Cratex Sticks just arrived from @cratexsandiego. Been wanting to learn how to engine turn for years, finally have an opportunity to take a project to the next level! Got these in a few grits and sizes to experiment with. #smithbergracing #cratex #engineturning #jeweling #cratexsticks #verticalmill #excitedmuch #whoneedssleep
As we explained in our article about engine turning, the term “jeweling” (also written as “jewelling”) is often used interchangeably with the terms “engine turning” or “damascening”. While it’s safe to say that they all can mean the same thing, there are slight differences between the terms that developed over time. Although “damascening” has been used to describe an abrasive finish since the 40s, it primarily refers to inlaying different precious metals into one another, or it refers to the Damascus blade pattern.
On the other hand, engine turning basically means the same thing as jeweling. It is a process of putting an abrasive finish in the form of overlapping decorative swirls on various metal surfaces. It can be done by using some sort of abrasive, metal brush or wooden dowel that gets pressed down to a metal piece by a drill press, milling machine or some type of hand rotary tool. However, over time the term “engine turning” has been used primarily among the members of the automotive community to indicate the ornamentation of different flat metal surfaces on hot rods and classic cars. The term “jeweling” began to be used more and more primarily among the members of the gunsmith community to describe a decorative pattern placed on firearms. It can be done on flat or round surfaces such as knives, different instruments, tools, various household metal objects–basically anything that you’d like to add some “bling” to. You can think of jewelling as miniaturized engine turning.
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CRATEX JEWELING STICKS
How to Jewel Metal
Interview with an expert - Jason Waynick
How to Jewel a Rifle Bolt
CRATEX Jeweling Sticks
CRATEX is the leading US manufacturer of premium-quality silicon carbide rubber bonded abrasives used in various polishing, smoothing and deburring operations. The abrasive rod has been named the best metal abrasive for jeweling by the wide craftsman & DIY community and is our 2017 Best-Selling Product! They are used most often for jeweling steel, stainless and aluminum, and are placed in a holder specifically designed for the task. They are much more consistent in finish than a brush or any other tool with lapping compound, and they preform perfectly even without an abrasive compound.
Following diameters of CRATEX sticks are available: 3/16", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", 7/8" and 1". They are all manufactured as 6"- long rods and are available in 4 different grit textures. The grits and corresponding metal types are presented below.
The cross-section size you'll use depends on the size of your workpiece and the size of the jewels you would like to create. The grit type depends on the metal you’re working on and the depth of the swirls you’d like to create. Choosing the correct grit is important to avoid “ghosting”, so try a few out on different surfaces to find the best suitable option. Since we wanted to give you an opportunity to do this, we created Mini Kit 128S that includes one stick of every grit! On top of that, we made the deal even more attractive by including shipping and handling in already unbelievable price!
Make sure you regularly dress CRATEX rods either with a file or CRATEX dressing block, so that the tool can remain sharp and square.
Jeweling metal is an easy and fun technique that gives any metal a great looking finish. You can do it at any garage or workshop, because depending on what you got at hand, it’s possible to use only two tools to do it! The way the series of circles are done is unique, like a unique signature that each craftsman puts on a metal canvas. The jeweling pattern is attractive, because or it sharp, but shallow swirls that catch the light beautifully.
To create a pattern on the metal part you can use a proper jeweling tool, such as an abrasive rod, a metal brush or even a pencil eraser, all depending on the look you’re going for and the type of metal.
The size of an abrasive tool will depend on the size of your workpiece. In case you are working on larger surfaces, you’ll need large brushes (e.g. paint removal tool). If you’re working on smaller surfaces, you can use tools like small abrasive bits that can be mounted on a drill press, hand drill or a rotary hand tool. As mentioned previously, you can use a pencil with a rubber eraser as well, and many have tried this option. Only be aware that you’ll probably end up soon with an empty pencil box and not so impressive work done.
In case you’re working on a hard metal piece or you want to create a deep scrape, you can use wire brushes. Just make sure you use a rubber or a zip tie around to bind the individual wires to maintain the circular pattern of the tool. The brushes work well on both flat and curved surfaces as they follow contours.
Another jeweling method would be to use Cratex rubber sticks impregnated with silicon carbide abrasive. You can achieve best results on flat, well-polished metal surfaces.
