Buffing Pad Diameter is SO Important

The Importance of Buffing Pad Diameter.

When it comes to polishing paint, buffing pads are as critical to polishing performance as tires are to over-the-road transportation vehicles. Choosing the ideal buffing pad can be frustrating, as there are a multitude of designs, sizes, and materials available. Regardless the type of pad you end up choosing, you’ll also have to decide on its diameter. A simple choice? Perhaps. But make no mistake: pad diameter is SO important to polishing performance.

Buffing Pad Parameters.

Imagine attempting to choose a buffing pad for the first time: would you opt for a pad that is rigid and thin, or tall and squishy? Foam pads (the most popular pad material) are available in a multitude of designs: they can be flat and smooth, or convoluted and dimply. There are also pads that feature wool, microfiber, felt… and even denim!

One of the most important parameters to consider when choosing a buffing pad is its diameter. Luckily, finding an appropriately-sized pad these days is easy, as most pad designs range in diameter from one-inch to nine-inch. As the chart illustrates, a pad will generate more speed along its edge as pad diameter increases. The chart also lists the total surface area of various pad diameters.

Buffing Pad Diameter is SO Important! This chart compares polishing pad diameter and surface area.

Small-Diameter Buffing Pads.

Small-diameter pads enable very specific polishing, and also make it easier to polish within confined areas. However, when used with a rotary polisher or drill, a higher speed setting may be needed, as the velocity along the outer edge of a small pad can be substantially slower than that of a large pad. The performance characteristics of a pad can also change depending upon pad diameter. This becomes especially obvious when using design-similar pads (with different diameters) that are installed onto the same machine.

Large-Diameter Buffing Pads.

Large-diameter pads can cover more ground than smaller pads, which can save time when polishing large areas of paint. By placing a small portion of the pad against the polishing surface, they can also be used strategically (seasoned users of the rotary polisher can confirm this to be true). When used with rotary machines, large pads deliver more speed along the edge of the pad. Depending upon the polishing task, this can be a benefit, or a drawback.

In addition to the most obvious benefit of using small or large pads (the ability to efficiently polish small or large areas), pad diameter impacts a multitude of other polishing parameters. Example: Small pads excel in concentrating machine motion and user-applied pressure to a specific area, but large pads can be used longer before cleaning is necessary.

Keep a Variety of Pad Diameters On-Hand.

Although being able to access the chart may not be a necessity in terms of building a highly efficient polishing system, having a variety of pad sizes on hand is. Regardless, the information listed within the chart is undoubtedly helpful, and further bolsters the premise that pad diameter is SO important to polishing performance.

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Posted in Buffing Pads, Polishing Pad, Polishing Tips & Tricks, Rotary Buffer, Tip & Tricks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Which Information is the Right Information?”

How do I do so-and-so?
• “Good advice ain’t free, and free advice ain’t good.”
• “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and my way.”
• “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.”

• “Figure it out yourself. I had to.”
“Wouldn’t YOU like to know.”

Acquiring knowledge, fast-food style.
Gaining access to technical information used to be time consuming, but not anymore. Compact videos referred to as shorts, snippets, and reels offer up plenty of information. Sometimes the info is spot-on, but other times, not so much. An endless supply of written advice is also available, via online communities, chatrooms, and groups. These outlets typically include comments that are loaded with clashing opinions (e.g., “Do not do what this guy says to do!”)

Experience the thrill of learning.
“Just show me the basics. I can figure out the rest.” Learning by doing delivers maximum retention of one’s newfound knowledge, and is critical to improving dexterity (manually accomplishing a task). A can-do attitude is to be applauded, and besides: not every task requires a craftsman’s touch. So don’t be scared– give it a try! Over the years, I’ve persuaded hundreds or thousands of guys & gals to polish their car’s paint, and with some hearty advice, only a very few instances of damage or disappointment have occurred.

