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All About Abrasives and Their Uses in Verious Products
Belt Sander at work on a board.


What are SANDPAPER abrasives?

In sandpaper, abrasives are the materials that are attached with an adhesive to either a cloth or paper backing. Sandpaper is actually a misnomer in the abrasives industry, because while some abrasives are attached to paper, they can also be attached to cloth or other material, depending on the product usage. Usually, in what we traditionally call sandpaper, the cloth backing is used in a professional setting while DIY'ers tend to use paper. Abrasives are also used in tooling, from diamond blades to grinder tooling, as well as bonded abrasive products.

When selecting abrasives, it is important to know:

Abrasives are often chosen because of their rating on the Mohs Hardness Scale. According to the National Park Service at "The Mohs Hardness Scale is used as a convenient way to help identify minerals. A mineral's hardness is a measure of its relative resistance to scratching, measured by scratching the mineral against another substance of known hardness on the Mohs Hardness Scale."

Additionally, the way an abrasive fractures or resists fracturing is also important. 

The following is a list of the types of abrasives used at Virginia Abrasives:


Virginia Abrasives' company roots are found in Barton Mining, the company that founded us in 1971. Their primary mining operation was for garnets, and knowing that garnets are used in making abrasive products, it was a natural synergy. Garnets have a hardness rating of between 7 and 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Garnet granules are valued for their ability to resist fracturing.

The main advantage of using garnet abrasive products is that it creates less dust than silica sand or slag, reducing exposure to silica, which can cause deadly damage called silicosis.

Garnet abrasives are frequently used in woodworking, but are also effective on these surfaces:

  • Aluminum and fiberglass structures
  • Bridges, docks and shipyards
  • Power coating and denim blasting
  • Industrial painting
  • Hangar decks


Silicon carbide  has a rating of 9-10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and is a hard and sharp abrasive, making it an ideal choice for cutting hard materials like metal, stone, paint, and wood finishes. A great solution for sanding glass, plastic, and rubber makes it a preferred choice in the automotive industry.

Silicon Carbide When the belt is in use, the grains microfracture - meaning that they break down into smaller pieces that let the belt retain its cutting qualities even after continuous use. This quality makes it less suited for soft wood materials, as it won't fragment effectively and renew its sharp edges.

Silicon carbide belts have a closed coat, meaning that they have optimal grain coverage. Closed-coat abrasives are ideal for finishing applications like lacquers and sealers to deliver a high-quality finish.


Aluminum oxide's Mohs Hardness Scale rating is 9 and is a popular abrasive, especially in the wood flooring industry. It fragments efficiently during the sanding process, allowing it to retain its cutting edges and extending the working life of the sanding belt. Coating options include:

Unlike silicon carbide belts, aluminum oxide can only be used in dry applications, but this limitation has not stopped it from becoming one of the most popular and trusting sanding belt materials in multiple industries.


Ceramic grain is one of the sharpest, hardest and toughest abrasive minerals available for floor sanding applications, which means the abrasive will cut faster, cut more consistently and last longer than other abrasives. 

Extra sharp ceramic grain is specially selected for floor sanding working pressures. Engineered to micro-fracture, constantly exposing new sharp cutting surfaces. Ceramic abrasive technology is proven to sand wood floors faster, with a more consistent finish. 

Semi-closed coating of the abrasive grain helps resist loading of the abrasive by old coatings during refinish work, improving the overall life of the product. Our specially formulated phenolic resin bonding system ensures that the grit stays fixed to the backing. 

Extra heavy duty flexible backing helps dissipate heat, improving the overall life of the belts, drum covers and discs.