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Project in Process: Fordite & Flame-Blued Steel Dials

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For the past few months, I’ve been working on a custom dial project. I’m still not ready to show my first production examples, but the project has gotten to the point where I’m comfortable sharing my progress. I’ve been documenting this process, and am committed to sharing my process notes. I believe in open source information, and I’ve benefited immensely in watches (and in life generally) from the wisdom and experience of other people who have been willing to share what they know with me. My hope is that by sharing my process notes, I might be able to encourage other folks to take a risk and try to make something cool. I’ve never attempted anything like this, and even if this project is ultimately unsuccessful it has been a ton of fun.

I'm sharing my progress and process notes on this forum because folks here have been incredibly friendly and patient with me. If you have any questions about my notes, please feel free to let me know and I'll try to explain things better. I'm happy to answer any questions, and I'll be sharing more photos as I can. I've received a number of comments from people I've been corresponding with that essentially conclude that "this is too hard to pull off". Bur for the serendipity of finding a source of half-height Seiko dials and having free access to an incredibly expensive precision saw, I would have agreed. If anyone has suggestions or concerns that I'm missing something key, please let me know.

Background: Seiko & ETA 6498 Custom Watches

My project started with customizing my own Seiko watches, and with assembling several custom ETA 6498 watches using available parts from Chinese sellers on eBay. I greatly enjoyed manufacturing my own ETA 6498-1 based “marine watch” using high quality components, and produced a watch that is nearly equal to the Stowa Marine Original I wanted but couldn’t afford. I could have saved more money using lower-quality components, but instead assembled a watch using high quality components (heat-blued hands, an especially nice 41mm case with a sapphire crystal, an elabore-grade ETA 6498-1, etc.) to build a final product that was high quality but still significantly less expensive than the Stowa.

Here's my 6498-based "Marine Watch"

On the Seiko side of the house, I’ve built a couple of custom Seiko watches using some of the really amazing dial and hand combinations available from lots of internet sellers. (My favorite seller is called Lucius Atelier.) In browsing the offerings of several different Seiko part dealers, I saw that some suppliers sold higher-end dials made out of meteorite, damascus steel, carbon fiber, and other neat things.

Knowing how much I enjoyed building my ETA 6498 watch, knowing how many people enjoy modifying their Seiko watches, and being generally fascinated by exotic dial materials, I realized that it might be possible to design my own watch dials. I enjoyed reading many articles on restoring dials using decals, and thought a lot about using electrolytic-etching or laser-cutting to customize brass dials.

It was at this point that I stumbled across fordite and fell in love ...


Several months ago, I ran across a limited series of very expensive TAG Heuer watches that featured unique dials made out of “fordite”. There's no way I'll ever be able to afford once of those £5,500.00 watches, but I couldn't get the idea of working with fordite out of my head.

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(Here are some quick shots of my first fordite samples, to give folks an idea of what it looks like in unpolished slab form.)

Fordite is also known as “Detroit Agate,” and it’s actual industrial waste. Back when car manufacturers used to spray paint cars by hand, they generated a lot of overspray. This overspray accumulated over the years, and hundreds of layers of overspray built up into large chunks of waste material. This stuff was repeatedly heat cured at the same time the painted cars were heat cured, and the resulting chunks of waste are durable and nice to work with. I don’t know the first time it was discovered that cutting open the waste chunks revealed beautiful and psychedelic patterns of paint, but for some years jewelers have been using lapidary techniques to create bizarre and fun jewelry with fordite. One of the things that I find particularly fascinating about this material is that it’s possible to source fordite from specific assembly lines. Consequently, one can obtain fordite in Jeep, Corvette, Cadillac, Peterbilt, and other colors. I’ve even obtained some fordite from the “Cadillac Ranch” in the Mojave Desert. It’s much softer and more fragile than “normal” fordite, but it also has a wider variety of colors and textures. In order to work with this specific soft fordite, I'm going to need to stabilize it using some cool lapidary techniques.

