Finishing your work is just as important as creating it. It is actually the first thing people look at, on a subconscious level, when buying l a piece of jewelry in a store. Next time you go into a store, watch someone looking at a piece of jewelry. I guarantee, they will pick it up and turn it over looking at the back side too. And, then if they like it they try it on. It’s imperative to learn how to critically look at your work and finish it properly if you want to be a professional jewelry artist. Stop saying, “I like the organic look.” That’s a cop-out.
So, how do you learn to look at your work with a critical eye? Try taking a close-up photo of it. The camera never lies! That’s when the mistakes, and unfinished areas really pop out. Next, start using eye magnification so you can see what the camera sees. Finally, when you think you are finished with it put it down, walk away, and then come back another day and look at it with fresh eyes.
These are some of my personal finishing techniques.
- If I want a high shine, I hand sand from coarse grit to finer grit using wet/dry sandpaper starting with 320, 400, and then 600 grit. I only sand in one direction (back and forth) with each grit of sandpaper until I only see lines created by that sandpaper. Then I move to the next finer grit, I rotate the piece and sand across the lines created by the last sandpaper until I no longer see those lines. After finishing with the 600 grit sandpaper, I then I use the Micro Mesh sanding pads. I have one set for unfired clay and one for metal.
- While hand polishing I look at the reflection of light on the metal. Flexing it from side to side shows all scratches and dents.
- If I want a fine brushed finish on an area. I still sand away all scratches, dents, and imperfections and then come back with a brushed finish using a satin finish buff. It really makes a difference in how it looks.
- If I want that unique shine that can only happen by tumbling, I still hand finish removing scratches, dents, and imperfections and then place the object into the tumbler.
- If I am sanding flat surfaces, I use a sanding stick. I make my own sanding stick by wrapping strips of sandpaper around a tongue depressor. Then as the paper wears out, I unwrap one side, tear off the paper and sand more.
- I use cartridge sanding roll to sand the inside of rings making sure any seam lines are wiped out. These are available in coarse to fine grits and screw onto a cartridge roll mandrel.
- To get into tight areas, I use a steel or brass end brush with a rotary tool.