How to Polish Airbrush Needle?

Hi everyone! I’ve been working on some improvements for my needles lately. Well – not really improvements but let’s say maintenance. The thing is, even if you belong to group of people that never done such a thing as polishing the needles, behold! Trust me – one day you will have to do it anyway.

Nonsense you say? Well then head over to this article from Zsolt Miklós KOVÁCS-VAJNA and read on to find out why you should do it.

The guy there is actually explaining the whole process where he is using special materials which is a bit of a problem to get for us, simple mortals. So I did it my way and I’ve made a very short and easy to follow video. I know that there are many people that just don’t like to read (I’m even sure that I should make more videos and maybe start narrating them but my accent is horrible, so maybe some time in the future ;)).

I want to give credit to Milla Jovovich for a nice song Bring it on that has been used in this video.

So how to polish airbrush needle?

The whole procedure could be done in short time and in roughly 6 steps. But if you have the time and can afford it you can perform more steps. The whole idea is very simple, all you do is change abrasives for polishing from rough to ultra fine.

It is very good if you have similar hand drill as you can see on the video here. Does it have speed regulator? Awesome! Another very important factor is that head of that drill is well centered otherwise there is no point to even start polishing them.

At one moment in video I’ve made a note that besides rotation you will have to pull the needle. Why?

Explanation is very easy and it has also been mentioned in article by Zsolt I linked before. You see, the tip of the needle is very sharp and also pointy and we should look at it as a dot in 3D which is just connected to your needle but actually doesn’t have any dimensions because it’s just a dot with no width or height, so no matter how you rotate your needle the tip doesn’t actually move at all, it’s speed is 0, so it means it doesn’t get polished. That’s what I’ve meant when I said that you have to pull it.

Logical? No? Doesn’t matter, it is not that crucial but I’m doing it anyway. Enough of that scientific blabbing. So, what is the process of polishing we’re going to use?

  • Step 1 – Sand-paper P800 (the roughest in this case). Sanding has to be done wet way.
  • Step 2 – Sand-paper P1000 also with drop of water.
  • Step 3 – Sand-paper P1500 wet as well.
  • Step 4 – Sand-paper P2000. Don’t forget water.
  • Step 5 – Here I’ve used Fine Abrasive Paste form 3M on the backside of sand-paper (but you can use really anything (leather might be even better))
  • Step 6 – Last but not least Ultra fine finishing abrasive paste that I usually use for final touches when polishing a car.

As I’ve mentioned before there could be more steps as you can use more sand-papers (for example try to use P1200, P1800 in-between or even 2500 and 3000) this could improve the whole polishing process and give you the result which would be close to perfection.

Why do you have to polish airbrush needle?

There are few reasons to do that. For some people it’s very important for some not that much. One of the reasons is that you prevent or minimize tip dry problems. Many of us just hate to deal with it. Also polished airbrush needle in combination with good small nozzle size will allow you to paint finer details.

Things to avoid while polishing the needle

Yes, you’ve read it right. You have to be careful while performing the polishing process as it is very easy to injure yourself or also damage the needle too.

If you are just starting with airbrushing then better don’t even bother with polishing, leave it for later.

If you are going to do it anyway but you are unsure about your safety then use protective gloves and glasses.

Also during the polishing you are actually pressing the needle against the abrasive, so don’t press too much as you can bent the needle very easily. If it happens please don’t blame me or manufacturer, I warned you!

Once you’re finished with polishing, clean the needle with cleaning solution you would usually use for cleaning your airbrush to get rid of polishing residues as those may cause some painting problems right at first use after polishing.

So what do you think? Does this piece of information have any use for you? Maybe you would like to argue about something not being right – and that’s  no problem – you can always leave a comment. I will respond to any of them, positive or negative ones. When people leave comments it means that they care and that’s the most important thing for me.

Otherwise, if you know anyone that might find it useful please share it. Cheers.