Heat-Blued Steel

I have been enchanted by heat-blued steel watch components for a really long time. I started researching how I might myself heat-blue steel with an eye towards designing and selling heat-blued steel watch hands compatible with Seikos and other watches. For quite a few reasons, this isn’t feasible (yet?), but I’ve enjoyed polishing and bluing steel pocket watch hands. As my dial project progressed, I realized that it wasn’t practical for me to add applied hour indices, and there are some significant obstacles to using film-free decals on the dials I'm making. I realized that some manufacturers of exotic-dialed watches got around the problem by attaching a short chapter ring directly to the watch dial. This solution really appealed to me, so I set about designing a chapter ring that could be cut out of very thin (0.01” or 0.254 mm) high carbon steel, polished, and then glued to the dial face without risk of fouling any of the watch hands.

I worked with an engineer on Fiverr, who converted my really rough sketch of a chapter ring design into a DXF file.  My first 20 carbon steel chapter rings are currently in production at a laser-cutting facility. I don't need to share photos of the steel I've heat blued here to prove that it's a work in progress. Temperature control is critical, and I'm going to be switching from a propane camp stove to a precision digitally-controlled laboratory grade Cole-Parmer StableTemp hot plate to get consistent, high-quality results. I know that large manufacturers, including Glashütte Original, are doing essentially the same thing: In this Glashütte Original watch assembly video, one can see them using a $50 digital soldering-station with a brass attachment to blue screws. I'd go that route myself, but my chapter rings are a lot larger and so I want a larger heating area with better temperature control. I'll specifically be using a 1" thick 4" x 4" block of aluminum mounted on the hot plate's ceramic heating element to ensure uniform heat distribution.

Chapter-Ring-Sketch.thumb.JPG.1f79dd392465a8e5a1a25ffcc88cf97e.JPG Chapter-Ring-DWG.JPG.b8f4dbcbd52dcad732885cdfe30a26a0.JPG ZA-Chapter_Ring_Sample.thumb.jpeg.59150c348391c62490569fb2c95d1d4a.jpeg
Chapter ring, from concept sketch to technical drawing to first prototype. Obviously, I'm going to need to do a lot of polishing before I re-blue these for installation!

[Continued ...]

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Please forgive the poor quality snapshot, but it all came together. I am over the moon! Here's my first completed fordite-dialed watch: I'll provide a more complete write up, better ph

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a custom dial project. I’m still not ready to show my first production examples, but the project has gotten to the point where I’m comfortable sharing my

So, I've debated sharing the proof of concept picture below, as it's with an imperfect fordite dial slice and the fordite itself hadn't been polished. It's not even a particularly compelling cut of fo

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Initial Approaches

Fundamentally, I had to figure out a way of cutting fordite into very thin discs that could be mounted onto brass dial blanks. I did quite a lot of research into how stone-dialed watches are manufactured, and spent a lot of time browsing the stone watch dials that are available from Chinese manufacturers on Alibaba]. I believe that the most common way that stone dialed watches are manufactured sidesteps the problem as much as possible; they don’t aim for a total dial height of 0.4mm, the normal Seiko and ETA 6498 standard, but instead cut thicker (but still quite thin) stone dials and achieve a final height greater than 0.4mm. The large manufacturers are able to do this because they can use movements with higher-than-normal hand pinions, in cases that may be deeper than normal, with hands that have longer pipes than normal ("long post" or "long tube" watch hands), under crystals that are taller than normal. It is possible, if expensive, to find hour wheel-cannon pinion sets for ETA movements that accommodate thicker dials. But finding a case and crystal combination that could accommodate this thicker dial and higher hands was going to be challenging. And there are no similar Seiko options that I'm aware of.

After a great deal of thought, and teaching myself some basic lapidary skills, I realized that it might be possible to cut a thin fordite veneer and mount it on a brass dial blank. I then planned on soldering the dial feet onto the dial one-by-one.

The first process I was going to try to use was broken down as follows:

  1. Cut rough fordite into roughly-round chunks.
  2. Use a lathe and turn those chunks into cylinders with precise diameters.
  3. Cut thin (but still relatively thick) discs out of those cylinders, and mount them on a precisely-cut brass dial template.
  4. Use a lapping machine to polish/grind the fordite down to the final required height.
  5. Hand-drill the center hole, using the brass dial template as a guide. This would require laser-cutting a thin brass sheet to the correct diameter and adding the necessary central hole.
  6. Solder dial feet onto the fordite/brass dial sandwich.
  7. Final polish and assembly.

