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If you're a metalworker who frequently works on materials that are difficult to sand, abrasives can be an essential part of your toolkit. There are two types of abrasives that can be used on metals: zirconia and aluminium oxide.
The main difference between these abrasives is the material structure. Aluminum oxide is soft and tends to wear faster while zirconia is harder and lasts longer.
Zirconia is a hard, crystalline metal with a mohs hardness of 8.5 (compared to aluminum's 2.8). It breaks down slowly and keeps its edge for longer as it continues to break up into new crystals.
Aluminium oxide is softer and tends to wear faster, but it's much more readily available than zirconia. It also comes in a variety of different grits, so it can be found for many projects.
While both abrasives offer significant advantages for different projects, it's important to consider your own specific needs before choosing abrasives for your work. Here are a few factors that can help you decide:
For larger projects, zirconia is an excellent choice because it's more durable than aluminum oxide. This means that it can withstand the pressure of grinding or sanding, and can last long after other abrasives have ceased working.
It's also more resistant to heat than alumina, so it can be used in industrial furnaces and arc-waving applications.
Abrasive Belts & Discs
Zirconia is the abrasive that's most commonly used for cutting and grinding stainless steel and other metals. It is a very good abrasive for stainless steel because of its high heat resistance and the ability to withstand a lot of pressure.