polishing equipment

Questions on polishing, restoration, conservation + manufacturing techniques

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DianaGaleM
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polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:34 pm

Between my age (I'm in my 70s) and 50 years of near constant keyboarding, my hands just can't take polishing silver by hand any more. I've tried a soft wheel and Hagerty's using a little Dremel drill, but not only is it slow and cumbersome, my hands are just as sore from holding the drill and the piece by the time I'm done. Can anyone recommend a brand and model of bench grinder and the necessary wheels and compounds to polish silverware?

I'm not trying to grind away flaws or do major restoration, just remove tarnish and fine scratches. In other words, to do what someone with young, strong hands could do by hand.

needy
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:40 pm

Re: polishing equipment

Postby needy » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:36 am

Hello,
I would not think using a bench grinder would ever give you the results for what you wish to accomplish. A 6in. to 8 in. cloth buffing wheel on a 1/ 2 horse powered motor turns at approx. 1000rpms or more. There will be a fixed guard (housing around 2/3 of the wheels circumference) and a rest placed so you could only use about 1/2 to 1 in buffing area of wheel safely.
Any large silver piece would be hard to position properly to clean. Any small object hand held against rest may be pulled out of hands and wedged between wheel and guard which may destroy silver piece. Due to the nature of a buffing wheel when you press metal against a round wheel it flattens cloth wheel surface contact area this means it would be hard to do fine work on recessed areas easily.
There is also the manual dexterity issue to address about safety when using machinery. Even something as common as a bench grinder can be fairly unsafe if not used properly for the use it is designed. For instance grinding wheels if they develop cracks fly apart. Wire wheels if not rated for speed or are old will fling small wires at operator and lodge in hand or eye if not using glasses/shield. Most cloth wheels get really hot due to friction.
I would rather suggest a family member or a social (get together) to tackle this problem.

DianaGaleM
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:44 am

Yes, I'm familiar with the safety issues – from when I took a jewelry-making class back in high school, then a metal-working class in college. A built-in light and plexiglas shield are a must, as are goggles, a foot pedal, and some kind of exhaust system. In no case would I be using a stone or wire wheel, just cloth only. Still, I remember the cautionary that when stone wheels explode, it's usually on start-up, so you never stand directly in the plane of the wheel when you turn it on – always off to the side. You also keep your hair tied up. I had very long hair back then, and one time it got caught in a crimping machine. Fortunately, it was hand-cranked, so I was able to stop immediately, though I didn't realize I was cranking my hair into the works until it suddenly pulled my scalp up against the machine. Thank heavens it wasn't a power tool!

No hope of help, I'm afraid. I really need to figure out a way to do this myself. I have the space to set up a bench in a store room off the garage, so I won't have to use the kitchen counter as I do now, which is a real inconvenience. I'm not unhappy with the results I get with my Dremel tool, but it's hard on my hands to hold it in one hand and the piece in the other. I'd like the wheel to be fixed to the bench, so I can manipulate the piece with both hands. Surely that will be easier and faster. Or does no one polish silver that way?

needy
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:40 pm

Re: polishing equipment

Postby needy » Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:15 pm

My hands don't work well anymore either after 40 years industrial maintenance/electrician in the steel industry.
If you have an area to devote to a solid wooden work bench that is secured so it wont tip over. Why not secure silver work pieces with soft jawed vice or larger pieces with wood jigs covered with cloth etc. at contact point or just ratchet strap work pieces securely to work bench on not skid matting. This would enable you hands free operation of hand tools.
You could try a 3 in. or 4 in. buffing wheel that are sold at local hardware stores for hand held drills.
Find or borrow a 12v rechargeable Dewalt drill with clutch feature. The ladies at work use this size all day compared to the18v which is heavier.
Set clutch to just over where drill starts to slip when pressing cloth wheel against wooden table.
This would let you polish larger surface areas and then you could do fine/small polishing with dremal tool to finish while work pieces are physically being held down securely freeing hands for drill.

DianaGaleM
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:48 pm

It hadn't occurred to me to just secure the piece. Duh.

I'm having the workbench built-in, fixed to the wall, when I have the additional electrical outlets and lights put in. It won't be fancy, just plywood and 2x4s, but it should be sturdy. I've needed/wanted a workbench for years, so this is a gift to myself. I'm rationalizing that it adds to the value of the house.

