Hello and Welcome to the Final Post in the Metalsmithing at Home Basic Tools Series for the Home Studio Jeweler. 

Over the past several weeks, we have discussed a lot of information about the basic tools used to make Metal Jewelry in the Home Studio environment.

To get a better understanding about the tools, we have been looking at them from a task based perspective. 

And we talked about the Gauge and Temper of metal and how it relates to the tools and techniques of Metalsmithing and Silversmithing. 

If you missed the articles, you can Catch-up by exploring each task. 

Today I am going to talk briefly about the tools and techniques we can use to Finish our Work using Power Tools, and more specifically a Dremel or Flex Shaft System. 

So let’s dive right in. 

Please Read the Final Section on Safety before you leave. 

The Rotary Tools

A Rotary tool is a handheld power tool with a rotary tip that accepts a variety of attachments for different tasks. Its compact size, versatility and high speed make it an appealing alternative to large, bulky power tools

A Flex Shaft is a flexible cable extends from the motor to a Precision Handpiece and can extend for several feet to reach the work area and allow work from any angle. 

I bought an off brand WEN rotary tool first.

The kit was very appealing because it was cordless, came with the Flex Shaft and even had an extra battery. 

Don’t get me wrong, it worked great in the beginning but not for long. The Switch wore out after about one year. And I could not figure out how to fix it myself.

If I had it to do over, I would not have wasted my money on anything other than a Dremel. 

I did more research and read a lot of reviews before I settled on the Dremel 4000 for my second Rotary Tool. The Flex Shaft kit was a separate purchase but I caught the both on sale at Lowes Hardware.

The difference in the quality and reliability of the this tool is amazing. 

The only drawbacks that I have experienced are the fact that you have to stop what you are doing to adjust the speed of the tool and it gets time consuming to change collets when you have different sized shanks on your accessories. 

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Dreams do come true however and sometimes I thank the Lord above for Ebay. 

Professional Jeweler’s all recommend that you get a system such as the ones made by Foredom. 

But they are not cheap at all. 

This one sells for well over 300.00 new on most sites but the Jewelry Gods were on my side one day. I found this lightly used SR model on Ebay for so much less it was unreal. 

I got to say that it was the best 59.99 plus 20 shipping I ever spent on my tools. 

These systems have a foot pedal control just like a sewing machine and it didn’t take me long to adapt since I have been using one for sewing most of my life. 

I am saving up for the quick change handpiece but the handpiece does not require collets to adjust to the shank size and that is a huge time saver. 

There are some very specialized hand pieces available, such as the hammer handpiece, that I will be working towards as soon as I can afford it. 

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But to be honest with you, I keep both my Foredom and my Dremel handy when I am working.

They both are hanging together on my Tripod which I use for my hanger. Haha

I thought about selling the Dremel but I am glad I didn’t because it is practically brand new and works like a dream, plus you my kit came with all sorts of gadgets that would be so costly to replace. 

Now that you know what a Rotary Tool and a Flex Shaft are, let’s talk about what they can do for you.

These tools are generally used for grinding, sanding, honing and polishing materials, but there are many others you can do once you become adept at using your Rotary Tool. 

Typically, in the Jeweler’s Work the materials are metal, but can also be Wax, Clay, plastic, glass, stone or wood to name a few. 

The Accessories

Before I had the Foredom System, it was painstaking work finishing mostly by hand but it was doable. 

I don’t know if it was fear or laziness that made me hesitant to try more tasks with the rotary tools but I finally got over that. 

Now I reach for these work horses more and more. 

But there is much to learn when it comes to using these tools and accessories, and the best ways to learn is by research and by doing. 

There is a multitude of Articles, videos and classes available online to help you gain an understanding of rotary tools and accessories and how they can be used to make a Jeweler’s life simpler. Take the time to do your research first. You will thank yourself later. 

Once you have a basic understanding, don’t be afraid to try things out.

