Metal polishing is part art and part science. These polishing instructions will take you from start to finish through the process to help you understand the science and begin mastering the art of metal polishing. Please note these instructions are for use with the polishing compounds, jewelers rouge, and buffing wheels found on PJTool.com. Polishing compound grades and colors are not consistent between manufactures.
Clean Before Polishing
Before polishing your work piece, it's important to first clean it thoroughly. Metals appear dull when there are scratches or dirt preventing the light from reflecting directly off the surface. Dull material may just be dirty. Clean thoroughly, and if your work piece is still dull then proceed to polishing.
Polishing and Sanding
Polishing is similar to sanding. In order to make the material more reflective and smoother, when polishing you are simply removing the surface of the material down to the depth of the deepest scratch. Always work from coarse to fine when polishing (the same as if you were sanding a piece of wood).
The following steps can be followed for most reflective surfaces including metals, plastics, rubber and even wood. Every material has different properties and will buff differently. We recommend before polishing a new surface to practice on a piece of scrap to familiarize yourself with the material and how it responds to polishing.
Always wear protective gear when polishing including safety goggles or face shield, dust mask, shop apron and gloves. You may also want to protect surfaces and tools with tape or padding to prevent accidental gouging.
Step by Step Polishing Instructions
Step 1: Sanding
Determine if the material you wish to polish needs to be sanded first. A good rule of thumb is if your fingernail can catch the edge of a scratch then it will need to be sanded before it can be polished. Work your way up in grit from the coarsest applicable paper to the finest. Sand in a consistent motion without cross hatching and follow the grain of the material, if visible. Continue sanding until there are no scratches visible and a satin finish is achieved (1000 grit wet dry is usually a good grit to end with before polishing).
Step 2: Select Polishing Compound and Buffing Wheel
To begin polishing start with a stiffer buff such as a felt bob or felt cone, sisal buffing wheel, specialty buff, or spiral sewn buffing wheel. (note: loose single stitched buffing wheels are primarily for finishing and working with fine compounds). A large variety of uniquely shaped buffing wheels and felt bobs are available for getting into hard-to-reach areas of the object being polished.
Insert the buff you wish to start with into any standard electric drill, bench grinder, or buffing machine and choose the coarsest applicable polishing compound by consulting the jewelers rouge and polishing compound chart.
Step 3: Apply Polishing Compound
Coat the buffing wheel or felt bob by lightly spinning the buff against the polishing compound. Use the compounds sparingly as you only need a small amount for them to work properly. Next, spin the coated buff or felt bob onto the surface to be polished. Best results are obtained at 3,000 RPM or less. Working at a higher rate will overheat the work surface and prevent the compound from working properly. Slight pressure works best– let the coated buff do the work for you. You'll notice a residue coming off the material as you polish (metal should produce black soot).
Continue polishing as needed, reapplying more compound if necessary. For best results use a different buff for each polishing compound. If using a different buff for each compound is not possible then remove the previous compound by "raking" the buff thoroughly. To "rake" the buff, carefully spin it against a buffing rake or sharp metal edge to remove the residue.
Step 4: Repeat
Repeat the process with the next finer polishing compound as shown on the chart. Continue polishing until visible scratches are removed and the desired luster is achieved.
Step 5: Finish with Fine Compound
To finish your project and achieve a mirror like finish, use the finest applicable compound with the loose single stitched buff. Again use very light pressure and let the buff do the work for you. (It's not always necessary to go all the way to the finest applicable compound. Our white polishing rouge is sufficient in most cases.)
Step 6: Wash and Coat
Once work is completed, wash the material with warm soapy water to remove any excess buffing compound or residue. Dry your work piece with a soft cloth or chamois. Depending on the material you may want to protect your restored finish with a clear coat.