Buffing vs. Polishing: What's the Difference?

December 02, 2021

Buffing vs. Polishing

In the manufacturing industry, polishing and buffing are two common finishing methods. It's essential to understand the principles of polishing and buffing, as well as the differences between them before choosing one of them for fabrication.

This guide will brief you if you're not sure what finishing methods suit your job. First, let’s understand what is polishing & buffing?

  • Polishing refers to finishing methods that use abrasive belts, whereas buffing refers to finishing methods that use cloth or buffing wheels with polishing compounds
  • Buffing removes the lines and gives a bright glossy finishing, whereas polishing provides a brushed or lined surface. 
  • Buffing typically needs surface improvement polishing before buffing.

Both finishing methods have their advantages. Let’s start understanding them individually.

What is Buffing?

What is buffing process

Buffing is a finishing method that involves the application of a loose abrasive to a wheel. A buffing wheel with an abrasive is used by manufacturing industries for metal polishing and finishing. A buffing disc with loose abrasives efficiently removes surface material and flaws, resulting in a smooth surface.

What is Polishing?

Polishing is a finishing method that involves the use of an abrasive to a wheel (not loose abrasive, but tightly attached with glue or other adhesives). Because of this, polishing is supposed to be a more aggressive finishing method than buffing. Polishing removes more superficial material from a workpiece's surface, resulting in perfect finishing and a more polished surface.


What are the Differences Between Buffing and Polishing?

The grit of each abrasive determines the difference between buffing and polishing. Polishing generally requires a high-grit abrasive while buffing needs low grit abrasive.

In other words, In buffing wheel abrasive grit the abrasives are not tightly attached (they are loosely bonded), so they are easy to remove and replace. Aside from this tiny distinction, another distinction between buffing and polishing is abrasive grit. Buffing is usually done with a low- or medium-grit abrasive, whereas polishing is done with a high-grit abrasive, however, there are limitations.

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What are Polishing and Buffing Abrasives Grit?

Abrasives are required for both buffing and polishing. Low-grit, medium-grit, and high-grit abrasives are widely available for different polishing applications.

Low-grit abrasives are as small as 60 to 80 grit, whereas medium-grit abrasives are as large as 100 to 200 grit. The smoothness of an abrasive is reflected in its grit. Low-grit abrasives are rougher than medium- and high-grit abrasives because they contain fewer grit particles.

As a result, buffing and polishing processes usually work with a low-grit abrasive, followed by higher-grit abrasives. When it comes to choosing between buffing and polishing, fabrication industries need to utilize the correct sort of abrasive. The workpiece can damage if incorrect abrasives are applied.

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