At this point, this project was still a pipe dream. I had some fordite samples, but was still researching the lathe and lapping machines that would be necessary to do this work. I had some key breakthroughs, that significantly decreased the level of effort necessary to make these dials.

Process Improvement Serendipity

A jeweler I know was happy to lend me an Austrian "Unimat", but he suggested that I skip the lathe step entirely and use a hole saw of the correct diameter instead. This was a great suggestion, as the fordite is tough enough to tolerate working, but still soft enough to cut with common tools. I bought an inexpensive bench-mounted drill press and a diamond-bladed hole saw and went to town. In short order, I cut several 29.5mm diameter cylindrical cores of fordite. These are great; they were easy to cut, they’re nicely straight, and the core diameter is really close to my final diameter of 28.5mm (for Seiko-compatible dials).

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Cored fordite (and surfite) ready for the next steps ...

Around this time, I found a supplier of half-height (0.2mm high) Seiko-compatible blank brass dials. These already have dial feet soldered on, compatible with both 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock Seiko dials. I bought 10 of these dials, enough to complete my first run of dials.

Half-Height (0.2mm) 28.5mm Blank Brass Seiko-Compatible Dials

Most importantly, I was talking about this project with an archaeologist friend of mine. He mentioned that he had a very special saw, a Buehler IsoMet 1000 Precision Cutter, which he uses to cut 0.1mm (and thinner) slices of fragile bone and teeth for microscopic analysis. This machine is specifically intended to cut extremely thin sections of delicate materials without causing fractures or deformation; it’s very low-rpm, has a constant water feed, and is gravity fed. It does take a long time to cut, but it should have a very high success rate with fordite. This saw isn't cheap -- a Buehler IsoMet 1000 is $8,900 new, and each 5" blade is $438. If I didn't have a friend with a lot of experience with this saw, I wouldn't have thought it possible to reliably cut thin fordite sections. And if my buddy wasn't interested in this project and willing to let me use his saw, then this project would have stalled out completely.

With these process improvements, my manufacturing process becomes much simpler:

  1. Use a drill press and a hole saw to cut a 30mm core of fordite;
  2. Use the Buehler to cut a 0.3mm thick disk of the fordite;
  3. Use adhesive (thinned jeweler’s epoxy) to glue the fordite to the 0.2mm half-height brass dial blank;
  4. Drill a central hole using a pin vise and the dial template’s hole to guide me; and,
  5. Final polish of the fordite to remove any “overhang” over the edges of the dial blank, and to get the final total height to the required 0.4mm.

[Continued ...]

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Chapter Rings, Half-Height Dials & Next Steps

Right now, I’m assembling my first 10 Seiko dials, setting up my web store, getting my required business and sale licenses, etc. I'm still slicing the dial sections out of the fordite cores I've cut with the hole saw, and I'll post the first finished dials here when I can.

The first two example Seiko watches I'm building will have "plain" fordite dials. I'm using an SRPE69K1 and an SRPE51K1 for my first two model watches, since they have nice chapter rings but don't have distracting diving bezels.

I will be constructing at least one example watch with a heat-blued chapter ring, since I believe folks might like having hour indices (especially if they're a pretty electric blue). I'll need to align these chapter rings by hand, which is something I'm not particularly looking forward to. I believe that I've found an adhesive that will give me enough time to make sure the chapter rings are aligned correctly, but won't take too long to set that I'm stuck holding the chapter rings in place for an extended period of time.

I was lucky enough to find and buy ten half-height (0.2mm thick) Seiko brass dial blanks when I started this project. Indeed, but for the availability of these half-height brass dial blanks this project would not have been feasible. Unfortunately, my supplier of these blank half-height dial blanks is out of stock, and he switched to a 0.3mm blank brass dial blank in his next production run. Because of this, I need to source a supply of 0.2mm thick Seiko brass dial blanks. Luckily, I've connected with a Chinese factory for this.

