Grinding and polishing grits and their effects
60 grit belts and disks provide a very aggressive grinding action. This grit takes large amounts of glass away very quickly. It makes shells and takes chips out of the glass with anything greater than light pressure. You need to create a small arris to avoid the shelling before grinding the face. The metric size is 0.2337mm.
80 grit belts and disks provide a slightly less aggressive grind. But you must push lightly until you get the shape you want. On a new belt this is a remarkably fast process. Eighty grit belts can also take chips out of the glass, so be careful. Again an arris will help avoid the shelling. The metric size is 0.1778mm.
100 grit belts and disks can also remove glass quickly with a new belt. Work at 100 grit until you get the shape or the big scratches are all gone from the 80 grit. As the belt gets worn, you may want to push harder to get the desired shape, but let the belt do the work. The metric size of this grit is 0.1397mm.
120 grit belts and disks remove scratches and still do some refining of shape. The metric size is 0.1168mm.
200 grit belts and disks remove smaller scratches only. The shape of edge can still be adjusted, but only slightly. The metric size of this grit is 0.0737mm.
400 grit belts and disks begin the polishing phase. Look for bigger scratches that you may have missed. The use of paint markers will help in this. Cover the the dry surface with the paint marker before beginning the polishing. This will show up any large scratches remaining after the first pass with the belt. If you find these, move back up to the level of grit that would remove any of the visible scratches, then work your way down again. The metric size of 400 grit is 0.037mm.
600 grit is a polishing phase. Take your time and move a little slower. At this stage, all the larger scratches should be gone and you are only polishing. The metric size of this grit is 0.020mm.
You can proceed to finer grits if you wish - such as 1200 (0.012mm) - but 600 is a practical grit at which to switch to cork and pumice, rouge or cerium oxide.
Cork is the final polishing phase before getting an optical finish with cerium oxide. The cork will grab the glass, so hold it securely. It is the friction between the cork and the glass that actually does the polishing. But do not let the glass overheat.
You should not push hard with any of the grits. If you find that you want to get the work done more quickly, then it's time to put on a new belt or go to a coarser grit to remove the glass. You can use older belts as though it is a finer grit. The belts with finer grits will usually last a little longer than the coarser ones because the work is less agressive.
The grits of 100 and coarser are for shaping the piece. The one you choose will be related to the amount of glass to be removed.
After achieving the shape desired, it is usual to half the size of the grit (or in grit sizes - double the number) at each stage. So after 100 grit, use 200, 400, and 600 one after the other.
Of course you can do all this work without machines. These grit sizes are available as loose powders. The methods of working with a slurry of water and grit are described here.