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How to get a satin finish on stainless steel tubes & pipes

Posted by Eddie Thomas on 07 May 2019
Eddie Thomas
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Getting a nice brushed satin finish on flat surfaces seems simple enough, but what about products with curves?  Stainless Steel tubes and pipes require a little more time and technique, especially if you've got welded T-sections or tight curves, but with the right tools and information it can be done!  Here's how...

Satin finish on stainless steel pipe

Step 1. Removal

First thing, you'll want to smooth off the weld and/or any other defects that have happened during fabrication.  Your tools and technique will depend on where the joints/defects are, and how difficult they are to access.

Unitized Rap-Lock Disc on Pipe WeldStraight or minor bends

If your fabrication is mainly straight, or has minor bends, you can probably get away with using the same tools as if you were working on a flat piece:

  • Using a Deerfos Bora9 Fibre Disc, 60 grit+, carefully remove the weld without gauging or distorting the work.  Keep sanding until you get the desired shape.

T-Sections or tight bends

If your welds are at T sections or around tight bends, chances are your typical flat sanding disc won't be able to reach them, so we've got a couple of different options:

  • Attach a removal grade Buff-Tex Unitized Wheel to your sander and use the edge to reach the joint and carefully remove the weld; or
  • If a full sized wheel is still going to be too big to get into a tight space, try using a removal grade (red) Rap-Lock Unitized Disc

Removal Tool Kit

Deerfos Bora9 Unitized Buff-Tex Wheel RLUTSRE075 - Rap Lock Unitized Disc - Removal Red

For Straight or minor bends: 

Deerfos Bora9 Fibre Disc, 60 grit+

For T-Sections or tight bends:

Buff-Tex Unitized Wheel  
Removal grade

For T-Sections or tight bends:

Rap-Lock Unitized Disc  
Removal grade

 

Step 2. Blending

Before you start on this step you'll need to decide which direction you want the grain to go.  For tube and pipe finishing the most common approach is to set the grain parallel with the weld seam.

Once again, your tools and technique will depend on where the joints are, and how difficult they are to access:

Blending Unitized Rap-LockStraight or minor bends

If your fabrication is mainly straight, or has minor bends, you can probably get away with using the same tools as if you were working on a flat piece:

  1. Set the grain with an ELITE Flap Wheel (available in wooden hub or spindle mount) or a Portable File Belt - 60 grit+, moving your sander front-to-back, rather than side-to-side.  You'll want to stay as close to the welded area as possible to minimise the final blending.
  2. Repeat the sanding, but this time using 120 grit+

T-Sections or tight bends

If your welds are at T sections or around tight bends, chances are your typical flat sanding disc won't be able to reach them, so we've got a couple of different options:

  • Attach a blending grade Buff-Tex Unitized Wheel to your sander and use the edge to reach the joint and blend in the welded area, moving in the direction you want the final grain to go; or
  • If a full sized wheel is still going to be too big to get into a tight space, try using a blending grade (grey) Rap-Lock Unitized Disc

Blending Tool Kit

ELITE Flap Wheel Spindle Mount1-1 Unitized Buff-Tex Wheel Unitized Rap-Lock - Blending Grade - Grey

For Straight or minor bends: 

ELITE Flap Wheel (available in wooden hub or spindle mount) or Portable File Belt - 60 grit+

For T-Sections or tight bends:

Buff-Tex Unitized Wheel 
Blending grade

For T-Sections or tight bends:

Rap-Lock Unitized Disc 
Blending grade

 

 Step 3. Finishing

Now that you've removed the weld, set the grain and sanded out any defects, it's time to apply the brushed satin finish.

Straight or minor bends

To get the brushed satin finish going around the curved surface of the tube/pipe, you'll need to use a Surface Conditioning Linishing Belt (medium grit), or a non-woven roll, such as the black ELITE Buff-Tex Roll (medium grit)

Surface conditioning on ss tubeThere are a number of techniques that can be used depending on the tools you have available:

  • Tube Belt Sander - Attach Surface Conditioning Linishing Belt (medium grit) to your Tube Belt Sander, set the speed to a medium level and move the tool up and down the pipe making sure to apply a consistent level of pressure.
  • Belt Drive Roller - Wrap a Surface Conditioning Linishing Belt (medium grit) around the pipe/tube fabrication, put it on a belt drive roller and set to 2,000rpm.  Move the tool up and down the pipe making sure to apply a consistent level of pressure.
  • Muscle Power- Using an ELITE Buff-Tex Roll - maroon (fine grit), wrap the belt around the tube/pipe fabrication and manually sand to your desired finish.

T-Sections or tight bends

For any T-sections or tight bends, use the same technique as above, but replace the abrasives with a finishing grade:

  • Attach a finishing grade Buff-Tex Unitized Wheel to your sander and use the edge to reach the joint and blend in the welded area, moving in the direction you want the final grain to go; or
  • If a full sized wheel is still going to be too big to get into a tight space, try using a finishing grade (blue) Rap-Lock Unitized Disc

For best results:

  • Always sand in the direction of the grain.
  • Try to maintain an even pressure so that the finish is even..

Finishing Tool Kit

Surface Conditioning Linishing Belt Buff-Tex Roll Maroon

Unitized Buff-Tex Wheel 

For Straight or minor bends
 
Tube Belt Sanders
or Belt Drive Rollers

Surface Conditioning 
Linishing Belt 
(medium grit)

For Straight or minor bends
 Manual Finishing

ELITE Buff-Tex Roll
Maroon (fine grit) 

For T-Sections or tight bends:

Buff-Tex Unitized Wheel 
Finishing grade

 Unitized Rap-Lock - Finishing Grade - Blue    

For T-Sections or tight bends:

Rap-Lock Unitized Disc 
Finishing grade

   

 

Topics: Metal Finishing