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Abrasivel research material


I’m adding my voice to Theresa Masters suggestion to Peter Rowe for
publication of additional research material.

Along with the 3M product definition I would appreciate a cross
reference list for the different abrasive grades possibly tied into
micron size so there would be no question [or less questions]. This
could help define papers, wheels and loose abrasive.

Back to 3M and other abrasive suppliers regarding the varieties of
rubber or plastic polishing wheels. I would like more information
than just “coarse” “medium” “fine”. What are the abrasive sizes that
are being used? Is the “fine” in one line comparable to the "fine"
in another? Would love to know the specific abrasive used as well
but that may be too much to ask.

I am an enamelist and constantly trying to balance grinding
[polishing] of harder enamels along with the softer metals of
copper, silver and gold.

While finishing something it irks me to know I’m taking a chance by
switching wheels of different manufacturers and then adding
scratches because the “fine” definitions do not match between

Rio…are you listening?

Karla in Sunny So. California


I’ve just discovered a product that Rio sells – diamond flex bands
that work on the flex shaft. I used them today on an enamel piece at
my workbench with water nearby keeping the enamel wet and the band
wet. I was finished grinding in less than 10 min. and the cleanup on
the enamel was very minimal just the glass brush.

jennifer friedman


Dear Karla,

While finishing something it irks me to know I'm taking a chance
by switching wheels of different manufacturers and then adding
scratches because the "fine" definitions do not match between
suppliers. Rio.........are you listening? 

Excellent idea and I truly wish it was that easy, our tech team
literally gets these types of questions every week. There are SO
many variables it is almost impossible to accurately cross compare
different abrasives products, thus the generic terms “coarse”,
“medium”, " fine".

Some of the challenges we face in comparing different abrasive

Different manufactures, different manufacturing methods, product and
quality standards Grading the many different abrasive types differs
for each manufacture and type of media Different binders to hold or
suspend the abrasive particle, it’s not just the abrasive particle
that effects the performance and end result Different abrasive
types, i.e. diamond, aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, emery, etc.
have very different working properties and results Different abrasive
backings i.e. polyester film, paper, cloth, fiber, etc. Different
bonding agents i.e. glue, resin over glue, resin over resin, etc.
This is a really big one - Proprietary manufacturing methods and
recipes The end user and how they work as well as their expectations

What I’ve learned from listening to my customers and research (big
thanks to Orchid) is that everyone has different needs and
expectations. This is where a place like Ganoksin and other
discussion groups really shine, and I can’t stress this enough, there
is nothing more valuable than the real world experience of our piers,
saving those of us who are starting something new, or just starting,
much time and expense experimenting.

Someone with vast experience in our industry once explained to me
that the jewelry industry is simply not a big player in the very
large world of abrasive manufacturing and technology, we tend to get
product pass on to us by larger industries and we adapt to those
products. Isn’t that just typical of our little world…

Not much help I know, but if anyone has anything to offer on this
subject believe me I’m all ears.

Wishing everyone health and happiness during this exciting and
(hopefully) busy time,

Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Support
505-839-3000 ex 13903


Greetings all:

This is in response to Thackeray Taylor, from Rio’s discussion about
the various factors of abrasive manufacture that can make cross
comparison insanely difficult.

I would tend to agree. For example, we’re all familiar with the fun
of judging the relative coarseness of the various types and grades
of Moore snap-on disks. The fine/coarse levels between various
abrasive types aren’t even in the same ballpark with each other.

I had a thought though: rather than trying to worry about all the
whats and whyfores to come up with a theoretical model to use to
predict surface finish, wouldn’t it be simpler to come up with a
simple reference standard test? The thought that I had was sort of
based on the ‘suface quality’ test sets that machine shops keep
around. They’ve got hardened steel blocks finished to various levels,
with various methods. If you want to see if you’ve got a 20 micron
finish, you take your part over, and compare it (roughly) with the
reference surface. (There are apparently serious methods if it’s got
to be certified, but for general ‘smooth enough?’ work, fingernailing
the reference is OK.)

