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#1
Old 12-15-2014, 07:13 PM
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using v. fine steel wool on windshield ???

A friend said some gas station attendant showed her that windshields accumulate some grime that is difficult to really clean. He used a foamy substance detergent and then (he said) the finest grade of steel wool which (she said) worked wonders at making the windshield like new again.

I can imagine windshield owners who would go ballistic at seeing a ball of steel wool molesting their wind screen even if lubricated by some foamy agent.

I wonder if windshields today have some coating that could be damaged (but might wear off in any case with a couple years of wipers friction) ? I also wonder if it is a benign method of cleaning that greasy sludge that does accumulate ?
#2
Old 12-15-2014, 07:33 PM
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The folks that install new windshields use foamy stuff and brown paper towels torn from a roll. That's good enough for me, they're the professionals. If there was a real persistent dead bug corpse, I'd try a scrubby sponge, the kind you use on non-stick treated pots and pans.
#3
Old 12-15-2014, 08:08 PM
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Interesting concept. 0000 steel wool is very fine indeed. It would be interesting to see how it works on a sufficiently worthless windshield. I wouldn't try it on a nice one. It is good for refinishing furniture. Here's a video https://youtube.com/watch?v=gXS4pegAnN4

Last edited by The Second Stone; 12-15-2014 at 08:11 PM.
#4
Old 12-15-2014, 08:14 PM
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Back in the day when you bought gas the attendant cleaned the windows. That stopped about 40 years ago.
Windshield do get a grimy coating that can make wipers skip and clean poorly. While I have never used 0000 steel wool I have used a scotchbrite pad and a strong detergent.
IMHO a scotchbrite is probably more aggressive than 0000 steel wool.
Oh and Ranger apples to oranges. I'm talking about cleaning a windshield that has been on a car, the installer is clean a new windshield they just installed
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#5
Old 12-15-2014, 08:31 PM
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I'd try a Magic Eraser before I tried anything else.
#6
Old 12-15-2014, 08:40 PM
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IMO it's insane to use an abrasive on glass.
#7
Old 12-15-2014, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
IMO it's insane to use an abrasive on glass.
You quite likely use abrasives on the rest of the car's surface. Car polishes, unless clearly marked otherwise, contain abrasives.
#8
Old 12-15-2014, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
You quite likely use abrasives on the rest of the car's surface. Car polishes, unless clearly marked otherwise, contain abrasives.
I'm not looking through the paint on my car.
#9
Old 12-15-2014, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
I'm not looking through the paint on my car.
Paint is more fragile than glass. I doubt you could damage glass with steel wool. The grit that I guarantee you is embedded in your wiper blades is more likely to damage the windshield than fine steel wool.
#10
Old 12-15-2014, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
Paint is more fragile than glass. I doubt you could damage glass with steel wool. The grit that I guarantee you is embedded in your wiper blades is more likely to damage the windshield than fine steel wool.
Speaking from personal experience, the green "pot scrubber" pads will scratch windshield glass. The non-stick safe ones are ok, though.
#11
Old 12-15-2014, 09:25 PM
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I clean glass cookware all the time using steel wool, and it does it no harm. Glass is pretty strong stuff, compared to mere steel. That said, I've never found a need to use anything stronger than a rag and windex on auto glass.

The outside of an auto window doesn't have any coating. The inside may; I wouldn't use steel wool on the inside. (If there's not coating on the inside, then where is that plastic layer that keeps it from shattering all over when it breaks? It could be sandwiched inside; I don't know.)
#12
Old 12-15-2014, 09:26 PM
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I use tea or vinegar on glass.
#13
Old 12-15-2014, 09:28 PM
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Considering that any form of steel is almost always harder than any form of glass, I can't think that's a good idea. I know people who use brass ice scrapers, though, because brass isn't as hard as glass and supposedly can't scratch it.
#14
Old 12-15-2014, 09:34 PM
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Apparently, this has been a detailer's "secret" for years and as long as you use plenty of lubricant and do not "scrub" any one area for too long, it should not create any scratches. And it has to be the ultra-fine 0000 grade. Professional window cleaners and porcelain makers use it as well to clean and buff.
#15
Old 12-15-2014, 09:37 PM
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Some hardened steel alloys are harder than glass. Steel wool is not.
#16
Old 12-15-2014, 09:45 PM
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I have used SOS or Brillo pads many times on car windows with no damage done. I do make sure to wet the glass and the pad well and I don't press very hard. Works great on dried-on love bugs! I would never use Scotchbrite or any other abrasive pad, however.
#17
Old 12-15-2014, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by The Joker and the Thief View Post
Considering that any form of steel is almost always harder than any form of glass, I can't think that's a good idea. I know people who use brass ice scrapers, though, because brass isn't as hard as glass and supposedly can't scratch it.
The inverse, actually - glass is commonly harder than steel. While the comparison between various hardness scales are a little funky, the hardest tool steels top out at Rockwell numbers around 65 (though there are some that hit 70-72*) - an Rc 72 value is (roughly) equivalent to a Mohs hardness of 4.5. The softest glass glass compounds are Mohs 4.5 - with more typical glass compounds at Mohs 5.5 and the hardest commercially-available glass coming in around 6.5.

