Silicone Carbide Grit
Im in love with Silicone Carbide Grit. It is in my opinion the most underrated, best value for money, least used, cheapest and versatile tool on the market. It has many uses in lamp work, cleaning bead holes, cleaning and grinding cabochons, and tumble etching beads to name but a few.
We at Mangobeads sell in small quantities Grades 180, 320, 600 and 1000
Silicone Carbide Grit, also known as carborundum , is a compound of silicon and carbon. It occurs in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite. Silicon carbide powder has been mass-produced since 1893 for use as an abrasive.
In the arts, silicon carbide is a popular abrasive in modern lapidary due to the durability and low cost of the material. In manufacturing, it is used for its hardness in abrasive machining processes such as grinding, honing, water-jet cutting and sandblasting. Particles of silicon carbide are laminated to paper to create sandpapers and the grip tape on skateboards.
Silicone Carbide comes in different grades measured by number, the lower the number the coarser the grit.
Cleaning Bead Holes from Bead Release
We use 180 grade for this. Choose a mandrel the same size as the one the bead was made on ( it’s a good idea to have one specially set aside for this )
Rinse the bead to make it wet . Make the mandrel wet and dip into the grit and clean the bead hole as if you were using a diamond reamer . 180 grade grit will remove the bead release and you can then use a finer grade to achieve a more polished look on the inside of your bead hole , this is especially useful if you have a transparent bead.
Cleaning and Grinding Cabs for Gluing or Setting
The purpose of cleaning and grinding is to remove the bead release in its entirety from the back of your cab, and take away excess glass. Removing bead release is extremely important if you intend to use glue and you want it to be effective and long lasting.
If you are setting your cab in a silver bezel you may want to remove some glass for the cab to sit lower in your bezel setting.
As the grit is highly abrasive, ideally, it should be used in a work area of its own; if it is not possible to have a work area set aside for this, ensure you thoroughly clean the surrounding surfaces, and if a cloth has been used dispose of it. The fine grit will remain in the fibres and cause damage to surfaces / objects when the cloth is used again.
Work Area Preparation
Apply a few layers of newspaper to you work surface.
Dampen the newspaper to ensure the glass stays in place.
Place the glass on the newspaper.
Add a small amount of grit to a flat piece of glass ( at least 4mm thick ) mix with a tiny bit of water and soap and place your cab in the centre of the grit and begin to apply a circular movement, rotating the cab on the grit. Listen to the noise it makes and you will get used to the sound it makes as the surface is worn away.
Start with a courser grit (180) to remove bead release, work through the grits to achieve a finer more polished appearance.
If you change grit size you must make sure that the coarser grit does not come into contact with the finer grit . Thoroughly rinse the cab and your hands before changing over.
If you have a transparent cab the more time you spend on this the nicer the finished piece a 600 grade will give a beautiful polish and reflect the light in your work.
I have A Practical Guide to Cabs and Popper Tutorial for more details on cleaning cabs and making them too !!!!
We also sell Cab Cleaning Kits complete with the glass.
Tumble Etching Beads
In the last couple of years I have tumbled many of my cabs and beads and in fact now I tumble most of my work, my latest beads ‘The Patchwork Collection’ are an excellent example of what can be achieved by using this process.
It produces the most amazing soft silky satin finish which really has to be seen and touched to be believed ..
When I began tumbling my work I had the benefit of David’s experience with cold work and the use of Silicone Carbide grit in Glass Blowing.
We use 1000 grade grit for this. The benefit of this finer grade is that it produces a super soft satin finish on all colours, using anything less will indeed polish the surface but it will under closer inspection on the darker colours leave a slightly grainy rough looking finish.
We use a Lortone Tumbler Polisher and have a extra rubber barrel especially for tumbling as it is a little messy and the grit is highly abrasive, so having a separate barrel means it’s available all the time and is easier on the cleaning up.
What happens next is just so easy …. Fill the barrel half full with some tumbling medium we use plastic pony beads ( the sort you buy in the art shop for children to make bracelets and necklaces)
Pop in your beads to tumble and fill to approximately 2 cm of the top with water. Add a tablespoon of Silicone Carbide Grit 1000 grade and a tiny drop of washing up liquid for lubrication.
Switch on and leave to do its stuff …how long depends on what you are tumbling and its trial and error to get the finish you like .
..we leave for anything from 2 – 5 hours.
Thoroughly rinse the beads and leave to dry … I dare you to not go ‘wow’ as they dry !
All these grits will be available from us at Flame Off in April this year and then on the web site for further purchasing after that.
See here for more info on the grits we supply .