Coated abrasive tools are popularly used in the industry for surface finishing. An important characteristic of these tools is their compliance (a grinding wheel is rigid in comparison) which permits smaller amounts of material removal, conformance to curved surface shapes, and assistance in blending the finished surfaces with the unfinished surfaces. This important characteristic is modeled using the finite element method by capturing suitable properties of the coated abrasive tool and its backing pad. Surface finishing experiments are conducted on a flat work surface in a machining center under position control (as opposed to force control) and the area of polished contact is measured along with the normal forces (using a dynamometer). The finite element model results of contact area and forces are compared with that of the experiment. The usefulness of this modeling approach is demonstrated by extracting force per grain and application to curved surfaces.