Brushing steel - the basics

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  #1  
Old 10-16-18, 06:18 AM
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Brushing steel - the basics

Hello there

I'm a woodworker starting to use metal in some of my designs. I know very little about metalworking.

I've been using some 0.120" sheet steel for floor lamp bases, and I like the brushed look. I'm using a handheld belt sander at 60 grit but it takes way longer than I'd like to remove the coating or whatever it is and get down to the shinier metal. I have an angle grinder but didn't like the results I got, too hard to get an even look. I also have a good drill press.

- do I need to use a lubricant of some sort? I haven't been, for fear of it getting into my belt sander, but if I have to wear out some tools doing this, so be it.
- thoughts on cold vs hot rolled for this purpose?
- I've been using 12"x12" pieces for recent projects. If using smaller pieces, recommendations for securing them while working them over with the sander?
- should I consider other method than belt sander?
- I've been using an aerosol Tremclad clear product to seal it and prevent corrosion. Any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading.

Paul
 
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Old 10-16-18, 09:38 AM
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The only finish I have every had luck putting on metal was by using an orbital sander which put down a very random swirl pattern.
 
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Old 10-16-18, 11:42 AM
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Hot rolled and pickled and oiled (P&O) are more messy to work with because of the oil. Bar and angle stock tends to have a rounded profile and not straight flat edges and with sheet there are more minor differences in material thickness. All of which can make it harder to polish up to something pretty.

Cold rolled steel is usually cleaner and flatter. It tends to be stronger but a bit slower to sand or grind as the material is work hardened during the forming process.

You can place smaller pieces of steel on a rubber mat to prevent them from sliding around when you belt sand. If you are going to be doing a lot then you can think about buying or making a magnetic work table.

If you want that shiny silver color of polished steel you can also consider stainless steel or even aluminum. If you do work with stainless or aluminum use only brand new media (sanding belts, disks, pads...) and only use those pads on that type of material. Once a sanding belt or polishing pad has touched steel there are microscopic particles of steel stuck in it that can get transferred to the stainless or aluminum causing rust spots.
 
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Old 10-16-18, 06:17 PM
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Check out the other attachments you can get for the grinder. There are sanding discs, flapper discs, wire wheels, cup wheels. If you browse the isle you might find something that will work for you.
 
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Old 10-16-18, 08:16 PM
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Thanks Pilot Dane, very helpful. I'm interested in your remark about stainless. I had been avoiding it because I understood it to be much harder than other steels and therefore even harder to grind down. Incorrect?
 
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Old 10-17-18, 06:07 AM
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Some stainless steel is actually softer than carbon steel but most types are pretty similar. All types are still very grindable and sandable. The color of stainless will be slightly different than steel and aluminum so it's a matter of what color metal you want for your project.
 
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