Burnishing is a type of craft application. It can be used on many different mediums, including wood, paper, metal, and clay. As a pottery treatment, burnishing is used to polish the surface of the medium with a hard, smooth object.
An artist may burnish a finished piece of pottery prior to the firing process. Burnishing creates a pleasing glossy finish to clay jars, vases, and other finished projects. This adds a lustrous shine resulting in a professional, polished look on the piece.
To burnish a piece of pottery, the project should first be allowed to dry. Depending on the type of medium, thickness, and the size of the piece, this could take from mere hours to a day or more. The clay or other medium should be firm to prevent the burnishing tool from leaving scratches or other marks on the artwork. It should also remain somewhat pliable to prevent scratching from occurring during the process.
Using a specialized burnishing tool, gently buff the pottery work. Some burnishing tools to choose from include plastic tools, bone or wooden spatulas, glass bulbs, or smooth stones. The back of a spoon can also be used if other tools are unavailable.
Small circular motions should be used in this process. Avoid pressing too deeply to prevent scratching or marring. As the object is burnished, a high gloss will begin to appear in the treated areas. This will allow the artist to easily see which areas still require treatment.
After the first treatment, set the piece aside to dry once again. It should not be allowed to dry completely. As it sits, the first gloss initiated will begin to wear off, resulting in a matte look. Proceed to burnish the piece again, creating the shine originally created in the first treatment. Following the second burnishing, the piece should be set aside to dry completely.
Once the piece is thoroughly dry, it will need an oil application to seal in the polished shine. To do this, corn oil may be used to coat the piece's surface. The entire area should be covered. Though the burnish will likely seem to disappear during the employment of the oil, it will return during the final step of the project.
Buff the art piece once again with the burnishing tool. After the last treatment, the project should be smoothed a final time with the artist's hands. The creation will then have a permanent sheen.