When it comes to choosing the correct abrasives for your hand tools, it is important to know your application, and the desired results you would like to achieve. Not only will the correct abrasive ensure the longevity of your hand tool, but it will also result in a high performing application and successful completion of any job.
One of the most important factors to consider when it comes to abrasives, is the type of material that will be used for the application. imperative to use the correct abrasive. The abrasive market carries a wide range of products specifically manufactured for applications on both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, where it is important to note that manufacturers will always indicate the suitable material on the packaging labels of their products.
This information is of great value to ensure the right abrasive is used on the right material to avoid contamination during application which can easily occur when using the same abrasives on multiple materials.
A common misconception is that Stainless Steel cannot rust. The same is often true for Aluminum. While the actual oxidation process is different to “normal” steels, these metals can still oxidise (rust) if not handled and processed correctly. With Stainless Steels, normal oxidation creates a thin barrier or film like layer on the surface, called Chromium oxide. Unlike mild Steel rusting, the Chromium oxide layer sticks to the metal, thereby protecting it. If this layer is stripped off, the metal will rust. High quality grade Stainless Steel, with a higher Chromium content will have better protection from this unwanted oxidation. Abrasives suited for Stainless Steel are manufactured free from Iron, Sulphur, and Chlorine to ensure a contamination-free application. To avoid carbon contamination which causes rusting with moisture exposure, it is suggested that a new disc is used when starting an application on Stainless Steel after working on Mild or Cast steels. Non-ferrous metals like Copper and Aluminum, which are softer but harder to grind require abrasives that will not burn, contaminate, or discolor the material. The most common stumbling block when working with these materials, is clogging of the disc that will cause the disc to glaze and stop grinding and or cutting.
Establishing the right abrasive for the intended application is another important factor to consider. With so many available options, it is important to distinguish between the results delivered by various products.
If your application involves abrasive cutting just to separate material, a normal conventional cutting disc could be the obvious choice, but if you are looking to have reduced material wastage, less burr formation, and more cuts, a slimline or thin cutting disc ranging with a thickness between 1-and-2mm would be the best choice.
For fast stock removal applications, the general choice has always been abrasive grinding discs. If your end-product will be painted, coated, or polished it generally requires a smoother finish, a flap disc might be the best. Available in two types and different grits, they can be used for a range of applications. The Type 27, also known as flat, is ideal for blending, smoothing, and finishing while the Type 29 has a more conical appearance offering a greater contact area, making it perfect for aggressive stock removal.
Another popular application with hand tools, is sanding. Random Orbital Sanders, Sheet Orbital Sanders, Detail Sanders, and Belt Sanders are some of the most used power sanders. A wide range of abrasive sanding discs and sheets are available in different grits to allow for applications ranging from stock, paint, and rust removal to finishing and blending. Considering all these factors when it comes to choosing abrasives for your hand tools, it is also important to note the precautionary safety measures that need to be actioned when working with abrasives. Manufacturers will always indicate what type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to wear during applications to ensure maximum safety to the operator and a safe operation.