Introduction: Buffing Compound

Picture of Buffing Compound

This is an instructable on how to make buffing compound. It won't make a large amount, but it's sufficient for small tasks.

In case you don't know what it's for, here's an introduction. Say you want to polish something, you'd normally use sand paper or a flap wheel starting with a large grit (size 80) and progress down to a small grit (size 200-400). Then you'd follow it with buffing compound on a cloth wheel. Should you require even more shine, you'd polish it with a cloth wheel without anything applied.

Originally, I was aiming for Aluminum Oxide, but I think the final compound is either Sodium Alumate or Aluminum Hydroxide. I think I'd need more heat or arcing electricity to convert it into true Aluminum Oxide. With that said, I encourage any reader to figure out how. Regardless, this compound seems to work fine for my purposes.

Step 1: Prepare Aluminum

Picture of Prepare Aluminum
In this step, prepare scrap aluminum (a soda can) for conversion into polishing compound.
  1. Using tin snips, cut the can into small fragments.
  2. Put the fragments into a coffee grinder.
  3. Grind the fragments to chip paint off for better reactivity for about 1 minute.

Step 2: Convert Aluminum

Picture of Convert Aluminum
In this step, convert the aluminum into raw polishing compound.

WARNING: You will be using Sodium Hydroxide (Lye). DO NOT drink / eat / get in eyes and USE GLOVES AND GOGGLES. This stuff will turn the oils in your hands into soap, drying them out severely and possibly causing burns. In addition, when dissolving dry powder in water, it WILL heat up. Lastly, when reacting with aluminum, it will cause the water to heat up and may generate steam. Use good judgement.
  1. Pour aluminum chips into a glass container (plastic may melt, metal may react).
  2. Place the glass container into a bowl (this will contain spills).
  3. Mix lye into water. I used 1 1/2 tsp for 1 cup of water for this instructable. Using too much lye will cause the reaction to generate lots of heat and will cause the reaction to boil and froth, forcing aluminum bits and hot lye water everywhere, as well as lye steam.
  4. Pour lye water into the glass container with aluminum chips.
  5. Cover the top of the glass container with a napkin (this will help reduce lye steam).
  6. Place a can over the napkin (this will hold the napkin in place / vent downward).

Step 3: Filter Solution

Picture of Filter Solution
In this step, filter the solution.

WARNING: You will be using Sodium Hydroxide (Lye). DO NOT drink / eat / get in eyes and USE GLOVES AND GOGGLES. This stuff will turn the oils in your hands into soap, drying them out severely and possibly causing burns. In addition, when dissolving dry powder in water, it WILL heat up. Lastly, when reacting with aluminum, it will cause the water to heat up and may generate steam. Use good judgement.
  1. Once the solution is mostly gray / doesn't bubble, filter it into a bigger container through cheese cloth (this separates the polishing powder from the metal bits).
  2. Add water through the top to wash any remaining polishing powder through.
  3. Wait for the powder to settle.
  4. Dump the top lye-water out, leave the bottom intact.
  5. Refill the container with regular water.
  6. Wait for the powder to settle.
  7. Dump the top water out, leave the bottom (and so forth, 1-2 times, to reduce the lye concentration).

Step 4: Make Mud

Picture of Make Mud
In this step, create a muddy form of the powder which will need drying.
  1. Using a coffee filter, concentrate the powder.
  2. Using gloves, wring the filter with concentrated powder.
  3. Unfold the coffee filter.
  4. Use a knife to scrape the contents into a stainless steel vessel.

Step 5: Make Powder

Picture of Make Powder
In this step dry the powder, supposedly with enough heat, the aluminum hydroxide converts into aluminum oxide. I'm not sure if this is the case here, so please comment.
  1. Heat the stainless steel vessel over a stove-top at highest heat.
  2. Squish the mud-blobs for better heat transfer (I used a ladle-spoon).
  3. When dry, turn off the heat.
  4. When cool, use a mortar and pestle to powder large clumps.

Step 6: Bind Powder

Picture of Bind Powder
In this step, bind the powder using wax to make polishing compound.
  1. Pour powder into the aluminum enclosure of a tea light candle.
  2. Chip pieces of wax from the tealight candle over the powder using a knife.
  3. Bake in a toaster-oven over 350 ºF until wax stops bubbling / is absorbed.
  4. Let it cool.
  5. Extract from the metal enclosure (you may destroy the enclosure).
  6. Scrap the top wax layer off, it doesn't contain much of the powder.

Step 7: Use It!

Picture of Use It!
In this step, use the buffing compound.

WARNING: This can be a messy process sending polishing compound in all directions. WEAR SAFETY GLASSES and work in an acceptable environment.
  1. Gather your Dremel, cloth-wheel, workpiece, and the buffing compound.
  2. Rotate the cloth-wheel manually and apply compound from side to side.
  3. Press down with the tip of the cloth-wheel against the workpiece.
  4. Gently increase the speed of the Dremel, letting the wax melt / be absorbed by the wheel.
  5. Try to maintain friction between the wheel and the workpiece for best results.

Comments

fzbw9br (author)2012-10-31

remember
mixing lye and aluminum creates heat AND Hydrogen Gas, which mixed with Oxygen (air) in a wide mix ratio is EXPLOSIVE!

Do NOT do this with ANY open flame or spark around

and not only goggles and gloves, but a complete suit of material covering you head to foot, that is quick to get on and off is advisable for when the caustic lye gets on youl

About This Instructable

35,490views

22favorites

License:

Bio: I'm an Engineer. I like hiking, flea markets, and electronics.
More by vreinkymov:Digital Caliper Battery Cover SwitchWood Marking GaugeDimmer Box
Add instructable to: