A bonded abrasive is composed of an abrasive material contained within a
matrix, although very fine aluminium oxide abrasive may comprise
sintered material. This matrix is called a binder and is often a clay, a
resin, a glass or a rubber. This mixture of binder and abrasive is
typically shaped into blocks, sticks, or wheels. The most usual abrasive
used is aluminium oxide. Also common are silicon carbide, tungsten
carbide and garnet. Artificial sharpening stones are often a bonded
abrasive and are readily available as a two sided block, each side being
a different grade of grit.
Grinding wheels are cylinders that are rotated at high speed. While once worked with a foot pedal or hand crank, the introduction of electric motors has made it necessary to construct the wheel to withstand greater radial stress to prevent the wheel flying apart as it spins. Similar issues arise with cutting wheels which are often structurally reinforced with impregnated fibres. High relative speed between abrasive and workpiece often makes necessary the use of a lubricant of some kind. Traditionally they were called coolants as they were used to prevent frictional heat build up which could damage the workpiece (such as ruining the temper of a blade). Some research suggests that the heat transport property of a lubricant is less important when dealing with metals as the metal will quickly conduct heat from the work surface. More important are their effects upon lessening tensile stresses while increasing some compressive stresses and reducing "thermal and mechanical stresses during chip formation".
Various shapes are also used as heads on rotary tools used in precision work, such as scale modelling.
Bonded abrasives need to be trued and dressed after they are used. Dressing is cleaning the waste material (swarf and loose abrasive) from the surface and exposing fresh grit. Depending upon the abrasive and how it was used, dressing may involve the abrasive being simply placed under running water and brushed with a stiff brush for a soft stone or the abrasive being ground against another abrasive, such as aluminium oxide used to dress a grinding wheel.
Truing is restoring the abrasive to its original surface shape. Wheels and stones tend to wear unevenly, leaving the cutting surface no longer flat (said to be "dished out" if it is meant to be a flat stone) or no longer the same diameter across the cutting face. This will lead to uneven abrasion and other difficulties.