Introduction to Abrasives 101

Introduction to Abrasives provides a comprehensive overview of the use of a variety of abrasive products in manufacturing. Abrasive grains are made of natural or synthetic substances and used in a variety of bonded and coated products. Common grinding techniques rely on the same basic abrasive processes, but the specific kinds of abrasive products used in these processes varies.

Abrasives are used in many grinding applications and other industrial processes. Anyone who works in grinding must be knowledgeable about their properties and purpose. After completing this class, users will have a greater understanding of the use of abrasives in manufacturing. This serves as the foundation for understanding more complex grinding topics in order to work with them safely and effectively.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 15

  • Language English


Or fill out this form and a specialist will contact you shortly

Course Outline
  • Abrasives
  • Abrasive Material Removal
  • Abrasive Finishing Processes
  • Review: Abrasives in Manufacturing
  • Grain Properties
  • Grain Size
  • Common Types of Abrasives
  • Review: Abrasive Grain Properties
  • Bonded Abrasives
  • Types of Bond Materials
  • Bonded Abrasive Tools
  • Coated Abrasives
  • Open Coat vs. Closed Coat
  • Coated Abrasive Tools
  • Final Review
  • Describe abrasives.
  • Describe how abrasives remove workpiece material.
  • Describe the common types of abrasive finishing.
  • Describe common properties of abrasive grains.
  • Describe grain size.
  • Identify common natural and synthetic abrasives.
  • Describe bonded abrasives.
  • Distinguish between different types of bond materials.
  • Distinguish between grinding wheels and honing stones.
  • Describe coated abrasives.
  • Distinguish between open coat and closed coat structures for coated abrasives.
  • Distinguish between different coated abrasive tools.
Vocabulary Term

abrasive blasting

A deburring process that removes workpiece material by using air to blow sand or other grit at the surface of a workpiece. Abrasive blasting improves the finish of a surface.


A material made of hard, sharp particles used for cutting chips from a workpiece surface. Abrasives are often used in finishing operations that clean, polish, or otherwise prepare the surface of a part.


A corrosive chemical compound. Acid reacts with metals and can be corrosive.


A substance used to join two or more materials. An adhesive is used to hold coated abrasives to the backing.


A lightweight metal that is silvery white in color. Aluminum resists corrosion and is a good conductor of electrical and thermal energy.

aluminum oxide

A very hard ceramic material composed of aluminum and oxygen. Aluminum oxide is often used as an abrasive grain because it is very hard and tough.


American National Standards Institute. A private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates voluntary standards and systems. ANSI helps set guidelines for abrasives.


The wearing down and dulling of abrasive particles due to friction. Attrition is reduced by an abrasive's ability to self-sharpen.


The material on which coated abrasives are adhered. Backing is made of fabric, paper, or other similar material.


A group of finishing processes that involves spraying a surface with various types of media at high velocities in order to remove contaminants. Blasting media is most frequently different types of abrasive grains, but high-pressure streams of air or water can also be used.

bond material

A material that holds abrasive grains together in an abrasive tool. Bond material may consist of rubber, metal, or other material.

bonded abrasives

An abrasive tool made from the combination of abrasive grains and bond material. Bonded abrasives are typically in the form of grinding wheels but also include other surface grinding products.


Hard and more likely to break instead of bend when subjected to force or pressure. Brittle materials include most traditional ceramics.


The resistance to being drawn, stretched, or formed. Brittle abrasive grains typically fracture, exposing new, sharp edges and preventing dulling.

bronze alloys

An metal material consisting mostly of copper, with 10-12% tin. Bronze alloys are commonly used for metal bonds.


A sharp projection on a workpiece surface that is left by a cutting tool after a cutting operation. Burrs must be removed to ensure precise grinding.


C. A common, strong, nonmetallic element. Carbon is found in steel, carbide, diamond, and other materials.


Having the potential to cause cancer. When used in abrasive blasting processes, sand produces toxic, carcinogenic dust that is hazardous if inhaled.


Cubic Boron Nitride. A synthetic material composed of boron and nitrogen. CBN is the second-hardest known substance, after diamond, and is used as an abrasive grain.


A hard, brittle material that can withstand high temperatures and resist corrosion. Ceramics include traditional materials, such as brick and clay, as well as advanced ceramics used as abrasives, cutting tools, and electrical components.


A hard, brittle material that can withstand high temperatures and resist corrosion. Ceramics include traditional materials such as brick and clay, as well as advanced ceramics used as abrasives, cutting tools, and electrical components.

chemically react

To undergo a change due to contact with another substance. Natural and synthetic diamond chemically react to iron at high temperatures, changing the physical structure the diamond and causing it to break down.


