In its simplest form, polishing glass is no more than manually rubbing an
abrasive compound on the glass. Alternatively, a less time consuming, but still
manual, approach involves the use of abrasive papers or hand pads to polish
Abrasive and polishing surfaces are also available to fit many common
mechanical devices. Pads and discs in various sizes and degrees of roughness are
available for traditional stained glass grinders, Dremel-type tools, and
variable speed drills. These pads are often diamond-coated, but can be made of
cork or felt (usually synthetic cork and felt).
Moving up the scale in terms of sophistication (and expense), polishing glass
can be done with belt sanders or more specialized tools such as reciprolaps. All
of these approaches have in common that they require a steady stream of water
and a polishing compound such as cerium oxide or pumice. The purpose of the
water is to keep the glass from overheating and cracking, while the compound
helps to abrade the glass and more quickly achieve a polished surface.
By using a series of finer and finer abrasive surfaces to wear away the
surface of the glass, it is possible to achieve a high degree of polish. The
artist generally starts with a coarser grit, abrades for a while, then switches
to finer and finer grits until the surface of the glass is sufficiently
polished. In essence, you just keep scratching the surface until the scratches
get so small they can't be seen.
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more complete discussion of glass polishing techniques.