Buffing the Tide Pool Bowl

by Carol Simmons on 12/08/2014 · 12 comments

It has been so long since I’ve written a post about my work I have a lot of topics to write about. Before I move on to some of the things I’ve been doing more recently, though, I want to tie up some loose ends regarding the tide pool bowl.

tidepool bowl


If you look at the picture above you’ll notice that the outside of the bowl (reflected in the mirror) looks shinier than the inside. That is because the bowl was baked inside of a bowl-shaped glass form. As a result the surface on the outside is almost glassy, while the surface on the inside, which was sanded and buffed with a cloth is more satiny.

It is always hard for me to decide whether to buff the surface of my pieces to a glass-like shine with a buffing wheel or leave them with the satiny surface produced by hand buffing. On the one hand I prefer the feeling of the hand buffed surface, on the other I’ve found that a glassy surface reveals more of the details in a complex cane.

Because I was reluctant to try buffing the inside of the bowl with my buffing wheel I opted to leave it hand buffed. Then, I just happened to come across an advertisement for a cotton “mushroom buff” drill-attachment 3 inches in diameter. I had no idea they could be so large.

mushroom buff before
It looked like it would be a good fit for the curvature of the bowl so I decided to order one and try it. It was made of the same cotton fabric as my buffing wheel and it did fit nicely against the curvature of my bowl.  Unfortunately, the mandrel was too large for my Dremel so I had to use a much larger (and heavier) power drill.

Buffing the inside of the bowl with a mushroom buff.
At first I held the bowl in one hand and the drill in the other but it was hard to control the drill because it was so heavy. Furthermore, my wrist tired quickly. So, instead of holding it I locked the handle in a vise on my workbench. This freed up both hands to hold and manipulate the bowl. In the picture above I am sitting behind the drill with my arms on either side of it. Below you can see the drill locked into the bench vise.

drill setup small
At first the buffer didn’t work very well; the cloth was too stiff and packed too tightly. I first loosened up the cloth by holding the spinning buff against the rough surface of a cement block. Then I used a wire brush to fray the edges of the cloth in the buff. After I did that the buff looked like this:

modified buff

The surface became fluffy and much softer. This time the outcome was much better.  I believe that with more practice I will get even better results, so this mushroom buff will become a permanent part of my toolbox. (These are available from many sources, just google “mushroom buff.”)

bowl after buffing

Some close-ups.

bowl section 2                       bowl section 4

bowl section 3                       bowl section 1