Polishing papers: flexible, reusable abrasives

Issue 47 November 01, 2007

Polishing paper? Sanding cloth?

Photo: polishing paper strips

Whatever this new stuff is, I’ve been saving every little scrap I can get!

I'm happy to see this new addition to the StewMac catalog: 3M polishing papers. They’re used in jewelry shops for polishing stones and metals, and they’re used in my shop for lots of jobs.

Photo: polishing papers

I learned about these papers when I got my hands on three small samples, each about the size of a playing card. When I realized how well they work, I got stingy: I hid those samples in my toolbox so they wouldn’t walk away to somebody else’s workbench. I was hooked, and I NEEDED those papers! Now that they’re available in big sheets from StewMac, I’m willing to share.

1. These papers are flexible

They’re supple like chamois, so they conform to any surface. The clothlike pores are filled with a microabrasive slurry for smoothing and polishing.

2. They last a long, long time

I used my three tiny samples for more than two years by reusing little scraps. Like cloth, this material can be rinsed in water and used over and over again. You can clean it with a blast of compressed air, too.

Here’s how I've been using these papers:

Nuts and saddles

I use polishing papers to buff bone nuts shoeshine-style, with excellent results. Same thing with saddles.

Photo: polishing a nut
Photo: polished bone nut

Fret jobs

They’ve been giving a final shine to my frets instead of steel wool. (Steel wool produces metallic lint that sticks to pickup magnets. Not a problem with polishing papers.)

Photo: polished frets

Here's a tip I like:

Make yourself a little polishing booklet by clipping a stack of different grit papers together. This makes it easy to polish small parts. Just start by polishing on Page 1, then move to Page 2, and polish your way through the successively finer grits until you get to the end of the book.

Photo: polishing paper book

Lacquer touchup

This finish was dinged and chipped when it walked smack dab into a cymbal stand.

Photo: chipped finish

After drop filling the spot with lacquer and leveling it, I went over the spot with polishing papers, running the grits to get a smooth glossy result. (Don’t throw out your little scraps — they’re really handy.)

Photo: strip sanding

After the papers, I hit it with guitar polish. The repair is invisible.

Photo: finished repair

3M Flexible Polishing Papers

Photo: fret polishing

A “finishing fabric” that conforms to any surface. “Indispensable for polishing. On porous bone and pearl, they leave a gorgeous luster with no dark residue.”

—Don MacRostie, Red Diamond Mandolins

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