We report a grain boundary formation mechanism in face-centred cubic metals with low stacking fault energies. Severe plastic deformation produces primary nano-twins with a twin boundary spacing of several nanometres, followed by secondary twinning through the activation of Shockley partial dislocations. The partial dislocations interact with primary twin boundaries, resulting in de-twinning of the primary twins and producing very high densities of sessile dislocations. The accumulation of these dislocations produces new grain boundaries with neighbouring grains having similar orientations. (C) 2015 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.