Quick-change Flex-shaft Handpieces Compared

Q: I've got a Foredom #10 handpiece, but the lever action is stiff. Which quick-release flex-shaft lever is the easiest to operate?

Repolishing a Carbide Burnisher

Q: I seem to have scratched up the point of my tungsten carbide burnisher, probably by rubbing it on a diamond or something. How can I repolish it?

Scotch Stones

Q: What are Scotch stones, and what are they good for?

Using a Boil-out Pot

Q: In older jewelry instruction books, I keep reading references to "boiling out" jewelry in a "boil-out pot". Is that just a warm pickle pot, or something else?

Magnetic Tumblers and Magnetic Stirrers

Q: What’s the difference between a magnetic tumbler and a magnetic stirrer?

Files—How to Extend Their Lifespan

Q: What’s the life expectancy for files? My favorite ones seem to be getting duller. I thought that more expensive files would last longer, isn’t that true? Is there a better way to clean them than by using nitric acid?

Is My Ultrasonic Really Working?

Q: How can I tell if my ultrasonic cleaner is working? Are there any immediate effects visible in the fluid?

Power Engraving Tools Compared

Q: I’m looking at getting a power engraving tool, mostly for bright-cutting and raising beads, but I’m torn between the GRS System 3, Gravermax, and Lindsey setups. I’ll only be using it every once in a while, so a lower price is attractive.

Fixing a Foredom Footpedal

Q: I’ve got an older Foredom flex-shaft, but the foot pedal doesn’t work well anymore. It’s basically either on or off now, and the top speeds seem to have disappeared. Can these be fixed, or should I replace the whole thing?

Do I Need a Tumbler?

Q: I make jewelry, and so far I’ve been dipping things into a solution, rubbing it with steel wool, then polishing everything by hand using a flex-shaft, but it’s slow. My question is: do I really need a tumbler? Would it give my work a more professional look?

Cleaning Fine Needle Files

Q: Do you recommend using a file card to clean fine needle files? I’ve tried it, but it just doesn’t seem to be working on them like it does with my bigger, coarser files.

A Different Kind of Graver Handles

Q: I just got some old jeweler’s tools with a bunch of gravers that had handles a lot longer than the standard ones I’ve seen. They have a slot down the middle, a string wrapped around the handle, and a screw. The handles are longer, but the metal part sticking out is shorter than on normal gravers. Are they used the same way?

Buffing, Grinding, and Sanding

Q: I want to buff small metal items like flatware and jewelry items, maybe even watches. I got a flex-shaft machine, but I could use some help in figuring out how best to use it. Is this the right tool, or should I have bought a bench-mounted machine? Do I need to sand everything first, and if so, what grits do I use? Do I need to keep changing the angle I buff at? What do I do about all the dust and lint it throws everywhere? How big should the wheels be, and am I supposed to change speeds for different compounds?

Which Flex-shaft Handpiece to Buy?

Q: I’m wondering which model of Foredom Flex-shaft handpiece to buy, the #30 which can take 1/8″ or 3/32″ tools, or the quick-change handpiece which only accepts 3/32″ shank tooling. Any advice?

Bur Sharpening for the Frugal or Desperate

Q: I’ve heard of a process for sharpening files that involves dipping them in acid. Do you think that will also work for burs? I have a lot of dull ones, and they’re expensive to replace.

Bench Grinders, Polishing Lathes, and Belt Sanders

Q: I’m thinking of buying a bench grinder for my studio, so I can grind the edges of silver shapes and do some tool shaping. I wonder if I can also use it for polishing. Is this the right tool, and if so, which ones do you recommend? How much horsepower do I need, how fast should it go, and is variable speed important? Do I need a hood and fans for dust collection?

Jewelry Tools—110 volts to 220 conversion

Q: I’m moving to Europe from the USA, and wonder if I can make my electrical jewelry equipment work over there, since they use 220v 50hz power, while all my equipment was set up to run on 110v 60hz.

Polishing with Gloves On—Just Don’t Do It.

Q: I like using these tight white gloves with a thin grip coating when I’m polishing. I like them better than using those thick, bulky rubber covers on individual fingers, but I’ve been told they aren’t as safe—what’s the problem?

Inhaling Polishing Compounds

Q: I’ve been polishing with tripoli and rouge, using a paper dust mask, but I’ve noticed that some of the compounds are still ending up in my nose. Is this a problem and if so, what should I do about it?

Building Your Own Dust Collector

Q: I’m looking to build a dust collector for my polishing wheels and wondering if anyone has any suggestions or specs for something fairly simple.

Explosion and Fire Hazards of Polishing Dust

Q: I just heard about a dust explosion in a sugar factory that killed a lot of people. Is there anything similar to worry about in the dusts we jewelers generate?