If you’re using a smooth tool, like a piece of rubber, you’ll need some sort of abrasive compound, such as a Clover lapping compound. Note that you can even use toothpaste – people have tried it and it works! There are different grit compounds on the market, so you’ll need to try a few out on different types of metal to get an idea which compound is most suitable for which metal type and the tool that you’re using. If you’re using a brush a slurry of abrasive and oil is necessary. If you don’t use it, you’ll probably end up with dull polished pattern. In case you don’t want to spend money on multiple lapping compounds, you can simply get a 90-grit compound which can easily get mixed down with some sort of motor oil if necessary. There’s no way to thicker thinner compounds like the 120 or 220, so with a 90-grit compound you’ll hit two birds with one stone.
Professionals use milling or CNC machines, but any craftsman get an amazing job done with a drill press and indexing table, a vise and a ruler.
You can use just about any good-old drill press for jeweling. You won’t even need a fancy drill press, the cheap one will do a great job, too. This method will require a steady hand, precision and focus, and depending on the size of the work piece, it can take hours. Although it can be tiresome for many, it is something that the craftsmen are taking pride and satisfaction in.
There are vises that move by the exact number of inches with every full rotation of the handles, which makes it easy to evenly space the circles. Compound slide works best, but you can use regular cross slide vise, or a small stationery vise attached to a block of wood in case you don’t have one. When using a vise, you should always clamp your piece in soft or rubber jaws to avoid damage. You can also clamp down a ruler in it and use the distance markings to measure the crossovers more accurately.
In case you’re using a CNC machine, all you need to do is write a G code program which will be the drill command – you’ll define how much pressure and how long it should be applied, as well the overlapping percentage, so the upside of the machine is that it is more precise and consistent. After that, you just turn it on, sit back and enjoy the creation of your beautiful work decoration.
How to Jewel Metal
To show you just how easy this procedure is, we’ll explain metal jeweling with a CRATEX stick & a dill press in three quick steps!
Step 1: Polish your metal piece to a high shine
Many of people think jeweling is a good way to cover imperfections on a metal piece, and it is true – it can cover them to a certain extent, but don’t rely on it completely. If you have an uneven, rusty, corroded or scratched surface, the irregularities will still be visible which will take away from the beauty of your piece. Therefore, it’s essential to get your part mirror polished as only then will your swirls come to life. Depending on the condition of your piece, you’ll need to perhaps grind the surface off first, and then use a sandpaper or abrasive polishing wheels to achieve a mirror finish. The smoother the surface, the better your design will look. Don’t use a coarse sanding tool or a file, as those will leave deep scratches, which will be visible through your swirl pattern. The polished parts need to be oil, buffing wax or grease-free as well, so make sure you achieve a smooth and shiny surface before you start.
Recommended: CRATEX offers a wide variety of different rubber abrasive polishing wheels: small wheels with tapered and straight edges with 1", 3/8", 5/8", 7/8" diameters, and large wheels made in diameters ranging from 1"-1/2" to 6". Small wheels are available as a part of different sanding and polishing kits, including a small kit for testing different grits out.
Step 2: Set up a jig or vice for a drill press
First, you must cut the abrasive stick into 1 1/2"-2" and stick it into the drill chuck. Make sure only about 1" should sticks out, because larger pieces flex easily and reduce precision. If you’re using CRATEX rods, no abrasive compound is necessary, so you can apply the spinning rod to a polished surface without it. Of course, you CAN use some depending on the finish you would like to achieve.
Before you jewel, make sure you practice on some stuff you don’t care about first, a piece of scrap metal, because you probably won’t produce a pattern you like or are satisfied with. It takes time to get the feel of how long you should hold the tool in contact with the surface and how much pressure to apply.
Use paper towels or cloth on a vise in case you are using an abrasive compound to avoid getting the compound all over your tools and workspace.
Next, you’ll place your workpiece in a covered vise or a table that is located beneath the drill bit. Be cautious when applying the abrasive compound because you don’t want to put any additional scratches onto your workpiece. One way to apply a compound, especially the nasty stuff, is to use a toothpick or a cotton bud.
Step 3: Create small, overlapping circles in the polished metal
Important is to come up with a way to create straight lines and keep the swirls indexed at same spacings since you’ll be using a drill press and not CNC milling machine. To gain more accuracy, particularly when handling a large piece, you can clamp a straight-edge ruler with distance markings for creating more precise crossovers. Plan out the pattern, lower the drill press against the metal surface, hold for desired number of seconds, raise the press, move the piece to create an overlapping circle and repeat with the same pressure and for same amount of contact time. You should apply light pressure when using CRATEX abrasive sticks, as strong pressure is unnecessary, and it will damage the rod’s end. The goal is to create jewels that overlap with previous jewels, so that the “eye” of the previous jewel is visible, but not too much space is left between them. The best rotating speed to work with would be between 900 and 1400 rpm.