I connected with a Chinese factory via Alibaba, and they are currently producing a small (200-piece) run of ETA/Unitas 6498 half-height (0.2mm thick) dials with a diameter of 38.0mm. For the last month, I've been going back and forth with them on the design. I should be receiving the first prototype in the mail soon, and I'll okay the full run of 200. I really hope that this factory does a good job, since I really need to have a run of 0.2mm thick Seiko brass dials made!

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Some of the progress photos from my manufacturing run of half-height ETA 6498 dials.

Also, I need to design and have laser-cut a chapter ring for the ETA/Unitas 6498 dials. Unlike Seikos, which have a lot of cases with chapter rings available, my 6498 dials will absolutely need an applied chapter ring. I'm looking forward to designing this -- I'm looking forward to finding a minimalist design that highlights the 6498's small seconds.

I'm absolutely focused on getting my first run of fordite Seiko dials finished, but I'd love to experiment with other exotic materials like "surfite" (made out of surfboard resin), "bowlerite" (made out of the interior of bowling balls), and semiprecious stone like turquoise, bloodstone, labradorite, sugilite, bumblebee jasper, etc. Here, I would be competing with Chinese manufacturers who already cut stone dials in bulk, so I'm less optimistic about this unless I can find and specialize in some really unusual materials. (Sugilite, for example, is beautiful and not super well known.)

Conclusion: Lots of Work Left to Do

I'll consider this project a complete success if I can build 1 or 2 fordite dials for myself (in Seiko and ETA 6498 sizes). If I can make 10 or 20 dials for the watch modding community, I'll be absolutely tickled.

Fordite polishes up really well with sandpaper followed by (funnily enough) Turtle Wax. Here are some scans of some of the dial cores I've polished up.

Fordite-Core-1.thumb.jpg.1d048cab73ae1bc402b2e9f334ac109f.jpg Fordite-Core-3.thumb.jpg.b4d12ba759ee7e8ddafcb0ddd4bdbe57.jpg Fordite-Core-4.thumb.jpg.a9c06b1240593c124e011103ca4a916d.jpg
There's a ton of really subtle color shifts and textures in the fordite cores. It really is prettier in person than on a computer!


Here's a scan of a scrap piece I quickly polished up, showing a variety of textures and colors. This material is super fun. Also, if anyone is interested, I polished up one of my slabs and took a photo suitable for use as desktop wallpaper here.

[Continued ...]

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So, here's where I am to date on this project. I've scheduled as much time over the weekend with the Buehler precision cutter as I can get, so hopefully I'll have some additional progress photos and maybe a completed dial ready to show in the next few days!

Again, I'm more than happy to answer any questions or talk about any part of this project/process. I'm committed to seeing it through -- maybe I won't be able to ramp up to a large production run, but I'm confident that, at a minimum, I'll be able to build a small number of fordite-dialed Seiko watches.

[Update: I see that this thread was moved to the Walkthroughs and Techniques forum. I read that forum description as requiring a finished step-by-step process. As my work here is still in process and subject to change, I didn't think it appropriate to post in that forum.

I will say that my commitment to open source information and collaboration is genuine. As I complete my first run of dials and get my manufacturing process dialed in, I'll do my best to post an updated & concise process that other folks are welcome to use. Even if my dial project is a complete failure, I've really enjoyed this research and the work I've done so far. If my work makes it easier for someone to take on a similar project, I'd be absolutely delighted. I'm hoping to be able to sell enough dials to cover my costs, not develop a proprietary process and be the *only* source of fordite-dialed watches. If someone can take my process and figure out how to do it more cheaply, I'll be happy for them and consider my work successful.]



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Update: I couldn't get access to the Buehler IsoMet 1000 over the weekend, but will be working with it tonight. If all goes well, I'll have my first two watches with fordite dials complete to share this week.