Thank you for the pointers.

needy
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:40 pm

Re: polishing equipment

Postby needy » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:13 am

If you are having work bench made for against wall. Consider height kitchen table top and width to wall kitchen, counter top length what ever desired. If table top height you can work some while comfortably seated. If width not to wide can easily reach across to back wall if you wish to add shelving for storage or peg board for handing tools etc. Devote right front corner for later addition of swivel vice if right handed, this enables one to work from 2 sides without having to swivel vice all the time.
Like you have already said secure table to wall and or floor. The sturdier it is the more useful. You will find hundreds of use for this bench work area re potting plants, your silver polishing, house hold fixes, gluing, anything that is to messy for kitchen table. Just some thoughts I am sure you will think of more.

DianaGaleM
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Posts: 228
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Location: Florida

Re: polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:27 pm

Thank you for the additional pointers. Indeed, I have wanted such a bench for years, and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Any small repair or project has always meant clearing a space somewhere or even working on the floor or back porch.

On the opposite wall, I'm also setting up a "photo studio" table where I can leave lights and backgrounds set up. Now, when I want to photograph something, it's a major production to set things up, then put everything away again.

Joerg
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby Joerg » Fri Nov 21, 2014 4:08 pm

Dear Diane

reading your post and the replies I am a little concerened. Everything that rotates and has a motor is dangerous. I add some photos from polishing an old, worn spoon after removing the dents. This is at high speed and a lot of energy is involved. Holding the piece is the most difficult task.
Of course you plan to use much lower speeds and much less force. But the danger remains. Your hands must be fast and strong to work safe. I do not recommend to use any device that is fix installed with a rotating weel and the spoon is manually handled by you. Also think, all polishing involves a polishing paste. It will stick on the freshly polished item and needs to be removed with warm water, soap and brush. Or then by cleaning the piece with a cotton rag, hand polishing again...
I recommend to go with the advice from needy: Have someone doing it for you.

Kind regards

Jörg

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DianaGaleM
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Sat Nov 22, 2014 4:49 am

Yes, of course, power tools are dangerous. But I think the solution is to treat them with respect and use them as directed, not abandon using them. I've used lots of power tools that I view as just as hazardous, if not more so (e.g.,chain saws and snow blowers), but you use the tool you need to get the job done. Just as I wouldn't go back to using hand saws and snow shovels just because the powered ones are dangerous, I don't want to be limited to only hand polishing my silverware.

I've just spent some more time searching the internet, and I realize I've been using the wrong search terms. I've been searching on "bench grinder" because that's the tool I'm familiar with. Turns out, that's not what I need. I should have been searching on "bench polisher/buffer." It's a different beast. The motor has longer shafts and no guards around the wheels to make it easier to work the piece against the wheel at different angles, including getting at the inside with a tapered buff. It's also suggested that the tool be mounted on a pedestal, not a bench, again to make it easier to position the piece at different angles against the wheel.

The sites I'm viewing also mention this kind of buffing and polishing is a horribly dirty process (fills the air with a dirty lint). They even go so far as to recommend doing it outdoors, if possible. Obviously, I don't want to do this in the same room where I'm setting up a tabletop photo studio! Time to rethink my plan. I could wall off a corner of the room, with its own exhaust fan, and that may be what I have to do.

As I said before, not a chance for anyone else to be doing this for me. I have to do it myself, or give up doing it, entirely.

And as you might have suspected, there's more to this than just keeping my own personal silverware polished, but I don't believe I'm allowed to discuss that here because there's a commercial aspect to it. My silverware collecting started out as a hobby, and it still is primarily a hobby, but I've found a way to make a little money at it – not a lot, but enough to "feed my habit" – if I can find a way to increase my output without aggravating the stress injuries in my hands.