* Yes, there are a small handful of weird alloys that have been reported to have (converted) Mohs values above 6.5 - that I know of these are so brittle as to have little value commercially (at least in widespread use).
#18
Old 12-15-2014, 10:10 PM
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I have some 0000 steel wool at home (to start campfires with a 9V battery). I'll test it out on a sheet of glass this week and return with the results.
#19
Old 12-15-2014, 10:12 PM
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I've been using 0000 steel wool on mirrors and windows for years (also to buff furniture wax). Including my car's windows. No streaks, no bug spots, no film to cause glare. At first the glass feels sticky, but that disappears as you continue to work with the steel wool. I have glass balusters on my deck that are a cinch to keep clean with steel wool. I think the results are similar to those with Invisible Glass, but less work and way cheaper.
#20
Old 12-15-2014, 10:36 PM
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I used to work at a VW restoration shop back in the day and we used steel wool on the headlight lenses regularly. It would remove the white fogging, which I assume was microscopic pits and scratches, and make them clear again. We would also use it on the chrome bumpers. In both cases we were using some type of rubbing compound, most likely a wax of some type. YMMV and all that.
#21
Old 12-16-2014, 12:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ranger Jeff View Post
The folks that install new windshields use foamy stuff and brown paper towels torn from a roll. That's good enough for me, they're the professionals. If there was a real persistent dead bug corpse, I'd try a scrubby sponge, the kind you use on non-stick treated pots and pans.
For dead bugs I suggest an actual "bug release" such as the one offered by Wizard brand polishes. The stuff is more than worth the cost after you've driven through a couple hatches at high speed. And its even safe on the plastic stuff us bikers have.
#22
Old 12-16-2014, 12:32 AM
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I am really amazed by the number of people in this thread that were under the impression you could scratch glass with steel. A standard tool in the window washing trade is razor blades. There are huge blades marketed simply for scraping windows. How else do you think paint is removed from a window?

If a particle of sand (or...glass) is caught in the steel, that can scratch the glass; hence the use of lubricants which help lift debris away from the surface. You have to be careful when using anything on glass that it is not contaminated with any kind of grit. Special coatings can be scraped off by steel but I think those are not usually applied to the exposed surface.

To cut glass you need carbide at the very least, and if you do not want to spend all afternoon you use diamond blades or bits. Glass is HARD.
#23
Old 12-16-2014, 12:50 AM
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Related thread from a few years ago, complete with shock and horror at the idea of using steel wool on glass from those who've never done it, and knowing reassurance from those who have.
#24
Old 12-16-2014, 12:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperAbe View Post
The inverse, actually - glass is commonly harder than steel. While the comparison between various hardness scales are a little funky, the hardest tool steels top out at Rockwell numbers around 65 (though there are some that hit 70-72*) - an Rc 72 value is (roughly) equivalent to a Mohs hardness of 4.5. The softest glass glass compounds are Mohs 4.5 - with more typical glass compounds at Mohs 5.5 and the hardest commercially-available glass coming in around 6.5.

* Yes, there are a small handful of weird alloys that have been reported to have (converted) Mohs values above 6.5 - that I know of these are so brittle as to have little value commercially (at least in widespread use).
Huh, everything I've ever heard is that steel is harder. Your own last link lists steel's hardness as 5-8.5, not the 4.5-6.5 you state in your post. And knife steels, generally, have nickel or chromium mixed in to prevent corrosion (which reduces both hardness and toughness), while I can't imagine any corrosion resistance in steel wool.

Here are three more links–in addition to the one you gave me–that suggest steel is harder.
#25
Old 12-16-2014, 01:02 AM
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Originally Posted by FluffyBob View Post
I am really amazed by the number of people in this thread that were under the impression you could scratch glass with steel. A standard tool in the window washing trade is razor blades. There are huge blades marketed simply for scraping windows. How else do you think paint is removed from a window?

