How to Finish Jewelry

See my companion web page: Finishing Jewelry for more information and 5,000,000 links (well, not that many but… a lot).

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about finishing jewelry! Really, everything! Nancy shows you how to (safely) Polish, Buff, and Finish your Jewelry with a Buffing Motor (aka Polishing Motor or Bench Buffer) and a Flex Shaft. She discusses different types of compounds including Rouge and Tripoli, and different types of buffs including Muslin, Flannel, and Felt. You will also learn how to fluff your buff!

Nancy also shows you how to polish with a Flex Shaft and discusses Heatless Wheels, Satin Finish Wheels, Grinding Stones, Polishing Pins, Rubberized Abrasive Wheels, Sanding Drums, Micro Polishing Bands, Sanding Discs and more.

This video topic tied for second place in our “Contest with No Prizes”. Thank you so much to my viewers who voted and gave me feedback!

25 thoughts on “How to Finish Jewelry

  1. HI Patricia, I think your spoon could be stainless steel under there. Stainless is a whole ‘nother matter, when it comes to annealing! See this link: http://www.finishing.com/125/45.shtml. Do you have a ring mandrel? If you do, use that with a mallet that won’t mar the surface like plastic, delrin or leather. Wear leather gloves so that you don’t hurt your fingers. There are also ring benders: http://www.gesswein.com/p-9927-pepe-super-ring-bending-forming-set.aspx. Since you’ve cut it already, you’ve lost the rest of the spoon that you could have used as a lever. Next time, saw it after bending. Can you find a stronger person to help you? Honestly, I’m out of ideas. I hope one of my suggestions helps! Thanks for the great question and comment. Take care. Nancy

  2. Nancy I know this doesn’t have anything to do with your finishing Jewelry tutorial even though I have never seen anywhere on the internet work as beautiful as yours. Any how I came across a silver plated tea spoon with a long handle that I really like but I was hoping you could help me out. I sawed off as much I needed on the decorative end to make a ring. Here is the problem, I tried to bend it with my hands and that didn’t even make it budge. So I put the end that I am not going to use in my vice but it only makes corners in the metal but of course not round. I even annealed the ring and I thought that would make the metal malleable but it didn’t. I would love to make my self a ring from the spoon and I was wondering please, please, pretty please will you give me some advice on how to make the metal malleable so that I could bend it?

  3. I love the way you teach. I have learned more from you than any class I’ve taken or any book I’ve read. Thanks so much…..

  4. Hi Rick, So, first off – have you checked out my finishing page on my website? I have a lot more information there than on the video. Perhaps you will find your answer in its content. Basically, it’s all the pre-polish work that matters. Moving up the grits of sandpaper is crucial. I’d finish with a 1200 grit and then move into the compounds. Here’s the link to my webpage: http://www.nancylthamilton.com/techniques/finishing-jewelry/ After you check it out, or if you did and your questions are not answered, let’s chat again and try to find a solution. Just email me. Thanks so much for the great question and thanks for the kind words. Take care and good luck! Nancy

  5. great presentation!…you are so “loose”…i think it’s great!…much easier to listen / watch. Not so dry and serious….i am having trouble polishing copper, sterling, aluminum. I seem to create more fine scratches than when i start!!even with the white super fine. (luxi is great for clean up and much safer as there is no silica) Any tips would be great….I am getting the same issue whether it is a ring, a curled wire pendant, or flat disc……love your presentation…will be looking for more!!