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I'm getting close enough to feel it. I did a bunch of cutting today, and have come to the conclusion that I need to replace the 4" blade on the Buehler with a 5" blade. This will allow me to make my cuts thinner and flatter. It really is a cool machine though -- I was able to get three really good cuts that I've been grinding down by hand to make my first dials. Right now, the fordite veneers are coming out of the Buehler at 0.6mm thick, which I then hand-grind to the correct thickness. Because I'm having some flatness issues, I need to get the larger blade before continuing. (It's complicated -- the size blade I'm using is perfect for archaeology stuff, but too small for watch dials. As a result, I have to cut my dial sections in two passes rather than one smooth pass. Upgrading the blade will help a lot.)

Here's a video of the Buehler in action: 


I also assembled my first watch with an (imperfect and unpolished) Fordite dial. The concept works -- I'm focusing on execution now to be able to share something I'm really proud of.

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So, I've debated sharing the proof of concept picture below, as it's with an imperfect fordite dial slice and the fordite itself hadn't been polished. It's not even a particularly compelling cut of fordite; I'm going to be selecting the most visually appealing dial veneers I can. The failure rate of the section cuts is quite low (the material is really easy to work with, and stronger than it looks), so I can afford to be selective in my dials.

This was one of my first attempts at a complete dial. The problem here is that I didn't start with a perfectly flat and even piece of fordite -- after gluing it to the brass dial, my total dial height ranged between 1.05 and 0.95mm. I ground this down by hand using 400 grit sandpaper, but inadvertently exposed brass on the dial underneath the fordite in doing so.

Starting with a thinner, perfectly even disc of fordite will prevent this from happening in the future.  The new larger saw blade should be arriving in a couple of days, and I'll do some more cutting ASAP. Here, I also glued the fordite with G-S Hypo jeweler's cement, which may have encouraged the thin parts of my fordite veneer to peel if the adhesive wasn't even in spots. My next attempts are going to use a very thin layer of 330 epoxy instead, which I've "thinned" by heating before mixing.

So, this picture is not a good end product. As proof of concept and feasibility, however, I'm really proud of this picture.


Total dial height here was 0.5mm, not the 0.4mm I'm shooting for. Despite that, the hands cleared everything quite well.


I will say that the case I'm using does have a protruding tube -- the stock dial for this case has a very small notch cut out of it to accommodate the tube. The brass dial blanks I'm using *dont* have this cutout, so I'm going to need to file one in future attempts.

It's going to take a lot more work to get everything to the point where I'm satisfied, but I'm confident that I can pull this off based on last night's progress. 

Also, I'm committed to sharing my techniques and process openly. So it's honest to show failures, even if they're embarrassing.

Finally, I scanned another piece of fordite. I'm sharing it not because it's particularly interesting visually, but because it shows the colors embedded in the "Jeep / Dodge" fordite I'm using. I love the metallics!

Fordite-5 (Large).jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Couple of brief updates:

1. I have a "for parts and repair" Buehler IsoMet 1000 on the way. The new tool sells for $8,900. Even if repairs are pretty expensive, I'll likely be saving a ton of money. I hope.

2. My chapter rings came back from the laser cutter. I had them cut a little die for holding the rings during polishing, and it works quite well. I'm waiting on some jewelry-polishing dremel attachments to arrive, so that I can give these a great polish. I'm also waiting on the precision hot plate I ordered to arrive, so that I can blue these.

Here's the die I had cut to facilitate polishing. I can get a nice finish by hand, but it's not good enough to sell (working from 400 grit sandpaper to 3000 grit).  Hence the expensive Dremel jewelry-polishing attachments I've ordered.


Here's a quick hand polish on a fordite core, so y'all can see what the final dial will look like. I'm likely going to offer the chapter rings as an add-on in polished, polished+blued, and maybe polished + gold plated.


Here's an unpolished, straight-from-the-laser-cutter example. I'm just sharing this to get an idea of what a blued ring is going to look like.


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Thanks for all your posts in this project. It's interesting to follow your progress, and your willingness to share is very much appreciated. This is absolutely in the spirit of this forum, and I admire you for it.

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This is coming along nicely!

i’ve been following this and finally I can contribute. 

If you want to get a “black” polish on the index ring, you need a large, lose and flappy wheel with very fine rouge. A small Dremel wheel is going to produce swirl marks that’ll drive you insane. Even on the sides of a watch case, I use a 6” wheel, not a 1” wheel. 

