Almost all diamond disks in use today for polishing stone consist of diamonds embedded in a resin (plastic) matrix. Diamonds are mixed with the resin to form blocks rather like the lug pattern on the soles of shoes. The diamonds are randomly scattered throughout the resin matrix to a specified depth. As the resin matrix is worn away, the diamonds are gradually exposed.
A wide variety of diamond disks is available today. Popular sizes for the fabrication shop are 3″, 4″, and 5″ diameters, where 4” is by far the most popular and larger and smaller sizes are typically reserved for specialty uses.
The most popular grit sizes for electroplated disks are #70, #120, #220, and #400. Beyond that, there is ample demand for both the coarser #30 and #50 grits and well as the much finer #600, especially for marble work.
Grit sizes for resin bonded disks commonly range from the coarsest #30 to a very fine #8000. Typically, #50, #120, #220, #400, #800, #1800, and #3000 are most commonly used in the shop for processing granite surfaces. Marble processing is less stringent and the combination of grits #50, #220, and #800 usually yields the desired finish.
A point has to be made on the abrasiveness of the stone itself. Marble is soft, but tends to yield a more abrasive slurry than granite, which is harder but less abrasive in slurry form. Some shops try to polish both types of stone with a single set of disks, and this is a mistake. Disks are recommended for specific materials based on grit size, plus the bond (electroplate, metal, or resin), the number of diamonds that are working at any given time, and the hardness and abrasiveness of the material. Some disks work well with marble and poorly with granite, just as a marble diamond saw works well on marble and inadequately on granite. There are no universal disks any more than there are universal saws.
Flexibility vs. Rigidity
There is a trade-off between the flexibility and the rigidity of diamond polishing disks. Flexibility is usually achieved with the use of a rubber universal joint mounted on the spindle of a right-angle grinder, or by using a flexible disk attached with a hook and-loop fastener. Rigidity is the result of a rigid disk attached with a snail-lock fastener. A good compromise consists of a rigid disk and a hook-and-loop fastener.
Flexible disks tend to conform to the surface of the material, polishing high and low areas with equal ease. In heavily veined marble or on extensive granite surfaces, the flexible disk will tend to ride over the hard areas and dig into the softer portions. The job may go quickly, but the finish will be wavy. Moreover, the flexible disk will not do a good job of levelling untrue surfaces.
Rigid disks, on the other hand, will do a better job of levelling and have less tendency to dig into soft areas. The rigid disks are also less forgiving; the slightest inconsistency in the polishing procedure will show up as a flaw when the work is completed. The novice can usually obtain better results with a flexible disk. The experienced craftsman will generally prefer the rigid setup. Rigidity prevents rounding of the edges and produces a flatter desirable surface. In all cases, a slight cushioning is necessary to prevent rapid wear of the diamonds due to vibrations generated during the rapidly rotating polishing sequence.
Water is a desirable component of diamond polishing, since it efficiently cools both the work and the disk. (Resin bonds especially are quite intolerant of heat build-up.) Beyond its cooling properties, water flowing over the work at a steady rate yields other advantages: the job will go faster with less effort because the slurry helps remove material, there won’t be any dust, and the finished surface will be superior to anything that can be done dry. This is just as true for hand-held grinders as it is for large production machines.
For diamond abrasives, the best speeds are typically 3000-7000 RPM for a 4″ disk. Higher speeds allow the diamonds to do the work rather than relying on pressure. In fact, excessive pressure will noticeably shorten the life of a diamond disk.
All resin-bonded disks need to be broken-in, a process that exposes the diamonds enclosed in the plastic matrix on the surface of the disks. This is easily done for all grit sizes on the rough surface of the material being worked. With the coarse grits, simply attach the disk and start grinding. For the finer grits, e.g., #3000, break-in is best done on a surface that would be produced by a coarse grit of #120 or so.
A #3500 disk can be broken-in during the normal polishing routine, i.e., on a surface produced by a #1800 disk, but it will take some time. A disk is broken-in when all the grinding surfaces have lost the gloss they had when they came out of the package.
On the basis of materials only, diamond polishing tools are significantly more expensive than silicon carbide tools. The overall advantages, however, clearly favor diamonds: less grinding time, improved production rates, better finished surfaces, and longer disk life. These important benefits lead to improved profitability.
For disk polishing with hand-held grinders, the advantages of diamonds include:
• A 50% reduction in polishing time.
• A cleaner shop without the dry grinding dust.
• Reduced worker fatigue with lighter tools requiring less pressure.
• Increased production throughput.
For more information about grinding and/or polishing stone, visit our website or feel free to 080 about your specific needs.