Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oooo... Shiny...

Dull.  Boring.

Three posts ago I talked about refinishing Eolian's wheel.  And one post ago I bemoaned the passing of the "good" Brasso.  These two posts were not unrelated, because Eolian's wheel has a bronze hub.  And that hub periodically gets treated to a polishing with Brasso.

But in the last post I referred in passing to the use of a buffing wheel as the tool of choice when polishing metal, and I realized that some of the readers of this blog might not know what a simple, basic and effective tool it is for polishing metal.

The tools
If you have a grinder, then you could have a buffing wheel.  Get thee to a Harbor Freight or whatever your local cheap tool emporium is, and buy yourself a couple buffing wheels - these are made by stacking multiple canvas disks together until you have a combined thickness of about ½", and then sewing them together.  Here I have removed one grinding wheel from my grinder and replaced it with a buffing wheel.

You'll also need compound - the cloth alone is not enough.  That orangish pink bar on the work bench right below the buffing wheel is a bar of rouge.  Well, more accurately, it is a bar of rouge polishing compound. Rouge is a very fine iron oxide powder; the compound is a suspension of rouge in a wax base.  You hold it against the spinning wheel for a moment to charge the wheel, and then you apply the piece of metal to the wheel.  You'll have no difficulty in telling when more compound is needed, because the wheel will simply stop polishing.

(I should be using two hands, but then how would I take the picture?)
Rouge is not the only polishing compound - in fact it is the last and final step when starting with raw, heavily oxidized and rough metal.  But for lightly oxidized brass or bronze, it is ideal.  Oh, and you should not mix compounds on a wheel - get one wheel for each type of compound you buy.

When applying the metal piece to the wheel, you must think about what is happening.  You must be very careful to not let the rapidly spinning wheel catch on any edge - if it does, it will grab the piece right out of your hands and throw it against the wall, probably damaging the piece, the wall, and possibly your hands in the process.  Also, since the wheel is continuously shedding threads - you absolutely must wear safety goggles.  If you are working on a small piece, it will rapidly get too hot to hold.  Wearing a pair of heavy leather work gloves is a good idea.

Ten Minutes:  Ta DAA!
It is quick and easy to get a factory finish on a piece of metal using a buffing wheel - because this is how the factory polishes metal!

(I've seen attachments for an electric drill to hold a buffing wheel.  These are not effective because the drill does not turn fast enough.  But I have chucked a buffing wheel onto an angle grinder to work on pieces that I cannot take to the grinder - this  works well.)

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