Comprehensive Guide to Stainless Steel Tube Surface Finishes

This comprehensive guide to stainless steel tube surface finishes provides an in-depth look into the different categories of finishes, their properties, and their uses.

It also covers the various tools used for achieving specific finishes, as well as the surface roughness of stainless steel.

Additionally, this guide discusses brushing, buffing, and other specialized finishes.

With this guide, you will be able to make informed decisions when selecting the surface finish for your stainless steel tube.

Key Takeaways

  • Surface finish is crucial for maintaining the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.
  • The different finishes of stainless steel provide various surface appearances and corrosion resistance properties.
  • Mill finishes include No. 1, No. 2D, and No. 2B, while polished finishes include No. 3, No. 4, No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8.
  • Patterned finishes add a three-dimensional relief effect to the stainless steel surface.
stainless steel tube surface finishes

Mill Finish

Mill finishes are the basic surface of stainless steel flat products, and range from No. 0 Finish HRA to No. 2BA Finish.

Hot-rolled finishes are usually dark and dull, while cold-rolled finishes are smoother.

Heat treatment and pickling are often employed to improve surface quality.

No. 0 Finish HRA

No. 0 Finish HRA is the basic stainless steel flat product surface finish, which is hot rolled to the required thickness and then annealed. This finish does not develop the fully corrosion resistant film on the stainless steel, and is unsuitable for most general end uses. It has limited applications in high-temperature heat-resisting applications.

Compared to other mill finishes, HRA finish is more affordable, but has lower corrosion resistance and is harder to clean. In comparison to polished finishes, it has lower reflectivity and corrosion resistance. The HRA finish is a good choice for applications that require a slightly rougher surface and more affordable cost.

No 1 Finish

Building on from the No. 0 Finish HRA, No. 1 Finish (Mill Finish) is the basic stainless steel flat product surface finish achieved by hot rolling to the required thickness and then annealing. It offers corrosion resistance benefits and is suitable for industrial applications.

Surface roughness is slightly higher than other stainless steel finishes like No. 2D and No. 2B. Factors to consider when choosing between No. 1 finish and other mill finishes include the desired aesthetic, surface roughness, and corrosion resistance. Grinding marks can affect the appearance and functionality of the No. 1 finish.

No 2D Finish

Often used in industrial applications, No. 2D Finish (Mill Finish) is a dull matt finish achieved by cold rolling, annealing, pickling, and passivating. This finish is suitable for components exposed to rough handling. It offers slightly better corrosion resistance compared to other mill finishes. The main advantages of a 2D finish are cost-effectiveness and durability. To maintain the 2D finish, regular cleaning is required and any damage should be repaired immediately.

It is important to note that 2D finish is not as smooth and reflective as other finishes such as No. 2B and No. 3. This can be an advantage for some applications as it reduces glare.

The choice of finish depends on the application and the desired aesthetic. It is useful to compare the 2D finish to other finishes to find the most suitable option. With this in mind, the next section will discuss the No. 2B finish.

No 2B Finish

No 2B finish is a semi-reflective finish achieved through cold rolling, annealing, pickling, and passivating. With increased reflectivity, it is often used for deep drawing operations and is more easily polished than a 2D finish.

Advantages include good corrosion resistance and durability, making it ideal for cookware, control panels, kitchen equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, flatware, and pool liners. However, it requires more maintenance and careful cleaning to retain its appearance.

Cleaning should be done with a mild detergent, followed by a thorough rinse with warm water. To ensure the finish remains intact, it should be dried immediately after cleaning.

No 2 BA Finish

No. 2BA finish, also referred to as Mill Finish, is a bright and reflective finish similar to the No. 8 finish. It is created by passing the stainless steel through a series of rolls in a controlled atmosphere. Advantages of No. 2 BA Finish include its high corrosion resistance, lack of oxidation, and its ability to be manipulated into various shapes.

It is commonly used for auto/appliance trim, truck parts, commercial refrigeration cases, truck trailer wrappers, cookware, and surgical/dental instruments. Compared to other finishes, No. 2 BA Finish is more durable and easier to clean. However, it is important to take proper care and maintenance to ensure the best quality finish.

Factors that can affect the quality of No. 2 BA Finish include the gauge of the material, the annealing process, and the number of passes through the rolls.

Polished Finish

Polished stainless steel finishes can range from No. 3 to No. 8, depending on the desired quality and type of material being worked with.

No. 3 finishes are coarse, while No. 8 finishes are more mirror-like.

The size of the grit used in the polishing process will determine the result.

No. 3 Finish

No. 3 finish is a ground unidirectional finish used as an intermediate surface. It is obtained through 80-100 grit abrasive and is suitable for further polishing operations to achieve a finer finish.

The unidirectional pattern, grit size, and fabrication requirements must be considered when determining this finish. It is a good choice for components that require rough handling and intermediate surfaces.

No. 3 finish is also economical and can be used to meet many fabrication requirements.

