How exactly do you use H&H? How do your store it? Dispose of it? Below, we delve into some of the nitty gritty of how to properly put this media to work for you.
Who is H&H best suited for?
Whether you're a designer fulfilling wholesale orders or a vendor for a retail store, H&H will save you immense time on finishing, allowing you to create more inventory for shops, shows, customers and so on. Hobbyists and students will appreciate the ease of use and consistently beautiful results, while professionals will enjoy the increased productivity that comes with working smarter, not harder.
H&H is a dual product: it smoothes and refines metal while selectively removing patina from elevated areas, thereby creating a contrasting finish. If you do not patina your work, this is likely not the product you need as you'd be foregoing one of the primary purposes H&H serves.
Seasoned metalsmiths and those who already have an adept, efficient touch at hand finishing may not find this method as personally/artistically fulfilling.
This is not a product for jewelry designs created with beading techniques. It should also not be used with stones, glass, enamel, found objects, or resin. Hone & Highlight is for metalworking only. Those who are setting stones or adding beads, etc., should only do so after designs have tumbled in H&H.
What types of work do best with H&H?
The selective patina removal means that this media works exceptionally well on pieces that are layered, have depth, embellishment, texture, and pattern.
Techniques that respond brilliantly to Hone & Highlight include:
- rollmill textures
- lost wax castings
- sand castings
- hammer textures
- layers of sheet/piercing
- hydraulic press forms
- die forms
- shot plate accents
- fold forming
- rivets and pins
- textured chains
Examples of work that do not do well with H&H:
- very delicate chains (1mm or less in diameter)
- serrated bezels (does not ruin bezel but will remove the very tips)
- pieces that do not require patina or where patina is not desired
- rough castings in needing of being cleaned up
- designs that, prior to tumbling, contain stones, beads, glass, enamel, etc.
How exactly do you use H&H Tumbling Media?
All orders will be shipped with a complete set of instructions. Prior to ordering, it's most important to understand that this media is meant to work with patina (see Tips & Tricks page for more info) and a rotary tumbler. In my experience, vibratory tumblers will not provide the same even finish.
NOTE: Tumbler barrels being used for both H&H and steel shot must be cleaned thoroughly between each use. Residue from Hone & Highlight will remove the polish from steel shot, rendering the shot ineffective for the creation of a high polish. It is recommended that you either have designated tumbler barrels for each media, or you rinse the barrel extremely well after tumbling with H&H and prior to using steel. Never combine both medias in the same tumbler barrel during use.
Effect of H&H on steel shot:
Basic Steps for Success with H&H:
- complete construction of your design and pickle until completely clean
- scrub well with a steel or brass brush, soap and water. Rinse well.
- Apply patina until desired darkness is achieved.
- Place design in tumbler barrel with 1/3 to no more than 1/2 barrel full of tumbling media. Cover with just enough tap water to submerge the media and your work. Add a squeeze of dish soap. (DO NOT OVERFILL)
- tumble until intended contrast and finish are accomplished. (This could be two hours or twenty hours... check your work often to develop an understanding of the relationship between time and results.)
- if a more polished surface is desired, follow up with steel shot for approximately five minutes (satin finish) up to thirty minutes or more (high shine). See above warning if taking this extra step.
NOTE: One more time so I know I've been clear: all stone setting, beading, and addition of enameled components, found objects, etc., should be done only AFTER tumbling is complete.
Why is my media changing size and shape with use?
Hone & Highlight is a manmade product meant to emulate certain structures of naturally occurring silicon carbide. As with any rock or mineral, erosion will occur with time and friction. The pointed edges and flat faces of your H&H nuggets will begin to round down and wear away, leaving you with smaller, more organically shaped media.
This is a good thing.
H&H has been cut and shaped in such a way that, as the media is used, the resulting changes produce no loss of performance. Rather, such changes benefit the tumbling process by allowing the media to make better contact with deeper recesses and tighter spaces within your designs. The more you use it, the better it gets.
NOTE: How long this media will last you before it is greatly reduced in size is a matter of how frequently you use it, and for how long. Generally, you can expect a few months or longer out of a pound of media, but it will be entirely relative to the amount of work you create and the duration of your tumbling time.
Eventually, the nuggets will become so small that you will no longer be able to fill the tumbler barrel with enough media to efficiently accommodate the barrel capacity and work load. At this point, you must refresh the media by adding new, unworn nuggets to the older mix. This creates a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and will have the most effective impact on the work. Old and worn down media still serves a purpose in accessing smaller, tighter recesses in your designs, and does not need to be discarded. Rather, it can be used until it completely wears away.
