From The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1898, Ground Glass
Ground Glass. --Rev. Arthur East says that there often appear in photo-graphic papers articles on substitutes for ground glass, it being little understood, probably, what an exceedingly easy process it is to make the very thing itself; and that starch, arrow-root, and suchlike things are almost, if not, quite as much trouble to utilise (and of not one-tenth the beauty and durability) as ground glass at home.
The following plan may, therefore, be acceptable :—
Take a clean negative glass of any size, and lay it on a flat, hard surface, such as a board or stone slab and sprinkle on this a pinch of emery powder, No. 1 (flour of emery will do, and do well, but the next quality, coarser, works more ‘ quickly). Lay on this a piece of broken glass about an inch square or there-abuts, and moisten the emery with a little water (do not use much so as to let it get 'sloppy,' and work all about).
Now work round and round all over the negative glass with the moderate pressure of two or three fingers until the gritty sound begins to go, which means that your emery is getting ground too fine (this will be in about a minute or two). Put on another pinch of emery, and work as before; in about ten minutes rinse your plate under the tap, and you will find probably with your finely ground surface a few ‘islands’ looking shiny, return the plate to the board, and work these patches out, and you will find a surface ground as finely as any you can buy, and there is no difficulty whatever in getting a perfectly even surface free from any scratches or defect whatever.
Any ironmonger will supply the emery, a pennyworth by post if you live ‘beyond the region of lamp-posts,’ and even the ordinary domestic knife powder will do, but it is too fine and works too slowly, and is inclined to be gritty and make deep scores in the surface of the glass.
If an extra finely ground surface is required as for a focussing glass, it only means rather longer grinding, and perhaps a little flour of emery to finish with; but the whole process can easily be done with one quality of emery, of which the best is probably the No. 1. If the surface of negative glasses were perfectly flat, it would be possible to grind two together, but the surface is never flat, and a small piece of glass is best to grind with. Some samples of glass are harder than others, an take rather longer to finish.
Substitute #400 grit Silicon Carbide for the coarse emery and #600 grit Silicon Carbide for the "Flour of Emery" finer grade, and everything else is the same.