Surface Modification

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Surface Modification Facts

  • Regarding abrasive grades, there is no practical difference between Abralon and Siaair when new. Both use European FEPA grading, not U.S. ANSI/CAMI grading. Mirka, an industrial abrasives company headquartered in Finland, manufactures Abralon, Abranet, Autonet and Mirlon abrasive pads. SIA (Swiss Industrial Abrasives) manufactures Siaair Velvet Pads as well as Wurth industrial abrasive pads.

Surface modification tools

  • Abralon Pads
    • Abralon Pads are manufactured by a company out of Finland named Mirka. These are considered the gold standard of surface adjustment tools, and are used by most ball companies. These abrasive pads have the abrasive, silicon carbide, on one side and velcro attached to the other side. These pads are 6" around and come in grits ranging in 180, 360, 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 grit. This grit level is termed FEPA and the number is often preceded by the letter "P" to indicate this. So a 4000 grit Abralon pad is actually P4000 grit. Compared to woodworking sandpaper, which often uses the US or CAMI grading standard, a P4000 would be equivalent to a 2000 grit US or CAMI grade sandpaper.
    • These pads came into prominence when initially used by the Ebonite Corporation.
    • Fun Fact: Only Ebonite can get pricing on these at discounted levels and have access to different grits than the public has access to.
    • Abralon uses silicon carbide as its abrasive (very hard but brittle) while Siaair (along with Abranet) uses more conventional aluminum oxide as the abrasive. Your Pro Shop owner/operator likely uses either Abralon or Siaair, perhaps both. Some pro shops report longer life using Siaair. That is consistent with my experience. I seem to get about 50% more effective life from the aluminum oxide pads (Siaair and Abranet) as compared to the silicon carbide pads (Abralon).
    • You can extend the life of your Abralon pads by reducing the pressure you put on the pad against the ball. The Abralon uses sharp but brittle silicon carbide. Use it to "scratch the surface" of the ball. The aluminum oxide surface of the Siiair/Abranet pad is softer with a more ductile particle. It is not as likely to break when you "lean on it" but, like the silicon carbide pad, you can substantially increase the life of the pad by moderating the pressure. Wet sand, use the spray bottle liberally to keep the ball and pad lubricated, and "scratch" the surface. If you are leaning into the pad with the heel of your palm, you're using too much pressure. Try using even pressure with your entire hand with emphasis on the pads of your fingers instead of the heel of your hand. (This is easier on your carpal tunnels, too.) Sanding gloves/mitts also work well to equalize pressure over the entire surface of the pad/ball.
  • Siaair Pads
    • Siaar Pads are manufactured by a company out of Switzerland and used by the Brunswick Corporation. They come in 6" round pads with various grits from 180, 4000 grit just as the abralon pads do. The only difference is the type of abrasive they use that Brunswick claims loses texture slower than Abralon.
  • Scotch Brite Pads
    • Standard Scotch Brite pads are also a good alternative for adjusting surfaces. While not as consistent as Abralon Pads, do a pretty good job overall. They have different grits based on color: Maroon pads are 320 grit US, green pads are 600 grit US, and light grey pads are 800 grit US and blue pads are approximately 1000 grit US.
  • Trizact Pads
    • Insert comment here.
  • Alternatives
    • Wurth pads are generally cheaper, pricewise, than the similar Siiair pads. Both use aluminum oxide as their abrasive. Both are available as foam-backed 6" pads.
    • Joest Superpads (from Germany) are similar to Mirka's Abralon. Both use silicon carbide as their abrasive. Some of the Superpads are available in 6" diameters (320-grit, 600-grit, 1200-grit, 1800-grit and 2500-grit) at a cost that is ~ $0.50 less expensive than Abralon per pad. Superpads are also available in 5" diameter pads in a much wider assortment of grits (220, 320, 800, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2000, 2500 and 3000-grit by FEPA rating) and are ~ $1.25 cheaper per pad than Abralon. There are also some no-name "bargain" pads available in both aluminum oxide and silicon carbide but you get what you pay for: thinner foam backing, shorter pad life, etc.
    • Non-woven scuff pads manufactured by 3M and Mirka are also widely used. These use ANSI/CAMI grading; not FEPA grading. There are conversion tables available to compare different abrasive grading systems: ANSI/CAMI, FEPA, JIS, and micron. Industrial sandpapers, usually ANSI/CAMI graded, utilize aluminum oxide abrasives and have been widely used for decades. Use of aluminum oxide sandpapers, particilarly for coarse resurfacing, are more cost effective than the more recently available Abralon/Siaair/Wurth foam-backed pads.

Surface modification procedures

6 Sided Method

1. Mark a reference dot or line on the outside of the spinner bowl.
2. With the reference mark always toward you, place the ball in the spinner with the label of the bowling ball facing up.
3. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 180 degrees toward you, the label of the bowling ball will face down.
4. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 90 degrees away from you, the label of the bowling ball will face you.
5. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 180 degrees away from you, the label of the bowlng ball will be away from you.
6. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 90 degrees to the right, the label will still be away from you.
7. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 180 degrees to the right, the label will still be away from you.

Note: All 6 sides the ball are now resurfaced evenly.

4 Sided Method

1. Mark a reference dot or line on the outside of the spinner bowl.
2. With the reference mark always toward you, place the ball in the spinner with the label of the bowling ball facing up.
3. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 180 degrees toward you, the label of the bowling ball will face down.
4. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 90 degrees to the right, the label will still be away from you.
5. With the reference mark facing you, rotate the ball 180 degrees to the right, the label will still be away from you.

This 4 sided method should only be used for cleaning and other non-surface altering projects, as 2 "sides" of the ball are not covered.
Note: Using the 4 sided method for surface alterations will eventually leave a ball out of round

Additional References

Pad Conversion Chart
Surface Adjustment Table
BJI Surface Recommendation Table

Information in this article courtesy of users: jbungard and purduepaul