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Topic: Polished Stainless Steel
Message: Posted by: Regan (Jan 19, 2008 06:31PM)
I am needing some information and a source for thin, highly polished, stainless steel. I am wanting to use it for mirror tube/mirror glass applications.

Is polished stainless steel a good choice for this type of application? If so, what thickness do I need to use? I would like it to be as strong as possible, but at the same time I may need it to flex a little during installation. I am guessing like 1/32" thick, or maybe less, but I sure would like some advice from someone with experience.

Is there a source for thin, polished stainless steel? I hope I can get it cut-to-size, but that may not be possible with a small order. So, how is the best way to cut it without messing up the shine at the edges? If I do mess it up, can I re-polish it myself?

One more thing: What is the preferred choice to glue the stainless steel to glass? I need the glue to be crystal clear, and water proof/resistant.

Whew....I know that's a lot of questions. I apologize for that, but I sure could use some help from some of you that have experience with this type of thing.

Thanks so much!

Message: Posted by: chill (Jan 19, 2008 07:52PM)
On 2008-01-19 19:31, Regan wrote:

So, how is the best way to cut it without messing up the shine at the edges? If I do mess it up, can I re-polish it myself?

Thanks so much!


I hope it's not wrong to join this question, rather than abswer. I can across some 20 gauge stainless sheet, and have no clue as to the best way to cut it. any advice would be appreciated.

Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Jan 19, 2008 08:01PM)

I just recently purchased a [url=http://]Ferrotype Plate[/url] from the company in the link provided. Not sure if it is actually stainless steel, or simply chrome plated other metal, but it is probably going to be what you need. My intended use is for mirror boxes, etc. Jim Riser gave me the heads up on this stuff some time back, and this is the first time I have actually purchase it.

I also have a couple of older ones coming from an (auction)-bay purchase. They were a bit cheaper, but I'll have to evaluate the quality when they get here.

More specific to your post, this stuff has a pretty darn good reflective property, better than some shiny aluminum that I have on hand which came from a trophy shop. The reflection is better the closer to the surface you get, but I think that is mostly due to the flexing in the metal, which may answer another of your needs.

I don't know how much flexing you require, but for the cost of this stuff, to me, it is a reasonable R&D expense.

Although I have not checked actual thickness with a caliper, it seems to be within the range you specified. I have not yet attempted to cut it, but I have every reason to believe it will cut on the metal shear that I have here. I got my shear years ago from a trophy company that was going to trash it due to a broken part, which I ended up fixing.

The Ferrotype Plate is 12" x 17". My shear will accommodate up to a 12" width, so I am good there. Some of the Ferrotype Plates I found on the (auction)-bay site were as wide as 14". I won't buy those over these smaller ones, because I can cut these myself.

Don't try to cut these with a snips, or any by other means that would tweak the metal edges in the process. It would ruin the reflectice properties you'll want to preserve. You should find a trophy or machine shop and they would probably cut to size the pieces you need, as long as they are simple straight cuts. Mirror glasses often require a bit of trial and error to get the mirror to fit. That might tick off a shop owner. LOL! Also, if that machine shop has a wider shear, then you can obviously work with whatever size plates their equipment can accommodate.

I am suspecting that there will be far less distortion with smaller pieces, and hopefully, I won't have to back it with anything else, which would partially defeat my purpose. Let's say I am very optimistic at this point.

The plates are only polished on one side, so that would require two pieces mounted back to back for some purposes, like a mirror glass.

In the past, I have used the shiny aluminum that I mentioned earlier (also polish on one side only), and it worked great for mirror glasses, etc. where there was a natural distortion caused by the fluting or cut pattern in the glass itself,

The cost of some metals has gone up significantly in the recent past (explaining all the copper thefts, etc.). The trophy shop where I get my aluminum and brass sheets is owned by very dear friends, so I get the stuff at a geat price, but I can't exactly say it's a savings over the cost of the Ferrotype Plate.

Regarding the adhesive, I recently did a search for "adhesives for glass", and there were a number of items that popped up. I think you can probably do the same Googling and find a product that will, mount glass to metal, be crystal clear, and water resistant/water proof. Think auto glass and windshield.

Hope this helps you!

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jan 20, 2008 11:13AM)
Some time back a couple of the plastic-laminate companies (it may have been Formica and Nevamar, but I don't remember) came out with a chrome-surfaced laminate that was unbelievably reflective. Don't know if it's still available, but you may want to check with plastic-laminate suppliers.
Message: Posted by: Thomas Wayne (Jan 20, 2008 07:26PM)
Besides the plastic-laminate suggestion, another possible source might be companies who supply "tamper-proof" fixtures and materials for public restrooms at parks, rest stops and so on. I seem to recall metal mirrors in some of those locations.

