Whether you’re either thinking about buying a Mirka or you’re trying to work out which abrasive is best for you, you’re in the right place.
It seems that in spite of the fact that they’re all called “abrasives,” not all abrasives are made equal - or at least equal for the same purpose.
This is where things get a little confusing. There is paper, net and foam backed abrasives. There is silicon carbide, aluminium oxide, granite, ceramic and a bunch of other grains.
So what should you use?
From the outset, we’re not going to compare different brands of abrasives. We’re already in a committed relationship with Mirka here. What we are going to do is give you a ‘hands on’ - as much as the internet allows - breakdown of Mirka’s most frequently used abrasives.
We also get a few questions around Iridium versus Abranet abrasives. So we’ve done a one-on-one comparison of actually using them on stripping back and finishing a set of draws we grabbed off Marketplace.
Let’s get into it.
Ideal for: Fine-finish, contours, automotive & the like
Grit Range: 180 - 4000
Grain: Silicon carbide
Backing: Knitted fabric on foam
Mirka’s Abralon abrasive absolutely crushes fine-finish work. Designed primarily for wet use, the finer grit range allows you to bring your surface right up and ready for polish or finish.
Each sanding disc is knitted onto a 6.5mm foam padding, which has a couple of key benefits. Firstly, the foam enables this abrasive to not only excel on flat surfaces but also those with contours and curvature. Secondly, the foam acts like suspension to distribute the force applied to the sander across the abrasive, reducing the risk of pressure marks in your finish.
Something to keep in mind is that Arbalon abrasives come in a limited number of sizes. Unlike your Iridium’s and Abranet’s, you're looking at just strips and discs. We at GO don't find much of a demand for strips, so we only distribute discs at the moment. Get in contact if you're chasing something you can’t find on the website.
Ideal for: All-rounder, refinishing
Grit Range: 80 - 1000
Grain: Ceramic / Aluminium oxide
Introducing Mirka’s resident speed demon.
If you want to strip back a surface, maybe exterior weatherboards or the like, then consider Iridium. The ceramic / aluminium oxide combination provides the same strength of grain as the abranet’s, but with a much more aggressive arrangement.
This aggressive nature does come at a cost. The Iridium produces a far more visible scratch pattern than your netted abrasives and is not suited for fine-finish work. We know other websites might say they’re suitable for fine-finish, but trust us, don’t go there.
Another quick note is that these guys are not P-rated grits. “P” at the beginning of the grit description (e.g. P120 vs. 120) indicates a true grit rating compared to an approximate grit. For example, your Iridium’s 80 could actually be a 76 or 77 whereas your Abranet’s (incl. The Ace and Ace HD) P80 is a guaranteed ‘perfect’ 80.
What's so special about paper backed abrasives?
Well, the key element we find most users appreciate about these paper-back abrasives, is that when you coming into contact with that unseen nail or are hitting the edges of the abrasive with another surface - take that weatherboard example - your abrasive won’t fold in on itself like the net’s are prone to.
But it’s not all roses and good times. Paper backed abrasives just won’t last as long as a net abrasive and they also won’t have the same level of suction. We’ll get more into this in the Abranet section, but just so you know, they won’t.
Ideal for: All-rounder
Grit Range: P80 - P180, P240, P320 - P1000
Grain: Aluminium oxide
Backing: PA net
Now for Mirka’s multi-functional classic.
What sets Abranet apart is that ‘net’. By binding the abrasive surface directly onto a net structure then using very particular materials for its grain, Mirka was able to combine high performance and a long lifespan.
In fact, Abranet lasts up to 10x longer than your traditional abrasives.
What makes 'net' abrasives so special?
Put on your scuba gear, we’re going deeper. We're talking about the impact that effective dust removal has on friction and how that impacts grain longevity.
Traditionally, any dust that is removed by the grain of the abrasive remains between the sanding surface and the abrasive until it finds a suction hole in the abrasive. This leads to dust hanging about your environment, those annoying clogs on the abrasive itself and an increase in friction.
Friction is an important factor because more friction means shorter abrasive lifespan and higher chance of clogging. So, by combining quality grain material and the net structure, Abranet abrasives remove all material that is ‘cut’ from the surface immediately, sucking directly through the net thus reducing that unnecessary friction that robs you of precious lifespan.
This is further developed in the Ace and Ace HD range, where they change the grain material to ceramic and introduce an additional ceramic coating that adds to the longevity and increases the finish quality.
Iridium or Abranet?
They’re similar but they’re different. So what should you buy?
This comes down to a couple of things. Let’s look at price, context and preference.
Price-wise, there isn’t too much in it. Let’s be plain, Abranet is more expensive. But if you break it down to cost per disc, then you’ll see what we mean - it’s cents between them. And if that price point is a major for you, also consider the lifespan of the abrasive.
Abranet may cost more, but it also lasts longer.
Second thing we consider is what you're sanding. Are you sanding for speed, finish or both?
As previously mentioned, a consequence of Iridium‘s more aggressive style is a more visible scratch pattern. As you go finer in grain, this will become less and less noticeable but as we learnt from doing the side-by-side comparison ini the video, Abranet just has a finish-edge that Iridum can’t replicate.
As my colleague says, “it’s just like butter”. Whatever that means.
Given this, if you need that aggressive grain to remove a lacquer or bring those weatherboards back to life, we’d start with the Iridum and if the finish needs to be absolute tops, then move to an Abranet at the P120 mark. This way, you get the best of both worlds.
Now having said all that, if you prefer one over the other, that’s fair enough. Some people swear by paper-backed and some people swear by abranet. Just do what you want to do. I’m just a guy writing an article.
Ideal for: All-rounder, finishing
Grit Range: P80 - P240, P320 - P1000
Grain: Ceramic / Ceramic coated
Backing: PA net / PS net
Now, let’s take everything we just learnt about Abranet, change out the Aluminium Oxide for ceramic and add in a ceramic coating. Now we’ve got the essentials for Mirka’s Abranet Ace.
This doesn’t sound like much, but it does have a noticeable impact. In fact, we like Abranet Ace.
The change to ceramic provides a ‘sharper’ grain and the addition of the coating repels dust from sticking even further. Now you’ve reduced the friction factor again, and you’re cutting more effectively.
These changes combined, creates an even longer-lasting abrasive that produces an even better finish.
We would regard it as the best of the finishing abrasives discussed here before moving to the wet Abralon.
Abranet Ace HD
Ideal for: Hardwood, paint striping & lacquers
Grit Range: P40 - P120
Grain: Ceramic / Ceramic coated
Backing: PA net
If Abranet Ace is what we recommend to get the best finish before moving Abralon, then the Abranet Ace HD is the cutting master.
This is the paint-remover-1000 of the abrasive world. It’s even more aggressive than your Iridium that only starts at a 80 where these guys come in at P40.
BUT comes at a cost: Cost.
As you can see from the three price tags above, this is the most expensive per disc abrasive we’re sporting here. For good reason though. These contain all the performance and lifespan qualities of the Abranet Ace but are targeted at tough-to-manage applications.
These might cost a bit, but they’ll save your time and your body from those long laboured days of stripping back surfaces and hardwood sanding.
There you are. Hopefully this was informative and helpful for you. Let us know if you have any further questions by giving us a call, chatting online or in the comments of YouTube.
The GO Team.