Knowledge + Experience = Skill.
In its most basic form, knowledge paired with experience equals skill. And while an argument could be made that ambition and talent should be entered into the equation, I would categorize ambition as one’s willingness or desire to attain skill, and talent as an extraordinary knack or ability to grasp a concept, play an instrument, parley words into stories, etc.

“How will I know when I possess the skill to take on difficult tasks?”
Although the following tale doesn’t answer the question exactly, I think most of you will get the point. After all, it carried enough wisdom to cause me to tear the page from the magazine, which remains in my desk, to this day.

During an interview, a reporter asked the bank president for the secret of his success.

“Two words.”
“And what are they?”
“Right decisions.”
“How are right decisions made?”
“One word.”
“What is that?”
“How do you get experience?”
“Two words.”
“What are they?”
“Wrong decisions.”

Taken Readers Digest, Laughter the Best Medicine.

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Welcome Back to the Buff Daddy Blog!


When I fired up this blog many years ago, the plan was to post several articles per week. But in the blink of an eye, BAMMO! A dozen years seemingly evaporated. Sands of the hourglass, & all that jazz.

In the interim, the blog was flagged as a phishing site (but it most certainly is not). Regardless, I’ve decided to start writing articles again. Should’ve done this years ago. In fact, there’s an article that delves into the topic of paperwork and procrastination. I think it’s on the Ramblings Page. Hmm. Know what? I’ll look for it later.

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The Makings Of A Better Random Orbital.

Detailers and paint polishing guys are dropping fat cash on machines these days.  How much?

Spending upwards of $400 these days on a technologically advanced rotary polisher is not uncommon.  Case in point; the Festool Shinex RAP 150 FE Rotary Polisher.

Spending $525 on what many believe to be the best dual mode  machine on the market… not unreasonable  at all.  The Festool Rotex RO 150 FEQ Dual Mode Sander allows the user to switch between random orbit or forced rotation modes.  Although categorized as a sander, it can be successfully used as a dual mode polisher, too.

What about the random orbital?  Now that it has undoubtedly proven itself to be more than capable for heavy defect removal and final polishing, doesn’t it deserve some respect?  Currently, the most expensive random orbital I know of (featuring a large enough stroke to sufficiently rotate the backing plate with a buffing pad in tow) is the Cyclo Model 5 Pro Polisher.

While it is a beautifully built machine (made in the USA, aluminum housing, quiet, and best-in-class balancing mechanism), it’s certainly not for everyone.  The machine uses a dual head design, and each head is designed to motivate 4″ diameter pads.  In addition, it falls short in the speed department, delivering a maximum of 3,000 orbits per minute.  Recently, Cyclo added a variable speed dial, which is a big leap forward.

If only Cyclo would offer up the best features of the Model Pro 5 in a single-head,  high speed machine.  Ah, what a beauty she would be!  Certainly, it could potentially command a price in the range of $300-$450.  To reach the high side of this price estimate, they would have to offer maximum backing plate rotation, unrivaled balancing, high OPM capability, and an ultra-quiet operating dB level.

But then, there is a machine that offers as much or more intrigue than the theoretical Cyclo single-head machine.  Take a day to guess, to ponder, to dream.  I’ll write about this machine… in my next post.

As always, I welcome your comments… fire away!


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Posted in Ramblings, Random Orbital Polisher, Rotary Buffer, Tools of the Trade | 5 Comments

Technology… DRAT!

It sure is difficult to predict the “next big thing”.  This statement holds true in the realm of paint polishing, too.

New technologies, products, and procedures seem to come about inconveniently quick.  Just as you’ve got the hang of one new “thing”, along comes another.  Try as we might, it’s just not easy to keep up!  Better to have to deal with a glutton of advances as opposed to not enough.

We’ve come to accept the random orbital polisher as being a capable alternative to the rotary.  Dual mode machines such as the Festool Rotex RO 150FEQ have become relatively commonplace in detail shops and rigs.  This is a big deal, considering the prices dual mode machines can command ($220-$500).  Interestingly, even the guys that don’t consider themselves to be the most capable detailer in their area nor the most expensive in terms of price understand the inherent value of these machines.  They save time, are comfortable to use, and are obviously versatile.

