Polishing with a Dremel and Flex Shaft (or any other Flex Shaft)
When it comes to woven wire jewellery, there are various ways that you can finish of a piece after oxidisation. This post gives details of how I go about getting a nice shine on my finished jewellery, and whilst this takes longer than some methods, it is how I prefer to finish of my jewellery. Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them and scroll to the next picture.
I use wire wool, a rubber block, spider polishers (I don’t know whether that is a common name for them, but it is what I use), and occasionally a buffing polisher. The steel brush is something that I don’t use. I just have a fear that it will trash the weave wire. I have tried a brass brush, but this lasted for precisely two minutes before I realised that there were tiny shards of brass flying around the kitchen. When I switched off the Dremel, there were two solitary bits left sticking out the base. I am sure the brass brush has a use, but it most certainly isn’t for polishing woven wire jewellery.
Once the pendants have been oxidised, give them a rub over with some fine steel wool. Don’t use scouring pads – one, you end up with a lot of pink froth everywhere, and two they are too abrasive. Get the extra fine steel wool and that will do the trick.
I also use a rubber block to put the piece of jewellery on. It just makes working around it so much easier. These two pictures show the oxidised pieces and then after a rub with the steel wool. I don’t spend a great deal of time on this part of the process, just enough to start to reveal the colour of the wire.
3 Step Polishing
Next, comes the flex shaft. I use the 3M ‘spiders’ from Rio Grande, specifically the pink pumice, the radial bristle 6 micron and the radial bristle 1 micron. I get the 3/4″ ones as they are bigger, and will, hopefully, last longer. You will also need the
I start with the pink pumice. This is the most abrasive, and will get a lot of the oxidisation off. A couple of things to note. First of all, get the spiders in the mandrel the correct way round. Get it wrong, and the abrasive side won’t be against the piece to be polished; you won’t get much of a shine simply flaying the piece with plastic. I usually use three at a time, although to get into small gaps one or two can be used. It’s all about experimentation really. Secondly, be very aware that if the mandrel shaft touches your work, it will flatten the wire, particularly the weave wire. Your piece is then ruined – I learnt the hard way. Also be aware that the screw at the centre can also do damage, to the wire and any stone or bead.
If you are not familiar with using a flex shaft, get to practice with an old piece that doesn’t matter. Start slowly, and simply move the head across the wire. There is no need to do this in a circular motion, the head is rotating quite fast enough. (I still struggle not to do this though!!) Move across the piece in a logical manner. Don’t polish a bit here, a bit there, as it will be harder to get an even finish. If you have a section where there is a slight tool mark, go over this bit carefully a few times, and this will soften the marks. It won’t though get rid of noticeable tool marks.
The pink pumice, will get most of the oxidisation off. In fact, you may be happy with the piece at this point, it is all a matter of taste. This stage usually takes me about 10 – 15 minutes. You can now see the detail in the weave.
Next I move on to the 6 micron polisher, the orange spider. This brings more of the detail out, and starts to bring out the shine. I will spend anything up to 20 minutes going over the piece, maybe three times to make sure I am happy with the level of oxidisation removal.
Finally the 1 micron gets used. This is really fun, it brings such a great shine to silver, copper and bronze. Again, slowly and methodically go over the piece until you are happy with the result.
Once you have achieved a really nice shine you are about done. The final step is to wash the piece in warm soapy water. There will be residue on the stone and between the weaves. I use a tooth brush and fairy liquid, then rinse well and leave to dry.
So, I said I would mention about the green polishing wheel. I don’t always use this, but it is really useful if you do happen to have a rough edge or slight tool mark. This will polish it out. If used for long enough it will most likely make your wire flat. It won’t remove great big gouges!! Again, with this mandrel, I would suggest practising on a piece that doesn’t matter. (I had a piece with a nice flat section from the shaft of the mandrel to practice on.)
It is costly at the outset to buy all of the bits at one go. They will last for some considerable time though once you have them. You could start out with the 3 and 1 micron only, and use the wire wool for longer. If you have a few friends that are local, you could buy them all and share the cost.
Most of all, have fun, and enjoy polishing. Just don’t decide to do it when the football scores come up on the TV. You won’t be popular!!
Note – I am in the UK, so I spell jewelry jewellery, and color colour. Just thought I would mention.