Mary - learning to polish in a trade shop will teach you the basics
of finishing metals. You understand that scratches are removed in
steps - bobbing compound first for big scratches, and then stepwise,
to rouge for high polish. You have seen how different buffs can
affect detail work.
Tumbling does all of this, and in my opinion, more.
Just as in hand finishing, you do have to prep the pieces with file
and sanding to get to the basic shape. Then you would use an
aggressive media in a flow-thru vibratory tumbler to remove the
deepest un-evenness. Again step wise, a medium abrasive media, then
burnishing in a rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot or ceramic
media. A high shine can be achieved in a dry vibratory tumbler with
cob or shell or wood bits and some kind of polish compound. Just as
in hand finishing, you can add or modify steps, based on what finish
The advantages of mass or tumble finishing are that you can finish a
lot of stuff very consistently without the mess and human time
required for hand finishing. Further, there are some kinds of
jewelry that should never be finished on a buff - for example
chains. I love to hand make chains and finishing them was the
initial reason I got interested in mass finishing. I now believe
that what I finish in my tumblers is better than can be done
economically by hand. The finish on my forged chains is superb -
high polish, no orange peel or scratches. And I can breathe.
A self serving blurb - I wrote a small book on the subject “Mass
finishing for handmade jewelry” It is available from Rio, Frei and
Borel and some local supply shops. You might find it useful.
Judy Hoch, G.G. @Judy_Hoch www.marstal.com