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The Importance of Finished Edges

No matter if your work is simple, elegant, and clean, or big, bold, and raw, the edges MUST be finished.
Finished Edges

I once was told that no matter if your work is simple, elegant, clean, or big, bold, raw: the edges MUST be finished. That separates your jewelry from the other work of lesser quality. I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen in love with someone else’s work. But then if I slip on that beaut of a gem and feel a rough spot or snag... our love affair is done, never to be again. 

Finishing your edges is such an easy, yet sometimes overlooked, technique. Here are some great ways to achieve "soothe-ness" to each element of your work. This attention to detail really puts your work among the big dogs.

Sandpaper

FINE GRIT SANDPAPER

I usually start by sanding the edges of a piece with 240 grit and end with 600 grit. If you need to get a bit rough and really sand a piece, 120 grit is a good for this, it’s pretty beefy!

You can find these grits (120, 240, 320, 400, 600) at most hardware stores, and they will carry endless brands. I would recommend choosing a middle-quality (and middle-priced!) sandpaper. There’s no need to spend too much money, but I always kick myself when I buy the cheap stuff. 

STEEL WOOL

There are a number of grits with steel wool as well, all of which will also be available at your local hardware store.

With sandpaper, the higher the number, the finer the grit. Steel wool is the opposite: the lower the number, the finer the grade. They are graded from a #4 for a super coarse grade, to a #0, #00, #000, and #0000, which range from "fine," "very fine," "extra fine" and "super fine."

I recommend using fine steel wool. After sanding the edges of a piece of metal with sandpaper, I go over the piece with fine steel wool as my second step. This can be a bit messy, just a heads up.

POLISHING CLOTH

The next-to-last step that I do to a piece is go over it with a polishing cloth. I feel it gives the piece one last bit of love, by rubbing away any bits of steel wool, sandpaper or anything else left behind. There’s no need to get super intense with your polishing, just a nice rub down. If you don’t have a polishing cloth, try using a clean cotton bandana or handkerchief.

There are times when you just need to use POWER.

Here's a quick list of my favorite attachments for rotary tools; I use these when I have access to electricity and/or a flex shaft.

RUBBERIZED ABRASIVES WHEEL

I personally enjoy sandpaper, but when I have a lot of sanding to do, I use these beauts instead. Just like sandpaper, there are many different grits available. You may find a few selections at the hardware store with the Dremel brand accessories, but online, there is a world to choose from. 

RotaryToolMiniFiberWheels

TEXTURING FIBER WHEEL

These mini-tools are great to go over edges after using an abrasive wheel. Like sandpaper, there are many different grits available. I use a satin finish, but play around and see what you like best. You may find some of these at your hardware store (check in the Dremel brand accessories section), but again, more varieties can be found online. 

FINAL STEPS

Battle of the Senses: Touch vs Sight

Let’s play a little game. Either dig in your wallet or couch to find a quarter. With your eyes closed run your fingers over the quarter, all over. Let your sense of touch take over. Can you feel the little ridges on the edge? How bout the outline of George? The date? What else do you feel? Now open your eyes and look over the quarter. Do you notice how much texture, definition that you miss by just using your eyesight? Those little details? 

My final test in making sure a piece is finished is playing this game. I close my eyes and run my fingers over the edges, lines, connections, rivets, every inch or millimeter of the piece.

 If you think about it, yes, jewelry is seen--but it’s main and prime purpose is to be worn. So doesn’t it just make sense to rely on touch versus sight?

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Casey Sheppard Wildflower earrings

Already a subscriber? Here's a sneak peek at the next project, these fabulous earrings. The complete step-by-step instructions will arrive in your inbox on November 9:

DO YOU SUPPOSE SHE'S A WILDFLOWER?

Alice (of Wonderland fame!) fell down the rabbit hole to a strange and foreign world where she felt lost. You may feel a bit like Alice when you're at your bench, but that means that you are learning! Let's keep exploring this strangely magical world of jewelry with layering, forming, and mixing materials. 

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