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Beginner's Guide to Buffing and Polishing Stainless Steel

Buffing and Polishing Stainless Steel

I can’t imagine a world without stainless steel. Nowadays, It’s hard to find a material better than stainless steel when it’s polished to mirror shine. That shiny high-gloss look is all you need to go for whether it’s for home and kitchen appliances or the automotive industry. Generally, “Looks” are everything that people buy. They happily pay for shimmering and maintenance-free material.

What is Stainless steel?

Stainless steel or rustless steel is an iron-based alloy known for its properties like heat resistance and corrosion based on the composition of minimum approx. 11% chromium.

Prevention of iron from rust and stain, low maintenance, and familiar sheen makes stainless steel an ideal choice of material depending from industry to industry. From kitchen accessories to cookware to residential to commercial purposes, stainless steel is an appealing option because of its durability and strength.

But you do get a scratch or you may even notice dullness to the pieces over time, even if it’s tough. While stainless steel is one of the toughest metals to polish, you don’t need to worry about it, it’s possible to get it back to its original shine through the buffing process. You only need to know, 

The three basic steps for buffing and polishing stainless steel

  1. Clean and dry the stainless steel and fix damaged areas 
  2. Buff the stainless steel
  3. Polish the stainless steel

Step 1: Clean and Dry Stainless Steel and Fix Damaged Areas

The first basic step before starting the process is to clean the surface very well. There should be no remains as it can worsen the scratches or even add new ones. So it’s better to clean and dry the surface before going any further.

Now the question arises, how to clean stainless steel and what to use while cleaning?

So the answer is you can use any mild detergent and clean it with a soft clean sponge or cloth and pat it dry completely. Then fix any damaged and rough areas if any using grinder and make it smooth. Again clean and dry.

Step 2: Buff the Stainless Steel

The next step after fixing and cleaning the surface is buffing. Buffing is a process of removing any lines or abrasives in stainless steel and making it more luster or shinier. It can be done by using an angle grinder with sandpaper attached to the disc or any power tool you have by applying a buffing compound to the wheel. You can also use sandpaper manually for leveling the workpiece.

A polishing compound or buffing compound is used to level the uneven surface of stainless steel caused by scratches. This is the beginning level of handling the object to restore the paint or shine before polishing. 

Buffing is necessary if you want a smooth and glossy look without having any scratches. But as I said earlier look is everything people buy. Buffing gives you that. For instance, you have a damaged surface and you only polish it. You get that shiny look but with scratches, imagine that!

How to Buff Stainless Steel?

Start by attaching 220 grit sandpaper to the wheel pad with some rubbing compound (not too much) and sanding the stainless steel uniformly. Be careful not to overdo any area. Once it’s done, again do the same process using 400 grit than with 800 grit, and with 1500 grit until it starts looking like a mirror. Then again attach the buffing wheel with 3000 grit (the last second step of buffing) and lastly with5000 grit. You see each stage of sanding the steel looks finer and shinier removing all the patches, dull paint, and damage and practically you can see your reflection in your masterpiece.

  • Be careful with the compound you take each time for sanding, don’t take too much, just a little will do the work.
  • Don’t overdo any part, do sanding with a light hand.
  • Avoid overlapping.
  • Check the progress after each stage of compounding and sanding before going any further.
  • You can go up to 6000 grit according to the material size and the gloss you want.

Be careful while buffing, it’s the base of your pillar.

Step 3: Polishing Stainless Steel

The last and final step is polishing once you are done scraping the patches off of your stainless steel. First, know that metal polishing is a process to smooth out the surface by rubbing it with your hands or by power tools to get that glossy effect.

Start by cleaning any excess compound left in your workpiece. Apply polishing liquid and start polishing the surface using the power cutting tools. Do it 5 to 10 times till you get that luster finish you want. Clean the surface again if there are any remains of polishing liquid and Voila! Here is your perfectly smooth shinier glossy stainless steel.

If you do it by hand start with cleaning the surface. Apply polishing compound and start rubbing it with a clean cloth using light pressure till you get the finer look. No matter what technique you used, the result will be the same for both techniques.

So this is all you need to know about buffing and polishing stainless steel. Just follow these simple steps and you are done.

Also Read:

  • A Guide to Buffing Compounds and Their Uses
  • Buffing vs. Polishing: What's the Difference
  • What are Wet Sanding and Buffing
  • Previous article The Difference Between Soldering And Welding

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