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Jack Savante

Joined: 01 Jun 2010
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Posts: 78

PostPosted: Sun 09 Dec, 2012 5:24 am    Post subject: Finishing / Polishing a blade         Reply with quote

Hi All,

Curious to know what steps the community use to achieve a finish on a sword.

For instance - do you use an all mechanical process: belt grinder with varying levels of grit, perhaps followed by a Scotch Brite belt.

Do you use a block or prefer using sand paper without a cork or wood block?

Do you use mechanical buffing? If so what colour pastes do you use?

Do you use a file and stones?

I'm really after the fine details, so if you post, please be so kind as to include every grit, product name, technique in detail.

There are so many different techniques, I'm really interested in hearing about what works for you.
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Glen A Cleeton

Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,787

PostPosted: Sun 09 Dec, 2012 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is an old tutorial that can be applied to western as well as Japanese style swords.

I have to be honest in my own uses of abrasives and say it has always been manually. I am generally not looking for a brand new level of bright, as most of what I work with are antiques. Some blocking but no dedicated block material, as I use whatever is at hand to approach a given countour.

What I usually find at my local auto parts store that I use for wet dry are 800 and 1200, Both wear to be finer grits and I even use them for acrylic (even mineral glass but that is a serious chore) watch crystals. On the coarser side, diamond plate stones from DMT and others. These wear as well and my medium/coarse DMT has become finer with use. Yes, again, even on a glass watch crystal I brought back to life.

I use a lot of finer stuff such as baking powder, Bon Ami, Noxon, Flitz, Simi Chrome and other polishes while working with antiques.

Stepping up a bit from there with 000 steel wool with mineral oil. Supermarket scrubbies, green and more recently some blue ones. The latter wear down as well and become finer over time. Nevr-Dull as well has ground up quartz and clay that are abrasives.

As I do most of my work over very small work areas, it is all by hand. I am not anal at all about my working medieval reproductions or even the one katana. Completely refinishing is not something I really worry about for these.

I prefer clean and dry for most of my swords and it does get me in trouble from time to time.. Silicon spray when I have a can around and I have considered Renaissance wax but prefer not to put coverings on some blades that have bluing and fire gilt.

That's about it, soup to nuts.


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Tim Harris
Industry Professional

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 156

PostPosted: Sun 09 Dec, 2012 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Time being tight, and not having a supply of grubby apprentices for the grunt work, I have to use machines.

Blades go out for heat-treating at 120 grit finish. On return, they get an overnight soak in vinegar to loosen the oily scale, which can then be removed with a rag and water. After that, another couple of passes with the 120grit belt, then to a 240. 100, 65 and 30 grit Trizact belts follow. For those who don't know it, Trizact is a proprietary abrasive with a different structure to standard belts and reverse order grit size. It is great for fine finishing.
Trizact 30 is very close to a scotchbrite finish. I used to use a scotchbrite belt, but they're expensive here, and don't last long.

A worn-out Trizact 30 charged with grey polishing compound is next, then a hard sisal buff with grey compound, and a stitched rag buff with red tripoli. At this point, I'll hilt the blade up, then de-grease and finish off with a loose calico buff with green compound. I use Josco polishing compounds, because they're the most readily available in Australia.

Obviously, I like a shiny finish. For super shininess, I might add another sequence - any old auto chrome polish followed by auto cut and polish compound, but the these days I find the first process does the job well enough. I finish it all off with a light beeswax polish.
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Boris Bedrosov
Industry Professional

Location: Bourgas, Bulgaria
Joined: 06 Nov 2005

Posts: 700

PostPosted: Mon 10 Dec, 2012 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Recently, I've started to finish my blades almost by hand. Why - just because I really like to make the things in the old-fashion way. This gives me the feel of real stuff.
With my experience so far, although it could seem time-consuming and labour-intensive, the matter is not so disastrous as it seems.

First, before heat-treatment, I start with rough finish with grit 60 on a belt grinder.
When the blade returns home I remove the oxidation with file, dry sand-paper (usually grit 60) or wire brush, after that I make several passes on the belt grinder, moving from grit 60 (again) to 120 and finally - 180.
Then I take my stones - grit 150 is the first, followed by 180, 220, 280, 320, 360 and 400.
My next stone is with grit 1200 (I have a gap here, and this gap should be filled with proper stones), so here (between grits 400 and 1200) I work with wet sand-papers with wooden block - grits 600, 800 and 1000. The 1200 grit stone is the last before polishing.
All the stones and sand-papers are made by European manufacturers - predominantly Czech and Slovenian, but I don't remember their names - this could be checked tomorrow.

