Emery cloth is a type of coated abrasive that has emery glued to a cloth backing. It is used for hand metalworking. It may be sold in sheets, or in narrow rolls. The cloth backing causes emery cloth to be stronger in tension than sandpaper but still allows a sheet to be conveniently torn to size.
Emery paper, a less commonly seen grade, has a paper backing instead and is usually a finer grit.
Emery was considered a suitable abrasive for fitting work, and the final adjustment of steel parts for a perfect fit. It had the advantage that, unlike harder abrasives, it was not considered to embed abrasive traces in the polished components afterwards. Emery was also used for cleaning, as a means of removing rust from polished steel components.
The use of emery cloth has diminished greatly in recent years, with both the increased use of machine grinding to precision size removing the need for hand-fitting on assembly and also the availability of powered hand tools, such as flapwheels, for finishing. It is still in common use though, for a huge variety of minor tasks.
Emery is rated on the average grit size glued to the backing. Common sizes are, from coarse to fine: 40, 46, 54, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 120, 180, 220, 320, F, and FF. A 46 or 54 grade cloth is used on roughly filed work, while 220 to 320 grit cloth will give a good polish.
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