If a particle of sand (or...glass) is caught in the steel, that can scratch the glass; hence the use of lubricants which help lift debris away from the surface. You have to be careful when using anything on glass that it is not contaminated with any kind of grit. Special coatings can be scraped off by steel but I think those are not usually applied to the exposed surface.

To cut glass you need carbide at the very least, and if you do not want to spend all afternoon you use diamond blades or bits. Glass is HARD.
I've used razor blades on glass before, but it never bothered me because 1)they weren't my windows I was working on and 2) the razor blade and the window are both are very smooth, so there's almost no chance for a scrape. If I can drag a razor over my skin (mohs hardness <1?) without cutting myself I can certainly do it over a tough piece of glass. I'm also not sure what glass you've been working with, but I've cut normal windowpane glass by scoring it with a steel glass cutter and breaking it by hand. (of course, I realized just as I passed the point of no return that I was working with tempered glass...)
#26
Old 12-16-2014, 01:20 AM
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I have indeed scratched glass with steel.
I was using a screw driver to scrape off a sticker...

well the razor blade is so thin.. it won't scratch glass.. the sharp edge would fold over or otherwise become blunt first .. so too the fine steel wool won't put any force on..

Last edited by Isilder; 12-16-2014 at 01:21 AM.
#27
Old 12-16-2014, 08:31 AM
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Before I'd use anything abrasive on a windshield I'd use a clay bar.
#28
Old 12-16-2014, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Iamnotivan View Post
A friend said some gas station attendant showed her
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
Back in the day when you bought gas the attendant cleaned the windows. That stopped about 40 years ago.
Not if you live in New Jersey or Oregon, where self service stations are outlawed.
#29
Old 12-16-2014, 10:22 AM
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I resurrect ancient VW microbuses for fun.
I have used 0000 steel wool on every surface imaginable on these things.
I have used steel wool on glass that has not been cleaned for 50 years and there is really nothing else I have found that will clean old glass as well as 0000 steel wool.
I have seen no evidence of even micro scratches on the glass post steel wool.
#30
Old 12-16-2014, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by The Joker and the Thief View Post
... I'm also not sure what glass you've been working with, but I've cut normal windowpane glass by scoring it with a steel glass cutter and breaking it by hand. (of course, I realized just as I passed the point of no return that I was working with tempered glass...)

No you did not. You scored it with a carbide blade and then it broke along that weakness when you applied a force.

You could take a High Speed Steel (a very hard tool steel) drill bit and a power drill and probably barely mark the glass. If you scratch glass with regular steel it is because harder particulates like a bit of sand or glass are being dragged by the steel.
#31
Old 12-16-2014, 11:41 AM
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As I said a few years ago in that other thread, body shops, detail shops and car dealers routinely use steel wool on windshields. When I worked at a body shop, it was standard procedure for the detail guys to use steel wool on every car to ensure there was no overspray on the glass. The place I worked was high volume, so I probably saw 10,000 cars go through and steel wool never hurt any of them. A good half of the business was high end and exotic cars too, the kind you might expect to have fancy or different parts, but no, it's just glass and steel wool didn't hurt any of them.

The one thing they were wary of were cars with a lot of aluminum, especially structural. Some had to be repaired separately from the rest of the vehicles using tools that never touched steel. I don't know all the details but corrosion is the worry, and they didn't use steel wool on those because the fine steel bits might get washed down into where the aluminum parts were and cause corrosion. That was something they came up with on their own, maybe they were being overly cautious. Otherwise, steel wool was used on just about every car you could name.
#32
Old 12-16-2014, 12:20 PM
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Tangent:

