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[Tool Time] Polishing - part 2

Dear Tool Timers,

I have just a few additional notes on production polishing. First is
that I do compare and try other grinding wheels. The GMX wheels are
usually my first choice because they last so long. I’ve had some for
over 15 years. The reason I’ll compare is that the GMX wheels are so
expensive (some close to $40.00). 3M is making some wheels similar and
the cost is about a third. I’ve even found some grinding wheels at a
tool outlet that cost me $2.00.

Another thing to mention is that in many production shops there is a
special collection box specifically designed for collecting the spru
grindings. These grindings are a higher dollar return because they are
so concentrated. The refineries charge more when there is more to
clean up. The arbor fits through the side of the box and the material
falls through a mesh into a locked tray.

This weeks main topic is identifying the best compounds used for
polishing jewelry. This is silver and gold polishing. I break jewelry
polishing compounds into three groups. The first is the stand alone
tripoli group. I contend that 85% to 90% of all polishing in
manufacturing is in this group. This group consists of compounds that
are aggressive and remove a good amount of metal. They don’t leave a
bright mirror-like finish. They follow all emery type preparation.
They are a wax and grease based abrasive that will stick to whatever
you polish with (laps, brushes or buffs). As the laps, brushes or
buffs charged with compound come in contact with your jewelry,
material flies off with the compound leaving a smoother surface than
before. Tripoli laps, brushes and buffs are not shared with any other
group of compounds.

Tripoli polishing is also more important in manufacturing. You have
to make the whole surface of your piece shiny and mirror like.
Compared that to doing repairs where you are polishing an area just
worked on in a specific area.

The material flying off is collected in some sort of dust collection
system. Or you have just covered yourself and everything in the room
with more crud to clean up that you can imagine. Some polishers use
dust masks. If your dust collector is adequate you may not need one.
If you smoke cigarettes it doesn’t matter anyway. Safety glasses are a
must. Even a small shield to hang over the upper part of the moving
brushes and buffs may be utilized. This keeps the compound from flying
back into your face. I’ll address dust collectors when I get to
equipment later.

The first group are the tripoli polishing compounds:

  1. Bobbing Compound. This compound sticks well to brushes and removes
    scratches on curved surfaces very well. More wax-like that
    grease-like in it’s make up. I like it with all size brushes. Tough to
    clean off. Don’t mix with any other compounds out of the tripoli
    group. About $2.00 per pound. Must be cleaned off before rouge

  2. Grey Star. An industry standard. Probably the most popular of all
    compounds in the tripoli group. Works well with lapping, brushing
    and buffing. More grease-like than wax-like. If I just used one
    compound for tripoli polishing this would be it. Next week I am trying
    a water soluable Grey Star for the first time. The present stuff is
    hard to clean off but leaves a great finish almost rouge like. More
    expensive than other compounds. Don’t mix with other compounds out of
    the tripoli group. About $9.50 for 2 1/2 pound bar. Must be cleaned
    off before rouge polishing.

  3. Brown Tripoli. General all purpose compound used for brushing
    curved surfaces as well as flat surfaces. Cheapest compound. Wax-like
    and grease-like and tough to clean off. Don’t mix with other compounds
    out of the tripoil group. Real popular because it is the oldest and
    one of the cheapest. About $1.70 per pound. Must be cleaned off before
    rouge polishing.

The second group are mid-range compounds that can do both abrasive
and bright shine work (I use them mostly for repairs). They are not
quite a tripoli and not quite a rouge. They can remove light scratch
marks and be mixed with some of the rouge compounds. The main
difference is that they are fairly easy to clean off and water
soluable. Does not need to be cleaned up before rouge polishing. If
you hate to use tripoli because of the tough clean up these may be
worth a try.

  1. 4x White Diamond. If you prep your pieces with a lot of graduated
    emery you might love this stuff. Easy to clean up. Fairly inexpensive.

  2. 3x White Diamond. Can’t tell the difference. Both about $1.75 per

The third are final finish compounds that really just make what you
have shiny and mirror like. This rouge group is about 10 to 15% of the
whole polishing job. If you spend a lot of time rouge polishing you
probably haven’t tripoli polished enough. Rouge polishing will make
what you have real shiny. If it’s a scratch left from not enough
tripoli polishing it will most likely be a brightly polished scratch.
Some of the rough compounds can however with a little muscle get some
light scratches out, but it is more work than doing the right job in
the first place.

  1. Yellow Glow. Has a slight cutting ability. A good repair rouge
    used with White Diamond. Better with gold than silver. Cleans off
    well. About $5.00 per pound.

  2. Zam. Very similar to Yellow Glow. Again a good repair compound.
    Some folks polish some inlay material with this stuff. Polishes silver
    better than Yellow Glow. Cleans easily. About $5.50 per 2 pound bar.

  3. Red Rouge. An industry standard. Good for silver, gold, brass,
    copper or any of the nonferrous metals. I have noticed the last batch
    I bought was harder to clean than the previous batch. It seemed a
    little grease like. For the final finish which is mostly light touches
    over all the surfaces. Used with mostly soft brushes and cotton buffs.
    Cleans very easily. Cost is about $5.00 per pound.

There are several other compounds I have heard about and most
recently I am trying the new set of Japanese platinum polishing
compounds. I’ll post more later. Next week will be all the specifics
on hard felt laps, bristle brushes and cotton buffs.

If any of you love a different compound let me know I will try and

Best Regards,

TR the Teacher,
Todd Hawkinson


Thank you for such a comprehensive description of the nature of
polishing and polishing compounds. I have met so many students and
even experienced jewelers who really don’t know how or why these
compounds work. When I teach workshops, I always stress to my
students not to do things just because I said to, but because they
really understand why I do things that way. As an apprentice, I
spent a year just polishing. When I understood what the finished
piece was truly supposed to look like, I was taught the basics of
fabrication. I used a blowpipe before I was allowed to use a torch,
and really came to understand the nature of the flame. Learning this
way takes a lot of time, and most students that I encounter are not
willing to put in the time it takes to build a solid foundation.
They are eager, and usually encouraged, to rapidly progress to more
and more complicated techniques. They rarely get enough time to
practice. Thanks again for taking the time to share this basic
with us.

Doug Zaruba

PS: I really like these Japanese compounds…Works great on white
gold, too. I’ve recently been favoring these over green rouge as a
hi-shine polish for both nickel and palladium white golds. Let me
know what you think.


Thank you for your on polishing. You don’t know how many
times I have read the supply catalogs, just to get more and more
confused. I must admit I don’t remember seeing Polishing - part 1 so
I may be asking you some questions regarding a topic you already
covered, but here goes. I wanted to know if you have covered polishing
buffs, types, which buff to use on what type of metal, which buffing
compound to use with a particular buff with a certain type of metal?
What is the best RPM to polish at for a particular type of metal? I
hand fabricate all of my work, does this make a difference as to what
polish & buff to use. Please direct me to the correct Orchid Archive
if you have already written on this topic, (I have searched but am
unable to find anything that you have written on this subject) or I
would love to see a future Tool Time regarding polishing buffs.
Again, thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am new to all of this
and any is like receiving an ounce of gold.

Linda Crawford
Linda Crawford Designs
Willits, CA

Dear All, In the third polishing tool time I will comment extensively
on polishing laps, brushes and buffs. The following one will be on

Best Regards,
Tr the Teacher
Todd Hawkinson