In case you used an oil-based compound, you’ll need to clean it off with something like a paint thinner first, and in case you used a water-based compound, you can rinse it off with water. Don’t wipe it all over the surface as you’ll scratch the surface. Then, gently polish the surface with a cloth afterwards, making sure you’re not applying unnecessary pressure as that could also damage the work. Finally, it would also be good to cover your piece with a clear protective finish.
A Word from the Professional
"A couple people have been asking how I do the jeweling on my titanium liners.
I use a CRATEX cylinder in a stainless-steel tube. The CRATEX is rubber impregnated with abrasive. The tube provides rigidity and as the CRATEX wears down I just advance more out.
The tube with the CRATEX then gets chucked up in the drill press.
Turning about 500-600 rpm just bring it down on the work piece, then move over half the diameter and do it again. Keep going and in a few minutes, you'll have some nicely jeweled parts.
I mostly use .250" diameter, but there are several to choose from. The .500" creates a nice effect, too."
- @kc_gray_knives Professional Knifemaker from Tucson, AZ
Interview With an Expert
This week we had the pleasure to talk with Jason Waynick, who is an amazing machinist, welder, blacksmith and jeweler (among other things) from Nashville. Enjoy the interview and follow Jason on Instagram in case you like his work (and we know that you will!).
Welcome, Jason! And thanks for accepting to do this interview with us. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
-I am a craftsman from Nashville, Tennessee. I mainly work with metal and occasionally wood, plastic, paper, or whatever else needs customizing.
My daytime work is designing industrial automation equipment. My evenings and weekends are spent working in my machining and metal fabrication business.
How long have you been a craftsman and how did you become one? Who was your biggest influence?
-I have been building things and tinkering as long as I can remember. I built my first car a 1970 VW Karmann Ghia in my teenage years. I was in all the good high school shop classes.
My grandfather is my biggest influence in building things (and life in general). He had a killer shop and he was seemed like a wizard to me.
Do you mostly create pieces for you and your friends or you sell them as well?
-Gifts for family and friends, home items, and paying gigs as well. I have always been able to make cooler things than I could afford to buy, so I always have something in the queue.
Can you describe a day on the job as a craftsman? Or your typical work week if more suitable?
-My shop time is usually later in the evening. I enjoy being alone in the shop after everyone is asleep. It's my most productive time but can pose some problems when I'm running power tools in the driveway at midnight.
What are the projects that you are working on the most?
-Most of my jobs are general machine work and welding, prototyping, and a bit of blacksmithing. I have built motorcycles, prototype aerial surveillance cameras, fences, gates, mailboxes, sculptures, and jewelry. I built a "flying" machine for the Red Bull Flugtag with some friends last year.
How long have you been working as a craftsman and how did you become so interested in jeweling/engine turning in the first place?
-I started getting really serious about metalworking around 15 years ago when I landed my first real machine shop apprenticeship.
I have always seen engine turning on hot rods, guns, and old machinery and just loved the look and the tricks it plays on your eyes. I first learned to jewel metal with valve lapping compound and a wooden dowel.
An experienced machinist saw me doing it one day and taught me about CRATEX sticks and I was hooked immediately.
What's the last jeweling project that you did that was especially challenging and you are proud of?
-One of my favorite projects with engine turning is a large wrench that I machined, painted, and engine turned with my name. The name was machined and painted before the engine turning, so the rubber bonded sticks required a lot of dressing as they contacted the machined letters.
I had been machining lots of nameplates for friends’ desks, so I had to make something killer for my own shop "desk".
Can you describe the way you’re doing jeweling step by step?
-I prefer to use a milling machine with digital readouts if possible. I usually run the spindle around 900 rpm's and apply pressure (similar to drilling) just enough that I don't flare the rubber out too much.
I will lubricate with cutting oil or WD-40 depending on what type of metal I'm working. I dress the end of my CRATEX stick with fine sandpaper every four of five turns to keep a nib from forming in the center and to keep the edges crisp.
Consistency of pattern is key for a great look. I will calculate the spacing that I want based on the size of the object and start turning.
Is there anything one must pay special attention to while jeweling/engine turning?
