Finish Line – Creating cool finishes with inexpensive tools

A subtle finish is often a very important part of the design of a jewelry piece. To build the repertoire of finishes that I use in my shop, I study and experiment. I love looking at heirloom pieces and observing the details and textures in them. When I see something that I like-a nice contrast or a subtle detail that seems to complete a piece-I invent a way of creating that finish using retrofitted or inexpensive tools.

Try these tools and tricks for obtaining the following finishes in your work:

HAMMER FINISH. This is a great multipurpose finish that looks especially nice on curved or domed surfaces. After I’ve completely finished a piece, I use a hammer handpiece fitted in my Gravermax to apply the hammered texture to the surface at a very slow speed. As opposed to traditional hammering, this process is completely controlled and allows me to apply the finish to a very small section of a piece.

When I’m done hammering, I take fine grit 3M wet or dry polish paper or 000 steel wool and use it to highlight the top surfaces of the hammer indentations. This bright-polishes the top of the piece and gives definition and depth to the hammer finish.

SCRATCH FINISH. A file cleaner with a wooden handle, which costs under $10, is a great tool for applying a scratch finish to a piece. When using this finish for a band, I start by masking off the edges of the ring with masking tape to retain their bright polish. This offers a nice contrast to the scratch finish in the central portion of the band. The art of the scratch finish is to do it quickly and evenly; you don’t want to scratch it too much. Using your file cleaner, apply the scratches in a round motion while slowly advancing the ring around the ring holder until finished.

Because the file cleaner has uniform edges, you get a nice consistent finish.

I tell all of my clients who elect this finish that it will last for about two years on a white gold pi ece, and I’d be happy to reapply the finish in a few years for a $20 fee.

STIPPLE FINISH. Using a heat- treated steel point with a slightly blunted tip in my Gravermax, I apply a stipple finish. I run the Gravermax at medium speed forthis operation. Like the scratch finish, the stipple looks best in a confined space with bright outer edges. The motion when applying it is almost like painting; I move the steel point in a circular pattern as I try to create a uniform texture. This finish is fairly durable and doesn’t show scratches, making it suitable for rings intended to be worn daily.

BARK TEXTURE. Some textural finishes are easier to apply directly in the wax model prior to casting. To create a texture that resembles tree bark, I begin by heating a ball bur and bending the end just a bit to create a slight curve. When the bur is spinning in my flexshaft handpiece, I create curvy grooves in the wax. The tool’s shape gives the lines a roughness and irregularity that convey a texture of tree bark. This finish looks great sandblasted after casting with a light polish on the top surfaces, and it’s very durable.

Article from MJSA Journal, May 2010