sorry to be unclear about this important detail. Yes,
you do use the diamond files wet. Not necessarily under running water
– I just work over a bowl of water, dipping the piece into it every
five or six strokes to clear the debris. When I’m done stoning, I use
the 3M microfinishing film sandpaper wet, too. Again, I just dip the
piece and the paper now and then. After you’ve got the desired finish
on the metal and the glass, clean the piece thoroughly with a soft
toothbrush and a mild detergent. Then give it a minute or two in the
ultrasonic. Wipe it dry, inspect it in good light with your loupe to
determine if there are any bubbles or spots that need special
attention. If not, then do your final firing. Simple safety note: if
your skin is chapped, or you have cuts or cuticles like mine [war
zone!], then use a skin barrier cream such as “Gloves in a Bottle”
before you start stoning. This will keep the glass and metal particles
from contaminating broken skin, and will generally improve your
comfort level. Additional helpful note: wrap the microfinishing film
around some kind of holder. A small wooden block will work, but a
rubber block is better. I use shaped rubber forms called “contoured
sanding grips” or “tadpoles”. These are borrowed from the woodworking
world, and they are indispensable for metal and enamel finishing work.
They come in all kinds of useful profiles that let you comfortably
hold the tool while you sand convex, concave, and flat surfaces as
well as nooks and crannies. A complete set of them costs about US$16,
and you can get them from Lee Valley []. They solve
the problem of having your hand cramp up from clutching sandpaper, and
they let you keep your fingerprints!

Anne Hollerbach