How to Rough Polish Stainless Steel

Written by trish popovitch
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Stainless steel is a mix of steel and chromium that creates a rust proof surface. Rough polishing is the first step in the reconditioning of stainless steel. Metal artists, boat owners and car enthusiasts prefer a smooth polish finish on stainless steel piping, tubes and parts. To create a mirror finish on stainless steel there are a number of different cleaning stages. Rough polish is the initial stage of the cleaning and buffing of the metal. The goal of the rough polish stage is to turn the unfinished stainless steels surface into a finely sanded canvas for soft polishing.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Stainless steel
  • Sandpaper
  • Sander
  • Cloth
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Begin by clearing the area of items that could be damaged by steel dust and put on safety equipment. Safety goggles and gloves protect the eyes and skin from steel dust. Steel dust can cause serious eye injuries.

  2. 2

    Sand the surface of the stainless steel with 80 grit sandpaper attached to a hand held rotating sanding machine. The number on the back of the sandpaper indicates the intensity of each paper grade. The lower the number the rougher the surface of the sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Wipe the surface of the stainless steel with a soft damp cloth in between sanding grades to remove surface steel dust. If the dust is not removed it will simple be pushed into the metal in the next sanding and may cause scratching. Be sure the surface is dry before proceeding.

  4. 4

    Use 100 or 120 grit paper to sand the stainless steel to a smoother surface. Sand the surface evenly before proceeding to an even finer grade.

  5. 5

    Sand the stainless steel with 180 grade sandpaper. Be sure to sand the entire surface and check for pits or deep scratches. Some areas may require additional rough sanding.

  6. 6

    Finish the rough polish process with 240 grade sandpaper.

  7. 7

    Consider sanding the stainless steel with 300 or 400 grade sandpaper. This would depend on the final application of the stainless steel. The bottom of a boat may require less refinement than the hardware on a vintage motorcycle.

Tips and warnings

  • Use quality soft polishing creams to create stainless steel with smooth reflective surfaces.
  • If the stainless steel has deep pits and scratches it may require a 60 grit sandpaper to even out the surface before the real rough polishing can begin.
  • Never use steel wool on stainless steel as it can permanently damage the surface.

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