In Search of Buffing Excellence

Ask 100 enthusiasts what buffing means, you're likely to receive that many different answers, ranging from, "It's the next step after sanding," to "It's how to bring out the shine!" Both answers are correct, showing why understanding proper buffing materials and techniques are essential to achieving great results. Years of Eastwood customer input and testing by our employees allow us to deliver the right combination of products to bring virtually any metal surface to a mirror shine.

Buffing will level irregularities on the surface. It's a combination of the right materials and the proper technique that yields show-winning results. Buffing is the fastest and easiest way to bring out the "shine". Anyone can master the art of buffing with the right tools and techniques.

Hot to Buff the Right Way

Buffing the Right Way:

  • Stand in a comfortable position.
  • Hold the work firmly and use the area just below the centerline of the wheel.
  • Remember to let the wheel do the work!
  • Never leave a running buffer unattended.

    Dressing The Buffing Wheel
    After a period, it will be necessary to dress the surface of the wheel to remove dried compound and particle build-up. The Eastwood Buffing Rake (#13120) does this quickly and easily and also removes minor high spots on an out of balance wheel. Holding the rake securely, lightly touch the rake to the spinning wheel in the same manner as the compound and slightly below wheel centerline.

    Working the Piece
    Since much buffing is done with stainless steel, we will use that as an example. Keep in mind that the condition of the piece on which you are working will determine the wheel/compound combinations and steps necessary.

    One of the keys to successful buffing is to let the wheel do the work. Use only light pressure against the wheel and always keep the piece moving. Before you begin, double check the surface of the piece to ensure that there are no deep scratches in the surface. If you can catch your fingernail in the scratch, you will have to file and sand it out before you begin buffing.

    First, mount a treated or untreated Sisal Wheel and load it with Emery Compound. Emery is fairly coarse and will remove fine scratches, leaving a uniform finish. NOTE: The treated Sisal Wheel will produce faster results.

    With the buffing motor off, make practice runs with your piece to determine your pattern. Be aware of any corners, sharp edges, or bolt holes that the wheel may catch. Work on one small area at a time.

    Begin in one area and work the part across the buff horizontally. Use light pressure and move down 1/4" after each pass until you have finished. Inspect your work frequently. When you have finished that section, move on to the next one, reapplying compound as necessary.

    NOTE: If the work piece starts to bounce while you are buffing, either the wheel is improperly mounted, needs to be dressed, or you are applying too much pressure. Remember to let the wheel do the work.

    After you have buffed the entire piece, clean it thoroughly with PRE (#10041Z), Metal Wash (#10120), lacquer thinner, or dish washing detergent and let it cool before continuing. Make sure all traces of the compound you were just using are wiped from the piece before continuing. Otherwise you will contaminate the next wheel and compromise your results.

    Store Wheels and Compounds Properly
    Remove the Sisal Wheel from the buffing motor and place it along with the Emery Compound in a sealable plastic bag.

    NOTE: It is very important that only ONE type of compound be used on each buffing wheel. We suggest placing each wheel and its compound tube in separate, sealable plastic bags (i.e., one bag with your Sisal Wheel and Emery Compound, another with your Spiral Wheel and Stainless Compound, etc.) to prevent accidentally applying the wrong compound to your buffing wheel. This also helps to keep the wheels and compounds contamination free.

    Now mount the treated, untreatedm or ventilated Spiral Sewn Wheel to the motor and apply the stainless Compound/ Again, buff the piece in the same manner as when you used the Emery Compound, working the piece at right angles to the previous grit scratches until all Emery Compound scratches are eliminated. You will notice that the Stainless Compound is not as aggressive as the Emery Compound, but that it will smooth out the buffing marks left by the more coarse Emery Compound.

    NOTE: A Ventilated Buff may be used as an alternative to a Spiral Sewn wheel. The pleats of the Ventilated Buff tend to slap the surface and cut about twice as fast as Spiral Sewn wheels. The Spiral Sewn wheel may be preferred when working on delicate parts or between fins on a valve cover. The Ventilated Buff is more likely to “grab” surface irregularities but yields faster results, and runs cooler. The "treated" versions of Spiral and Ventilated wheels speed results and last longer than untreated wheels.

