In magnetorheological finishing (MRF) the mechanical energy for material removal is generated by the hydrodynamic flow of a magnetorheological (MR) polishing suspension through a converging gap that is formed by a workpiece surface and a moving rigid wall. In addition to causing material removal, MRF also reduces the surface micro roughness of optical materials to ≤ 10 Å rms. Shape errors are corrected to a fraction of a wavelength of light and subsurface damage is removed. A theoretical analysis of MRF, based on Bingham lubrication theory, illustrates that the formation of a core attached to the moving wall results in dramatically high stress on the workpiece surface. A correlation between the shear stress on the workpiece surface and materials removal is obtained.© (1998) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.