-Wipe the part frequently and check to make sure you didn't miss a turn or get your spacing out of whack. I check at the end of every row to make sure that I didn't make a mistake.
I also like to have a highly polished piece before I start turning.
If a mistake has been made while jeweling metal, is there a way to correct it?
-If your spacing gets off it will be the first thing that anybody sees. Your spacing has to be consistent. If you make a mistake it hurts a lot less if you only have to go back to the beginning of the row and not having to redo half of the piece. I speak from experience on this! Check your pattern often.
What type of metal do you work with the most?
-Aluminum is my favorite, but I have turned Carbon Steel, Brass, Copper, Stainless, and Titanium.
What is the most uncommon item you’ve jeweled?
-Stainless knife blades, mailbox doors, or my brass Zippo.
What is your advice for those who are interested in jeweling?
-Engine turning is easy to learn. You can have something cool looking the very first time that you try. The more patient you are and the better materials that you use going in the better results that you will get.
There are plenty of tutorials online. I have found inspiration from the classic cars, airplanes, and machines from the early 20th century.
Take your time, it's always better to get it right than to do it fast. Once you get the hang of it you can really fly through it.
What are the essential tools you need for jeweling?
-A drill chuck or collet to hold the CRATEX, a good platform to hold your workpiece, some lubricant, and an abrasive for dressing the stick.
If possible, I prefer a collet to a drill chuck, because it doesn't squish the rubber, and I mostly use Fine grit sticks in 1/2", 3/4", and 1" round sizes.
Do you use other type of abrasives or just rubberized one?
-I have made homemade engine turning abrasives with Scotchbrite and elevator bolts. I made some large mandrels with 4 1/2" rubber backed grinder discs for some big special projects.
Besides abrasive rods, what CRATEX abrasives do you use the most?
-I occasionally use CRATEX mandrel mounted cones, points, and wheels with some of my jewelry making or small parts polishing.
What would be a good starter jeweling/engine tuning kit?
-I would start with an assortment of round sizes. The Mini Stick Kit 128S is a great starting point to try the different grits.
Why did you choose our products instead of some other manufacturer?
-I have never needed to look for another manufacturer. CRATEX is the industry leader for a reason. Quality and material are what I like the most.
Would you recommend CRATEX products and if yes, how would the recommendation sound?
-Yes! Output =Input. Choose quality products to work with and it just makes everything so much easier.
How to Jewel a Rifle Bolt
Since the turn of the century, gunsmiths and firearm enthusiasts have been jeweling (or engine turning) different metal parts on their rifles and pistols to add a distinct look to their weapons. No bolt jeweling work is the same, as each craftsman has his own preferred and unique way to do it.
The reason behind firearm jeweling was initially only practical. Namely, it was done to create small pockets or tiny grooves that would retain oil better than a polished metal surface which would provide a smother action. The practice evolved into an aesthetic feature over time, and nowadays, the purpose of putting jewels on a gun is primarily decorative and the aim is to create a design that will separate a pistol or a rifle from all other pistols and rifles out there. And if done by a master gunsmith, jeweling could add immense value to an otherwise plain firearm.
In case you’ve never jeweled before, we advise that you start with jeweling flat surfaces first (find a piece of scrap metal and jewel away!). You’ll need to get a sense of pressure and distance between the swirls, and you’ll need to learn about patience and focus and keeping your hand steady. After you master flat surfaces, you can practice on a hardened metal rod a few times before jeweling the real thing. Jeweling round surfaces is a whole lot trickier. Usual difficulties that you can encounter are the swirls not coming out as even circles, but ovals with longer flat sides, or centers of the swirls that don’t get polished, but remain untouched by the jeweling tool. Crooked and miss spaced lines and step-overs, heavy or light swirls will all prevent your bolt to look pretty.
First, you'll need to figure out what looks good, and then how to work the surface at points where it changes from flat to round. Many gunsmiths feel that larger swirls are both more difficult and more unappealing, and that together with coarse spacing, you'll bolt might look a bit cheap. The recommendation would be to start with the 50% of swirl diameter overlapping. Pay attention to the pressure and the contact time.
But hey – it's not as horrible as it sounds. One positive thing about jeweling is that a quick polishing job can erase your mistakes and you can start over. Once you start getting a grip, you'll lose more time and be more efficient. Pretty soon you'll jewel other parts, such as hammer sides and even internal parts.
