Video blog: Stainless steel surface finishes

By: Bob Buchanan

After all the work you put in to designing a piece, choosing a finish treatment might seem like an afterthought. It is anything but. The finish you choose has an impact not just on appearance, but on durability and maintenance.

 

In this video, you’ll find out about the benefits and drawbacks of different stainless steel surface finishes. I show five test pieces that we created for a client. They’re all the same shape and same material, but treated differently:

 

• Polished stainless
• Sanded finish
• Textured with grinder
• No 4 finish
• Combination of sanded and grinder

 

If you have a question about choice of materials or finishes, feel free to contact us.

 

 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

The customer came to us and they had this big outdoor sculpture they wanted to build out of polished stainless steel. These are 25-foot tall statues and they have some shape to them. So I wanted to build something for my first meeting. Instead of just having 2-inch by 2-inch swatches, I wanted to go ahead and build something that replicated what they wanted it to look like in the final product.

 

So we came out with their first product, which is what they were going to spec, which is polished stainless steel. You can see this thing has small scratches in it and fingerprints. If I take and touch this, I leave a fingerprint behind. So from a maintenance standpoint, as soon as they picked it up they went, “that’s a bad idea.” Because they could see the small scratches. They could see how people could walk up and be close to it – if they lean up against it or stand on it or hit it with their feet, they’re going to leave an indelible mark that’s not going to be repairable.

 

So what I wanted to do was to steer them down other paths that would be more user-friendly for them in the long run. This would be probably the most user-friendly. It’s done with a DA finish, which is a dual-action sander. You could pick several different grits. This was done with probably 80 grit. But I dare say you can mark it with your hand, you could go up and scratch it, you can do what you want to. And when you go back and wipe it off, it’s basically gone, so you can maintain it in the field. This is probably the least attractive, but it’s the most functional.

 

If you take that and add a little bit of artistic flair to it, you can do this down one face and do something with a grinder here, a small 9-inch grinder. Now you’ve got a little bit of contrast, a little depth you get out of it so it’s not boring looking like this. Easily maintainable. You can touch it, feel it, scratch it. This here you can really scratch up. Nothing left behind residue-wise. That’s the one we wanted to steer them towards because this one when the sun hits it and the light hits it, it will actually reflect the light up here. It really almost has a light of its own.

 

The next choice, which a lot of people pick, is the number 4 finish. Number 4 finish is a better alternative than the polished, but it kind of lacks the character. It has imperfections in it. If you go up and scratch it (I won’t do it because it will leave a scratch in it), I can leave an imperfect scratch in it. But it is attractive. Light hits it well.

 

Then we gave them the last option, which was kind of busy, but it kind of showed them without the contrast… just so they could get a feel. Again, you could never hurt this. Easily maintained.