Angel Hair® — A Custom Metal Polish for Ambient Reflectivity

Angel Hair is a Zahner material process developed to soften the high-reflectivity of standard grain finishes. The patented process uses precision-controlled machinery to etch stainless steel with a fine grain. Available on a variety of metal alloys, this is the finest, smoothest, and most uniform light-diffusion metal surface available for architectural metal.

This surface was first developed as a custom product by Zahner as a solution to the reflective nature of standard finishes on stainless steel. Working with Frank Gehry on a number of projects, the Zahner team recognized that these parabolic shapes combined with the intense reflectivity of stainless steel would result in concentrated heat and blinding light. Angel Hair scatters the light, providing the most diffused surface while maintaining the metal's reflective appearance. 

Maintenance for Angel Hair on Stainless Steel

Angel Hair on stainless steel is easily maintained. Stainless steel, if properly detailed and installed, will outlast most materials by a great margin. The polish provided by Angel Hair furthers this longevity by providing the metal surface with a greater ease of repairability. Should the metal get damaged, scratched, or abraded, the material can be easily polished by a Zahner technician using a field-version of the Angel Hair polishing system. 

The Angel Hair® Difference

Since first developing this product years ago, other manufacturers have begun to offer variant polishes such as and "vibration-finish" which attempt to replicate the surface. When the abrasion process was first developed by Zahner, the team went through a number of different grits, pressures, and tests before settling on the system currently running at the company plant. 

The goal was to create a non-directional finish which would look amazing from a distance. It was important that the surface both diffuse light, and also not show the appearance of any grain in the metal. When compared to other metals from up close, you can see patterns in the "vibration" surfaces offered by other manufacturers.

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Angel Hair® Stainless Steel by Zahner
Vibration finish
"Vibration" finish offered by industry manufacturers

Material Options with Angel Hair Polish

The Angel Hair process can be used on a variety of metals, from copper and copper alloys, to aluminum, nickel-silver, and stainless. Because of the high-durability and high-immutability of stainless steel, Angel Hair on this material is among the most popular selections. 

Stainless Steel: the appearance of Angel Hair polish on stainless steel has a bright diffuse reflectivity, and has the most popular usage compared with other metals. Stainless steel will resist change more so than other metals. 

Aluminum: the appearance of Angel Hair polish on aluminum surfaces is very close to stainless steel, but aluminum is a duller finish. As aluminum oxidizes, its appearance will turn grey and then whiten in areas. This process is simply the atmospheric effects on the finish, particularly in acidic or base environments.

Copper: Angel Hair polish can be applied to copper and copper-alloys. If the material is installed in an interior environment or sealed after this process, the copper will maintain its bright appearance. If it is not sealed, the material will quickly begin to oxidize.

Titanium: The Angel Hair surface can be applied to soften the reflectivity on titanium and titanium-coated stainless steels as well as light-interference stainless steels. This provides a wide range of color options in stainless steel with diffused non-directional reflectivity.

Angel hair aluminum 9396
Detail of Angel Hair® Aluminum.
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Photo of DeBruce Center in Angel Hair® Aluminum.

Dimensions and Material Data

Zahner uses this process to produce ambient finishes on aluminum, copper, nickel, and stainless steel alloys. This surface is available in sheet, plate, and handrail tubing in any thickness. In stainless steel, the sheet materials come in 48" and 60" typical maximum widths, and are available in several alloys based on performance in different environments. Custom shapes and three-dimensional forms are possible with the material.

To understand the reflectivity, take a look at the comparative gloss readings when compared with standard reflective or GB-60 finishes. This data shows Angel Hair Process applied to a base material with a 2B finish. If applied Angel Hair to a No. 8 polished base material or a bright annealed base material, you can achieve a variety of ambient reflective properties and appearances.

This material is sustainable when properly installed, maintaining the same appearance after decades of weathering. The material is easily cleaned with water when natural pollutants and dirt begin to appear on its finish.

Works featuring Angel Hair®