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What is a Burnishing Tool?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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A burnishing tool is a device used to create a polished or textured finish on the surface of an object. Used in both art and manufacturing, different types of burnishing tool can be applied to metal, wood, or ceramic materials. Burnishing an object can both improve the properties of the material or alter its appearance depending on application. For example, burnishing wood not only gives it a smooth, slick finish, but also enhances its durability and moisture resistance.

The most basic burnishing tool is one designed for use by hand, while more complex models may be used on a wood or metal-turning lathe. As the lathe rotates the object, the burnishing tool allows for fast and efficient finishing. Applying extra heat to the object during the process often increases the effects of burnishing. Using a lathe can add additional pressure that's not possible when burnishing by hand, further increasing the effectiveness.

Workers must choose burnishing tools carefully to create exactly the desired effect on an object, particularly in more technical or specialized applications. Features such as the diameter of the tool and the material that it's made of can greatly impact the effects of burnishing. The design and function of each tool can also influence how it can be used.

Burnishing smooths out rough surfaces, similar to sanding. Rather than sanding material away, however, burnishing creates a controlled deformation of the surface of an object, changing the shape and structure of the molecules. As a result, a burnishing tool can make an object harder or stronger. It can also improve the object's resistance to wear or corrosion.

During burnishing, the pores on an object become less pronounced, or even hidden. This prevents water from seeping below the surface of the item, and also gives the surface a smoother texture. Burnishing can also be used to simply even out a surface and give it a smooth, soft finish.

Burnishing tools come in a variety of styles to meet the needs of different projects. A roller tool can be used for boring holes or openings into an item. Ball burnishing tools feature a roller ball that also rotates, making it suitable for grinding or polishing. This tool is also favored for deburring the edges of metal openings. Finally, a surface burnishing tool is used for polishing the face of an object, while diamond-tipped tools are designed to create a mirror finish on metal.

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