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Thanks for the questions!

@KlassikerThis project would not have been at all possible without the advice and good ideas from folks who were willing to share hard-won information with me. It would be disingenuous, to say the least, if I treated this information as proprietary. I've also been open with everyone who has shared information with me that it has always been my intent to document and share my process.

@Nucejoe100%, the final dials have feet. I use half-height brass dial blanks (with feet) as the base for my dials, to which I attach a *very* thin veneer or fordite. I forgot one additional update:

I received the prototype half-height ETA 6498-compatible dial from my Chinese supplier. It looked great -- perfect thickness, holes were in the right places and had the required dimensions, and the feet were perfect. I installed the prototype onto an ETA 6498-1 movement I had, and it functioned well. I've okayed the full production run of 200 ETA 6498 dials.

Here are some shots of my prototype half-height ETA 6498 dial. The top photo shows the prototype juxtaposed against a very expensive ETA 6498 dial I have (in silver).


Also, my supplier has started working on the prototype Seiko-compatible half-height blank brass dial. These will have two sets of feet, for 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock crowns. I must say that, aside from some communications issues, it has been pretty painless to work with a Chinese manufacturer here. Knock on wood!

@TudorThat's fantastic advice. I have access to a grinding wheel, so I'm more than happy to buy a flappy polishing wheel and give it a go. Can you recommend a specific polishing wheel and rouge on Amazon? The specific polishing attachments I ordered for my Dremel are these: Eve Diapol Diamond Polishers

@spectre6000 There's a lot of rough and semi-polished fordite available for sale on eBay and Etsy. E.g. "One Pound of Fordite Rough" here. I have found, however, that the best suppliers sell directly via Facebook groups and Instagram. I have no idea how folks are obtaining the raw material, and it probably doesn't bear close examination. I will say that the material is, in large part, attributable to specific assembly lines. Most of the stuff I've purchased has come from a Jeep / Dodge assembly line. I have a small amount from a Corvette assembly line. I've seen examples from the Harley Davidson, Peterbilt, and Cadillac assembly lines. I feel like there are body shops throughout the country that probably have thrown away tons of fordite over the years.

For what it's worth, I'm *not* a car guy. I love psychedelic stuff, which is why I fell in love with the material.


As for additional next steps, I'm starting to design the chapter ring for my ETA 6498 fordite dials. I've learned a lot about what the laser cutter can and can't do, and I can be a little more aggressive in this design (in terms of thinner components). My Seiko chapter rings are *very* stark and minimal -- but simultaneously chunky and primitive. I'm hoping that my ETA 6498 chapter rings are more refined and will match commonly-available handsets better.


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A quick picture of some of my polishing/bluing efforts. I’ve decided that the “satin” finish works better than a high gloss finish on the Fordite. 




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@TudorThanks for the advice on how to get a better polish on my chapter rings. I bought a 6" bench grinder and put a couple of 6" buffing wheels on them. I'm still figuring out how to get the best possible result using the machine, but my immediate results are significantly better than the hand process I had been using. I've been using a progression of black polishing compound on the stitched buffing wheel ("Polishing compound for hard metals, used for almost any steel–from steel plates to alloyed steel"), to blue polishing compound ("Multi-shine polishing compound for high-gloss shine on plastics, gold, silver, and die-cast items") on the loose buffing wheel, to green polishing compound ("SSX compound achieves a high-polish finish on copper, brass, stainless steel, and steel") on the loose buffing wheel. I've still been doing a final polish using 3000 grit wet/dry sandpaper, and I'll be seeing what the expensive diamond-polishing Dremel attachments I bought can do for a final-final polish.

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One important thing to keep in mind- don’t cross contaminate the wheels. 

One compound per wheel. Tighter stitch with more aggressive compounds and flappy wheel with light compounds. And clean the part between compounds. Be sure all of the previous abrasive is off before going finer. It easy with steel as you can just wash in acetone. (Don’t contaminate the acetone either)

When I did guitar finish I had a separate wheel for clear coat as well. 