Rotary polishers have become quieter, more comfortable to operate, and lighter to boot. Nowadays, most guys are using slower machine speeds and smaller pads with their rotary buffers, making them easier to manage.  Smaller does not necessarily mean less powerful: DeWalt’s DWP series of machines deliver more power and less weight than the original DW849:

I suppose technology is alright, so long as we don’t have to repeatedly spend money to maintain the quality of work we hope to deliver.  In regards to paint polishing machines, it’s always wise to buy the one you like.  If you don’t know which machine to purchase, ask around, and don’t be afraid to ask to borrow!  Or, take a trip to a fellow detailer’s place of business, see how they do things, and fire up a few of their machines while you’re there.  Seems to me they might let you help them scrub some stuff,  in exchange for letting you handle their favorite polishing machine.

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Meguiar’s DA Microfiber Discs Are Dee-licious!

“Ice cold milk and an Oreo Cookie…”

Oh, hi there!  Didn’t hear you come in.  I was just eyeballing a pair of these incredible Meguiar’s DA Microfiber Discs.  Did you realize that if placed face to face, a pair of 3″ Finishing Discs resemble an OREO cookie? Yum.

The Meguiar’s DA Microfiber Disc duo is an integral part of the much celebrated Meguiar’s DA Microfiber Correction System.  One disc is designed for cutting, the other for finishing and waxing.  Each disc is designed to work optimally with a dedicated liquid, but the discs work remarkably well with most buffing liquids and waxes.  The discs are available in 3″, 5.5″, and 6.25″ versions.

For those of you that have already tried this system,  I need not sell you on its capabilities. Unless something went terribly wrong, you were likely stunned with the initial results, then doubtful that what you saw actually occurred.  It’s okay- it happened to me, too!

The Meguiar’s DA Microfiber System delivers truly jaw-dropping performance, and does so at a very competitive price.  You can use the discs and liquids via hand, but best results are achieved via dual-action machine (random or forced rotation orbital).

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll discuss how to squeeze maximum performance from these innocent-looking beauties.

Meguiar’s® Online Photo

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Posted in Meguiar's DA Microfiber System | 2 Comments

Detailing Forums, Blogs, & Videos. Information Overload?

As I scan the various detailing forums that we all enjoy, I think back to a simpler time, when forums did not exist.  Simpler perhaps, but was it easier to learn about paint polishing, interior cleaning, and detailing in general?

Pick a year in time, and think back to what it was like.

I immediately think back to 1984, which is when I first took a job at a detail shop.  The realization that a guy could earn a living cleaning cars was profound.  Back then, detailing forums and blogs did not exist, and there was no centralized meeting place to visit when advice was needed related to car cleaning.  For advice, a guy would have to seek out a distributor of detailing products and instigate a discussion (via phone, or face to face).  A visit to a boutique store specializing in high-end gear for European cars might offer up some insight, too.  After all, exotic imported cars required exotic imported waxes and such, and boutique stores sold products like these, at a premium.  There were also a few good books about detailing, and I purchased every one I knew of.

For the most part, to learn about paint polishing, you had to entrust your education to the guy holding the buffer (the rotary buffer).  In short, he was the guy that made the deal with the devil.  He was the guy entrusted with keeping rotary methodology a secret.  Ask him what speed his buffer was set to, and he might respond.  Even then, his short and seemingly painful answer was something like, “18.”  For the newbies out there, 18 equals 1,800 RPM.  It’s similar to when hot rods guys talk about “rappin” their “motor” to “6 0r 65” (6,000-6,500 RPM).

Dare you ask, “Why 18, Bill?”, you’d likely be told, “Don’t worry about it- I do the buffing, you do the windows.  Now do them again, this time like you mean it.”