An unwanted piece of material that is removed from a workpiece during grinding. Chips form when an abrasive grinding wheel grinds a workpiece.


A clamping device that grips the post or shank of a mounted grinding tool. A chuck commonly has three or four jaws that can be adjusted to fit various workpieces.

closed coat

• A dense arrangement of abrasive grains in coated abrasives. Closed coat products have little space between each abrasive grain.

coated abrasives

An abrasive tool composed of abrasive grains adhered to a flexible backing material, such as paper, plastic, or cloth. Coated abrasive tools are often used for finishing operations.


A three-dimensional (3D) cone-shaped figure with a cylindrical base, tapered sides, and pointed tip. Some grinding wheels are conical rather than cylindrical.

cubic boron nitride

CBN. A synthetic material composed of boron and nitrogen. Cubic boron nitride is the second-hardest known substance, after diamond, and is used as an abrasive grain.


A three-dimensional (3D) figure with a circular base and top connect by parallel walls.


A finishing process that uses an abrasive to remove sharp projections left by a tool on a workpiece surface. Deburring is often done by hand or in mass finishing processes.

dense structure

A bonded abrasive tool structure with little distance between its abrasive grains. Bonded abrasive tools with dense structures are best for hard materials.


A naturally occurring or synthetically made mineral that is the hardest known substance. Diamond is often used in manufacturing for cutting and grinding hard materials.

Federation of European Producers of Abrasives

FEPA. An association of European manufacturers of abrasive products with strong links to manufacturers in the United States. The Federation of European Producers of Abrasives provides safety recommendations and product standards related to abrasives.


A material in which iron is the main ingredient. The most common ferrous metals are steel and cast iron.


A group of processes that are performed to obtain the proper tolerance and surface finish for a completed part. Finishing processes, such as grinding, lapping, and honing, use abrasives to remove very small amounts of workpiece material.

flap wheels

A type of coated abrasive consisting of many segments of abrasive material extending from the edge of a wheel. Flap wheels are often used in handheld grinding operations.


The breaking apart of an object into two or more pieces as a result of stress. Abrasive grains fracture during a process, exposing new, sharp edges.


An abrasive grain's ability to fracture and self-sharpen under stress. Friability helps abrasives cut more easily and prevents them from dulling.


A naturally occurring mineral that is usually pink or reddish in color. Garnet is sometimes used as an abrasive grain in polishing.


A letter designation that describes the hardness of a material. The grade of an abrasive will be any letter from A to Z, where A is the softest and Z is the hardest.


A small, hard particle of abrasive material. Grains are often bonded or coated to create grinding wheels and other abrasive tools.


A finishing process that uses an abrasive to machine a workpiece surface and achieve highly accurate measurements. Grinding operations commonly use abrasive grains bonded into a wheel shape.

grinding wheels

Discs made of bonded abrasives used to remove material from a workpiece surface. Grinding wheels rotate and shear away microscopic chips of material and can produce very fine surface finishes.


The size of an abrasive grain. Higher grit number means smaller grains, and lower grit number means larger grains.


The ability of a material to resist penetration and scratching. Hardness is one of the key properties of abrasive grains.


A finishing process that uses an abrasive to create high quality surface finishes and tolerances. Honing operations commonly use abrasive stones to grind away small amounts of workpiece material.

honing stones

A finishing tool that may be hand-held or mounted. Honing stones are used to finish the interior of round holes as well as flat surfaces.

honing stones

Finishing tools that may be hand-held or mounted. Honing stones are used to finish the interior of round holes as well as flat surfaces.

impact resistance

A material's ability to withstand sudden shock or impact without deforming or breaking. Impact resistance is higher in metal bonded abrasive tools than abrasive tools with vitrified or organic bonds.


A malleable, silver-gray metal that is highly magnetic. Iron is alloyed with carbon to make steel.


A furnace used for heating or drying. Kilns are used to finish a grinding wheel after combining abrasive grains and vitrified bonds.


A finishing process that uses an abrasive to remove the last bit of unwanted material and bring a surface to a desired state of finish or tolerance. Lapping uses a fine abrasive to grind away small amounts of material from a workpiece surface.


A manufacturing process that involves removing material to form an object. Machining can occur using traditional methods, like turning, drilling, milling, and grinding, or with less traditional methods that use electricity, heat, or chemical reaction.

make coat

A layer of adhesive between the backing material and the abrasive grains. A make coat is the first layer of adhesive and helps the abrasive grains stick to the backing.