Given the vast number of abrasive types available for jewelry, it
would be impractical to have a set of test blocks available for
purchase. This would have to be something that someone (one of the
suppliers? SNAG? Orchid?) would have to maintain, and keep up. Have a
standard hunk of material, prepared in a standard way. Take that hunk
of material, and apply the abrasive to it in a standard and
repeatable fashion. Evaluate the results, and place those results in
the developing continuum of other results. In its roughest form, it
could be as simple as saying that sample 1 is coarser than sample 2,
yet finer than sample 102, and thus falls between them. In a more
sophisticated (expensive) setup, it should be possible to get micron
grades to the surface finish, and say that according to the ‘great
orchid abrasive test’, this abrasive gives a surface finish of X
units. (‘orchids’?)

For abrasives that are available in large format wheels, the test
would be easy. The fun is going to be trying to devise some test
system that can handle things that don’t come in a wheel, like
snap- on disks, or that are flexible, like shofu wheels, or silicon
points. This is one of those things that’s a whole lot easier to say
than do, but I figured I should at least say it to get the idea out

For whatever that all’s worth…
Brian Meek.


I have used a serviceable technique developed out of the
frustrations described so far in this thread. It has spared me those
"dang-it" moments and saved much time.

I’ve made a test surface reference that is relative to the varied
abrasive choices already in my studio. On a strip of fresh milled
sterling silver I use each wheel or disk to “finish” an area and
label it with the product used. When purchasing a new variety of
abrasive (or a replacement for a favorite!) I can do a quick test
and comparison to see the “relative” rank of the fineness/coarseness
of the finish.

Pam Chott

The thought that I had was sort of based on the 'suface quality'
test sets that machine shops keep around. They've got hardened
steel blocks finished to various levels, with various methods. If
you want to see if you've got a 20 micron finish, you take your
part over, and compare it (roughly) with the reference surface.
(There are apparently serious methods if it's got to be certified,
but for general 'smooth enough?' work, fingernailing the reference
is OK.) 

Just for the sake of discussion, on my part… Brian is on a good
track, and not, above. Surface finish standards are not actually a
test or function of abrasives, exactly. The finish is a standard, and
how it’s attained can be many and various methods and abrasives. Plus
in machine work the part is almost never touched by hand in process.
So it’s easy to talk about surface grinders and centerless grinders
at hp/speeds/feeds/grit size/grit type and such. There are jewelry
machine shops that do similar work - spinning off wedding bands and
things, but by and large - and especially where almost all Orchidians
are concerned - you are talking about the polishing room and the
bench, where user input is a gigantic factor. I think that it’s fine
and dandy for anyone to expand their knowlege about everything -
search for abrasives on Amazon… For myself on a practical level
it’s more a function of what I want than the numbers. I like a given
wheel because it does the job I want it to do, and I’ll buy 20 of
them. I use about 10 abrasives for everything, too - about 6 of them
do 90% of the work every day. Just to say that abrasives in jewelry
generally have a lot more to do with user preference than with
objective standards. Many people are happy with primitive polishing,
and I use emery (and fine grey rubber wheels), grey star, white
diamond and platinum rouge to get a shine you can shave in, in a
minimum amount of time, on platinum. Knowing about burning
constraints and successive cutting points and plowing energy is
really not going to help much in getting a polish on silver and even
more so on gold, which will polish itself if you squint at it hard
enough. Not to say that it’s not useful or interesting, just that
your typical jewelry maker, like most readers here, don’t NEED to
study grain boundary rearrangement in order to polish anything they
will ever polish. Machining, which involves steels including
stainless, and exotics, and everything is IN a machine - and
aerospace and high speed machining, has much more need for it than we
do. Again, it’s interesting, just another topic I wouldn’t want
newbies to think they have to rush out and get a Phd in…To me, for
typical jewelry production, the choice of abrasives is usually pretty
simple, and then it’s the technique that does the rest.