That 3000 grit should not be needed at all frankly. Once you are up to 1000/1500 you are in buffing territory. A final touch up with something like a sunshine cloth is all I’d suggest. 

wear surgical gloves and change those with each compound too. The metal is more tolerant than nitrocellulose lacquer, but you can still scratch. You’ll never get “black” without sterile compounds. 

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I got thinking I should lay this out, the way I’d do it. Which is not to say “best” or “only” way...

to get that deep, wet look shine, the most important thing is flatness. Or consistency of curve on curved surfaces. So, we need it flat, and to stay flat. 

For these index rings I’d start with shim stock. It is ground flat and parallel. It comes in plenty of thicknesses. But shim is much flatter than flat stock. This makes life easier. 

the jig you have is great. Good thinking there. I’d prepare it with a random orbit sander. Work through the grits; probably could start at 600 with shim- get a uniform “white” color to the surface and then change paper to 800, then 1000, then 1500 (maybe). Now we buff. 

Be mindful of the grit size in the buffing compound isn’t larger than the size of the paper you finished with (or you’re wasting time abs money). All sanding is wet, with a drop of dish soap in the water. 

Now I’d make a hole in the center of the ring holding jig so it can be spun, say with a drill. Then bring the ring into the loaded wheel rotating- never stop on the part. Wheel and part moving when the touch and when they separate. 

clean clean clean. Three most important words. 

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Awesome advice @Tudor.

I picked up on the cross-contamination issue quickly and intuitively (there's hope for me yet). Luckily, I purchased some more buffing wheels (sisal, muslin, stitched cotton & fluffy loose cotton) and some different polishing compounds (including rogue for the final finish on the fluffy cotton).

I'll have another go shortly, and will keep cleanliness and cross-contamination in mind as I'm doing so. I love the idea of an acetone rinse of the chapter rings between steps to make sure I'm getting all of the previous step's grit/polishing compound away.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by shim stock? I apologize, but I took shop class for two weeks in 7th grade many decades ago, and so I don't understand a lot of the correct terminology.

I'm using what I call a "die" to hold the chapter rings in place during grinding/polishing. This seems to work well -- but I think I might be calling it by the wrong name if you're referring it to a "jig" above. Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:


How is this die/jig different from shim stock? What purpose would the shim stock serve?

Finally, I'm optimistic enough about using the desk grinder with a loose cotton buffing wheel and rogue to get a good final polish that I'll be returning the $86.33 Eve Diapol Polishing Set. It was an expensive purchase, and I don't think it'll be necessary. If anything, I'll be able to buy only the cone-shaped final polishing attachment and still save a ton of money.


Edited by dpn
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The shim stock is for the rings to be made from.

It is very flat, very consistent thickness and usually parallel ground. Used for shimming, but it's good stock to make stuff from when you want/need that flat surface. Avoid spring steel (usually blued) shim stock. It's a mother to work with.

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Ahh, interesting. Quickly googling this shows that shim stock is can be grade 1008, 1009, or 1010 carbon steel. I'll be researching this further to see if it's a good alternative, based on two factors: 1) does it have enough carbon to blue easily; and 2) is it available affordably in thin sheets? One of the reasons I went with grade 1095 spring steel was that it was cheaply and readily available in very flat, very thin (0.01") sheets of a reasonable size (12-3/8" by 24").

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Yu can get rolls of shim, 6" wide by ... long.

Also brass, which might be a good base for gold plate.

Copper should be an option as well. 

Hands could be cut from the same material.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Quick update:

I've cut my first series of fordite veneers, and I'm in the fun-but-difficult stage of assembling my first run of dials.

Here's a scan of my first workable batch of fordite sections (ranging in thickness from 0.3mm to 0.5mm). The final patterns of these will change, as I'll be grinding them down to their final height. (This is a good thing, as some of the patterns below are pretty uninspiring. It'll also be heartbreaking, as some of my favorites below will likely shift too.)

It's coming together!


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Please forgive the poor quality snapshot, but it all came together. I am over the moon!

Here's my first completed fordite-dialed watch:


I'll provide a more complete write up, better photos, and another completed watch example ASAP.

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