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The World of 3M Abrasives by Jeffrey Herman
With the passage of time, comes the advancement of technology. Minnesota Mining &
Manufacturing (commonly known as 3M) has given the world of finishing a multitude of
specialty products to fit every need. By now, every silversmith should be using silicon
carbide as opposed to emery paper and cloth. Emery can embed itself in silver, which will
contribute to drag lines when buffing. (Tri-M-ite), 3M's silicon carbide wet/dry abrasive
paper and cloth, is an ideal cutting medium, giving a uniform finish to flat and curved
surfaces. There are also some new ceramic and exotic materials that give excellent
results. These abrasives tend to be relatively expensive. Ask for the catalog:
MetalworkingA Reference Manual from Massasoit Tool (below).
Scotch-Brite products are outstanding for surface conditioning prior to buffing and
polishing. Its grades range from extra coarse to ultrafine, and come in a variety of
styles including pads, discs, belts, flap brushes, and wheels. All Scotch-Brite products
are flexible and will easily conform to concave surfaces, quickly removing the deepest
file marks while not gouging. When finishing the bottom of a tray, surface conditioning
discs can be used on the flat side, either by hand or in an electric drill for faster
cutting. Water or vegetable oil will increase the life of the disc and minimize dust.
Scotch-Brite products are ideal for removing rust from hammer faces, stakes, heads, and
other ferrous objects. Another plus is that Scotch-Brite, unlike steel wool, will not
rust. You have used it to scrub your grimiest pots and pans in the kitchen; now it's time
to bring Scotch-Brite into your studio. Ask for the catalog: 3M Products for Bench Area
Whenever using metal finishing products, be sure to wear a respirator and safety
glasses or goggles and to vent the contaminants if possible. Glasses should also be worn
when sawing, for if the blade breaks, serious injury will be prevented. Contact our
discounter for the complete line of 3M abrasives and an outstanding selection of files and
rifflers: Massasoit Tool Company, 110 Minnesota Ave., Warwick, RI 02888, Tel:
How to Keep Tools From Rusting by Jeffrey Herman
Moisture and steel. Bad combination. On my hammers, I use gun bluing then burnish the
surface with 0000 steel wool to give it a shine. The bluing helps keep rust at bay, but to
insure that my tools remain pristine, I use, sparingly, Butcher's Wax or Renaissance Wax
for the final hard finish. In my rather wet basement, my tools rairly rust. When they do,
it is on the working surfaces that I forgot to recoat. I also wax my surface plates,
heads, stakes, band saw and drill press tables, lathe ways, bench pin, mandrels, scratch
brush extension spindle, and other assorted steel tools. Before bluing and waxing, I make
sure all moisture has been eliminated from the tool by heating it on top of a radiator or
with a heat gun. My tools need extra protection, for they are all exposed for quick and
easy access. Oil and penetrating fluids tend to attract too much dust and abrasive
elements that may be planished into a pristine piece of silver. Though most penetrating
fluids do a good job driving moisture away, they can be toxic.
Finishing Issues & Safety by Jeffrey Herman
A disturbing phenomenon has been seen in silversmithing within the last ten years. A
large percentage of silversmiths have been giving their work heavily abraded and
aluminum-like finishes. What's going on?
Are smiths making conscious decisions about these finishes or are they lacking the technical skills needed to take their finishes to a higher level? Polishing is probably the least favorite of all silversmithing techniques; it's messy, difficult and time consuming. Many heavily abraded finishes cover up a litany of surface imperfections which is no excuse for using such a finish. Just as you wouldn't go from an 80 grit abrasive to a 500 grit, don't go from a woolen buff with bobbing compound to a muslin buff with red rouge. This finish will reveal heavier cutting lines under the bright surface. Also, wash away any previous compound before using the next finest to avoid consecutive buff contamination and recondition frequently used buffs periodically. Taking short cuts may not be obvious to the consumer, but to other metalsmiths it will show incompetence.
I have seen pieces transcending the look of anything but sterling. If a piece is made
to look like aluminum, why not make it out of aluminum? One piece at a traveling show was
so heavily patinated with verdigris and rust, it was impossible to understand why it
wasn't made of copper instead of the more expensive and precious sterling. Exploring
different finishes should be encouraged, but don't be surprised if your work doesn't sell
for the lack of acceptance from the vast majority of potential buyers who expect to see
the inherent beauty of silver's luster. Silversmiths must consider the overall effect of
the piece being created before deciding on a finish. Remember, these relatively new
finishes are coming to the market after centuries of the more acceptable reflective
While on the subject of finishing, are you protecting yourself when you buff? At the
very least you should be using a heavy-duty ventilating system. In addition, wear a 3M
Easy-Air high efficiency respirator (3M #7300S) that weighs only 4 ozs. with the filters,
even when buffing for a few seconds. This respirator is most effective if you are clean
shaven. The pancake design filters (3M #2040), made for use with welding fumes, dusts,
mists and asbestos, are only @$5 per pair. 3M just introduced a new pancake design
filter (3M #2047), which like the #2040 is made for use with welding fumes, dusts, mists
and asbestos. The #2047 has an added charcoal filter. Regardless of how powerful the
ventilating system is, when buffing the inside of a form dust will become trapped and
circulate out and away from the mouth of the vent, hence the need for the respirator. Don't
bother with nuisance or dust masks, they simply aren't as efficient as a respirator.
If you need help with finishing, call SAS for experienced advice. For respirator
selection, call 3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division Technical Service
at: 800/243 4630.
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