Use Metalworking Steel Wool

Photo: Use Metalworking Steel Wool (metal_steel_wood_00)

Here is my “Use Synthetic Metalworking Steel Wool ” tip that appeared in the “Tips” section on page 20 of the AAW February 2024 “American Woodturner” Journal. Or click here for PDF.

When sanding wood at the lathe, I sand up to 220-grit using sandpaper and then switch to synthetic steel wool, rather than finer grits of sandpaper. Some synthetic steel wool that is sold for woodworking is made of aluminum oxide, which works okay for most things but is not great for woodturning. The aluminum oxide can melt if you use too much pressure against a corner or sharp edge when applying it to a workpiece on the lathe. And if I’ve chosen a green pad, I will end up with an unwanted green streak on my work. Instead, I use pads made from silicon carbide, which is sold for metalworking applications. It turns out, it also works great on wood. It does not melt easily. In fact, you can really go at it without worrying about heat buildup. You can purchase silicon carbide synthetic steel wool from metalworking suppliers such as McMaster-Carr, Enco, or Grainger.

Silicon carbide synthetic steel wool comes in only one color—all the grits are the same gray. To distinguish between the abrasive grits, I “cornercode” the pads. On the coarse grit synthetic steel wool, I cut off two corners; on medium-grit pads, I cut off one corner; and on fine grit, no corners.

Nylon Mesh Sanding Rolls (aka Synthetic Steel Wool)

Photo: Nylon Mesh Sanding Rolls (aka Synthetic Steel Wool) (mcmaster_nylon_mesh)

I use "Nylon Mesh Sanding Rolls" from See my "Nylon Mesh Sanding Rolls (aka Synthetic Steel Wool)" blog entry for more info.

Carl has been published numerous times. Click here to see a list of Carl’s other magazine articles.