After firing the metal clay, the metal has a white film on it and you need to burnish it. It’s similar to polishing, but not quite the same. While a polishing cloth is soft, a burnisher is hard. It needs to be hard because you are compacting the top layer of metal so that it’s silver-coloured instead of white. When I first started making beads, I used steel wool to burnish my beads since it was cheap and I could get it at the local hardware store.
I don’t recommend it.
It’s rough on your hands, it leaves little steel bits all over the place, and it quickly becomes useless. I tried buying a steel brush, but it wasn’t soft enough; I ended up with scratches instead of shine.
I did a bit more research and decided to try an agate burnisher. It was a massive improvement over the steel wool, although I still use the steel wool for the hard-to-reach places like the inside of the bead hole where I need something flexible. The burnisher is fairly simple to use, can be used over and over, and – best of all – doesn’t shed! After a few months, I bought a second burnisher, steel this time, in a different shape to see if either the shape or material made a difference. I don’t prefer one over the other, but since they are different shapes each tends to work better at different times. Most of the time, I have both out and switch between them to get the result that I want.
But, there’s still those tiny places that are too small for the burnishers and where the steel wool is too soft to really compact the top layer. For those, I found an unexpected tool: a Sulcabrush. It’s like a really small toothbrush, with firm bristles. It’s firm enough to push between the spaces, but soft enough not to scratch the silver. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best thing that I’ve found so far! Ideally, I would like to find a soft steel brush (that is what is recommended) but I haven’t found one that is soft enough yet. And, since I have no other uses for steel brushes, I don’t want to add to my current collection of useless steel brushes ;)
Have you ever searched for the right tool for a job, but been unable to find it? How inventive do you get to get a job done?