Does isopropyl alcohol or acetone (in the form of nail polish remover) help with removing grime from old windshields? Say, soaking a wadded-up coarse shop rag with one or the other chemical?
#33
Old 12-16-2014, 12:30 PM
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I've successfully cleaned some seriously soap scum and mineral encrusted bathroom tiles with fine steel wool and acetone. I imagine it would work just as well at getting the greasy layer of road film off your windshield. You'd want to be extra-special careful to avoid slopping any on your car's paint, though. It would remove any car wax you have on for sure, and probably wouldn't do the clearcoat and paint any good.
#34
Old 12-16-2014, 12:47 PM
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Huh, interesting. We have a parts hulk in the pasture, I may have mrAru wander out with some supplies and have a go at various parts. We have pernicious bugs and sap dripping trees that love bombing the cars.
#35
Old 12-16-2014, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by FluffyBob View Post
I am really amazed by the number of people in this thread that were under the impression you could scratch glass with steel. A standard tool in the window washing trade is razor blades. There are huge blades marketed simply for scraping windows. How else do you think paint is removed from a window?
Isn't this like saying that human skin must be harder than steel because we all shave every day without cutting ourselves? What you can do with a razor blade held at the appropriate angle tells you nothing about the overall hardness of the surfaces.
#36
Old 12-16-2014, 01:38 PM
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You can polish a steel fountain pen nib by drawing circles with it on a flat piece of glass. The steel (slowly) wears away, not the glass. The glass, itself, shows no scratches or other wear. If the steel wasn't being worn away, no polishing would take place. A flat piece of glass can also be used as an ultra-ultra-fine sharpening stone as a last step before stropping a blade. Again, polishing requires that the glass wears away the steel.
#37
Old 12-16-2014, 01:43 PM
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You can scratch glass with a razorblade. Once many years ago I was cleaning dried wax droplets off a glass-topped coffee table using the utility single-edge blades you get at a hardware store. I made several distinct scratches before I realized what was happening and switched to a plastic scraper.
#38
Old 12-16-2014, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
You can scratch glass with a razorblade. Once many years ago I was cleaning dried wax droplets off a glass-topped coffee table using the utility single-edge blades you get at a hardware store. I made several distinct scratches before I realized what was happening and switched to a plastic scraper.
You can scratch glass with fingernails. It just doesn't happen immediately. When I was an optician I saw hundreds of glass lenses with diagonal scratches on the backside. They were the result of the wearer frequently rubbing their eyes with a finger under their glasses over a long period of time.
#39
Old 12-16-2014, 03:41 PM
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Water can wear away granite, so it isn't just a case of what's-harder-than-what. That said, abrasives and polishing compounds are all part of the same spectrum, really. Very fine abrasives will make things more shiny and smooth, not less.
#40
Old 12-17-2014, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
You can scratch glass with fingernails. It just doesn't happen immediately. When I was an optician I saw hundreds of glass lenses with diagonal scratches on the backside. They were the result of the wearer frequently rubbing their eyes with a finger under their glasses over a long period of time.
I believe most lenses for the past few decades have been made of some sort of plastic which would almost certainly be nowhere near as hard as glass. Also keep in mind that little bits of dust and grit are constantly getting on our fingers and other body parts. I occasionally find a grain of sand in my hair or under a fingernail... the really fine grains you likely can't even detect buit they are there. These tiny bits of dust are the actual abrasives, not our skin cells.

Quote:
Water can wear away granite, so it isn't just a case of what's-harder-than-what. That said, abrasives and polishing compounds are all part of the same spectrum, really. Very fine abrasives will make things more shiny and smooth, not less.
It's not the water molecules that wear away granite, it's the little bits of abrasive material the water rubs against the rock that erode it. Pure liquid water with no impurities isn't going to physically abraid much of anything. Most of the channel carving done by water is by way of mobilizing loose sediments and flushing them downstream rather than by mechanically scoring solid bed material. The actual abrasion of the bedrock or gravels/sand happens as the particles rub against each other while tumbling downstream; that's how river gravels get rounded. Water acts like the air in a sand blaster; without the abrasive sand nothing will get polished.
#41
Old 12-17-2014, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by mmmiiikkkeee View Post
I believe most lenses for the past few decades have been made of some sort of plastic which would almost certainly be nowhere near as hard as glass. Also keep in mind that little bits of dust and grit are constantly getting on our fingers and other body parts. I occasionally find a grain of sand in my hair or under a fingernail... the really fine grains you likely can't even detect buit they are there. These tiny bits of dust are the actual abrasives, not our skin cells.
Yes, most lenses are made of various plastics, but I was specifically talking about glass lenses. With plastic lenses scratches show up quickly and be pretty obvious when they happen, but with glass they gradually show up over a long period of time.

We frequently had to explain to people that almost anything that will scratch plastic lenses will also scratch glass lenses, it just takes longer and more times before you see them.
#42
Old 12-17-2014, 12:17 PM
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I thought water dissolves the granite. I recall having to memorize a long chain of reactions back in Earth Science classes, something about feldspars (or was is Marty Feldman)?


To pedantically reiterate what I'm getting from this thread: We have windshields with 150K+ miles on them never quite get 'clean'. A light rain results in lots of smears and super-glare. Heavy rains are okay. New wipers didn't really affect anything, even the fancy-shmancy brand.

