The polishing of metals differs according to their kind, but here are some general principles common to all, of which it may be useful to have a clear idea. All polishing is begun in the first instance by rubbing down the surface by some hard substance that will produce a number of scratches in all directions, the level of which is nearly the same, and which obliterate the marks of the file, scraper, or turning tool that has been first employed. For this purpose coarse emery is used, or pumice and water, or sand and water, applied upon a piece of soft wood, or of felt, skin, or similar material. When the first coarse marks have been thus removed, next proceed to remove the marks left by the pumice by finely-powdered pumice ground up with olive oil, or by finer emery and oil. In some cases certain polishing stones are employed, as a kind of bard slate used with water. To proceed with the polishing, still finer powders are used, such as tripoli and rotten-stone. Putty of tin and crocus martis are also used for high degrees of polish.

But the whole process consists merely in removing coarse scratches by substituting those which are finer and finer, until they are no longer visible to the naked eye; and even long after that, if the surface is examined by a microscope, it will be seen that what appeared without any scratches is covered all over with an infinity of them, but so minute that they require a high magnifier to be discovered. It is evident that great care must be taken to have the last polishing material uniformly fine, for a single grain or two of any coarse substance mixed with it will produce some visible scratches instead of a perfectly polished surface.


(a) Brass may be polished without a burnisher, by using an exceedingly fine cut file, and fine emery cloth.

(o) Small articles to be polished should be shaken by themselves for a short time; then some greasy parings of leather should be put in the band with them. After they have been shaken smooth, the greasy leather parings should be removed and clean ones put in, and the shaking continued until the articles are sufficiently bright.

(c) When the brass is made smooth by turning or filing with a very fine file, it may be rubbed with a smooth fine-grained stone, or with charcoal and water. When it is made quite smooth and free from scratches, it may be polished with rotten-stone and oil, alcohol, or spirits of turpentine.

German Silver

Take 1 lb. iron peroxide, pure, and put half of it into a wash-basin, pouring on water, and keeping it stirred until the basin is nearly full. While the water and crocus is in slow motion, pour off, leaving grit at the bottom. Repeat this a second time, pouring off with another basin. Cleanse out grit, and do the same with the other half. When the second lot is poured off, the crocus in the first will have settled to the bottom; pour off the water gently, take out the powder, and dry it, and put both when washed clear of grit, and dried, into a box into which dust cannot get. If the work is very dirty, rub the mixture of powder and oil on with the fingers, and then it will be known if any grit is on the work. If the work is not very black, take a piece of soft chamois leather, and rub some dry crocus on, and when well rubbed, shake out the leather, and let the powder fall off that is not used, or rub it off with a brush. Do not put down the leather in the dust.

Iron And Steel

(a) Take an ordinary bar of malleable iron in its usual merchantable state, remove the oxide from its surface by the application of diluted sulphuric acid, after which wash the bar in an alkaline solution, then cover the entire bar with oil or petroleum. The bar is then ready for the chief process. A muffle furnace is so prepared that a uniform, or nearly uniform, heat can be maintained within it, and in this furnace the bar is placed. Care must be taken that too great a heat is not imparted to it, for on this depends the success of the operation. When the bar approaches a red heat, and when the redness is just perceptible, it is a certain indication that the proper degree of heat has been attained. The bar is then at once to be removed, and passed through the finishing rolls five or six times, when it will be found to have a dark polished uniform surface, and the appearance of Russian sheet iron.

(b) A good polish for iron or steel rotating in the lathe, is made of fine emery and oil; which is applied by lead or wood grinders, screwed together. Three very good oils for lubrication are olive oil, sperm, and neat's foot.

(c) Use bell-metal polishers for arbors, having first brought up the surface with oilstone dust and oil and soft steel polishers; for flat pieces use a piece of glass for the oil-stone dust, and a bell-metal block for the sharp red stuff, and a white metal block for the fine red stuff. The polishing stuff must be well mixed up and kept very clean; the polishers and blocks must be filed to clean off the old stuff, and then rubbed over with soft bread; put only a little red stuff on the block and keep working it until it is quite dry; the piece will then leave the block quite clean; use bread to clean off the surplus red stuff before using the brush. If the piece is scratched, put on some more red stuff, which must not be too wet, and try again.

(d) The polish on flat steel pieces in fine watchwork is produced with oilstone dust, burnt Turkey stone, and a steel polisher, soft steel, bell-metal, and sharp stuff, grain tin and glossing stuff. The metals are squared with a file, and vary in shape according to the work in hand.

(e) Get an 18-gal. barrel and put an iron spindle through the two ends; mount it on trestles in the same way as a butter churn, with a winch to turn it by; cut out a hole in the side by which to introduce the articles to be polished; have a tight-fitting cover to the hole; procure some worn-out casting pots or crucibles, such as used by casters, and pound them in an iron mortar, until fine enough to pass through a sieve which will not allow the steel articles to pass through. Put equal quantities of this grit and of the articles in the barrel; fasten on the cover, and turn the barrel for about an hour, at the rate of about 50 turns a minute; take all out of the barrel and sift out the grit. If a finer polish than this is required, put them through another turning, substituting for the grit small scraps of leather, called mosings, which can be procured from the curriers, and emery flour. Do not more than half fill the barrel.


Go over it with pumice finely powdered, washed to separate the impurities and dirt, with which polish ft very smooth; then apply putty powder and water by a rubber, which will produce a fine gloss and good colour.