Bronze Look for Plaster

Q: I know there is a process to make plaster objects look like bronze. How is it done?

Alternative Casting Materials

Q: I would like to cast something into molds (besides plaster of Paris) that would end up looking like white marble. Should I use polyester resin or what?

Casting Sterling

Q: How hot should the oven get when burning out jewelry investments? How hot should the mold be when you cast sterling silver? Why have my castings been coming out black and pitted, with little pinholes?

Surface Treatments for Ceramics

Q: I’m making some ceramic sculpture and I don’t want to glaze it, I want to treat the surfaces differently. What can I do?

Concrete Textures

Q: I’m interested in experimenting with concrete to get different surface effects than the usual boring cast concrete look. Any suggestions?

Direct Concrete without Casting

Q: How could I make sculpture directly in concrete, without having to go through modeling a form, making a mold, and casting the concrete?

Gold Leaf

Q: How do you use gold leaf? What is the difference between gold leaf and composition leaf? Are there any metallic paints that closely simulate the look of leaf?

Patination for Steel

Q: Does anyone have any recommendations for steel patination?

Smooth Surfaces in Plastiline Clay

Q: I want to make a small sculpture in plastiline (oil-based) clay. I want to create extremely smooth flowing curves, with no tooling marks. What is the best way to achieve this result?

Carving Amber

Q: I’ve picked up some nice pieces of amber and I was wondering how to carve it.

Turning Copper Green

Q: How can I turn copper and brass items green?

Fossil Ivory

Q: What is fossil ivory? Is it petrified? Can you carve it?

Stone Carving

Q: I am interested in carving a piece of stone and was wondering if it can be done without a lot of fancy equipment.

Finishing Silver Castings

Q: What steps should I take in order to get a good polish on sterling silver castings?

Homemade Jewelry Cleaner

Q: Can I make my own jewelry cleaner from household ingredients?

Sterling Silver Patina

Q: How do you use liver of sulphur to patina sterling silver?

Pickle Solution for Cleaning Jewelry

Q: Is there anything that will help a pickle solution remove those nasty pink oxide residues from the surface of jewelry?

Polishing Sterling Silver Castings

Q: What steps should I take in order to get a good polish on sterling silver castings?

Cleaning Your Own Jewelry

Q: I’ve got a cubic zirconium in a silver setting. I’d like to clean it; is there anything special I need to do?

Cleaning Off Polishing Compounds

Q: After I polish a piece of jewelry, I wash it by hand with hot water and dishwashing soap, then I’ll throw it in the ultrasonic cleaner, and even after that it still has residues from the polishing compounds. What can I do to get this stuff off?

Lapidary Polishing Pads and Points

To start, it may help to describe what is probably the most common polishing process.

After the stone has been properly prepared for polishing by a series of sanding steps, the polishing compound, generally a metallic oxide in powder form, is mixed in a liquid, usually water, and applied to the polishing pad.

Polishing Obsidian

Obsidian is a volcanic glass which often contains attractive colors and inclusions, but has a reputation as being difficult to polish, although it is fairly soft and is usually uniform in structure. When people are having problems polishing obsidian, I find it is almost always because they didn’t get the sanding done adequately before attempting to polish.

Polishing Charoite

Charoite is purple calcium potassium silicate. It is usually found combined with minerals of other colors, including black (Augerine Augite), orange (Tinaksite), and transparent crystals (Microcline Feldspar). Most Charoite comes from the countries of the former Soviet Union.

I have not found it to be very heat-sensitive.

Lapidary Polishing Pads and the Proper Speeds to Spin Them

Unfortunately there just isn’t one speed that works best. The glass industry has published a lot of research work on polishing glass and they found if you can keep everything else equal, the faster the surface contacting the glass runs, the faster the polish happens.

Polishing Rhodonite

Rhodonite, an attractive pink and white gemstone, has a structure commonly called sugary: the material has small openings that will give an “orange-peel” surface that resembles badly polished jade. It is not the same thing, however. The orange-peel on jade comes from directional dissimilar hardness, or grain structure; the voids in rhodonite are actual holes and will not polish out.

Polishing Jade

I started researching jade polishing several years ago when I took over our club shop. I could get a polish on jade, but trying to tell someone else how to do it didn’t seem to work. What I found, when I started reading, was that most authors had the same problem I had: they could do it, but the ability to someone else was hard.

Lapidary Polishing Compounds

Everyone wants to know what the “best” polishing compound is and how it is used. Unfortunately I don’t think there is a single “best”—just a better one for the stone in question, depending on your technique. But here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

The Water-Gilding FAQ—The Traditional Gold-leafing Process

Wies Norberg provides information on this traditional method of achieving a brilliant gold finish on sculptural surfaces. This article covers the following topics: a general introduction, gesso, applying bole, handling leaf, applying leaf, burnishing.