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Tricks of the trade

Here's a question to which others might have good solutions. I've
been doing a lot of polishing the last few days, and have the
blackened fingernails and fingers to prove it. So, in order to
rejoin polite society, say for lunch, how can I get my fingers
cuticles, and fingernails really clean? Soap, nail brushes, nail
files, etc. all get a workout, not to mention the fingers! But is
there some product that works better than whatever bar soap I have
on hand? 

Two possibilities: Lava Soap works wonders on paint, and might do so
on polishing compounds. There is also a paint brush cleaner sold in
little boxes with screw on lids that removes almost anything. Sold
primarily for oil paints. Works on hands too. Not home, and don’t
remember the name… sorry! Check Daniel Smith art supplies, or Dick
Blick - either should have it.

Good luck!
Beth in SC who is actually at the beach in NC right now - whooee!

I learned this trick in the very first class I took on jewelry

If you are trying to get rid of fire stain on a piece you are
polishing, hold the area of fire stain vertical to a white index
card under bright light and you can easily see if you have polished
it away or if you have more polishing to do. Of course the real trick
is not to get fire stain to start with. But sometimes it just


For sanding sticks I use the spray adhesive on paint stir sticks,
with the various grades of sandpaper cut to fit. Then I write on the
handle of each one what the grade is, because my mind is sure to
forget which color is which! These are firm, easy to hold, and fit
well in my bench drawer.

Beth in SC/NC

Hi Noel;

And what do you use a Morre's disk for? 

If you’ve never used a Moore’s disk (or other snap on sanding disk),
you’re really missing something. These are indespensible. They’re
little sanding disks, about 1 inch in diameter, that snap onto a
special mandrel the fits in your handpiece. Moore’s is the most
popular brand, but there are others. Just check the tool catalogs,
you can’t miss them. They have a little brass gromet in the center
with a square hole, and the mandrell has a springy split end with a
square socket that snaps into the disk. You can sand all kinds of
small parts, and they come in different grits. I barely touch a
sanding stick any more.

David L. Huffman

Hi John and others;

I used to hog out a lot of bright cutting using a 70 degree bur with
the point sanded down, but now I mostly just sharpen an onglette
graver to a polished razor edge and drive it with a pneumatic
handpiece. It’s just about as fast for me.

I use a lot of inverted cone burs, and the end gets dull on them
pretty quick. I keep a few with the endmost teeth polished off to go
in and shape prong tips where I can’t get at them with an escapement
file or a sanding disk or silicone wheel.

Here’s a new tip. Sometimes you have earing you need to set after the
post is soldered on because the stone won’t take heat. Well, suppose
you need to mount them in shellac for setting. I used to have a time
getting the post to sink down into the shellac deep enough to make
contact with the earring, and an equally hard time getting them
unstuck after setting. Well, I found I can heat up the end of my
solde pick, drive it down into the sellac and create a hole for the
post. Then I can just drop the earring down on the shellac pad and
warm it until it sticks down. It’s easier to get it free too.

David L. Huffman

I learned an interesting trick on another forum recently. If you want
to transfer a pattern or drawing onto metal. Print your pattern onto
paper using a laser printer or copy machine, put it toner side down
against your metal, soak a cotton ball with a solution of alcohol and
wintergreen oil (9 parts alcohol, 1 part wintergreen oil), rub until
your cotton ball is almost dry, wait until you can see the toner
going from black to grey so you can tell the paper is about 1/2 dry,
slowly peel off the paper. Enough of the toner/ink will have stuck to
the metal to leave a very clear image for you to work with. It didn’t
wipe off as I was doing the job…a pretty neat trick.


when setting a larger stone I all ways mark the stone on one side
of the crown with a permanent marker and mark the shoulder of the
ring ( or whatever) so that I am putting the stone in the head the
same way each time when I am cutting the seats and fitting the

The use of witness marks (as they are called) isn’t really a trick at
all (though it’s good it was posted), it’s “how to work”. One common
task is to cast a white ring and a yellow ring, cut the top off both,
and solder the white top on the yellow shank. Would be that we were
perfect creatures… with four angles, if you turn the top back and
forth trying to fit it you’ll never, ever get it right. I use the
quality stamp as a mark, if it’s there, and mark the other piece so
it always goes in right to left, and never left to right. That also
applies to any fitting job, inlay, or what have you…

Katherine’s description of her mini-tank within the larger
ultrasonic tank is great. I do the same, but have suspended my
mini-tank by putting it in the basket that hangs on the edges of the
’sonic tank. (Gotta’ try the silicone feet thing!)

