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Can You Polish Stones By Hand?

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

There’s an easy answer to this one. Yes, you absolutely can polish stones by hand. It takes time, patience, and elbow grease. Are you up for the challenge?

Polishing stones is a relaxing and mindful process that helps whittle away at those long winter nights. You start with a stone you found in the river or in the forest and you polish it, one layer at a time, until it has a smooth shine. The better you work it, the finer that polish is. We already know that we can polish stones by hand. Today, we want to talk about some of the other methods of polishing stones without a rock tumbler.

A Piece of Scottish Amethyst Hand Polished Last Year

The Stone Circle Guide to Hand Polishing

Fans of the Stone Circle page will notice that we already produced How to Hand Polish Crystals at Home. This guide sets out how you hand polish crystals and minerals that you found yourself. To do it, you need a bunch of sandpapers of different grits and a stubborn refusal to give in. Admittedly, it is far easier with a flat lap crystal polishing machine… but we don’t have one and they are expensive, so it is back to the drawing board for new ways to polish.

Where to Buy Sandpaper to Hand Polish Stones?

One of the biggest questions we get about our guide to hand polishing is about the sandpaper. You will need grits from 60 all the way to 3000 or above. You can buy these on Amazon but not all sandpapers are created equally. It must be wet and dry paper, because you want to always keep that stone wet to avoid breathing in the dust. We have not switched up to diamond paper yet but that is our next level. Diamond lined paper should last longer but costs more.

This set of 24 sheets of sandpaper comes in mixed grits from 80 to 800. This gets you most of the way through the polishing process and it’s only about a fiver. 24 sheets will last you, too. You use a small piece per rock, so you shouldn’t repeat the purchase too often. If this paper is a bit fragile for you, look for a set with a blue back. In our experience, blue or dark grey backed sandpaper lasts longer when it is wet.

This second set of sandpaper might suit you better. It comes with sheets from 120 up to 3000 grits. It’s a good price for a good number of sheets. Again, this isn’t the toughened blue or dark grey paper so it might fall apart on you. If you have three rocks to polish though, it’s perfect. You can buy a 60, 80, and 120 grit sandpaper pack in any hardware/homeware shop. The higher grits are the ones you must buy online.

Lastly, we picked out a blue backed set for you so that you could compare the price difference. The tougher papers are costly, but they last longer. The packs of blue backed sandpaper come in separate grits instead of mixes, though you may get lucky if you have a good look. We like the 3000 shown here. The blue paper is electro-coated for extra strength, which is what makes it that bit better. You can pick it up in 1200, 2000, and 3000. Combine those sets with the set of 24 that goes up as high as 800 and you will have a lot of paper to start you off with.

Remember the diamond sandpaper we mentioned above? Instead of electro coating for added durability, these sheets are diamond coated. Diamond coating lasts far longer than normal sandpaper or Dremel attachments do when cutting stone. If we took quartz as an example, the hardness is 7 on the Mohs scale. Diamonds are up at 10 on the scale, the hardest rocks in the world. Stainless steel, which normal rotary tool attachments and table saw blades are made from, are only 5.5 on that same scale. Diamond coated sandpaper costs about £20 a sheet and looks like this.

Can you Polish Stones With a Dremel?

Yes! You absolutely can! This is a totally new experience for us. We learned that you could make sanding discs yourself if you glue the above sandpapers to the white woolen polishing attachments. Wait a minute, there’s a video… head to YouTube to watch it. (It’s not our video, thank you JohnnyQ90.)

So, if you have a Dremel with normal attachments, then yes, work away. Start with those low grits and work your way up. We have found that the Dremel won’t take saw marks out of rocks. If you start with a clean cut, you may need to hand-grind the 60 and 80 grit to get a nice smooth finish.

Are Dremels Useful for Polishing Rocks?

Those of you who have never worked with a Dremel before have nothing to fear. It is a rotary device on the end of a secure grip handle. The spinning part comes with several attachments that perform different tasks. You can engrave with your Dremel, you can use it as a drill, and you can polish rocks with it, too. You should note that drilling and engraving stone with a Dremel require diamond coated attachments. This 50 piece diamond coated Dremel bit pack is great value. There are even some sanding discs in there.

Where to Buy a Dremel?

Now, Dremel is a brand name. Rather like Hoover, they have taken over the market because their products are so darned good. A Dremel 4000 will last you probably until the day you die. But – and it’s a big but – a brand new Dremel 4000 costs upwards of £140. They even have newer models now, such as the 4300, but you don’t need top of the range for this. In fact, our Dremel is a 3000 that we bought second-hand from a guy in our town (Thanks Tom!)

Dremels are incredibly handy. There is a set with 150 tool attachments that takes care of your every need for the next decade. You can grind, buff, polish, hole, shape, engrave, carve, you name it. There are other brands of rotary tool, too. You don’t need to stick to the Dremel make. This one from Vastar looks good enough.

How to Polish Stones with a Dremel?

Well, now that you have your sandpapers and a Dremel, the only way is up. Bring all the components together and start polishing. Grind by hand for the 60 and 80 grits then work your way up to the 3000. You can even apply polishing powders for extra abrasion as you go. Whatever you do, keep that stone wet. It’ll dry up fast under all that speed.

Starting with a Flat Cut

The secret to a good polish is to start with a flat cut. We use a table saw but we want to move up to a lapidary blade, which is faster, safer, and smoother. We use a diamond coated lapidary blade with the table saw, but it doesn’t have the same finesse. Our tile saw looks like this one and comes in around £60. The real saws are upwards of £400 but allow you to do far more things. We would prefer to work with a whole wall of saw set up, but we can’t afford it yet.

Where to Find Stones to Polish By Hand?

We have a huge selection of stones for hand polishing for sale. We sell self-collected minerals from all over Scotland. Hand polishing is an additional finish which adds to the luxury of the stones. In the past we have hand polished Cairngorm Quartz, Pink Pectolite from Ayrshire, Agates from Fife and Angus, and even basalt with fossils in it. The softer the material, the easier the polish. We also sell freshly cut rocks specifically for home polishing if you fancy a bash. All you need is the sandpaper.

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