No. 4 Finish

Its surface is produced by polishing with belts or brushes to produce a more refined look with a muted color and very fine lines. No. 4 Finish (Polished Finish) is widely used in many applications due to its versatility. However, it offers less corrosion resistance than other finishes, so maintenance is important.

VersatileReduced Corrosion Resistance
Distinct LookMore Expensive

Applications include appliances, AC units, decorative architectural elements, and cars/trucks. Maintenance tips include regular cleaning and avoiding harsh chemicals or abrasives. When comparing No. 4 Finish to other finishes, its distinct look is its main advantage, although it is more expensive and offers less corrosion resistance.

No. 6 Finish

No. 6 Finish, commonly known as the Polished Finish, is produced by mechanically polishing the surface of stainless steel tubes with finer abrasives. It has a non-directional texture of varying reflectiveness and is suitable for further polishing or coating. It has a lower surface roughness compared to No. 4 Finish and can offer better corrosion resistance.

It is also categorized as a textured finish and can be used as an intermediate surface for specialized finishes. Keywords for No. 6 Finish include satin finish, surface roughness, textured finishes, and specialized finishes. This finish provides a great option for applications where control is desired.

No. 7 Finish

Frequently used for decorative and architectural applications, No. 7 Finish is a polished finish with a high degree of reflectiveness. It is produced by a buffing process that uses progressively finer abrasives and finishes with buffing compounds. Grit lines may remain from the original starting surface, resulting in a slightly rougher surface. The surface roughness is carefully considered and controlled.

This finish is often used for decorative trim, wall panels, and other architectural applications. It offers a reflective finish that can add to the aesthetic of any project.

No. 8 Finish((Mirror finish)

No. 8 Finish is a true mirror finish achieved through the use of fine buffing compounds. It provides a blemish-free surface with a high degree of image clarity, making it ideal for applications such as sculptural components, plating, wall paneling, reflectors, and signage.

Benefits of this finish include:

  • High corrosion resistance
  • Easier to clean
  • Reflective surface
  • Cost-effective
  • Durable

It is important to note that this finish requires proper maintenance for optimal performance. A comparison of this finish with other finishes should be made to determine the best fit for a given application. Additionally, certain limitations to this finish should be taken into consideration.

Brushed / Grained Finish

A Brushed or Grained Finish is achieved through the use of a polishing belt which creates a coarser finish than the satin polish. This finish has an approximate grit of 240 and is recommended for tubing and metal components post-fabrication.

The benefits of this finish include its affordability, as well as its ability to reduce glare. It is used in applications such as handrails, railings, and outdoor furniture, as well as in automotive and marine applications. Maintenance of this finish is relatively easy with a simple cleaning routine.

When comparing this finish to the No. 8 mirror finish, the grained or brushed finish has less corrosion resistance and is harder to clean. However, it is still more affordable and provides a unique aesthetic. One limitation of this finish is that it can have visible traces of the underlying surface finish if the surface is too coarse.

Satin Finish

Satin Finish is a refined, smooth surface finish achieved through polishing with a 120-180 grit abrasive belt. It is widely used across a range of industries, particularly for food-grade steels, due to its corrosion resistance and ease of cleaning.

Here are some notable features of the satin finish:

  • Alternatives to a satin finish include No. 3, No. 6, and No. 9 finishes.
  • Satin finish has less corrosion resistance than a polished finish but has a more affordable cost.
  • Applications of a satin finish include kitchenware, medical equipment, and architectural facades.
  • The durability of a satin finish is good, as it is resistant to most chemicals and scratches.
  • Maintenance of a satin finish is low, as it does not require frequent polishing or cleaning.

Overall, the satin finish is a popular choice for its combination of affordability and corrosion resistance.

Matte Finish

With its non-reflective, low-luster treatment, matte finish is a popular choice for industrial applications. It is not used for its aesthetic appeal but is a cost-effective option.

A matte finish is achieved by passing the stainless steel through a special roller to create a smooth, less pitted surface. Then it is descaled in an acid solution and polished for additional smoothness.

It is often used for chemical and pharmaceutical equipment due to its resistance to corrosion and surface smoothness. Matte finish is also extremely durable and can withstand high temperatures, making it an ideal choice for applications that require regular cleaning and maintenance.

This finish is also easy to maintain, as it does not require any special coatings or treatments. With its cost-effectiveness and corrosion resistance, matte finish is an ideal choice for a variety of industrial applications.

TR (Temper Rolled) Finish

Although less common than other finishes, TR finish is a temper-rolled finish produced when an annealed surface is cold-rolled to obtain mechanical properties. It is used for a variety of applications, such as cutlery, cookware, and fuel tanks, and provides several advantages. Compared to other finishes, TR finish has better corrosion resistance, superior formability, and better strength properties. It is also widely used in manufacturing industries, such as automotive, marine, and aerospace, where its superior mechanical properties are desired.

