Heikki Seppä as a professor at Washington University

Shop Safety

Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
International Chemical Safety Cards
Occupational Health & Safety Topics
Physical Maintenence for the Metalworker
Hardwood Health Hazards
Workshop Safety Report by Charles Lewton-Brain
Safer Alternatives by Jeffrey Herman


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Silver Supplier Comparisons
The World of 3M Abrasives by Jeffrey Herman
How to Keep Tools From Rusting by Jeffrey Herman
Finishing Issues & Safety by Jeffrey Herman
Firescale Issues by Charles Lewton-Brain
Wood Grained Metal: Mokume-Gane by Hiroko & Gene Pijanowski
Precious Metal Clay by Rio Grande
Patination Safety Considerations by Charles Lewton-Brain
Small Scale Doublée Making Procedures by Charles Lewton-Brain
The 21st Century Silversmith by Jeffrey Herman
Federal Trade Commission Guidelines Regarding Silver
Take the Precious Metals Test!
Reticulation by Tim McCreight
Silversmiths Pitch Review by Charles Lewton-Brain
How to Select a Brazing Flux by Dr. Yehuda Baskin
Airbrushing Liquid Flux
3M Radial Bristle Discs by Jeffrey Herman
Argentium Sterling by Jeffrey Herman
Shipping Your Work by Jeffrey Herman
Silver Processing by James Edward Hoffmann
Silversmithing Workshop Views
Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) for Silversmiths
Working With Ivory by David Warther
Drilling Perfect Holes by Karen Christians
Refining Basics
Laser Welding vs Soldering by Crafford - LaserStar
Product Review: Lampert Pulse Arc Welders by Jeffrey Herman
Welding Systems Compared by Gary Dawson
Particulate Respirator by Jeffrey Herman
Jeff Recommends by Jeffrey Herman
Accent Gold for Silver
Wire Drawing by Stuller
Sheet Rolling by Stuller
Product Review: Miniflam EZ-PBT by Jeffrey Herman
Knife Sharpening Tips

Drawing a: Pentagon, Hexagon, Octagon


Tarnish-Resistant Silver Alloys
Daily Metal Spot Prices
Sterling Circles
Sterling (Troy Ozs. per Square Inch)
Silver Wires
Abrasive Comparisons
Comparative Weights
Wood Hardness


The World of 3M Abrasives

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: Metalworking—A 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 Operations.

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: 401/739-6676.

How to Keep Tools From Rusting

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

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 finishes.

3M Radial Bristle Discs

Small-but-sturdy "bristle discs" are new abrasive products from 3M. 3M radial bristle discs, in 1-inch diameter, stacked together on a mandrel using a 1/8-inch screw, can tackle tough metal deburring, cleaning and finishing requirements in the hardest-to-reach places.

Radial bristle discs are designed with abrasive-filled bristles that apply a continuous, fresh supply of mineral – without damaging the underlying surfaces. Tough but flexible, these discs conform to the contours of the work piece where intricate designs, tubes or corners make finishing, cleaning and deburring difficult.

They're also safe for the user as they eliminate the dangers of flying metal wires posed by wire brushes and also can replace chemical use in some applications. In addition, their unique, patented design resists gumming and loading, so bristle discs work fast on soft or hard metals to produce a consistent, uniform finish. One-inch 3M radial bristle discs are suitable replacements for hand files, wire brushes, hand scrapers and traditional grinding discs used for sanding, surface preparation and coatings removal.

The one-inch 3M radial bristle discs are available in four grades: 36, 50, 80 and 120. Additional members of the small 3M radial bristle disc family include a 9/16-inch, as well as 3/4-inch size. These smaller discs fit mandrels with a 1/16-inch screw and are available in finer grades (120, 220, 400, 6 micron and 1 micron) and pumice for finishing and polishing applications. The 3/4-inch size also comes in grade 80. All grades are color-coded for easy identification.

Larger sizes up to 4.5" are also available. You may find that Scotch-Brite wheels can accomplish the same tasks when using abrasives of these larger diameters.

These discs are worth a try. Most jewelry supply companies now carry a wide array of sizes and grits. Though their lifespan is shorter than traditional bristle wheels, they certainly have many applications including surface preparation for soldering and brazing without the need to remove buffing compounds. They are also excellent for removing corrosion.

Best deal on the internet: Santa Fe Jewelers Supply.


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Updated 1/11/2009
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