Inevitably, the head detail guy or manager would pull you aside to request that you not “…bother Buffer Bill while he’s blipping his rotary buffer…”.  Bill’s time was better spent making the shop money, and his mouth wasn’t paying the bills.  He probably didn’t even know the answer, nor ever pondered it.  Bill was likely taught by a guy that was taught by a guy, and so on, all of them being told to buff at about “18”.

Twenty-three years have passed since my first day working in a detail shop.  This means that there’s twenty-three added years of information relating to detailing and polishing to discover and analyze.  Wow.  How in the world is a newbie going to know which method is the best, which product is the best, or which bit of information is the most accurate?

Nowadays, all a guy needs to do is visit a detail forum or blog, and get to reading.
There are even thousands of videos online that allow you to learn via watching!

Regardless, the old adage learn by doing still holds true.  Research prepares you to do the work.  Doing the work teaches you more than any amount of reading, watching, or talking ever will.

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“Hey Old Timer, Is That A Sanding Disc?!”

“Come again, Sonny?  Now why would you go and say something as foolhardy as that?  This little gem isn’t just a sanding disc.  It’s one of the world’s best sanding discs.  Get on over here, and take a closer look.

This just so happens to be a Mirka Abranet Sanding Discthe original net mesh disc. It’s made in Finland by some happy Finnish folks.  I can just about see their smiles as they box these beauties up!

Mirka makes Abranet Discs, along with a slough of other unique products.  Matter of fact, you can get net mesh goods in sheets, rolls, and discs.  This way, you can sand just about anything in need of a good sanding!

I reach for Abranet discs whether I’m wet or dry sanding.  That’s right, they’ll work either way.

Say, you like inhaling dust?  Me neither!  That’s why I use my trusty little sanding machine with a vacuum hose hooked onto to the back.  Sucks nearly all the dust right up, right through the rectangular hole in the mesh!  I’ll tell you something else… when I need to sand metal, aluminum, or stainless steel, I use my discs with a bit of lightweight mineral oil, but you can use all sorts of oils or solvents with Abranet discs.

My son, the “Master of All Things Automotive”, paints his own cars & stuff.  Anyway, he uses Abranet discs for metal prep, bondo shaping, and primer flattening.  Once the painting is all done, he switches to Abranet Soft discs because they’re available all the way up to 2500 grade, and their built-on foam backing stores water & distributes pressure e-ven-lee!  He uses Abranet and Abranet Soft discs with water when he needs to.  I rememebr the first time he used Abranet discs, just like it was yesterday.  He yelled, “Hey Pa, come see how these discs stay planted on the paint, even when I’m sanding with loads of water!  You just can’t do this with a regular old paper-backed disc- it’ll float and spin and hydroplane all over!  Yeeee-hawwww!”

I tell you, I could talk about these beauties all day.   How about this: you come around here from time to time, and we’ll work on some projects using net mesh discs together.  How’s that sound?

In the meantime, get some discs of your own young fella, and sand something smooth!”

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Paperwork? No Thanks. I’d Rather Clean Something!

Ugh, head shake, and drat. I cannot think of any single thing that causes me to procrastinate more than paperwork does.  The topic itself is quite interesting because although it seems contradictory, I really enjoy being organized!

Since I’m on a rant-tangent, I might as well bring up my general dislike for people that choose to identify themselves as being  an “entrepreneur”, a “go-getter”, a “tell it like it is type”, or a “free spirit”.  In my opinion, titles such as these should be bestowed upon a person; they should not be proclaimed by oneself.

Knowing this, I must apologize in advance for what I am about to proclaim:
When it comes to doing things, I strive for perfection.

Whereas some of you might construe this statement as being one coming from a braggart, you are way off base.  No sir, people that possess perfectionist tendencies know what a curse they can truly be.