To achieve a TR finish on stainless steel, it is important to use the correct cold rolling process and anneal the surface to obtain the desired mechanical properties. In addition, the correct grade of stainless steel must be selected to ensure the best results. With these key considerations in mind, TR finish can be used to provide superior performance and longevity in a variety of applications.

Sand Blasting

Sandblasting is an abrasive surface finishing technique commonly used to roughen a surface or create a dull, matte finish. It is achieved by placing the parts in a sandblast cabinet and exposing them to a stream of sand or grit at high speeds through a machine nozzle. A variety of sand or grits, such as silica carbide or aluminum oxide, are available in sizes from 60 grit to 120 grit.

Surface PreparationAbrasion Resistant
Paint RemovalCost-Efficient
Rust RemovalEasy to Use

Sandblasting is commonly used for various applications, such as surface preparation, paint removal, and rust removal. It offers numerous benefits, including abrasion resistance and cost-efficiency. It is also relatively easy to use with the right techniques and equipment.

When using sandblasting, it is important to select the correct grit size for the desired surface finish. The level of roughness can be adjusted by changing the grit size or the blasting pressure. It is also important to use the right techniques and equipment to ensure a consistent and even finish.

Electro-Polished Finishes

Building on the advantages of sandblasting, electro-polished finishes provide an even higher level of corrosion resistance and cleanliness. Electrolytic polishing is a process that involves submerging the metal into a tank and running a current between a cathode and anode with the tubes in between. This removes a small layer from the surface, leaving it highly polished and clean.

Benefits of electro-polished finishes include:

  • Surface smoothness
  • Corrosion resistance enhancement
  • Removal of microburst
  • Hygienic applications
  • Enhanced cleanliness

These finishes are ideal for applications that require precision, hygiene, and biocompatibility.

What is the Surface Roughness of Stainless Steel?

Though surface roughness may not be the most discussed feature of stainless steel, its importance cannot be overstated. Surface roughness measurements measure the texture of a manufactured surface and are typically given in microinches or micrometers. Ra (average roughness) and Rz (mean roughness depth) are the two most commonly used parameters, and their values can vary significantly depending on the type of stainless steel finish. The impact of surface roughness on durability and performance must be closely considered and controlled.

The surface roughness of stainless steel can be compared with that of other metals. The range of values for stainless steel is typically between 0.1 and 0.5 micrometers, depending on the type of finish. This is generally much smoother than other metals such as aluminum or steel, which can range from 0.6 to 1.6 micrometers.

MetalsRa (µm)Rz (µm)
Stainless Steel0.1 - 0.50.2 - 1.0
Aluminum0.6 - 1.61.2 - 3.2
Steel0.6 - 1.61.2 - 3.2

Surface roughness control is essential for stainless steel surfaces to maintain corrosion resistance and performance. Finer abrasives are used to polish the stainless steel surface and higher-end finishes (such as No. 8) can provide a true mirror finish. Different finishes can also affect the surface roughness, with brushed finishes having the same code (2J) as dull polished finishes. Careful consideration of the surface roughness must be taken when selecting the appropriate finish for a stainless steel application.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between a Mill Finish and a Polished Finish?

Mill finishes are created without pickling or passivation, while polished finishes are achieved through satinizing, sanding, blasting, and other processes. Polished finishes offer a smoother and brighter look while providing improved corrosion resistance.

How Does the Roughness of Stainless Steel Affect Its Performance?

The roughness of stainless steel can impact its performance in several ways. Smooth surfaces offer better corrosion resistance and temperature tolerance, while rougher surfaces can affect stress strength, paint adhesion, and alloy selection. Proper selection of the right grade and finish is critical to ensure optimal performance.

What Is the Difference Between Brushing and Buffing?

Brushing and buffing are mechanical processes used to improve the appearance of stainless steel surfaces. Brushing uses a fine abrasive action whereas buffing uses cotton or felt-based media. Sanding, pickling, grinding, acid-etching, anodizing, and coating are different processes than brushing and buffing.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Temper Rolled Finish?

The temper rolled finish offers many benefits, including improved heat treatment, electrolytic cleaning, satin finish, passivation treatment, and mechanical polishing. This finish gives the stainless steel increased strength and a superior surface while providing excellent control over the surface's properties.

What Is the Difference Between Sand Blasting and Electro-Polishing?

Sandblasting uses abrasives to roughen the surface of the steel while electro-polishing etches the surface with an electric current. Oxide coating, pickling acid, and chemical etching are also used to etch the surface. Bead blasting is also used to remove surface contaminants.

Related Article: Comparisons of hairline finish, brushed finish, and satin finish stainless steel tube


In conclusion, stainless steel tube surface finishes come in a variety of types, each with its unique properties and uses.

While these finishes offer many benefits, it is important to understand the different tools and techniques used to achieve them.

By taking the time to properly consider each option, one can ensure that the stainless steel surface finish chosen is the right one for the job.

Just like a jigsaw puzzle, the right pieces must be selected to complete the perfect picture.

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