I was concerned that the vibrations would eventually damage the
edges, so I cut some pantyhose to make small stretchy rings of nylon
(Think calamari sections) and wound those around the basket “ears” to
pad them.

That brings up the uses for old pantyhose:

Those stretchy rings work like rubber bands for securing all kinds
of things - great ponytail holders and kind to the hair in removal.

Keep a ziplock bag of them in your show stuff.

To make them function like those loop and ball bungees, just flatten
the band and knot one end - a nice big knot that will hold the loop
in place.

Take a whole pantyhose, tie the toes together in a nice knot, tie
the panty portion into a BIG knot, and you’ve got a large loop and
ball bungee.

Cut off the elastic waistband to form a strong, large rubber band.
Many uses.

Use the toe portion to cover the end of your vacuum cleaner nozzle
for the dropped stone search. Also useful as a mesh bag to suspend
multiple pieces in the 'sonic, pickle, etc.

I know this group can add to the list, so I’m waiting for more

Judy in Kansas

putting the whole piece in a small cardboard box that closes, and
shaking the box like a lunatic. 

Oh I love that Noel. It’s a bit better than my method of dropping
the whole piece on a leather covered surface and hoping that the
stone does not break.

Ruth, UK.

Probably a lot of people know this trick but for the newer artists I
share it because when I first started manufacturing (25 years ago)
my caster at the time showed me this and it increased our
productivity by over 200%.

Instead of using the tapered wooden mandrels that you slip the cone
shaped sand paper for inside rings, on try this.

Take a standard size sheet of sandpaper (180 to 600 grit) and cut a
strip 2.5" wide. Lay this on a flat surface with the abrasive
down…Next, take a 1/4" rod ( a 1/4" drill bit works also) About 3"
or longer in length and place the rod on one small edge of the paper
and tightly roll the paper on the rod.

This is important! After you’ve wrapped the paper around the rod
push out the rod and hold the tube you have created. If you work
from the right side of your polishing lathe hold the tube with with
the flap/end of the paper pointing up. Next, take a standard size
rubber band and wrap it aroud the LEFT end of the tube of sand paper
enough times so that it keeps the tube from unraveling. Now you can
screw this sand paper tube on your tapered spindle on your polishing

OK, what does this thing do? You’ll find that you can clean up the
insides of rings in no time. After you clean up the inside of the
ring with a rotary file turn on the lathe and run the spinning tube
around the inside of the ring ( I usually start with a 180 grit and
switch to 280 grit to complete the sanding. As you are running the
tube around inside of the ring you will eventually notice that the
paper has lost some of its abrasivness, no problem, just stop the
lathe and grab the flap/end of the paper near the rubber band and
tear the paper along the edge of the rubber band until you have
exposed a new layer of fresh paper.

Because the tube is somewhat flexible you will find that you can
quickly sand almost any surface. Another tip is, keep an old pair of
scissors handy and you can cut the worn end of the tube to square
it. You’ll find that you can then use this edge to sand in grooves
and linear corners.

I am aware these tubes are availble ready made, but they are very
short and only accept an 1/8" MANDREL

Give it a try, it will save you time and money.


Hello all,

I generally enjoy this forum from afar but had to share this trick.
I thankfully learned it at Haystack about a year ago… So, you’re
drilling a hole into your piece and the drill bit breaks and is
stuck in your piece.

Sometimes, if it’s protruding enough, I’ve been able to grasp it
with pliers and twist it out, or punch it through a thinner piece of
metal. However, if it’s really embedded and digging it out will
damage your work, just get some Alum, found in some grocers in the
canning section or with the spices. I actually went on line and
found some. Dissolve the Alum in warm water and let your piece sit
in this solution until the drill bit dissolves. It’s amazing to
watch! It could take a few hours so don’t expect instant results. The
warmer the water, the faster it works. I kept it warm on one of
those electric cup warmers.

Thanks for all the tips and tricks, and thoughtful discussion along
the way.

Gianna Bird
Silver Moon Designs, Massachusetts

putting the whole piece in a small cardboard box that closes, and
shaking the box like a lunatic.

A problem with the cardboard box to remove a stuck stone from a
bezel mount is…often the box is too soft and it just will not
remove the stone.

In such a case I use a plastic peanut butter jar… one that is
about 12 oz(340 g). Having said that, be a bit more gentle than with
the box as the harder plastic can dent in a fine silver bezel and
then you have new problems.

Cheers from Don in SOFL

Dissolve the Alum in warm water and let your piece sit in this
solution until the drill bit dissolves. 

Good tip! This sounds like it might be dangerous to gems, do you use
it only on work if the stones have not yet been set, or is it not
damaging to some stones"

Alexis Romeo

Here’s the one I like the best:

Sand the teeth off the front end of a small inverted cone burr and
then use dulled fine sandpaper to make it semi shiny. Leaving the
teeth on the sides and forward edge. Use this (in the flexshaft) to
tuck and finish the inside edges of bezels. The smooth very slightly
rounded face will not scratch even an opal. Speaking of sandpaper
(disks) I never buy ‘fine’ grade. I use coarse paper ones and medium
plastic backed ones. When the medium are dull, they are now ‘fine’.
The dulled fine ones leave a smoother sanded finish (semi-shiny on
steel) than you can get with sandpaper.

There’s my two cents,
J. Rose

for removing a stone which is stuck in a bezel–and it seems to
happen all to often, I use a piece of Sculpting wax which I got from
Reo. It gets soft as you handle it, so that it can be moulded. I put
a glob of it over the stone, and it really glues itself to the stone,
making it easy to remove.

The wax comes in a fairly large dark red–almost brown–block, and
has been real handy for picking up small stones or other items in the
studio. i put a glob on the end of along piece of heavy dowling and
use it to retrieve small items that fall under my workbench. Saves my
having to get down on hands and knees to fish for them.


But you will have a fused bezel joint that won't come unsoldered
during subsequent soldering. 

Not to pick too many nits, but I wouldn’t call that fusing.Seems to
me you are still soldering, you’ve just substitutedthe sterling jump
ring for for solder.

Jerry in Kodiak

When cutting daylights for small diamonds, a 6/0 blade must be used,
or the surface would be too rough. These blades are very brittle and
break easily, especially in this type of work. Here is the trick to
keep the blade last.

Take a cigarette lighter and anneal the ends of a blade till they
are blue in color. Only areas without teeth must be annealed. Insert
the anneal blade in the frame, and you ready to go. Such a blade
be more tolerant to slight bending and cutting properties would not

Leonid Surpin

That brings up the uses for old pantyhose: 

These are great. Now I just have to find someone who wears
pantyhose! (Not much call for skirts around the studio or the


[Probably a lot of people know this trick but for the newer
artists I share it because when I first started manufacturing (25
years ago) my caster at the time showed me this and it increased
our productivity by over 200%. Instead of using the tapered wooden
mandrels that you slip the cone shaped sand paper for inside
rings, on try this. Take a standard size sheet of sandpaper (180
to 600 grit) and cut a strip 2.5" wide. Lay this on a flat surface
with the abrasive down.. 

Hi Rick, and thank you for sharing! I just tried it on a ring I was
working on and is great…I didn’t know this trick and I was about
to go to buy the mandrel.


I used to stick a layer of silver under my stones cause they were
never quite tall enough and I preferred a certain bezel height. A
creative suggestion I read one day was to use those black trays
that microwave entrees come in. Well they were perfect! I trace the
cab on the plastic, cut around and viola! Slipped between the stone
and the back plate, it brings it up perfectly. 

I hope you are disclosing the use of microwave dish plastic in your
work. I know a lot of people would be bothered with this practice of
they knew. Your Sterling idea was better, but you could have used
coiled wire instead of sheet. Heck even the traditional use of
sawdust seems better to me. Cardstock even. I use dried Sage (salvia
officinalis) as it has a tradition of being a spiritual cleanser and
theoretically would be metaphysically neutral.

And now for a tip.

I make small earring components. When it comes time to polish them I
tie them with light copper wire and hold onto the wire backing the
piece with my forefinger. I learned this after shooting many of them
into the unknown. I even do this with pendants. Anything small with a
bail or hole. You still have to be very careful not to have the wheel
grab the whole thing, yank it from your hand and do untold damage to
your body. if you use light enough wire, the wire will break before
becoming a whipping flail and just send the piece into the Unknown.
This method seems to allow better control and greater reach and
prevents a lot of flying parts.

USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Polishing can be dangerous.

TL Goodwin