I strongly suggest that you get some cheap metal and experiment with the many many accessories to get a grip on what they do. 

Abrasives

Key Concepts

Finishing processes that utilize an abrasive surface are referred to as polishing, and processes that use cloth wheels with compound applied is buffing

Polishing generates a brushed or lined finish, where buffing removes the lines and creates a bright luster finish.

Polishing

In Part 1, we talked about using Files to finish and smooth the metal. 

Rotary Tools and the proper accessories can perform these same tasks. 

We talked about Grinding Wheels and Burs before for Shaping our projects. 

You can use these same accessories to perform some of your filing tasks. 

In the finishing stages, you will want to be very careful so that you don’t overdo it and potentially ruin the work. 

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Abrasive Accessories can also be used to sand your surfaces amongst many other tasks.

They come in a variety of forms and composition, from sand paper types to rubberized wheels, barrels, discs and points. 

These accessories are made with tiny particles of diamond and other hard materials embedded into them. (Simplified Definition)

Many of these also come in a variety of Grits, similar to Sandpaper and Files. 

Some are specifically designed to be safe to use near stones and some are definitely not.  

Radial discs, shown on the right have tiny little bristles that can reach into crevices and small delicate areas. 

Similar to sanding, when you get to the finer grits, you move from the polishing into the buffing stages of your project. 

Buffing

We talked about Buffing Compounds before, so now let’s look at some of the various accessories you can use with those compounds to buff metal with your rotary tool. 

On the left, there are some wheels made from the same material as pot scrubbing pads, muslin cloth, and even a puffy fluffy wool type fiber. To state the obvious, each one will have a much different effect on your metal. 

In the center photo, there are some compacted and very hard fiber points. These allow you to put some muscle into your buffing. 

On the right are the more common Felt Pads in two sizes. 

Once again, I would like to reiterate, that you should do your research and practice using these various tools before you go to town on your projects. Practice using one with the different types of compounds too.

For Example you will want to experiment with a Tripoli compound on each of the tools above on the same piece of metal to get a feel for how they can differ. 

  • Rouges are typically used for polishing and finishing work.  
  • Tripoli compounds are used for cutting and buffing to remove scratches from the metal.

You will also find a variety of Brushes, made from various materials from Brass to Plastic, used to help polish and buff your metal.

Buffing Compounds work well with these Brushes. 

I have a lot to learn about using Brushes, so I encourage you to dig deeper into this  subject on your own. 

I don’t want to steer your wrong.

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The Absolutely Necessary Safety Equipment

This last topic covers some vital Safety Concerns when working with Rotary Tools or any other power tool. 

I can not stress enough that you need to protect yourself while working with Power Tools.

  • Protect Your Eyes
  • Protect Your Fingers

Use Impact rated goggles or glasses Every Single Time.

I use this style because they fit right over my glasses. So if you wear glasses, make sure you get then right kind. 

Working with Rotary Tools and many of the accessories can cause the obvious injuries to your fingers and hand. But they also generate a lot of heat. 

Get yourself a variety of clamps or vices to hold your work when possible to protect your fingers from cuts and burns. 

You will also want to tie back your hair if it is long. Your hair can get wrapped into the spinning shaft and that would not be good at all. 

It has taken some time to get through this series and I hope that you have been able to get a lot of useful information out of it. 

Once again, the whole idea was to introduce you to Setting Up an Home Based Jeweler’s Studio and some affordable tools that work great is small workspaces. 

The series was intended to give you an introduction to the techniques and tools from a Task based perspective. 

Please feel free to let me know what you thought about the Series. 

What's Next

Look for Beginner Tutorials 

  • Simple Wire Loops
  • Wire Wrapped Loops 
  • Handmade Ear Wires

We will be working on an Earring Project as we go through these techniques. 

I will post the materials and tools list when I introduce the project. 

In the meantime, make sure to follow this Blog and Subscribe to The Bead Mat Newsletter so you will be notified through your email. 

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