The polishing is mechanical, with woolen and cotton-rag buffing wheels, using blue and red "Metabo" polishing compounds.
The other option is to use GOI compounds. These are Russian (GOI stands for "Gosudarstvenniy Opticheskiy Institut" - State Optical institute) and come with different grits - from #4, which is suitable almost only for final finishing, to #1, which is very fine and is suitable even for polishing optics.
Recently, I made some experiments with white "Metabo" compound. Although originally it should be used for polishing plastics, this gave me some good results with wooden grips, horn, bone and non-ferrous metals. Even, if the steel is carefully finished, it could achieve good result on steel.

And finally here are two knives, finished by hand - actually they were the first worked this way:

The blades were worked with stones and sand-papers to grit 600 (at that time I didn't have the grit 1200 stone) and are polished with white "Metabo" compound, re-polished again with #2 GOI compound; the grips were polished with #2 GOI compound.

"Everyone who has the right to wear a long sword, has to remember that his sword is his soul,
and he has to separate from it when he separates from his life"
Tokugawa Ieyasu

Find my works on Facebook:
Boris Bedrosov's Armoury

Last edited by Boris Bedrosov on Mon 17 Dec, 2012 1:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jack Savante

Joined: 01 Jun 2010
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 78

PostPosted: Fri 14 Dec, 2012 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for everyone's input so far!

Really interesting to hear what works for forumites, as there are so many different ways to approach the situation.

Looking forward to more posts!
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Daniel Wallace

Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Sat 15 Dec, 2012 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i use a combination of both hand work and buffing wheels. this topic comes up so much i almost feel like i should formally type out my process so i don't retype it so often but hey, a little finger exercise won't hurt.

i use wet/dry sand paper. starting at 320 grit. (i'm thinking that your working a a blade that has already been ground down to about 220 by belt sander) and i use a 3-in-1 oil instead of water while using the paper and a jig i made up to hold the blade as i use a tool to push the paper across the blade. (use water or oil anything to keep the dust down the less you breath in the better.)

when going to the next level i hear a lot about changing direction 90 degrees. i wouldn't say you need to so this very much at all. it's mostly to help you see that all your previous work with the 320 is removed. but the next grit i use is 400, when i change direction, i work with two angles i might have worked the 320 at a / direction, when i go to 400 i go \ and thats enough to see if you've got everything worked out.

then i jumped to 600 grit and work that parallel to the blade. oncei'mm satisfied with this i jump to a buffing wheel and compounds. you'll also see other will continue to 800gritt and 1000 -1200 for mirror polishes then compounds but i've never had to do that. it seemed that at 600 grit the scratches are broken down enough that the compounds work everything out.

i use a buffing wheel on my grinder with the compounds. i've read about some using just hand work with these compounds but i've never been able to make that work, if your using the compound and steel wool it's actually the wool doing the workbecausee from my experience these compounds work from the heat generated from contact on the wheel. thecompoundd becomes moremalleablee when hot and is like a paste rather than a hard claylike brick when cold. when i start with compounds, i go right for the #5 polish and this will break down the 600 grit sanding. when finished this will look a little cloudy.

clean the blade with paint thinner,acetonee, alcohol which ever you preferbeforee working with the #6 polish and have aseparatee wheels for each # of polish. with the # 6 polish ibelievee it isequall to 0000 grit which will be a mirror shine.
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Jimi Edmonds

Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Joined: 25 May 2009
Likes: 8 pages

Posts: 141

PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have got a couple of blades for early eating knives, which I took down to the profile by draw filing, using a heavy file then down to a finer file, after this I went to a 80grit wet/dry paper (this is the real first time for me with draw filing, cleaning up the blade etc. prior to heat treatment) going from 80 to 100 to 150, this all by hand, I still have scratches in the blades, but have pretty much a mirror finsh, I tried 800/1200 grit (as I had it there) but it dulled the steel and took away the mirror look so went back to 150 grit. I like the look but am/was unsure if it was an accepted finish.
I went to the museum and looked at some antiques and a fair amount of them have scratches (from polish/cutting/misuse etc) so really for an early type knife or medieval knife how polished would it be? would you accept light scratches from the abrasive papers or want a more full modern polish?

Any tips..
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