August 16, 2009

Before and After

I'm a fussbudget about my work. It may allow me to justify the prices I charge, but I can't seem to help myself, so I sort of have to go with it. To paraphrase Ben Folds, I don't like wasting time on metalwork that won't make me proud.

Of all the facets of metalwork, grinding is probably the one that I enjoy least (with the possible exception of hand unloading plate). It's tedious and often awkward, and it's hard to keep my gloves on because I have to keep running my hand across hot metal to see if it's smooth enough. Which leads to forgetting to put my gloves back on, which often leads to other unhappiness. Anything that makes this process shorter is a very good thing.

Flap discs are a much more effective way to do finish grinding than the way I learned 28 years ago, which was grinding wheels followed by sanding discs. I go through a lot of flap discs, and Lehigh Valley Abrasives (no, they don't pay me) seems to have the best prices around, so that's where I usually get them. I'm looking at a job in stainless steel that will require a lot of grinding and polishing, and they were kind enough to send some samples of their surface conditioning discs. But they included one type of disc in their sample kit that I didn't ask for, and boy am I glad they did. It's called an interleaf quick combination flap disc which "both grinds and finishes in a single step".

It's not really for any rough grinding, but once you get the surface pretty well cleaned up, it will smooth out minor bumps and also polish at the same time. It's sometimes pretty hard to tell if you've got the work smooth enough for powder coating, even with a regular flap disc. I've even resorted to taking a final pass with a brand new disc. This feathers out the grinding nicely, but it can leave grit marks which grab lint off rags like crazy. And that can sometimes leave visible blemishes in the final product, which I really really hate.

The results are really amazing. See for yourself. This is all 1-1/2" steel tubing handrails, with elbows by R&B Wagner.

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Posted by Hal Eckhart at August 16, 2009 06:54 PM
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