Message: Posted by: Regan (Jan 20, 2008 10:33PM)
Wow, great info. Yhanks Michael, Geaorge, and Thomas. I'll certainly look into these other materials!
Message: Posted by: Regan (Jan 31, 2008 10:28AM)
I found a source for some stainless steel sheeting. Problem is, I don't know much about the grades. They basically offer 2 different types 304 Stainless and 316 Stainless. From reading the descriptions I am pretty sure I need type 304. It is available in thinner sheets than the 316 also. You can get it with a #2 finish and a #4 finish. The #4 is more expensive, so I assume it is what I want, and that maybe the higher the number, the better the finish.

I could not find any explaination of the difference in the finish numbers. I assume I will choose #4, but are there other finishes available? (#1, #3, #5, etc.) If I can find out how to polish it myself I won't really need to worry as long as the type I get can be polished to the mirror-like finish I desire. I refinish guitars so I am assuming I can polish stainless in a similar fashion.

The 304 is available in .024, .030, .036, .048, .060, and more. To install this, I need it to be slightly flexible, yet it has to be strong enough to take a little stress. I am guessing I will need something at the thinner end of the gauges I listed above. If anyone has any experience with metal gauges, I sure could use some advice on this part.

In, fact, if you know anything about types of stainless steel, how to polish it, or about it's thickness-to-flexibility-ratio, I sure do need your help.

Thanks so much!

Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 4, 2008 09:34AM)
Well, I found out some things. First of all, polishing to a mirror-like finish looks to really difficult, and requires special abrasives. Even a small piece like I need could probably not be done by hand.

I was correct about the higher number meaning a better finish. A #4 finish is food grade, #5 is sanitary grade, etc. A #7 finish is a mirrored finish but still shows some tool marks, and a #8 is the best, mirror-like finish.

I thought I had found the perfect place to order stainless steel in small pieces, but I don't guess I can use the #4.....unless I can find somewhere that will polish it.

I still believe there has to be a source for this. I know some magic makers use it.....Ickle Pickle for one. At least I know what I need now.

I need a small piece of 24 guage, 304 stainless steel with a #8 finish. If anyone has a source, please let me know.


Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Feb 4, 2008 10:13AM)
Check with these folks:

[url=http://www.mirrormetals.com]Mirror Metals[/url]
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 4, 2008 01:06PM)
Thanks amosmc!!! That is what I have been searching for! Now if they will only sell me some in smaller sized sheets!

Thanks again!

Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Feb 4, 2008 01:56PM)
Ask for samples... ;)
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 4, 2008 03:01PM)
I sent them an email. My fingers are crossed!
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 4, 2008 06:21PM)
Mirror Metals would not even give me a qoute on small pieces. The smallest sheets they had were like 4' x 10'.

Still searching.....*sigh*
Message: Posted by: hugmagic (Feb 5, 2008 07:03PM)
Mirror polish is what I used on my metals for the Vanishing Bush and Pot. I had a source that did it in small quantities (instead of 10,000 feet) but they started only doing #4 polish. I ended up going to another company and getting the mirror polish. Four lengths, 20' long, ended up with shipping costing me over $2000.

I would keep checking on ebay. You can also get nickel plated steel that will also work.

I would go back to the suggestion of Ferrotype plates. Photo print dryers also have mirror polish metal. You can also pick up a used print dryer cheap and hardly anyone uses them anymore.

Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 5, 2008 08:37PM)
Thank you Richard. I thought I remembered an old thread where you had stated that you used polished stainless steel in some of your props. I was even considering sending you a PM, but I didn't know for sure if my memory was correct.

Bob Sanders suggested I check with the Ferrotype Plates also. I may check further into that because it seems the correct gauge of mirror-polished stainless (#8) in small sized sheets is a dead end.

Thanks for responding! That clears things up a lot.

Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Feb 5, 2008 09:13PM)
Here's another:

Message: Posted by: leapinglizards (Feb 5, 2008 09:52PM)
http://discountsteel.com/ I have ordered from them many times. Their mirror pollish stainless is mirror pollished. You can order ANY size you want, they ship fast, have decent prices and are nice on the phone!
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 6, 2008 06:11AM)
Thanks amosmc and leapinglizards! You have gotten my hopes up again. I'll check out those links right now!
Message: Posted by: Scott O. (Feb 6, 2008 01:12PM)
Some years back I made a Crystal Silk Casket. I didn't like the dull aluminum finish on the gaff in the manufactured ones. So, I went to a metal supply company and asked if they would sell me a piece cut the size I wanted. $5 and I was gone. Then I found a small machine shop and asked if they could polish it for me. That cost me $15, but the result was a metal mirror with a glass-like finish.

