Polishing: Starter Guide

Polishing is a finishing process that can be used on every material.

Here we will cover :

1. When is polishing needed?
2. What do I need to take note of when polishing?
3. How long does a polishing cycle take?
4. How often do I need to do a polish?

Polished Car

When is polishing needed?

Here are some times that polishing is needed:

Preventing contamination of instruments
In some areas such as precision instruments used in engineering, a flat and defect free surface is essential to get the right measurement. Polishing helps to smooth out the surface defects and keeps the part clean, so the most accurate reading can be achieved.

Remove oxidation and tarnish
The removal of oxidation (tarnish on surfaces) is not easily removed by just soap and water. Tarnished surfaces can also decrease performance of electrical parts. Polishing particles agressively remove the oxidation and at times, restore the original function of the surface.

Creating a reflective surface
A reflective surface or "mirror finish" makes objects look refined and professional, increasing their overall value in the showroom or in a sales display.  This is achieved when the surface is so smooth that the light reflects off the surface easily. Finer scratches may also be removed based on the

Corrosion Prevention
Commonly used in areas such as pipes, polishes are used in conjunction with abrasive grinding discs to restore surfaces to their original properties. A wax or lacquer may be used as an overcoat to give lasting protection.

 

What should I take note of when polishing?

Almost all materials can be polished!

Take note of these 3 interlinked factors to prevent scratches and damages when polishing your surface.

polishing chemical composition

Polishing Chemical
There are many polishing chemicals, but the right one on the right surface is key to ensuring your desired result. Some polishing chemicals are more abrasive while others contain softer compositions so as not to damage specific surfaces.

For example aluminium polish contains a special soap complex to prevent scratches.

 

Polishing Pads and microfibre cloth

Mechanical force used
Whether you are using "elbow grease" or a power tool to clean your surface. If a good polishing compound is used, usually some light pressure when polishing manually or a medium to low setting on the polisher would enough for your needs. Be sure to regulate your force to prevent deep scratches on your surfaces that you may have to rectify later.

 

Polishing Grit


Abrasive Material
Microfiber cloths are usually recommended or lambswool for polishing pads for the final polish. If an abrasive material is used on a soft surface, this can damage your substrate during a polishing job and repair work may need to be done. You can get a better understanding of these values from the Grit rating of the abrasive material used. You may consider the use of a compact polisher, especially for spot polishing. Swirl marks and scratches may form when using a rotary polisher, which is common and need a second pass.

 

How long does one polishing cycle take?

For a typical polish on dulled metals, you will take about 20 minutes to achieve a mirror shine. Other than the state of the surface, the time largely depends on the effectiveness of polishing chemicals, mechanical force and abrasive material.

The polishing process involves moving from a more abrasive material to first cut the surface - which involves the removal of scratches and other aethetic damages that prevent the reflection of light. You may start with a grit of 120 and move up to the high 800s for final finishes depending on the surface you are trying to polish.

Always finish off by using a clean cloth (without polish) to do a quick buffing on the surface. Try to ensure this cloth is clean for different surfaces to prevent cross contamination.

Finally, you may consider a finishing coat such as a wax or lacquer to give a lasting finish to your work.

Man Polishing Car


How often do I need to polish?

Polishing periods can depend on how exposed your surface is to elements such as weathering or agressive chemicals. For example, a surface may last for years without needing a repolish but may only last days near the seaside due to agressive wea

After polishing your surface, you should inspect the surface with a good work light that has high luminosity. This will expose any cloudiness left behind from unused polishing material, or show some scratches that you may want to cover up.


 

 


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