cleaning oxidized wire wraps
what is the easiest and most time efficient way to clean the oxidization from LOS off of wire wraps. i often have clusters of small (26g) wraps and have a hard time cleaning them with the steel wool. would tumbling them accomplish this or would i still need to use steel wool? i saw one of your comments mentioned a flex shaft/polishing wheel...which specific one do i need and where can i purchase? could i use a dremel with the polishing wheel? thanks!
Thanks for your question!
If you just tumble a piece of silver with heavy LOS oxidation, it usually just gets shiny and black in the tumbler. Perhaps after several DAYS is may lighten up, but who wants to wait that long! LOL So you must remove some of it first. HOW MUCH of the oxidation do you wish to remove? This makes a difference upon the technique you use. Some pieces really can't be tumbled, so hand-finishing is the way to go. (basically hand polishing after you remove much of the LOS oxidation - a tedious process to be sure!)
Steel wool does have a tendency to shed itself leaving tiny metal fibers stuck in the intricate fine wire wraps. I've had pretty good results with a 3M product that's like a very fine scrubby. I used to buy them in different grits from the SculptureDepot.net, but discovered them at Home Depot recently in the paint department. They don't shed as much as steel wool does, they don't rust, there are no little metal fibers to stick in your fingers AND you can use them over and over again!
After removing much of the oxidation from the wire, you must then tumble it for several hours or hand polish. It's a good idea to refresh your solution after 2-4 hours if the oxidization is heavy so it does not redeposit itself on your jewelry. Instead of using Dawn or dish soap in your tumbler, try Super Sunsheen Burnishing Compound by Rio Grande. It works well to remove most of the oxidation from silver much faster and efficiently than dish soap. I don't recommend using it for copper as it has a tendency to leave the patina spotty, but it does a lovely job on bright copper! It is also a great way to clean your shot from time to time. Be sure to thoroughly rinse your rubber barrel and shot before filling with jewely/water/Dawn for the next batch of tumbling.
To polish using a flex-shaft, I have a few different tips I use most often. Chamois and/or felt tips work well when combined with a fine metal polishing/finishing compound like Fabuluster by Grobet. I also use silicone polishing discs and the fine (blue) and extra fine (pink) work great. I also really like the 3M radial bristle discs as they will get down into the little nooks and crannies of wire wraps for polishing. Stack several for best results. If you don't have a flex-shaft, yes, you can use a dremel.