So, how do you jewel a bolt? Like jeweling any metal, it’s quite easy once you get the hang of it and you won’t need a whole lot of tools to do it. It all depends on how you're equipped, and there are a lot of tool combinations that can be quite sufficient. You’ll need to polish the bolt to a high shine, so you’ll need some high-quality polishing tool (check out Chapter 1), you’ll need a jig or a vice to hold the bolt, a drill press and a jeweling tool. These are basic tools. Of course, in case you have a drill press with a moveable table, mill drill or a mill, your job just became a whole lot easier.
While just about any cheap drill can be used for jeweling, the bolt jeweling jig that holds the workpiece is the thing that is really important. It can be a custom, homemade bolt jig made from wood or metal scraps and all you’ll need to make it is a little bit of imagination. The point is to create a mechanism that will allow consistent axial and lineal movement. You can also purchase a bolt jeweling fixture at various gunsmithing stores or at online gunsmithing tools retailer. Holding the workpiece depends on the kind of machine and tooling you have.
What would make your bolt jeweling process a whole lot easier is coming up with an indexing system for horizontal and rotational adjustments. There are a lot of ways to do this and you'll need a spin indexer and tail center. However, in case you don't have a spin indexer, just get a couple of clamps and a v-block.
In case you’re using a cross-slide vise and an old-school machine such the Unimat, one indexing strategy is to tape a piece of aluminum can on the vise as a pointer, and to tape a ruler printout around the bolt to indicate rotation.
The markings on the ruler will be used to get a uniform jeweling pattern by rotating the rifle bolt. The distance between each separate row should be the same and there should be sufficient overlap in the pattern. For the horizontal index you’ll use the Unimat’s moving carriage. The wheels should be turned for the same number of times between each successive mark to achieve sufficient overlap in the desired pattern. Last step would be to clamp the cross-slide vise to the Unimat’s carriage while making sure the vise is aligned properly to the lathe bed.
Next would be to apply a coating of an abrasive compound (e.g. silicon carbide 320 or 240) on the surface part, especially if you’re using a wire brush, as the wire brush alone won’t provide the desired look. In case you are using CRATEX sticks an abrasive compound is not essential. You'll need a holder for the stick to chuck it which you can purchase online. Simply place the CRATEX jeweling rod in the drill chuck with about 1" sticking out and you’re ready to go. Of course, you CAN use a lapping compound, we’ve seen that different gunsmiths have different preferences when it comes to the depth and overall look of the patterns. The main difference between a wire brush and CRATEX abrasive stick is that CRATEX gives a softer look to your swirls than the wire or some hard abrasive. Since it doesn't require an abrasive compound, it provides a much better visibility of the contact area and the way the tool is working the metal.
Now it’s time to turn on the drill press. Start on the outside of the area that you plan to jewel. A good idea is to slowly lower the bid first, just to get an idea about where the jeweling bid will contact the bolt before applying the actual contact. After you make sure everything is set the way it’s supposed to be, start applying consistent, light to moderate pressureon each swirl to create a jewel. CRATEX stick requires just a light pressure for about 8-15 seconds, so in case it squashes out, that's a sign that you applied too much pressure. You can go with 300-400 rpms in case you don't use any abrasive compound or go even to 1000-1500 in case you a mixture of water and oil as coolant. As for the grit, we recommend coarse or medium.
Move the carriage horizontally after each jewel to achieve the desired overlap. Repeat until you have completed a horizontal line of swirls that run lengthwise down the bolt.
After you’re finished with one row, rotate the bolt and begin creating the next row of swirls by overlapping it with the previous row. Also adjust the carriage horizontally to either stagger or offset the rows, so that there are no gaps between them.
NOTE: We already pointed out that each craftsman has his own way of putting on the decorative pattern on his or her firearm. As for overlapping, 50% is a rule of thumb, but you can overlap more or less; you can create straight lines or create swirls at an angle, you can use different compound, pressure, pressure duration, etc. Since there are no wrong or right ways to do it, we just described one of the possible ways.
After you’re done, it is time to rinse off the abrasive compound if any. In case you are using a water-based lapping compound, you can simply run the piece under water until it is clean. In case you are using an oil-based compound, rinse the piece with an appropriate solvent. Either way, just make sure you never wipe the compound off the piece as that can scratch the surface and cause hazing.
And there you have it! A cool rifle bolt with a unique and custom look.
To learn more about the history of jeweling and to see how our trusted customers are using CRATEX products in various interesting projects, make sure you check out our article about Engine Turning.