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Stainless Steel Buffing Advice

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  • Stainless Steel Buffing Advice

    Over on the 'other' board someone had posted asking what to do for buffing some stainless. I answered there because I just try to help people, but I thought I would share my response here. I have had some recent not so nice responses over at the other place so I have cut back on my comments significantly.

    In the picture the guy posted you could see lots of tiny dents and all sorts of sanding scratch. Here is what I wrote over there.

    You are buffing wrong, but you probably figured that out.
    I taught myself on all the stainless for my 31. It was not a quick learning curve and it was not cheap to get the right supplies. Even then it is not as nice as I would like, but later I looked at pro stuff and realized I am not so bad. Florescent long tube lights are great for finding dents (look for distortion) but are horrible for seeing the final finish, it looks way worse then in daylight.

    The little dents are from a wheel that is loaded up with polish and they are acting like little hammers. You need a rake to clean your wheel or throw it away and start over. You need the correct size wheels for the RPM of your buffer. Oh, I know cause I had that same problem at first!!

    You also are not getting rid of the scratch properly. That is you start with the finest grit paper that you think will remove the existing defects. When you can see you have cut through all the bad stuff now you sand 90 degrees to remove the sanding scratch you created. Keep repeating until you get to 600 to 1200 depending on stuff. It is a very slow process to right by hand. In some cases a rubber wheel with tri-zact bands can speed things up. In the end, hand wet sanding for hours is your friend.
    You need to wet sand and use major name brand paper like 3m or Norton. Cheap paper dulls on the stainless in just a few strokes and costs you more in the end.
    You only load on a small (like 1 second) amount of the polish on the wheel. You MUST have the correct wheel and polish for the material. There is NO standard on the color of the material, if you do not know what it is then you do not have the right stuff. Buy from a good place (Eastwood is ok too) and keep you stuff labeled and clean.

    Respect the wheel, polish on the bottom and understand it can break your arm. It almost happened to me once. I got a metal band watch ripped off my arm when a head light rim caught wrong. I thought it was broke but I got lucky. I have a Baldor buffer I bought at Hershey used cheap. On my way out with the buffer I went by Tar Heel Parts and they sold me all the correct stuff I needed to do brass and stainless including the buffing gloves. To remove the black wax you need cornstarch, it seems like nothing takes that off, but with corn starch it comes right off.

    I suggest you get your supplies from they will also give you advice if you buy from them (well worth the price!!!!!!)

  • #2
    Kevin, I for one have always found your advice to be spot on and very helpful. The contrarian fraternity seems to hang out on the other board

    Starting with 220 is harsh

    Seeking suggestions ahead of time from a board loaded with knowledgeable people, such as here on the VFF, can prevent a lot of pain. Then of course people need to be able to grasp which boards have the most expertise and resources. Some boards just drone on and on with an endless mix of good and bad posts. Others are more dedicated to the hobby and have extensive resource and reference files.

    For example, I belong to a board dedicated to 3-wheel Cushman and Westcoaster type US mail trucks from about 1960, and they have an extensive reference section. That kind of effort tells you just how devoted the board manager is to the hobby
    Last edited by tbirdtbird; 03-29-2018, 09:15 PM.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Kevin in NJ View Post
      Over on the 'other' board someone had posted asking what to do for buffing some stainless.

      Kevin thanks..

      Here is a recent stainless buffing question posted on the VFF. It may be the same person??
      3 ~ Tudor's
      Henry Ford said
      "It's all nuts and bolts"

      Mitch's Auto Service ctr


      • Kevin in NJ
        Kevin in NJ commented
        Editing a comment
        Ya it looks like the same guy. I have to admit, I am not looking at the boards as much. I glance over them and once in a while I see something and have a bit of time to write. I am missing a lot of posts as my heart is not in it like it was a few years ago.

      • Mitch
        Mitch commented
        Editing a comment
        Sorry to hear that you're burned out. Hopefully the VFF can revive that lost feeling.

