When it comes to stainless steel, a mirror finish is an extremely reflective, scratch-free finish that gives exceptional clarity.
The reasons to choose stainless steel mirror finish are varied. Some of the more commercially-valued include:
Low weight ratio when compared to glass
Easily workable in the production stage
Highly aesthetic in certain applications
Durable and dependable
As experts in stainless steel mirror products, we supply stainless steel sheet and tubing that is water and salt-resistant, making it the perfect solution for many environments including kitchens and bathrooms, outdoor art installations, and any marine projects.
There are many applications our customers request mirror finishing for, including:
Yacht and shipbuilding
Building and hardware
The value of this highly versatile material is easy to see, and its applications broad and wide, but how do you achieve such an exceptional shine?
Creating The Perfect Mirror Finish
A mirror or super finish is reached in two different ways, one of which is a mechanical method of production, the other chemical, both are listed below.
Mirror finishing by mechanical methods
Mechanical methods of producing a mirrored finish follow a three-step process:
Cleaning: Firstly, the surface is fully cleaned, reducing the likelihood of particles becoming embedded in the metal. This also helps the abrasives to last longer and aids in a faster rate of removal. The area is then sanded taking great care not to damage the metal, and the excess weld is removed.
Sanding: Once we have achieved a level weld, the full product is sanded, moving the sander in a 90° direction from the previous sanding to remove any scratches from the surface. The amount of sanding will depend on the required level of shine a customer requests, for extreme clarity multiple sanding operations are performed to achieve that perfect shine.
Polishing: Using a polishing wheel and/or traditional hand polishing, the surface is polished to reveal a near-perfect reflective shine.
Chemical Polishing for Stainless Steel
The chemical polishing method is a multi-step process, following strict measures to achieve a fantastic shine while protecting the integrity of the surface of the metal. It involves:
Cleaning the surface with an initial wash, then a high-quality degreasing agent is used to prepare the area.
Pickling agents are used to ‘pickle’ the oxidised layer on the surface of the stainless steel. The pickling residue is then washed away with clean water.
Soaking to immerse the metal in a specialised stainless steel polishing agent and then wash the workpiece and clean it with purified water.
Achieving a Super-Mirror Finish
As the name suggests, the super mirror finish has an ultra-reflective surface and is commonly used in environments where this quality is most valued such as art installations and pristine aesthetic displays, balustrades or buildings.
Super mirror finishing is reached by using a circular oscillation technique to buff. The best abrasive materials and specialist tools are employed to achieve the highest quality results.
The procedure below is one of the best tried and tested methods of producing such a finish:
Initial Machining: The initial step is to roughly machine the product. The surface oxide layer is removed using a 400-450 grit sandpaper such as a 400 grit scouring pad to remove the
Finish Machining: Using a specialised graphite grinding wheel, we smooth out the initial machining to prepare the piece for polishing.
Super Mirror Polishing: To achieve the supreme Super Mirror finish varying levels of force are applied with specialist grinding tools, the eventual result of which is to produce a surface reflectivity of 69% - a near-perfect mirror finish.
Other Stainless Steel Finishes
There are many types of stainless steel finish that do not provide the same surface lustre, so to ensure that you choose the right product for your project, here is a brief list of the more common stainless steel finish variations when compared to mirror finishing.
The most commonly used mill finish for light gauge stainless steel sheet. Resembling a blurred mirror with only minor reflective properties, it is either used as it is or as a pre-step before polishing.
Closer to the reflective qualities of a mirror finish, although not as clear and usually with more blemishes.
The bright annealed finish is created by heat-treating (annealing) in a furnace with a controlled atmosphere, and the resulting product is bright and somewhat reflective. Commonly used as a lower-cost alternative where a precise mirror finish isn't essential.
Brushed (120 Grit)
An intermediate polished presentation using a 120 grit abrasive. Used for applications with frequent usage or again can be a preliminary step for further polishing.
Brushed (150 Grit)
A bright finish with visible directional grain preventing a mirror reflection. Often found in kitchens and bathrooms.
A reflective finish produced by buffing a surface that has already been finely ground. The main characteristic of pre-buffing is that the grit lines have not been removed from the product so it is often used for more industrial applications where the high shine reflectivity of full mirror finishes are not needed.
Righton Blackburns Mirror And Super Mirror Finish Options
We pride ourselves on a reputation for providing the very best in materials, and our mirror-finished products are no exception.
Stainless steel 316 or 316L mirror-finished products have actually been shown to outperform other metal finishes in terms of durability and longevity, with mirror polished being the best finish choice for long life and maintenance of good appearance.
From stunning staircases on super-yachts to grab rails on speedboats, our shaped stainless steel tubes offer the marine industry aesthetic, structural and ergonomic advantages over standard round tubing.
Mirror-finished products (especially those in marine environments that are subjected to a variety of elements) require disciplined cleaning to keep looking pristine and performing. For a full guide on the best marine cleaning and maintenance, read our guide on Stainless Steel in Coastal Environments.
Our mirror and super mirror finishes provide stunning results that will help to set your project apart from others.
We are also experts at creating products of perfect form and shape which are adaptable to a multitude of applications, one such bespoke range is our Pro-Railing handrail system that utilises distinctly shaped tubes to create a beautifully crafted handrail and balustrade range that is exceptionally easy to put together.
Mirror finishes are increasingly in demand in today’s commercial and marine industries - the evolution of performance is taken as standard and it is the aesthetic benefits that stand out, after all when everything is equal, it is the look that will break the tie!
At Righton Blackburns, we pride ourselves on supplying high-quality materials backed with decades of dedicated expertise and knowledge.