  • Tekno

    I think polishing your needle is an unnecessary exercise and could do more harm than good
    Apart from cheap airbrushes most airbrush manufacturers will manufacture the needle and fluid tip as a joint component and will be tested on a bench to create a perfect fit for each other by sanding and polishing you will deform the original profile of the needle
    The needle and fluid tip will naturally wear down from use but this usually occurs uniformly so you experience no loss in performance from your airbrush
    So I believe the sensible thing if your airbrush starts to loose those very crisp lines is to buy a new needle fluid tip and nozzle set up

    • Hi Tekno, you are right partially. I think it depends on the situation. Sometime even new needle has to be polished. I was doing it because I felt difference (for example – more often tip dry) even that airbrush was properly cleaned completely I still felt difference but when it got polished the problem practically disappeared.

      Of coarse it has to be done gently otherwise, as you said, you can do more damage.

      Thanks anyway. If I will find better solution I will surely post it here. ;)

    • Church Haley

      That could cost me $130 to replace that on my Iwata Kustom CM. I think I’ll use a microfiber cloth and skip the sandpaper.

  • JohnT

    I’ve been doing this for several years. I have a low speed sharpening system that has a leather strop. Runs at 90 rpm. I polish the needles using the polishing compound I use on knives. The slow speed makes it very easy and safe. I just lay the needle on the rotating strop and turn it slowly. With plenty of light and a fixed magnifying glass to look through, I can control the whole process safely without damaging the needle.
    I was able to straighten a bent needle tip with it last year.
    I look at the needles after I clean them and see if the paint is beating up the tip. I use a 5x power eye loupe to do this. If its getting a very dull and scratched up finish, I just polish it out. Doesn’t take much.

    • Hi JohnT,
      Thanks for your advice. Could be useful too. Is it possible to see some pictures of your equipment, please?
      There is a small icon on the bottom left corner to add images.
      Big thanks for advice anyway ;)

  • JohnT

    Hi Sergej.

    Thanks for your comment.

    I will try to get some pictures up soon. I use a Tormek sharpening system. If you google it you can see a picture there.

    I’m not sure if anyone makes a leather strop that you could mount on a drill. That would really be a great thing for the airbrush community. I’ve seen many buffing wheels and come to think of it, that could work.

    A buffing wheel is just soft cloth sewn together to make a wheel, so to speak. If you put polishing compound on it and held the needle sideways at a 45deg angle, that may work.

    Better yet, a felt wheel would work really well. Its hard enough that your could add the polishing compound to it and use it like a strop. I will have to try that and see if it works.

    I’ll put some pictures up soon.
    John

    • Thanks for your effort John. The whole community will appreciate it ;)

  • Pat

    The very first airbrush I bought a couple years ago came with a needle that was so rough if you drug your fingernail across it once, it would file a groove into your fingernail. After using it that way a couple times, I knew I could make it perform better. I polished not only the tip, but the whole needle. The smoother the needle is, the longer your seals will last. With that and a couple other tweaks, I took a cheap $20 airbrush and made it into a pretty good airbrush. Even the Iwatas that I buy now benefit from polishing the needles.

    • Thanks Pat, excellent point about Iwata. Some people still try to convince me that if you buy Top Brand airbrush it’s needle is in perfect condition already.
      I polish my needles all together no matter Micron, Talon or Master….

  • Frank Gavere MFA.

    Wow, thats really not for the faint hearted.Basically what your doing is regrinding /reprofiling the exterior> tapered cylinder to mate with the interior of the nozzle.If I found this desireable, id use a polishing media like cerium oxide,or paper burnishing, which is a form of fine polishing. In any event the potential for disaster increases with every operation,in the micromachining arena.The needle seating/centering & taper profile, which controlls the vortex making ;or your Spray;IS fairly precise,being in the hundred thousandths, visually at the limits of unaided resolution.

    • Hey Frank,
      Yes you might do it with polishing media, but I do the whole process like this just to get better results. With only polishing media used you won’t get rid of uneven surface but just polish it. I hope you know what I mean…

  • ArtisticWildlife Taxidermist

    I started polishing the needle some years ago even with cheapo Paschee VLs. yes it works great. I would use a number 1 needle and a number three tip for fine detail.

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