How do I care for, store and dispose of my H&H media?
H&H is a very simple product. It requires no special cleaning, drying or storing. It is recommended that when not being used, H&H is left in a fine strainer in the sink. A fine strainer made of wire mesh will prevent small, old bits of media from escaping through the holes of larger colanders and down the drain. H&H can be left wet and does not require being rinsed between tumblings. My personal preference is to leave the media in the strainer when it is not being used in the tumbler barrel. I do not dry, clean, or store the media in any way. It remains at my sink year round despite temperature or sunlight. I do not discard my H&H media, preferring instead to use it until it completely wears away while routinely adding fresh, new media to the mix.
When you empty your tumbler barrel after tumbling, the water will be a dark gray color. This is due to the removed patina in conjunction with the slow breakdown of the H&H media. If immediately discarded down the drain, the water will not have created a slurry, and may be flushed away with a moderate amount of tap water. Rinse your sink well to prevent staining or the formation of dust as the tumbler water evaporates and dries. Tumbler barrels full of water and media that are left to rest without immediately being emptied will have the a residue on the bottom as the particles floating in the water settle, which will require more time to clean and is not optimal for plumbing pipes.
NOTE: Never put solid pieces of media down the drain, no matter how small. Only the discarded water should be allowed to flush away.
NOTE: You are responsible for practicing safe studio protocols. I do not and can not know the rules and guidelines for all locations. Please check with your local and state regulations regarding the disposal of H&H in your area.
An alternative to disposal of used water down the drain is cat litter. Cheap clay or pine litter may be kept in a waste basket near the sink. Discarded water poured into this container will form a absorb and form a solid, making it safe for disposal with your regular trash without the concern of it penetrating soil or ground water. Additionally, while I have never had a problem with pipes or a septic system, this may be a better method of disposal for you if you feel the water could harm your home. If you do not wish to keep using smaller nuggets of H&H, the older nuggets look rather nice tucked into a pot of succulents... (true story).
Do you have to follow up with steel shot after using H&H?
No. This is a personal preference and completely up to you.
What patina do you recommend using with H&H?
I only use Midas brand Liver of Sulphur (LoS) XL Gel. This is available on Rio Grande. Other patinas may work just as well, but I do not have experience with them and cannot attest to their efficacy with H&H.
Do you ever do any hand finishing after using H&H?
Rarely, but sometimes things do need touching up. Please see the "Tips & Tricks" page for additional details.
Can you tumble more than one piece at once?
Absolutely. As long as you don't overfill your barrel or surpass the weight capacity determined by your particular tumbler, there is no reason you can't tumble numerous pieces at the same time. Stacking rings, post earrings, and pendants without the chain all do very well together. Larger rings, bracelets, or pendants may do better if only two or three go in at once as they will have more room to move and be fully impacted by the effects of H&H. If you find that you're not getting the finish you want on your work when tumbling multiple pieces at a time, try reducing the number of pieces per barrel.
What are some potential problems when using H&H media?
This is not a perfect solution for all finishing, nor is it for everyone. You must use common sense when deciding what types of work would do best with a moderately aggressive media such as this one. Some common issues with Hone & Highlight include but are not limited to:
Tangled chains. Necklaces or chainlink bracelets tumbled in a rotary tumbler are likely going to tangle. While you will still get an evenly beautiful finish on the chain, expect to spend some time unraveling the links. (I find this to still save time over finishing by hand.) Tumbling multiple necklaces in the same barrel at the same time is not recommended.
Stuck media. As the media shrinks, it may get lodged in the tight crevices of your work during the tumbling process. In this sense, it is no different than steel shot. Check your work throughout the duration of tumbling every couple of hours. If a nugget has become stuck, simply remove it with fine tweezers before resuming tumbling.
Removal of too much or too little patina. It may be that you've tumbled too long or not long enough, or that the size of your media is so small that it's accessing more of your piece than you would like. Adjust your time and media accordingly by altering the duration of tumbling, adding fresh media, or both. The beauty of this product is that it is largely customizable to your style of work and your aesthetic, but you will have to spend some time understanding how to get the most out of the process!
NOTE: I have used H&H for myself and in my classes for student work. I do not know of every technique out there, and I certainly have not tried them all! There is no guarantee whatsoever that this product will work with your particular skill set, style, or employed technique. I can only attest to what I have personally done with it. Experiment and have fun, but please be mindful and cautious if attempting something I have not covered on this website. If you have questions or concerns about H&H use, don't hesitate to contact me. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I will do my best to help however I can.