  6. Hi Helen, thanks for the information and the comment. I’m not sure if I emailed you a response or not. I’ve been having a lot of problems with my website – not getting notifications of comments, losing date, etc. I’ve had to manually page through my comments and try to remember if I responded or not. With 200 emails a week – it’ so easy for me to forget. Saying that, I don’t recall anyone asking this question before. So, if I missed you, I apologize. There are cut off disks and I can’t recall if I used one in a video. Sorry, just too many videos to recall. I use ultra-thins. Here’s a link to Gesswein’s site: http://www.gesswein.com/p-3534-ultra-thin-cut-off-discs-78.aspx. So, when I use a cut-off wheel, I usually take a metal ruler and scribe the line where I will be cutting. That gives the wheel a sort of “seat” You can keep the ruler in place and run the cut-off disc along it – just be careful to keep the wheel perpendicular to the metal and have your arm and hand supported. Practice a few times first – after a while you’ll get good at it and will be able to cut a straight and true line. Be careful of not over-cutting the groove. Check the back of the piece often. If you see a raised ridge – stop. Also, watch that you don’t cut unevenly. The tendency, as in filing, is to cut the end more than the middle. With practice, you will be fabulous. Sorry, again for the delayed response – it makes me upset when I don’t get my viewer’s questions. Thanks and take care. Nancy

  7. Hi Pam, Thanks so much for taking the time to write such nice words. I appreciate your kindness, a lot. Hopefully, SOON, we will have a new video. Where do the days and hours go? And how do they move so fast? I’m sure that I don’t know…Take care and have fun, Nancy

  8. Hi again Ken! Wow, sounds like hell to me!!!! Do you have a tumbler? I’d get a rough tumbling medium and try that first – many pieces all done at once. Barring that, i’d remove big scratches, sand to like 400 and use either the heatless wheels or the fiber/abrasive brushes. Check out Rio’s tumbling compounds or make your own. How about putting some 220 sandpaper chips into the tumbler (without water) and tumbling. How about some gravel – with water? Try out your experiments using scrap. Broken glass? Cat litter? 200 pieces to finish is NUTS!!!!!!! LEt me know what you think of my ideas – especially if you tried them. i want to know if you lost your mind or not….Take care and GOOD LUCK! Nancy

  9. Love your videos, I’ve learned so much from them. They’re fun to watch too!!! Keep up the goodwork

  10. UPDATE: Okay, decided to re-read and watch the video about finishing again and…….I have decided to “go for it” and not use the easier way out by doing a satin or brushed finish.
    I am headed down the “shinny path to crazy ville.” Already finished twenty-five pieces and they all came out looking great! Those flexible sanding disc for the flex-shaft that you recommended are fantastic! Any suggestions about preparing the brass parts for nickel plating?
    Thanks once again!

  11. Hello Ms.H.
    Need to pick a little more of that wonderful brain of yours please. I am currently working on a project that involves almost two hundred pieces of brass that will be nickel plated afterwards. Without going into too much detail and boring you with all this…I need to know how to exactly achieve a uniform-brushed or satin finish on these brass pieces using my flexshaft. I also own the wolf sander and love it…thanks to you! (I did want to have a mirror finish on this project piece (‘s) but that would mean me going to the “funny farm” far much sooner than I plan). Question: WHEN do I exactly begin using the which wire brushes with my flexshaft and when to stop using the sanding disc? Is it necessary to have the brass pre-sanded down at the point to where there are NO scratches and ready to buff before wirebrushing or will the wire disc brushing with the flexshaft cover all those little scratches and inperfections? I feel as if I might be doing to much work to soon to achieve my goal at getting a real nice and even satin or brushed finish…HELP! (please). I am confused……and I’m blonde!
    Thanks,
    KW

  12. Hi Julie, Thanks for the glowing comment! I use both the Harbor Freight and Foredom flexshafts. What allows me to pop the tools in and out is the quick change handpiece. I own this one from Rio Grande: http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Foredom-18-Quick-Change-Handpiece/117105?pos=6. The deal is, that all your tools need to have 3/32″ shanks. That’s why I keep my old, key operated flex shaft head around – for the tools that won’t fit into the quick change. They are easy to assemble: you just pull off the head of the old one and snap on the new. The quick change works for both flex shafts and probably, a few others.

