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Woodworking Tool News - Non-Steel Wool


Non-Steel Wool

By Brad Holden

If you've only dipped your toe into the world of waterborne finishes, Siawool from Lee Valley just might make you take the plunge.

I stayed away from using water-borne finishes for a long time. That warm, subtle sheen you get from rubbing out a finish with steel wool and paste wax just wasn’t attainable, because you can’t use steel wool with waterborne finishes. Why? Let’s just say steel and water don’t play well together. You could end up with little rust spots in your finish.

Siawool is made from nylon fibers impregnated with abrasive particles. It looks and performs just like its steel counterpart, but it doesn’t have any adverse reaction to water. You can use it wet or dry.

Other synthetic substitutes for steel wool are available, most commonly in a “scouring pad” format that’s useless for rubbing moldings or sculpted surfaces because the pads will round all the edges that should stay crisp.

Siawool, on the other hand, acts just like steel wool, forming exactly to the surface being worked. Another thing I like is that it comes in a big wad, so you can tear off and form any size batten you need. It’s available in coarse, medium and fine grades, the equivalents of 180, 320 and 800 grit sandpaper.

Siawool does come at a price—it costs about three times more than an equal amount of high-quality oil-free steel wool. But if you want to rub out a water-borne finish, it’s the only game in town.



Lee Valley,, 800-871-8158, Fine Siawool, 75g, #53Z08.21, Medium Siawool, 75g, #58Z08.21, Coarse Siawool, 75g, #58Z08.20.