So to revitalize the view, I'm going to use a foaming windshield cleaner and 0000 steel wool to clean (but not harshly scrub) the grime away.
#43
Old 12-17-2014, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
I thought water dissolves the granite. I recall having to memorize a long chain of reactions back in Earth Science classes, something about feldspars (or was is Marty Feldman)?


To pedantically reiterate what I'm getting from this thread: We have windshields with 150K+ miles on them never quite get 'clean'. A light rain results in lots of smears and super-glare. Heavy rains are okay. New wipers didn't really affect anything, even the fancy-shmancy brand.

So to revitalize the view, I'm going to use a foaming windshield cleaner and 0000 steel wool to clean (but not harshly scrub) the grime away.
Rock getting "shaped by water" is seldom attributable to just one single thing. Some of it is rock getting dissolved by the water. Some of it is chemical reactions with stuff in the water. Some of it is abrasion by particulate matter in the water. Some of it is wedging from water seeping into cracks and expanding when it freezes.
#44
Old 12-17-2014, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by mmmiiikkkeee View Post
It's not the water molecules that wear away granite, it's the little bits of abrasive material the water rubs against the rock that erode it. Pure liquid water with no impurities isn't going to physically abraid much of anything.
'Not much' is not the same as 'not at all'.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
I thought water dissolves the granite. I recall having to memorize a long chain of reactions back in Earth Science classes, something about feldspars (or was is Marty Feldman)?
A high pressure jet of pure water is commonly used in industry to cut metal, stone, glass and many other things, all of them harder than water. Of course, that's an extreme case, but it's actually going to be one end of a continuum. A less aggressive application will cause less wear, but there's not going to be a point where the effect abruptly stops.

When it's two solid materials rubbing against each other, the softer one wears more than the harder one, but the harder one does still wear some - it's a continuous function, not a discrete one.
#45
Old 12-17-2014, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
'Not much' is not the same as 'not at all'.



A high pressure jet of pure water is commonly used in industry to cut metal, stone, glass and many other things, all of them harder than water. Of course, that's an extreme case, but it's actually going to be one end of a continuum. A less aggressive application will cause less wear, but there's not going to be a point where the effect abruptly stops.

When it's two solid materials rubbing against each other, the softer one wears more than the harder one, but the harder one does still wear some - it's a continuous function, not a discrete one.
It doesn't matter if the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher pours out on the granite coutnertop under high pressure...
#46
Old 12-19-2014, 06:20 PM
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I restore antiques as part of my buisness. I have used steel wool and a soap slurry to clean all sorts of glass. For example railroad lanterns with 100+ years worth of soot and grime then left in a barn for a generation to be covered in pigeon crap. Don't do it dry and you'll be amazed.

Regarding Scotchbrite pads made by 3M there are at least 8 grades that I know of. The green one most people commonly encounter with the cleaning supplies is about 2/3 up the abrasive scale.
#47
Old 12-19-2014, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by FluffyBob View Post
No you did not. You scored it with a carbide blade and then it broke along that weakness when you applied a force.

You could take a High Speed Steel (a very hard tool steel) drill bit and a power drill and probably barely mark the glass. If you scratch glass with regular steel it is because harder particulates like a bit of sand or glass are being dragged by the steel.
You are wrong. Glass cutters are made "of hardened steel or tungsten carbide" and indeed the specific glass cutter I own is made with a steel cutting wheel.

If I'm able to mark the glass with a glass cutter, then that's proof steel is harder. You don't need carbide to cut glass.
#48
Old 12-19-2014, 06:58 PM
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I don't know where this notion is coming from that hard materials experience zero wear or abrasion from contact with anything less hard. If this were true, scissors, knives, scalpels, saw blades and drill bits would never go blunt unless used improperly.

Last edited by Mangetout; 12-19-2014 at 07:00 PM.
#49
Old 12-19-2014, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
A high pressure jet of pure water is commonly used in industry to cut metal, stone, glass and many other things, all of them harder than water.
That's not true. Although pure water is used for soft materials, when cutting hard materials like metal an abrasive (some type of garnet, typically) is mixed into the stream. The nozzle must of course be harder yet to survive and is typically made from tungsten carbide.
#50
Old 12-19-2014, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by The Joker and the Thief View Post
If I'm able to mark the glass with a glass cutter, then that's proof steel is harder. You don't need carbide to cut glass.
One alloy of steel is harder than typical glass. High Speed Steel is already quite hard, but brittle to the point that it's useless outside of tooling. There are other, even harder and more brittle steel alloys, of which your glass cutter is probably one. It has no resemblance to the steel used in steel wool.
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