If you are willing to do some running around, you can get anything done.
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 6, 2008 01:39PM)
Thanks Scott. That is what I may have to do. One of the sites listed above does sell polished SS in small pieces, but 20g is the thinnest they have. That is too thick for this particular prop I am building. I found another place that has it in .030 (22G is .0299). That may work, but I was really hoping for 24g, or maybe even 26g. I may have to do what you suggested, because I can get SS with a #2 or #4 finish in the gauge(s) I need.

I just found out something else: There are 2 different grades of #8 finish. One outshines the other. There is also a #12 finish! It was described as true mirror finish...no flaws...no marks....perfect! According to the website I saw that info on, SS with #12 finish is not manufactured in the United States.

Thanks for everyones help. Stainless is a very complicated. If I find what I want, and get it polished like I want, I hope I can figure out how to cut, grind, file, sand, etc.

Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Feb 6, 2008 05:18PM)
Regan, if magic were easy, they would call it football...
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 6, 2008 05:44PM)
On 2008-02-06 18:18, amosmc wrote:
Regan, if magic were easy, they would call it football...

Message: Posted by: Scott O. (Feb 7, 2008 10:58AM)

If you get the unfinished piece, cut and fit it first, then take it to get polished. That way, they can remove any blemishes you may have causes while cutting and grinding etc.
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 7, 2008 07:19PM)
Good idea Scott!

I am wondering about something else also: Are the stainless sheets polished on one side, or both sides? I am thinking only one side, and if that is the case, I'll have to take it somewhere to get it polished no matter what grade I get.

I know stainless is a hard metal, some grades tougher and harder than others. How do you guys cut it? Band saw? Will heavy-duty tin snips cut thin stainless? Can you file and grind it like most metals or do you need special tools?

Message: Posted by: hugmagic (Feb 7, 2008 07:29PM)
It depends on the gauge of the metal whether you can cut it by hand or use normal sheet metal tools. Don't cut tons of it or you will ruin your tools.

Also, if you are putting this inside a glass for a mirror. Realize that the optics or fluting on the glass will allow you some grace as far as the polishing. If you even use a clear tube, there is some distortion.

My plated metal that I used on my phantom tube is bright finish one side the the other side is pretty good so I don't do anything to it. If a silk appears in that side, it covers the mirror and the eyes are one the silk not the glass after the silk is removed.

Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 7, 2008 07:42PM)
Richard to the rescue again! Thanks friend....that is great advice!
Message: Posted by: billy charisma (Feb 8, 2008 08:44AM)
Why do you think you need polished metal? I have made several props over the years, I use glass mirror where I can, it is the best,but the item has to be built around it as it cant flex or be easily drilled etc, otherwise I go for mirrored plexi-glass which is plastic with a film on the back, its near as mirror but can scratch so care is needed in making and storing and of course using, I also polish metal to custom show standard for cars and bikes , and have been doing it for 10 years, but it would never replace mirror,
I have tried to include a photo of a prop but the site wont take it, even though its jpg, and smaler than pixel size allowed!!
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 8, 2008 09:20AM)
I cannot build the prop around the mirror, the mirror has to be made to fit. I need the stainless to flex so it will fit inside because the bottom is slightly larger than the top. Mirror, or plexi-mirror is thicker also, and for this particular application I need it as thin as possible.
Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Feb 8, 2008 10:04AM)
Billy, attaching the plexiglass mirror to a sheet of plywood will add strength and protect the backing. In fact, this is recommended for some applications, as it also reduces the weight.
Message: Posted by: chill (Feb 12, 2008 07:21AM)
On 2008-02-07 20:19, Regan wrote:
I know stainless is a hard metal, some grades tougher and harder than others. How do you guys cut it? Band saw? Will heavy-duty tin snips cut thin stainless? Can you file and grind it like most metals or do you need special tools?

I wound up using a band saw with a 10/14 tooth bi-metal blade to cut 20 gauge. I also tried this on the 26 ga. and it worked well. go slow at first until the metal starts to glow red, then push just fast enough to keep the glow ahead on the blade. tin snips hard difficult to use with stainless, harder on the hand than the snips I think. files and grinds ok, just a little slower then galvanized sheet of the same thickness.
Message: Posted by: Regan (Feb 13, 2008 01:39PM)
Thanks Bob! I actually got some SS and have been working with it. It did nmanage to cut it with tin snips but like you said, it was difficult and hard on the hands.