These bench polisher/buffers come in various horse-powers and speeds. I'd like to get the smallest one that will do the job. Any ideas as to what would be the minimum?

ninothedog
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby ninothedog » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:40 pm

Hi Diana. I recently bought a 3/4 horsepower bench buffer with 6 inch wheels for polishing flatware. It's a great tool but practice first on unimportant pieces. I'm far from expert, but understand from my own research that you'll want flannel wheels and jewellers rouge for the best results. Other rouges will be too rough and other cloths not soft enough. Work with one wheel with rouge and the other clean until you develop your own technique. I don't think you should try getting inside pieces until you're very accomplished - I have trouble even in the bowl of spoons (you might want a 3 inch wheel for that, or keep the dremel handy. It is not a fast process. Pieces can get hot, but if too hot to handle you're probably working too aggressively. Ditto if your hand cramps from holding a piece too tightly for too long. Hold pieces with both hands; pieces can be flung aside very easily. You will also need to wash a piece before seeing the full effect of your buffing job. Work only against the lower front quarter of the wheel regardless of your access to the whole thing. Yes it's dirty. I work at an outside table, but I'm in California, so no snow to contend with. Have fun. Some silver exports admonish us to never polish except by hand for fear of damaging the silver so tread carefully.
In another thread you asked about storing mismatched place settings. Consider getting a flat file and lining the drawers with silvercloth. Then you can just arrange at will.
Nino

DianaGaleM
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Sat Dec 13, 2014 12:50 am

Hello Nino,

Thank you for sharing your experience. What you've told me is VERY helpful. I have several boxes of "scrap" silverware that I intend to practice on before attempting to work on anything of value – "mixed lots" I bought because there were pieces contained in them that I wanted. I considered working outside on my screen porch, but that would limit me to working comfortably only a few months out of the year. I think my alternative is going to be to partition off part of my workroom with its own exhaust fan – just stretching visqueen over a framework of studs, not solid walls for partitions, so I don't get claustrophobic.

I have a wonderful case to use, one that I used in my office all the years I was a paleontologist. It's a 16-drawer "geology specimen cabinet" made by Lane Scientific (a search on the web will turn up some images). It's very much like a tall map case or flat file, but with sturdier drawers to carry the weight of geological specimens – perfect for something as heavy as silverware. I'm soooo glad I didn't sell it when I retired. It hadn't occurred to me to line the drawers with silvercloth. Thank you for the suggestion.

Diana

ninothedog
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby ninothedog » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:51 pm

Hi Diana - I'm very glad you like the flat file idea and also glad you already have a cabinet you can use. I looked up the geology specimen cabinet and it's so perfect, I'm jealous. - Regarding the buffer, I think you're right to separate it from your photography area, because there will be a lot of dust. When a polishing wheel is new, it throws a huge amount lint and threads behind the machine, and rouge directly under the wheel. Not much is thrown forward. When the wheel grabs something from you and flings it away, it will go behind the machine most of the time. You'll learn quickly how to prevent that. I've considered setting a big box on it's side and working right inside the open face, with a shop vac hooked up to the back (homemade lab hood,) but I haven't tried it. Once the wheel has been used for a while, it disintegrates much more slowly. Some people recommend "trimming" the wheel by holding a hack saw blade up to it. I tried that with limited success and think it's potentially dangerous. I don't recommend it. - Here's a video that shows a pro at work. I learn best by copying the best. Maybe you might too. - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqFgg8 ... isG48_BUgg
Nino

silverhammer
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby silverhammer » Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:21 am

Hello Friends,

I cannot express more strongly NOT to use a polishing machine. This should ONLY be used by a professional as there are many things that can go wrong: over-polishing; using incorrect compounds; using buffs that are too large; uneven directional lines on larger objects; spreading of toxic polishing compounds and minute cotton fibers; and most of all: SAFETY!

If you can no longer hand polish your silver, have a professional do it.

Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation
http://www.hermansilver.com

silverhammer
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby silverhammer » Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:55 am

I must apologize. I didn't mean to sound elitist. My only concern is that if you intend on machine polishing metal that you know how to protect yourself and use the proper methods. I have been machine polishing metal for 36 years, and it's something that can't be learned overnight. It's especially true when dealing with antiques as there are nuances in buff and compound selection, speed and size of the motor, and dust collection. I would suggest taking a workshop with someone who can look over your shoulder and make suggestions.

Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation
http://www.hermansilver.com

DianaGaleM
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Re: polishing equipment

Postby DianaGaleM » Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:43 am

I appreciate your concerns, but if you can learn to polish silver, I can learn to polish silver.


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