    • #4
      Yes, I'm the same guy on the other post. I just sent a reply to you over there. I hope I'm not one who gave you any bad replies.
      I am going to take your advice, as you seem to know what you're talking about. Contrary to what some people I've never met or talked to seem to think, I did try to research the internet to find out what I could before starting the buffing process, but I didn't know about this site back then. Having grown up in a machine shop and knowing at least one or two things about metal work (but little about stainless or metal buffing), I felt I could at least give it a try and see what happens. The light buckets turned out beautifully with no sign of the problem, which showed up only when I started doing the stanchions and small parts.
      Again, thanks for your help on the ***** ****. I do appreciate your mentoring me and will be following your advice.


      • tbirdtbird
        tbirdtbird commented
        Editing a comment
        Please also consider changing to wet sanding, it will also help make a world of difference, in addition to going to a finer grit.

        I think this thread has some generalizations that don't apply to your specific case, and I hope they weren't taken the wrong way.
        It seemed to me that you had done some research but that some of the info you got was off base. It is unfortunate you had not known about this site at the time you began. The vast majority of those of us that are here came over here because much of the info on the ***** **** is just plain wrong. Certainly not in Kevin's case, tho, he is a sharpshooter, and we are lucky to have him here. The other issue with the ***** **** is that the knowledgeable people are shouted down constantly, which you can detect from Kevin's other comments.

    • #5
      All of us must remember that restoring Alleghney (sp) stainless steel from the 30s era means patience; dedication and a penchant for excellence. Obviously, things have changed since my articles on the subject , but the amount of work and desire to produce great results remains the same.
      Good enough.. Isn't.


      • #6
        I would like to add a detailed alternative viewpoint to the stainless buffing procedures listed elsewhere on this forum. It is helpful to note that the SS resto procedures I advocate were learned 1000 years ago from a highly skilled man who ended up at Harrah's extensive Vegas collection, where he took care of all dents, scratches, buffing, polishing, etc., of SS and brass. I have passed these methods down to my nephew who has taken a crumpled wreck of a mess of a '31 grill shell from the accident his car had been in before he bought it. That very same shell today looks brand new. Of course, Harrah's collection was broken up upon his passing, and not everyone today knows that name.

        The procedures elsewhere on the VFF state to start sanding with 180 or 220. It also says use wet or dry sandpaper, but does not emphasize to wet sand.

        Anyone starting with 220 grit is gonna have a hell of a time restoring any metal to a nice shine, and is gonna embed large grit particles, which will cause even more trouble, as in embedding the grit in the metal, as well as needless endless sanding to get the 220 scratches out. Wet sanding is to be emphasized as it will help flush away the grit as you go, and also avoid embedding the grit in the metal.

        The harshest grit we would ever start with is 600, and that only for bad scratches. 800 for all else, and we would not stop until we at least got to 2000 before we brought out the buffer.

        I think the article mentions to start with 180-220 because the article seems more about dent repair than polishing. If you had a small localized area of a dent, and hammered it out, and used a file to start to level things off, then, yes, in that one localized area you might start with 220. But this is clearly the exception to generalized buffing and polishing.

        I would also pay particular attention to the advice given by Kevin, above
        Last edited by tbirdtbird; 03-29-2018, 09:18 PM.


        • #7
          When I was researching on the net about how to properly buff I found NOTHING!! Well a number of videos where they kind of glossed over the buffing process and very little talk of paper short of comments that were wrong. Hence the reason why I try to help out as I can.

          I am certain my work is not the best, but it will hold is own with other work I have looked at at shows. Buffing is not easy to do and very hard to master so do not get frustrated.

          As for grit. I did some spot areas at 400 for some deep stuff and spent forever getting to 600. I needed to go that low for the problems, I think.
          I got one of those rubber sanding wheels where you put a band of sand paper on it with a bunch of fine tri-zact bands. That helped in cutting down the deep stuff. I found that band sanded stuff did not buff out as nice as hand sanding. So I then wet sanded the rest. The body of the motor I have the rubber wheel on is larger then the wheel which made rad shell work difficult.

          I did not always wet sand. I used 600 dry at times for spots I needed to get out. Dry sanding you can seen the scratch better and know when you are through the bottom. I had to dry the surface to check my work.

          I have a Baldor buffing set up so I have a pretty good buffer. I lucked into that for less the half the retail at Hershey one year with the stand. It was in the far end of the white field. Naturally the heavier the item the farther away from your booth.

          In any event, I write to help people get started. If you know better stuff please add as I am sure I am not doing it the best way.


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