The rotating shaft on which honing stones are mounted. A mandrel is used in honing as a workholding device.

mass finishing

A deburring process that uses loose abrasive grains to remove sharp projections from a workpiece surface. Mass finishing can simultaneously improve the surface finish of a group of workpieces.


A hard, strong material that conducts electricity and heat. Metals include copper, steel, iron, nickel, and lead.

metal bonds

A type of organic bond material that is made from cast iron and bronze alloys. Metal bonds result in abrasive tools with long performance lives.

metal cutting

A group of machining processes that use a cutting tool to remove metal from a workpiece in the form of chips. Metal cutting operations include milling, drilling, and turning.

metal cutting

A machining process that uses a cutting tool to remove metal from a workpiece in the form of chips. Metal cutting operations include milling, drilling, and turning.


The process of placing a grinding wheel within a grinding machine. Mounting often involves attaching the grinding wheel to the machine's spindle.

natural abrasives

A hard material found in the earth. Natural abrasives, like sand and diamond, are used to shape other materials through a grinding action.


A material that does not contain iron or consists mostly of elements other than iron. Aluminum, copper, and zinc are nonferrous metals.

open coat

• A sparse arrangement of abrasive grains in coated abrasives. Open coat products have more space between each abrasive grain.

open structure

A bonded abrasive tool structure with greater distance between its abrasive grains. Bonded abrasive tools with open structures are best for soft materials.

organic bonds

A category of bond material that contains carbon compounds and has the tendency to soften when exposed to heat. Organic bonds include resinoid, rubber, and shellac materials.


The perimeter, or edge, of an object. Many types of grinding wheels grind with their periphery.

polycrystalline diamond

PCD. The manufactured formation of diamond that has a hardness approaching natural diamond. Polycrystalline diamonds are used as ultra-hard abrasive grains.


A material that has holes or openings through which air or liquid can pass. Porous abrasives may improve grinding efficiency due to increased friability.


A material's distinguishing physical and mechanical characteristics. The properties of an abrasive grain, such as hardness and toughness, affect the performance of an abrasive tool.


Resistant to bending. Rigid materials are stiff and inflexible and are useful in applications where a part must hold its shape.


A substance consisting of loose, small grains of rock. Sand is not commonly used in blasting as it requires expensive safety equipment.


The stalk or post on which a grinding tool is mounted. A shank provides support for the tool.

silicon carbide

A hard and brittle synthetic material composed of silicon and carbon. Silicon carbide is often used as an abrasive grain when grinding aluminum.

single-point cutting tool

A tool that uses one cutting edge at a time to remove workpiece material. Abrasive grains act as individual single-point cutting tools during abrasive manufacturing processes.


A description of the essential physical and technical properties of a finished part. Specifications outline important information including finished part dimensions and how the part must respond to processes.


A precise and motorized rotating component of a machine. Grinding wheels and other cutting tools are usually mounted on a spindle.


A ferrous metal consisting of iron and carbon, usually with small amounts of manganese, phosphors, sulphur, and silicon. Steels are the most common metals used in manufacturing.


A material's ability to resist forces that attempt to break or deform it. Strength is an important mechanical property.


The relative amount of grains, bonds, and space in an abrasive grinding tool. Structure helps determine abrasive grade.


A complex metal with a number of additives to create a metal that has excellent strength and resistance to deformation, heat, and corrosion. Superalloys are very expensive and difficult to machine.

surface finish

The degree of smoothness on a part's surface after it has been machined or otherwise shaped. Surface finish can be improved through final machining processes that use abrasives.


A combination of finely ground chips of workpiece material and abrasive particles that are cast off during an abrasive finishing process. Swarf can appear as powder or chips depending on the workpiece or abrasive material and the process.

synthetic abrasives

A man-made material that is manufactured through chemical and/or physical processes. Synthetic abrasives, such as aluminum oxide or silicon carbide, are extremely hard and often used to shape other materials through a grinding action.


An acceptable deviation from a given dimension or geometry. A tolerance indicates the allowable difference between a physical feature and its standard design.


Able to absorb energy or sudden stress without breaking. Tough abrasive grains are less likely to fracture and more likely to dull.

vitrified bonds

A clay or ceramic bond material characterized by its strength, rigidity, and resistance to oils, water, or temperature changes. Vitrified bonds have qualities similar to glass.

wear resistance

A material's ability to resist the gradual wearing away caused by abrasion and friction. Increased wear resistance can lengthen the life of a material.