Tuesday, January 26, 2010

HABRAS Disks for Polishing Metal jewellery after Pickling

The above photo is taken from the website: http://texadentalsupplies.com/resources/habras_discs1.jpg

I have been taught how to solder silver, create rings, and make bezels. The rest of what I have learned to create has been purely trial and error and researching for free information on the Internet. Sometimes there is a LOT of information, and sometimes I’m stuck. I was only taught how to use sand paper and my hands to finish polishing my projects, which works fine if you are creating a 2 dimensional flat piece without any bumps, texture or attachments. I have moved beyond and wish to explore the 3D world with my jewellery – and I have found myself lacking in the polishing skills necessary to bring these pieces to true beauty. Let’s face it, round disks of sand paper attached to my flexible shaft device just don’t do the polishing process justice!

After getting a design request for these earrings photographed here, I imagined 1.25 mm silver wire in an open, orbit-like spiral with 18 karat gold balls. I created them and then realized: how the heck am I going to polish these puppies with sand paper and hands OR sand paper on my flexible shaft device?? I left the earrings sitting in my workshop for 3 months while I did some serious Internet research on different attachments that can be attached to my Dremel to make the polishing process easier. (Okay, I was afraid to solder the Bezellite TM settings too in case I melted them but that’s a whole other story.)

Here is what I found. A dental tool creating company, Hatho in Denmark, has realized their products are also perfect for jewelers. I am featuring the HASBRAS Discs of my own free will and have not been paid to rate this product (wishI were though!) ; they just make polishing so much easier! There is a product information sheet with great photos and measurement descriptions so here is the link, as I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel. Simply stated they are polishing disks made with harder than metal micro-abrasion particles embedded into rubber/acrylic wheels to be used on a flexible shaft device. The range is colour coded as follows: Course (yellow), Medium (dark pink), Fine (blue), Very fine (light pink), High Shine (light yellow/peach), High Glossing (lime green). They have other polishing products to attach to flexible shaft devices with entirely different colour coding systems that has neither bearing nor relation to this product. Maybe we should make a suggestion for them to unify their lines!

These discs are available for individual purchase with and without the mandrels attached. After talking to my jewellery supplier manager at House of Jewellery in Sydney, he convinced me to take the original set (Kit 19) where all ratings are included each pre-mounted on their own mandrels. It was dear but after putting the set through its paces I am very relieved I spent the money as it saved me a lot of fiddling time between each polishing stage. The mandrels are entirely re-usable so next time I can just purchase the discs only when the current ones wear out. My jewellery supplier manager suggested that if used with care (not shoving the entire disc down to the mandrel in exceedingly tight fitting spaces or having the RPM too high) these discs should last over a year at an amateur jeweler’s work pace. While the box label in the package suggests 10,000 rpm on the flexible shaft device, the info sheet on the Hasbro disk Pro suggests 5,000 rpm, which is what I used. It is suggested to use at least 4 of these discs at a time.

I tried taking comparison photos at each polishing stage of the earrings in the above sketch. Either due to poor lighting, or bad photography I don’t think my photos really show much difference visually however, each wheel certainly left (or erased) their mark on the earrings as I polished through the range.

Actually Polishing The Earrings – 40 minutes total

I will just say here I probably am not the world’s most efficient polisher at the best of times. It takes me about 1.5 hours to do a small, simple pendant by hand. The earrings would have been 3 hours!

I first took the pickled earrings out and used the course wheel at 5,000 rpm. It took me about 8 minutes for both earrings to see a difference and make sure that the application was even. It was fantastic as I could angle these little bristles to get in between the spirals, tight up around the gold ball and all over each side of the Bezelite ™ setting for an even affect. The course was similar to a scratching finish of 400 grit sand paper and was very effective at taking a little off at a time but didn’t take long to get rid of the bumps and extra solder. I was a little surprised as the wheels look and feel so smooth but the scratched surface looked quite rough, consistent but rough.

Then I moved to the medium wheel. Again, it took me no more than 7 minutes to see a difference on both sides of both earrings. I am already in love with these polishing wheels by now. I could now see the difference between the courser scratches and see where the wheel had been – but after comparing the scratches still seemed rather rough – like 600 grit sand paper.

Next was, obviously, the Fine wheel. This time it was 2 minutes per earring. The finish afterwards was like 1,000 grit sand paper. This brush is enough to give a very pleasing matt finish to a project. I don’t think I gave this stage as much effort as I should have as I could still see a few scratches from the previous stage – but wanted to get these earrings done!

With the Very fine wheel I began to see the high polish effects of these wheels. If I didn’t pay attention I could still leave scratches the surface that I noticed, but this would give an exceedingly fine matt finish to a project. I spent about 5 minutes for both earrings to try and get rid of the two stages ago scratches and it did a good job!

I stopped with the High Shining wheel as this, to me, was the equivalent of using compound to polish. I spent a little more time going over every surface carefully and am extremely pleased with the finished effect. Definitely equivalent to a mirror finish. I can imagine the high glossing further finishes off this final polish mirror finish.

The pros, absolutely no compound was needed to polish these earrings. No cleaning necessary between each polishing stage. Not a lot of loss of silver either through the whole polishing process as the dust below was minimal at best. A single standard item takes me about 1.5 hours to polish by hand and usually it’s more of a glossy matt finish at the end. I was done with two intricate (by my standards) earrings in 40 minutes with a mirror polish.


And wear and tear on the disks even with the small spaces of the Bezellite TM setting is: they are a little dirty but the bristles look totally intact and not worn at all.


Azure Accessories said...

Gorgeous earrings..you've passed along some valuable information thanks...


amandajewls said...

Good news, http://www.alphabond.com.au/ carry the full range of the 19 mm Hatho - Habras wheels now both on the post and just the refills.