Bottom line?  If I can’t see how I am going to get a short stack of paperwork done in a timely manner and do it properly, I’ll leave it until better time-opportunity comes along.  I may glance at the stack, and lacking a plan or filing system at that moment, I’ll plan on creating an organizing system before I get started.  Although I have just forestalled the work, my mind reasons that the delay will save time, because after all…  it will be organized.

See how this works?  As paperwork piles up, it becomes more difficult to accomplish what was once a very do-able task.  Next thing I know, a short pile of paperwork becomes a stack, the stack grows to fill a drawer, and once the drawer fills up, its contents are transferred to a basket (a stackable basket, so future paper-filled baskets will at least look organized).

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Fool!  Why not just hire someone to do the work for you?”

You see there (chuckle)… you just don’t understand a perfectionist mentality.  Most “perfectionists” don’t trust somebody else to do a job they could, should, or would conceivably do (or do better).  To rely upon somebody else to do as menial a job as paperwork?  Why not just blurt to the world, “I am a failure!”  Besides- who in the world is going to know what all those hastily scribbled notes actually mean?

Now, if you ask me to rip your car apart in order to clean and detail-paint the chassis… to scrub and dress every tread block on the tires (including the spare)… to sand and polish the paint… I say, “No problem- I can knock it out in a week!  Let me clear my schedule.”

Yessiree- I’ll take a polishing pad over a pad of paper any day of the week.  Did I mention that I recently finished a 40-page article on paint polishing?  It only took a few months to write.

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Are You Scared To Sand Automotive Paint?

As automotive paint is sanded, its surface becomes dull and non-reflective.  This can strike terror into the minds of even the most experienced paint polishers among us.  After all, these guys realize how difficult it can be to eliminate scratches, etch marks, and other below surface defects.  Why would anyone in their right mind want to create more scratches atop the paint surface?!

More often than not, sanding is done to remove scratches or blemishes that cannot be removed via machine compounding.  Sanding is also done to match paint textures from panel to panel (after spot repairs or repaints), or to eliminate some or all of the texture from a paint surface.  Doing so creates a very smooth and level surface, which increases the accuracy of reflection and improves gloss, once fully polished.  By using progressively finer grades of sanding sheets or discs, restoring gloss via machine polishing can be relatively easy to accomplish.

Restorative paint polishing can be done by hand, but rotary and orbital-action polishing machines take the “grunt & groan” out of the process.  If you plan to sand large sections of paint (or entire paint jobs), it’s almost a necessity that you know how to operate a machine in order to completely remove sanding scratches.  Interestingly (and contradictory to that last statement), one of the nicest paint jobs I’ve ever seen was sanded and polished completely by hand.  The paint was a basecoat/clearcoat catalyzed job, so it couldn’t have been an easy thing to do.  Come to think of it, the guy responsible for the rub-out also painted the car (This was his first paint job, to boot!).

Most people that take pride in their cars appearance don’t even know how to eliminate fine fingernail scratches from under their car’s door handles!  This is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, because normal people don’t spend hours upon hours reading car detailing forums and blogs (no offense to those of  you that happen to be reading this post, of course).  Note to self:  Don’t insult your readers!

The funny thing is… with the wide variety of discs available today, a person with no experience sanding or polishing automotive paint could feasibly eliminate fine scratches via hand sanding and polishing more safely than they ever could using a rotary buffer, a cutting pad, and a compound.  I’m not recommending either process be used by a beginner until they’ve had some sort of formal training, or at least practiced sanding or polishing on junk or test panels.

If you are new to sanding, fear not!  Meguiar’s has created the Unigrit Sanding System for automotive paint.  It features three different types of Unigrit Sanding Discs.  The finest grade of disc they offer is 3000 grade, foam faced.  If you are a beginner, start with this disc first, as it is the least aggressive.  Most importantly- click the link to learn all about the various types of disc Meguiar’s has to offer.

We welcome your questions and comments, and thanks for reading!

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Posted in Sanding Discs, Unigrit Sanding Disc | 5 Comments