Are there any tips (besides altering my design) for getting into
really tight places between design elements? I have used all
manner of points, tips and knife edges, mostly in hard felt, and
generally I am not happy with the result. One word: brushes! I use
them with tripoli and white rouge, and they get in everywhere.
A few more ideas. With brushes, include the use of small wire
brushes first. They’ll get into areas and at least brighten them up
via burnishing. Better than raw cast surfaces.
toothpicks can be used with a bit of compound in a flex shaft. With
fast cutting compounds like platinum tripoli and rouge, even the slow
surface speed of a rotating toothpick will have an effect. Used in a
micromotor, they’re even more effective.
sometimes, the problem isn’t so much getting it bright and shiney,
as getting it even and smooth first. “scotch” stones, or other pencil
abrasives like the die makers use on steel, can be surprisingly
effective in this, and because the motion is forward and back, or
side to side, instead of rotary, you don’t dig in troughs from a
rotary tool. If you’ve got access to a die filer handpiece, fine
files used with the tool set to a very short stroke (or with
ultrasonic filers/polishers that automatically use a short stroke)
you can literally lap right down into a square corner.
Investigate tumbling methods. Magnetic tumblers have come down in
price a good deal, at the entry level, since first introduced, and do
a remarkable job of getting into tiny details and burnishing them
bright. Standard vibrating tumblers, with fine media like finely
ground walnut shell, also can be quite effective in getting into
Don’t underestimate the power of plain old string. Kite cord, cotton
string of various types, dental floss, etc. All of them with a bit of
compound applied can cut and polish much more quickly than intuition
born of using powered buffers would suggest.
The 3M micro polishing papers/films are a whole new take on
sandpaper. With polyester (I think) backings, instead of cloth or
paper, and very finely graded abrasives, these products are
wonderful. You can cut, with scissors, thin strips of the stuff, put
it in a saw frame, thread it into tiny openings, and sand with great
precision. Progress through the grit sequences of the polishing
films and then the finer/thinner lapping films, and you almost don’t
And don’t forget burnishing. You can turn an old broken bur into a
custom shaped burnisher in a few minutes. Hold it in a handle like
those used for millgrain wheels, and you can, with a bit of practice,
get very nicely refined and bright surfaces. If you instead of the
burs, get some carbide rod, and go to the trouble of making the
burnishers in carbide, you’ll find the results even more dramatic.
And for the fine knife edge buffing problems, don’t forget some of
the polishing grades of silicone rubber wheels. Many types are
available, including ones that lead to a very high polish. And the
knife edge styles of these start out with a knife edge that is much
thinner than anything you can get with a hard felt wheel. They may
not last all that long, but they’re not expensive either. The ones
from germany that use diamond as the abrasive, especially when used
in a micro motor or other high speed handpiece, cut metal like butter,
and leave a wonderful surface. Costly, but if your jewelry warrants
the use of ten dollar rubber wheels, then the results can be worth it
(and they DO last a while).