What I made years ago for polishing chains

I know they sell something for polishing chains, but this is what I have used for most of our 25 years in the jewelry business. I cut up a baseball bat, and covered the larger end with rawhide. Left the smaller part alone.

(The rawhide was not black when I nailed it on, but it has been for many, many years.)

Heard too many stories about jewelers injured permanently, when polishing chains.


Polishing chains is scary. My polishing hood and I both have the scars…Rob


Cool idea. A rolling pin would work well, I should think.

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I knew a professional trade shop polisher that lost the end of a finger while polishing a chain. This is why I only use a tumbler to polish chains.


Yes, like folks are saying, polishing chains on buffing machine is one of the most potentially dangerous things that a person can do in a jewelry shop. If the chain gets caught in the buffing machine, the loss of a finger or worse is almost instantaneous. People do it though and the safest way is with a tool like this, but it’s not anything that a beginner should do.

Using a tumbler, polishing cloth or even a flex shaft is much safer.


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Rob, so sorry to hear about the scars. I was warned when we first started, about chain polishing. That was 25 years ago. Thankfully, we have been blessed with no scars from polishing chains.

Had I not been warned, who KNOWS what might have happened!

Jeff - you are correct. I have seen a jeweler friend of mine polishing chains by holding them in his hand, with the ends unclasped. That worked for him, but I did not want to risk it.

Yes, Jo - some have lost more than just the end of a finger, too. Those chains become “weapons”!

Sue, the rolling pin rotates too much, in my opinion. I wanted “stability”, and by wrapping a section of the chain around my “baseball bat” chain-polisher, I can hold the ends of the chain - not attached to the clasp - and polish away.

Truly, of all of the tools I have “tweaked”, my chain polishing “bats” are my favorites!

P.S. My original post is SUPPOSED to say - “covered the larger ONE”, not the larger end. Cannot see how to edit it, as I can a reply.

My chain polishing experience was 40 years. Since then, it is a very rare occasion that I polish a chain on a wheel other than a quick touch up to one or two spots. I do use a mild paste polish like those suggested by Jeff Herman and a SS shot tumbler. Another way to injure your fingers is to polish with a loose glove getting it stuck in the tapered spindle. I have to wear gloves because of the size of what I work on and the heat generated by polishing it. I wear a tight pair of heavy nitrile gloves and then a tight pair of cloth gloves over them. I have added a simple piece of PVC pipe to the spindle to cover all but the threads needed to thread on the buff. If there is any of the spindle sticking out of the buff, I cover it with a piece of cork. Finally, I have a dead man switch wired into the motor that I step on to start and stop the motor. It is not a motor brake, but it will at least power down the motor if I step off the switch. We all work in scary places don’t we…Rob


A few years ago at the college that I teach at we bought a Durston AirMax buffing machine for the safety features. It’s expensive, so that makes it not be practical for many folks, but it’s filled with safety features. Two of them are that it only operates with a foot control. To turn it on and off, you have to stand on a foot control. The other is that it has a powerful motor break. When you take your foot off the on/off pedal the motor stops instantly. I’ve never experienced any other buffing machine like it. Definitely worth checking out.


Rob, sounds like you have a great setup to avoid injury. Wish I could convince others to take as many cautions. Knew of a gal who was not cautious with her long hair, and lost a lot of her scalp with the hair that was entangled on the buffing machine.

I have long hair, too, but don’t let it get anywhere near our machinery!

Jeff - that sounds like a great idea! Glad someone came up with the idea to make a machine with those safety features built in. Hopefully, they will be affordable in the future for smaller privately owned jewelry stores.

I really like your Polishing Mandrel, great idea!

Like Rob, I have had some bad experiences with polishing Chains on a Buffing Machine, small, light-weight Chains being the worse, as they act like a weed-whacker and slice the skin off your fingers! Then of course there’s the Clasps, that’s what can really get you, almost like the Barbs on a “Cat-O-Nine-Tails”! Thankfully, I only ever got cuts, a few chucks of skin sliced/torn off, very numbed fingers and whip burns…

Interestingly enough, large, heavy Chains are pretty easy to polish on a Buffing Machine and I still do them like that to this day, though they can get quite hot, so you do have to take a break from polishing from time to time.

Now, I typically only polish light-weight Chains with my Flax-Shaft and only a few inches at a time - I lay the Chain out flat on my wooden Bench Pin and start polishing, then I move it back a little and keep going until I’m finished, this way I have compleat control over the Chain. I used to use an old Ring Clamp to polish them (similar idea to yours), but one time the Chain slipped a little and got caught up in the Brush in the Flex-Shaft and tore my fingers and face up (I had several cuts to my nose and cheeks), so that ended that! That kind of pain is a very good motivator to change your Technique! :wink:

I have tried using Gloves and the Finger Cots while polishing, but I don’t believe that I have the same control over or “feel” for what I’m polishing, so it’s still just bare fingers for me…

Rob & Jeff, that “Dead Man Switch”/ Motor Break sounds like something that should be on All Buffing Machines, as lots can go wrong very quickly on a Buffing Machine! Have any of you ever “slammed” a larger piece/object in a Buffer? I have and besides that horrifying sound, having your hands pulled under the wheel is not a pleasant experience! We Jewellers certainly can have some exciting (and painful) experiences at times!


Hi Jonathan,

yes! that violent “BAM” when a piece gets pulled out of your fingers in the polishing cabinet and slams into the back of the cabinet!…nerve racking!

buff rakes need special handling snd care too!



Well, Jonathan, thankfully I have not been injured, but I religiously use my homemade “safety buffers”. I, too, like to “feel” the jewelry when I am polishing it, so other items are polished without my tools, but - chains…? I always use my tools.

So interesting to hear what many others use!

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Julie, I have had THAT happen, if a curved item gets to the wrong spot on the buffing wheel. Thankfully, no injuries.

True, that the rakes need to handled with care, also.

If I’m polishing a thin chain, I treat it like the string for thrumming. I loop the chain over a hook and polish by hand. It goes very fast.
If it is a heavier chain, I’d wrap it and secure with ties to a wire frame and put it in a rotary tumbler to burnish. If it needs more than that, you can put it in a vibratory tumbler with a mild/fine abrasive.
t]The frame I use is a heavy coat hanger wire rectangle with edges bent in a lot so the chain stays taut.
I’ve been hurt once polishing a chain, and learned my lesson.


Judyh, sounds like you have a great system for polishing chains. I am used to my “baseball bat” method, as I have used it for more years than I can remember, and have not had it fail me once. The leather on the larger one “sort-of” cushions the chain or bracelet that I am polishing, and the results are great.

Seems there are quite a few of us who have come up with a way to avoid injury!

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