    Hope this info helps. Thanks for writing and enjoy! Take care, Nancy

  13. I am so happy that I found you! I have so much to learn and just by watching 2 of your videos, you answered a few questions I have been trying to find answers to. THANK YOU! I do have a question for you. Exactly which flex shaft are you using in your sanding video. The bits just pop in and out with no tools. I need it 🙂

    I can wait to dive into your website and more videos.

    Julie

  14. Thank you so much Lennie! Your comment was right on point! I didn’t use a mask (when I first started). Then I learned about the health risks associated with the studio. We’ll see whether I’m lucky or not. I hope everyone hears the message: Protect Your Lungs (and all the other parts too!) It’s just not worth it. I just lost a friend to a crippling lung disease and it was terrible to watch her struggle to breathe. Please give your mom my best wishes. Thank you again for the wonderful comment. READ THIS CoMMENT, viewers and take note. Take care and enjoy. Nancy

  15. Hello Ms. Theresa! I’ve got to answer your question even though you said no reply – at least about the amethyst ring. The band is formed on a square ring mandrel. It does help to keep the stone upright. Also, I occasionally add two little balls on the bottom, inside of the band – see attached image. This helps to hold the ring in place. Thanks for the comments and take care. Nancy

  16. Well Lana, you’ve researched me into a tizzy. Did I answer this message already? If not, buy the Foredom. You’ll have it for life and it’s a great machine. Thanks, as always for your support and wonderful comments. Kisses. Nancy

  17. Hi Nancy, great video. Thanks for the info on using masks. My Mom cut and polished agates for many years and that, along with a long time smoking, has left her with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Not so long ago I was pretty critical of her for her smoking habit and general lack of cardiovascular exercise, but as I have researched this problem it has become apparent to me that the tiny grits of the polish can lodge in your lungs and the DO NOT COME OUT! So, please take care everyone and don’t breathe the dust! Thanks again, I love all your videos.

  18. Well another amazing video by the incomparable Miss Nancy….love it !!! Amd you…!!! Now in my usual fashion gotta ask ya a question…now that I have my torch…(thanks for the replays from my numerous emails) I’ve spent countless hours this week searching out the “flex shaft” Foredom ???…??? Grobèrt ???…I’ve researched myself into confusion….spell my name backwards.. :-/ Anyways do u have a fave….the Grobèrt is cheaper found it for 90$ with shipping about 110$ no accessory kit ( has the hand piece and foot pedal) ….then the Foredom Sr. 219$ with accessory kit…and hand piece and foot pedal….what are your thoughts….I’m leaning toward the Foredom..2yr warranty…and research seems to lean toward this one….okay I’m done rambling…
    Thanks for the amazing video…can’t wait for chasing ..repousse …that was my vote…haha…. Hugs xox

  19. Great video. I always look forward to your new video’s. Thank you so much for the time you spend sharing your knowledge.

  20. Hi Nancy – just wanted to say how much I liked your finishing video. Really helped me a lot. I also love your Amethyst? ring – it’s stunning. Is the band slightly squared? Is this because of the weight of the stone and setting? I’m working on a practice ring, learning how to set a large (20x15mm) emerald cut stone in a bezel/prong setting and find that the stone keeps swinging round with the weight of the setting – not sure if this acceptable or not. The shank is 7mm wide x 1mm thick, perhaps it needs to be even wider, say 10mm?
    Thanks again
    All the best
    Theresa

  21. Hi Nancy!
    I’m so excited about this video because I have all these little finishing “thingys” that came with my flex shaft and no idea how to use them. They should include your video as a supplement to their tools (at an extra cost of course, of course :)) Gotta charge Fordom for all your excellent knowledge. Seriously, this video is going to be kept as a referral that I will use over and over again when I need to polish an item.
    One question, is there a cutting wheel and do you cover that in a video? I haven’t yet watched your other video so perhaps it’s covered in that one.
    As always, thank you so much for sharing your magnificent knowledge of tools. I’m always excited when I see an email from you because I know it’s gonna be good. Take care! Blessings~