Putting Thought Into Your Front Office Display
Three Tips for Polishing Stainless Steel
By Kane Behling, The Wagner Companies
Metal finishing is a combination of art and science. An acceptable finished product is dependent on quality materials, correct supplies and, most importantly, skill. I have developed some simple rules, guidelines, and a process flow chart to help polishers. By increasing their knowledge of materials and products and practicing to improve their skill, a polisher can more cost-effectively achieve an acceptably finished rail.
Handle Materials Carefully
If you are fabricating a rail that will be finished, handle the rail components carefully during production! Any of the surface damage caused in fabrication will have to be polished out to reach an acceptable finish. Save time and money by avoiding more polishing through poor handling. Do yourself a favor and drop the idea that handling doesn’t matter because the rail gets polished anyway.
Pre-polishing rail components before the rail is assembled can save a tremendous amount of time because the component parts are smaller and easier to handle, hard to get to areas are sometimes eliminated, and if a piece has a flaw that cannot be polished out the piece can be remade and replaced prior to installation. Flanges and brackets should also be pre-polished. By doing it this way, only a touch up operation is necessary after assembly to clean up the weld and clamp marks.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Metal polishing is a learned skill. Perfectly good rails can be ruined from poor polishing by an inexperienced polisher. The cost to repair "jobs gone bad" can be considerable, and sometimes the whole job must be scrapped and remade. Practice using polishing supplies on scrap material to get a feel for how the equipment and supplies will work. You can also determine if the desired finish can be achieved.
The flowchart shown here [see page 13 of Jan/Feb 2004 issue] was developed to assist the inexperienced polisher in picking the right starting abrasive and sequence recommended to achieve the most common stainless steel finishes: #4 (Architectural, Dairy or Sanitary Finish), #6 (Fine Satin Finish), and #8 (Mirror Finish). Please remember these processes are not the only way to achieve an acceptable finish. There are an infinite number of ways to achieve a desired finish. Every good polisher has formed his/her own technique and has found polishing supplies that work best for them. This is the nature of polishing.
The flowchart below [see page 13 of Jan/Feb 2004 issue] assumes average handling damage to the material to be polished. It recommends starting with a 120-grit zirconium belt. In some cases, if the material is in exceptionally good condition, the beginning operations may be skipped, but this is only advised using great caution.
*This tip was provided to you from the Jan/Feb 2004 issue of NOMMA's O&MM Fabricator magazine.