Today I offer a quick and cheap jig to return the shine to your tarnished rings. The items you will need for the jig can be easily purchased at any big box hardware store for less than a tenner, and it will be a handy addition to your toolbox.
Items you will need for the jig:
- 1x 1/4-20 bolt, at least 2" in length
- 1x 1/4-20 nut
- 2x 5/16 I.D. washers. Get washers with an outer diameter as close as possible to the inside of the ring you would like to polish, without being any larger
- 1x rubber stopper. You can find these in the specialty drawers in the nuts + bolts section of the hardware store. Try to find one with a smaller side that is slightly larger that the inside of your ring.
Other items you will need for polishing:
- A power drill
- An extra fine grit sanding sponge (optional)
- A felt pad, I used a sticky back pad meant for protecting wood floors from furniture.
- Toothpaste. I used this as a cheap and accessible polishing compound. If you have access to polishing compound, feel free to swap this one out.
Step 1: Carve the Rubber Plug
The first step is to create a rubber plug that will fit tight into the ring you would like to polish.
Using a hobby knife or another sharp blade, carve down into the skinny end of the rubber plug. The goal is to shape the plug into a cylinder that fits snug into your ring. Carve a couple small slivers off at a time and check the fit with your ring often to avoid over carving.
As soon as the ring fits snug as a bug in a rug on the plug, cut down the length of the plug to be 1/16" wider than the width of the ring you plan to polish.
Step 2: Adding the Bolt
With the rubber plug placed in the ring for stability, measure and mark the center. Using your hobby knife, carve a hole through the center just wide enough to fit the bolt through. You can also try to drill this out if you feel the knife is too imprecise, but be careful and take it slow. Rubber likes to get gummed up in bits and will either tear or whip all around.
All your parts are now prepared and you can thread it all together! Put it all together in this order: bolt, washer, rubber plug, washer, nut. Then slip your ring square onto the rubber plug and tighten the nut down.
The washers will squeeze the rubber out and hold on tight to the ring. Make sure the ring stays square as you tighten the bolt down (things get a little wiggly), and only tighten it down until the ring won't budge. If you continue to tighten the rubber will blow out and get damaged, so don't over do it.
At this point, you will have a little bit of the rubber peaking over the edge of the ring. Go ahead and shave the excess off with the hobby knife, this will keep it out of the way of the polishing process.
Step 3: Polishing
Clamp your jig into a power drill and you are ready to polish up your ring!
*Note: This is where outside knowledge may trump my own, please leave polishing suggestions in the comments if you have any. I don't know much about proper polishing methods, but this process seemed to work well for me.*
First, I took a pass on an extra fine sanding sponge. The sponge was 320 grit when I bought it, but it's getting old and seems like it has softened up a fair bit. A fresh grit may cut more aggressively, so be careful and maybe skip this step if you are working with an object of great sentimental importance. I was just polishing my wedding ring, so no biggie. Definitely skip this if you are polishing a plated ring, you don't want to be removing material in that case.
Next, I moved to a felt pad. I used toothpaste as a polishing compound. A professional polishing compound will do the job faster, but the toothpaste works well enough and is more importantly always at hand. I did the majority of my polishing on the felt pad with the toothpaste. Just work it until you are happy. You can see about how much it took me by all the black left behind on the pad in the picture.
The final step was a quick pass in a cotton rag (AKA my t-shirt). This is mostly to clean off any residue, I don't think it gives much in way of polishing.
Step 4: Release and Enjoy!
Enjoy, following these specific steps:
- Loosen the bolt and slip off the ring
- Slip the ring onto your finger
- Extend hand out in front of your face and marvel at the shininess
- Remember to stow your polishing jig away in your tool drawer for next time
- Head back to the shop and scratch it all up again.