My well used burnisher

What in the world is a flat fid burnisher and why do I use this in my metalwork?

It’s is a tool that is used in the fabrication of stained glass windows.  Prior to becoming a metalsmith,  my artistic journey took me down the path of being a stained glass artist. I still love the medium and currently, I do a very limited number of stained glass projects….mainly for our home. Every medium has its tool set and this burnisher has migrated its way to my metalsmithing tool box.

Use of fid for stained glass work

Photo courtesy of Delphi Stained Glass

Its original purpose was to smooth (burnish) copper foil onto the individual glass pieces that make up the stained glass window’s design. When doing stained glass windows in copper foil, each piece of glass is wrapped in sticky backed copper foil. The foil must adhere to the glass and to ensure that it does so, a burnisher is used.  The tool is used to rub the top of the copper foil onto the glass, eliminating little bubbles and making sure the contact seal is good.  When done properly, the foil is secured to the glass in preparation for soldering the pieces together to form the window.  There actually are several different types of burnishers for that type of glass work and I have a mixture of them.  However, I found this one to be particularly useful in my metalwork.

I use it to help form bezel strip around stones that I set.  Because it is plastic, it doesn’t mar the metal.  It works better than my fingers because it is stronger.  At the starting point of the bezel strip, I will work the bezel around the stone, hold the wire strip in place with my fingers of my left hand (I’m a righty) and use the tool to gently ease the bezel around curves and corners.  When I’m done, I have the stone shape outline in the bezel…just what I wanted.

Sometimes after I’ve soldered my bezel strip together, it’s out of shape from the original shape of the stone it will hold.  Another opportunity to use the tool here…. I position the misshapen bezel around the stone and use the fid burnisher to straighten and reshape the bezel strip to the stone shape again.  This also helps me to ensure that my bezel outline is right before its final soldering into place on the back plate of the setting.  You can’t really fix a misshapen bezel once it’s been soldered down on the back plate.

One thing I have found, and hopefully you have too, is that some tools can safely be used for another purpose beside the original one.  Lexi is a great advocate of this principle.  She has found lots of things that she will use in her studio, that are outside of their intended purpose.  Take one of her classes for those tips and tricks!  Experimentation, within reason, is a good thing.

You can find the flat fid burnisher at your local stained glass supplier, if there is one in your area.  Call ahead and make sure they carry them. Of course, there are many online sources for them too.  They are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $1 – $3.  I found one similar to mine at All Stained Glass for $1 and another at a mid-range price ($1.80) at Harmony Stained Glass.  However, All Stained Glass has a $35 minimum order requirement, while I don’t think Harmony requires a minimum order amount.  Delphi Stained Glass is another resource too.  If you are considering adding one to your toolbox, in this case I would encourage you to shop locally and avoid shipping costs and/or minimum order requirements.  Just my thoughts.

This is a tool I use every time I prepare my bezel strip for the stone setting process.  I’ve tried using the handles from tooth brushes, but their handle shapes don’t work as well for me as the nice edges and curves of the fid.

I hope you found this segment fun and insightful.  What tools do you have in your metalsmithing shop that were not originally intended for metalwork?

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.