    Buffing in Restricted Spaces
    Buff deeply recessed areas with either the Stainless (#13136), Tripoli (#13135) or White Rouge. Use our Mini Buff Set (#13140) with either the 1/4" shank (#13054) or the 1/8" shank (#13063) mandrel. For more deeply recessed areas, use a Felt Cone (#13050), one of our sets of Felt Buffing Bobs, Tapered Goblet Buff (#13045), a Mushroom Buff (#13174), or Facer Buff (#13172). Compound should be applied more sparingly to felt bobs. Periodically spin the bob against a wire brush or old hack saw blade securely mounted in a bench vise to remove buildup. Use only one compound per felt bob.

    Inspect Your Progress
    Check your progress from time-to-time while buffing. Inspect the piece by looking at the reflection of a single light bulb in the surface. If the reflection is irregular as you move the piece, the surface is uneven and will not buff out. Try to keep your buffing as smooth and even as possible. Remember: let the wheel do the work.

    If you notice medium scratches in the piece, but your fingernail does not catch on them, mark those areas and repeat the Sisal/Emery process. Do not attempt to buff them out with the Stainless Compound. If you notice scratches which are deep enough for your fingernail to catch, then you will need to re-polish the piece and repeat the buffing process from the start.

    When you have finished the entire piece, let it cool, clean it, and put the Spiral Wheel and Stainless Compound in a seal-able plastic bag.

    Final Buffing or “Coloring”
    Next mount the loose section wheel and apply White Rouge Compound to the wheel. Initially work a small area at a time as done in previous steps. Again change your angle of attack by 90° so you can easily see when the Stainless Steel Compound scratches have been removed. Then make a light pass with the direction of wheel rotation over the longest length of the piece. Now you will see what the final piece will look like. The Loose Section Buff and White Rouge Compound has little cutting ability, but serves mostly to bring out the “color” of the metal.

    Heat Generated by Buffing
    The friction resulting from buffing generates heat. Be careful when handling just buffed parts: they will be hot. It is also very important to be sure to keep the piece on which you are working moving as you are buffing it to prevent discoloration and distortion. The heat is not beneficial, it is merely a by-product of the buffing process

    Buffing Aluminum and Other Soft Metals and Plastics
    These materials require only two buffing steps. Please refer to this chart for the best wheel/compound combinations. For more detailed information, we recommend the instructional video “ The Art of Buffing Video” (#13004). It gives clear, concise advise on all stages of a buffing project.

    Keep that Polished Look Longer
    To keep your freshly-buffed parts looking their best, we recommend using Autosol Polish, available in 100 gram tube (#13170), and 1000 gram can (#13175).

    CAUTION: When buffing plastic parts, heat from friction must be avoided to prevent damage.

    Special Protection for Polished Metals
    We recommend using Eastwood’s Diamond Clear paint for bare metal - High Gloss (Aerosol, #10200Z or Pint, #10189Z) to prevent oxidation and keep the beautiful luster you just worked so hard to achieve. For superior protection, use the HotCoat Powder Coating System to apply Gloss Clear (#10093) or Super Gloss Clear (#10286). For a custom look, try one of the translucent powders.

    A Closer Look at the Art & Science

    Eastwood has gone to great lengths to offer buffing products to assure your success, but your technique will enhance results. Contact pressure, buffing speed, dwell time and contact angle are key elements in achieving the desired results.

    • Contact pressure (pushing harder) yields a faster cut rate and more heat.
    • Buffing speed varies with wheel diameter. In most cases 3600 rpm is ideal for 4"- to 10"-diameter buffs. Smaller buffs, felt bobs, and mini buffs require higher speeds.
    • Dwell time is the time that a given area of the workpiece is under the buff. Too much dwell time may cause over-buffing and possibly result in waviness, heat distortion and rapid buff wear.
    • Contact angle is the orientation of the workpiece to the face of the buff. 5° to 15° is ideal and will often prevent the creation of grooves.

All the Products...and the Expertise to Go With it!

Eastwood's experts have selected the best mix of buffing tools and supplies to help you achieve great results. Use the selection charts inside the Buffing section of our online Tech Library to pick the right products for your projects...or you can talk to our experts when you visit our online forum, or choose from our how-to videos and DVDs to gain the knowledge you need. There's no better way to enhance your buffing skills.

When the time comes to outfit your shop for buffing and polishing, Eastwood has all the motors, wheels and compounds you could ever need. No matter if you want to buy a complete kit, including the freestanding buffing motor, or just want a simple drill mounted kit to polish small parts, we have it. And if you already have the motor, we have the wheels in many sizes and styles. We also carry a wide variety of compounds for buffing and polishing everything from cast iron and glass, to aluminum and brass.