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PhilipKT

How to polish ebony to best effect?

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So, the Nurnberger violin bow turns out to be quite a nice bow, and I’m wanting to polish it and make it prettier. My bow guy gave me some fine micro mesh of 2000, 3200 and 4000 grit, and some very fine steel wool. He told me to go to town, stell wool  followed by the mesh in ascending numerical order, using only my fingers, and to polish until it looked like shiny black plastic.

I asked him what polishing compound to use, and he said nothing. Don’t use anything, not mineral oil or pledge or anything. 

He’s a competent Bowmaker, and I don’t doubt him, I just wanted to ask the crowd if there’s any kind of liquid or polish that you use when polishing an Ebony frog. This one does not have an eye, By the way.

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I'd do what he says. That's what I do to violin nuts and whatnot. Gives it a real nice sheen. Using compound will just make things messy in my opinion. 

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44 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

I'd do what he says. That's what I do to violin nuts and whatnot. Gives it a real nice sheen. Using compound will just make things messy in my opinion. 

All right, thank you very much. He also said that some people use flitz, Which surprised me. I’ve always use that to clean my guns, but I’ve always thought of it as a metal polish

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Typing paper. Seriously!

Sometimes a drop of mineral oil for an amount of ebony on maybe a violin fingerboard, but no more. Because "a drop of oil" might mean different amounts to different people, maybe not even that. Try the bit of typing paper though. Rub til it gets warm. Definitely a good thing to do on a fingerboard too

 

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35 minutes ago, not telling said:

Typing paper. Seriously!

Sometimes a drop of mineral oil for an amount of ebony on maybe a violin fingerboard, but no more. Because "a drop of oil" might mean different amounts to different people, maybe not even that. Try the bit of typing paper though. Rub til it gets warm. Definitely a good thing to do on a fingerboard too

 

You mean use the typing paper as one would a polishing rag? And just polish with the paper?

can one still obtain “typing paper”?

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I was taught to think of micro-mesh 3600 and above as polish, anything lower as sanding. It was also recommended to lube with a bit of paraffin for the last couple of grits (8000, 12000) to make it pop. That does make the ebony appear blacker but the effect fades rapidly and I don't bother with it anymore. 12000 grit is like a mirror.

The above is more about making a frog. The practical application is that I always use a backing for 3200 and below (a block for the flats and the back of a gouge for the sides) to prevent distorting or softening the edges of the surfaces. Then I'd just use my fingers at 3600 and above.

Unless you're doing a repair, I'd be hesitant to do anything to a frog other than wipe it with a soft cloth. Removing the tarnish from the silver is pretty routine but even then you have to realize you're removing some material each time you put compound to it.

And ideally it's not a great idea to put anything slippery (polish, oil) on parts of the bow that the player actually grips, though I admit I'm guilty of it occasionally too.

For what it's worth, here's the micro-mesh / sandpaper conversion chart and you can make your own judgement.

truegrit2.png.67ae49700a4cf71e2943c5daeddf5ba3.png

 

 

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5 hours ago, bengreen said:

I was taught to think of micro-mesh 3600 and above as polish, anything lower as sanding. It was also recommended to lube with a bit of paraffin for the last couple of grits (8000, 12000) to make it pop. That does make the ebony appear blacker but the effect fades rapidly and I don't bother with it anymore. 12000 grit is like a mirror.

The above is more about making a frog. The practical application is that I always use a backing for 3200 and below (a block for the flats and the back of a gouge for the sides) to prevent distorting or softening the edges of the surfaces. Then I'd just use my fingers at 3600 and above.

Unless you're doing a repair, I'd be hesitant to do anything to a frog other than wipe it with a soft cloth. Removing the tarnish from the silver is pretty routine but even then you have to realize you're removing some material each time you put compound to it.

And ideally it's not a great idea to put anything slippery (polish, oil) on parts of the bow that the player actually grips, though I admit I'm guilty of it occasionally too.

For what it's worth, here's the micro-mesh / sandpaper conversion chart and you can make your own judgement.

truegrit2.png.67ae49700a4cf71e2943c5daeddf5ba3.png

 

 

This is extremely helpful, thank you very much this is a very nice old Nurnberger violin bow, and I just want to polish up the frog a little bit to make it more attractive to the people who might be interested in it.This is extremely helpful, thank you very much this is a very nice old Nurnberger violin bow, and I just want to polish up the frog a little bit to make it more attractive to the people who might be interested in it

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With micro mesh you can control the shine the best. The finer you go the shinier it gets and on an old bow too shiny might not look the best. Just don't use oil. Before you start you might clean it carefully with a few drops of alcohol on a kitchen paper.

II wouldn't use steel wool at all. 

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15 hours ago, bengreen said:

I was taught to think of micro-mesh 3600 and above as polish, anything lower as sanding...

Micro-Mesh is the trade name of one system of successively finer abrasives.  All abrasives create scratches in surfaces.  A finer abrasive removes the scratches left by a coarser abrasive, but it leaves finer scratches.  The finest abrasives leave scratches so fine that the surface appears perfectly smooth.  Any quantitative distinction between sanding and polishing is arbitrary -- polishing is just fine sanding.

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You have to make a distinction when some grits are capable of making a perceptible change in the shape of what you're applying them to vs just affecting the surface reflectivity. There may be no perfect dividing line but that doesn't relieve you from keeping the difference in mind whether you're doing new work or restoration. 

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FWIW, when making new frogs of OK-but-not-black-ivory ebony, Lady Clairol (or other commercial) jet black women's hair dye. Paint with thin, quick-drying (cheap drugstore) cyanoacrylic. When dry, 3,200 grip micromesh. Repeat glue & smoothing once or twice. Stop before it looks like black plastic. (I found 3,200 was ideal for pearl also).

 

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I got some very soft disc brushes that can be used with a dremel tool, I think they are made of natural white horsehair. They work well at low speed, with no polishing compound. I too clean the frog with some alcohol before polishing. There are also brushes with softer hair. All these are generally sold from jewelery supplies stores.

I try to do the polishing as lightly as possible with the dremel.

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On 10/25/2019 at 3:46 PM, PhilipKT said:

You mean use the typing paper as one would a polishing rag? And just polish with the paper?

can one still obtain “typing paper”?

Yes. No one else corroborated this in the thread, I see, but I know it works. Printer paper? Same idea. It's one trick for polishing ebony to a  hot glasslike finish without oil (or with the one drop aforementioned on a much larger SA like a fingerboard)...I know this is done a lot. I probably shouldn't mention stuff like this for reasons, secret secrets, but whatever. It's not a big secret. And it won't hurt anything to try this especially on your fingerboard. Or on your bow. The paper gets hot, so maybe put a little piece of leather under your finger or something if you want to. Hope this helps. 

 

 

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On 10/27/2019 at 9:16 PM, not telling said:

Yes. No one else corroborated this in the thread, I see, but I know it works. Printer paper? Same idea. It's one trick for polishing ebony to a  hot glasslike finish without oil (or with the one drop aforementioned on a much larger SA like a fingerboard)...I know this is done a lot. I probably shouldn't mention stuff like this for reasons, secret secrets, but whatever. It's not a big secret. And it won't hurt anything to try this especially on your fingerboard. Or on your bow. The paper gets hot, so maybe put a little piece of leather under your finger or something if you want to. Hope this helps. 

 

 

For IG inspections in the army we were taught to use toilet paper as a final rub down to polish shiny things like chrome, brass, uniform metals, etc. Burnishing ebony with paper sounds like a good idea if you want a shiny fingerboard.

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