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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Authored by DropLock

Scratched, scuffed and in some cases even dinged, stainless steel watch cases can be restored to “as new” condition utilizing readily available equipment and simple techniques. Elbow grease, patience and attention to detail will ultimately affect the quality of the finished item.

To Begin:

1. Ensure the case is stainless steel not plated!

2. Remove movement, glass/plexi and any other removable parts (e.g. push buttons, bezel rings etc.) from the case.

3. Assess the condition of the case.

What You Will Need:

1. Wet/Dry abrasive paper (made from carborundum). I suggest you will need grades: 240, 600, 800 and 1200.

2. A small bowl of tap water.

3. A small FLAT block to mount the paper over. I use a block of brass but you can use plastic, timber, alloy etc. as long as it's flat.

4. Polishing Rouge suitable for stainless steel.

5. A polishing machine fitted with a cloth buffing wheel.

NOTE – All of this equipment can be purchased at jewellery suppliers and some hardware stores.

Pictured above are a small selection of different grit rubber abrasive wheels, a buffing wheel, a mandrel for mounting the wheels, strips of wet/dry abrasive paper, brass sanding block and stainless steel polishing rouge.

Occasionally I’ll use a dentist’s micro motor unit (which is essentially the same as a Dremel or hanging motor) to expedite the process however it is not essential equipment and they do require some practice. Personally I believe you will maintain better control not using one. But for those interested you can buy an enormous grit range of small abrasive embedded rubber to mount on a mandrel for use in the tool. Diamond pastes, typically used in the gem trade, are also available in fine polishing grades as an alternative to rouge. A word of warning though on using this type of equipment: Always wear eye protection and keep the tool moving across the surface as evenly as possible. You will inevitably get undulations across the surface but these will be eliminated in the final steps.​

The case pictured below is typical of the general wear and tear that occurs over time. The first picture shows a couple of dings and I suspect it will be possible to entirely remove the one on the right however the one along the edge may remain a little although it could be entirely removed if desired.

Another perspective


Cut strips of abrasive paper to fit over your block. Try to avoid the temptation of just holding the paper using your finger instead of the block. Using the block ensures an even finish and assists in maintaining the case’s angles.

Dip block and paper into the water. (Repeat frequently throughout the process).

Begin with the 240 grit paper working evenly along the entire length of each surface until just enough material has been removed so as to eliminate the scratches etc.

Repeat the process using the 600 grit paper until it’s apparent that the abrasion caused by the 240 grit has been eliminated.

Continue this process going to progressively finer paper eventually culminating with the 1200 grit. Once you’ve achieved a nice even surface with the 1200 it’s ready for polishing.

Light surface scratches and scuffing are easily removed however a judgment call is required when dings have gouged the case. (Decisions about this will probably emerge as you work on it). It may be that severe dings can only be minimized because too much material would need to be removed, compromising either the aesthetic or structural integrity of the case (e.g. where the damage is close to the spring lug locating hole).

I generally begin with the surfaces on which you want the “brushed” look. With curved surfaces it’s best to work moving both hands simultaneously. Picture: The left hand moves upwards, rotating, while the right hand moves and rotates the case downward.

Take care not to round off the rebate edge where the glass is fitted. Keeping the block flat along the working plane and not rolling off to the side will preserve the edges and angles of the case.

Throughout the process I recommend inspecting the surface with an eye loupe (magnifier) to ensure removal of all abrasions left by prior heavier grades of paper. I have found that as you work down through the increasingly finer grades of paper, any scratches left by the heavier grade become more apparent if you work at an angle perpendicular to the previous direction. To explain, in the picture below you can see where I’ve been working say from 9:00 to 3:00, when you progress to the finer grade of paper rotate the block so the movement is from 7:00 to 2:00.

Below you can see some faint horizontal scratches so there’s a little more sanding yet to be done. Progressive sanding begins to reveal that the gouge is probably too deep to completely remove without disrupting the aesthetic balance of the case.

You can see above how this ding would be difficult to remove entirely. If you applied a “brushed” finish to the angled plane its visual impact would probably diminish.


I recommend working in one direction then at 90 degrees to it to help minimize undulations.

When you’ve achieved what you believe is a good even finish with the finest wheel you have switch to the manual method. Working with the block and 1200 paper (or 800 then 1200 if necessary) will reveal any high/low spots. Continue sanding until any irregularities are removed. With this achieved its ready for polishing.

POLISHING (Wear Eye Protection)

Start the polisher and transfer a little rouge to the pad by pressing the rouge against the spinning pad, Repeat as necessary. WARNING: Keep a firm grip on the case!! If the buff catches an edge there’s no holding on to it, it will be out of your hand and bouncing around the workshop in an instant and you don’t want to have to start again. Slowly move the case around buffing the surface until all signs of abrasion are removed and a good polish is achieved. Avoid polishing “brushed” surfaces. Remove any rouge left on the case with a soft cloth.

Pictured below is a simple electric motor I’ve adapted for polishing. A mandrel is fitted to the shaft onto which a polishing wheel is mounted.



Here are some examples of refinished cases. The brushed finish can be achieved with practice and experimentation. I’ve used different abrasive wheels or sharpening stones. You need a steady hand to ensure an even finish and I always endeavour to match as closely as possible the texture of the original factory finish but that takes some experimentation.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Excellent!! I only have one question - how big is your piece of brass for the sanding block? I have some smaller brass stock laying around, and was curious as to how big your piece was.
The working surface of the block is about 20mm x 12mm it doesnt really matter provided you can keep a grip on it and the paper. Ideally though it's best to have the working surface about the same size as the largest plane you need to sand. Just helps to keep it even but it's not imperative.

And yeah, I tryed to write it so a complete novice can follow it, I hate it myself when you get guides for whatever and they leave stuff out or use too much jargon.

Thanks for the feedback.
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