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.